Title: Radiant, Chapter 5
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: November of the year before reelection.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Rick, Lauren, 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.
"Go on in," Charlie said with a sympathetic look. "He's waiting for you."
Josh entered the Oval Office and found President Bartlet sitting on one of the couches.
"Come on in, Josh. Sit down."
"Thank you, sir."
"How are you doing with this?" the President asked.
"I'm - okay, sir, thank you. Mostly just worried about Donna."
"So this is why you couldn't speak to Donna about your feelings that day," the President surmised.
"Right. When I got back to my office after speaking with you, she was there . . . crying, and holding a pregnancy test. Obviously I couldn't say anything then," Josh explained.
"And now?" the President prompted.
"She's been so upset. What was I supposed to say, 'Gee, Donna, I know you were just raped and now you're pregnant and have no idea what's going to happen with your life, but hey, wanna grab dinner and a movie sometime?'" Josh knew he shouldn't be speaking this way to the President of the United States, but he couldn't help it.
"Son – no, that's not what I meant. Of course you couldn't tell her your feelings at that point."
"So what are you asking . . . sir?" Josh struggled to maintain a civil tone. He knew the President wasn't really the one he was upset with right now.
"I'm asking whether your intentions have changed, Josh," President Bartlet said gently. "It would be perfectly understandable. I didn't want you to think I would hold anything against you."
"What are you talking about?" Josh couldn't even process what the older man was saying.
"The situation has changed. Wanting to date someone is one thing; getting involved with a single mother is something entirely different," the President explained. "I wanted to make sure you knew that if you decided to drop the whole thing and just be Donna's friend, I wouldn't press the issue. I take it you haven't told anyone else of your feelings?"
"No, but – NO!" Josh almost shouted. "I mean, I'm sorry, but no, sir. Nothing has changed."
"Josh." The President smiled sadly. "Things have changed. You have to accept that."
Josh nodded slowly.
"Yes, sir. I realize that the situation has changed. What I meant was that my intentions haven't changed, and my feelings sure as hell haven't either."
"All right. But you're not going to talk to her about that now?"
"No, sir. Maybe in a few months, once she's had some more time to get used to the idea of becoming a mother."
"And you know – and I'm saying this as a father, all right?" the President clarified. "As someone who feels like a father to both of you."
"Yes, sir . . ." Josh wasn't sure where this was going.
"When you do tell her, this can't be some . . . casual thing. You can't just date her for a while and then drift off. There's a child to consider, if nothing else."
"I understand, sir," Josh said. "It was never going to be a casual thing with Donna."
"And her child?"
"I've always wanted kids eventually."
President Bartlet looked at Josh for a long moment.
"Right. We'll keep your plans between us for now, but you should know that my actions in regard to this issue will be informed by what we've discussed. If your feelings or intentions do change at any point, I expect you to tell me."
"Yes, sir." Josh stifled a chuckle. Was the President seriously ordering him to report on his love life?
"Yes, Mr. President?"
"When I said 'between us' – well, I've already told my wife."
"Of course you have, sir."
"Does Donna want to keep working here?"
"That's what she says, sir, but you're welcome to ask her yourself," Josh offered.
"I will." The President paused. "Is there anything else we need to discuss before I talk to Donna?"
"Uh . . . there was one other thing, sir . . ."
"And what's that?"
"Well, hear me out here . . ." Josh couldn't believe what he was about to say.
"Come on, Josh, we don't have all day here."
"Now, sir, I'm only telling you this in case I am later asked about the conversation under oath. I wouldn't want you surprised by anything I said at that point."
"Oh, THIS is an encouraging start," President Bartlet grumbled.
"Sir, when Donna was telling me what happened . . . well, I asked her if you were the father, sir," Josh admitted.
"I was in no way serious, sir," Josh explained carefully. "She was very nervous about telling me the man's identity. She was afraid I would yell at her. I told her that whatever she was going to say would almost certainly not be the worst thing I could think of, because, from a professional standpoint, I had to say that the worst possibility would be – well, the President, sir."
The President nodded.
"And did it work? Did she think your little joke was funny?"
"Well, she giggled, sir. And then she told me the actual identity. So yes, I'd say it worked."
The President's eyes narrowed.
"And did you yell at her?"
"Of course not, sir!"
"All right, then. Let's keep that whole conversation to ourselves as long as possible," the President instructed.
"Wait – doesn't Donna have any family, Josh?"
"I'm not at all complaining that you were the only one she told, but I am wondering why. Why aren't we discussing what her parents are going to tell the press?"
"Sir, her parents are dead. I think she has a few aunts or something, but they're not close."
The President sighed.
"Okay. I was hoping she'd have a mother to help her get through this."
"Make sure CJ thinks about the aunts when you all work out a media strategy. The press will hunt them down, I'm sure."
"Okay, we're done here. Charlie!" the President called.
"Yes, sir?" Charlie opened the door and stepped in.
"I'd like to see Donna Moss."
"Yes, sir. And your wife is on the phone. Would you like me to tell her you'll call back?"
"No, I'll talk to her while you get Donna. Get lost, Josh."
"But sir . . ."
"I told you I wanted to talk to Donna alone," the President reminded him. "Someone will find you when we're done."
"Yes, sir." Josh paused. "Or maybe I'll wait out here with Charlie."
"Fine. Because obviously you have no actual work to do," the President snapped.
"I'm sorry, sir. I'll go get back to work."
"No, no, I'm sorry, son. Wait out there if you'd rather. But get out of here so I can talk to my wife."
President Bartlet hung up the phone and called for Charlie.
"Is Donna here?" the President asked. "I'm ready to see her."
"Yes, sir." Charlie turned to Donna, who was waiting nervously outside the Oval Office. "You can go in now."
"Thanks." She gave him a small smile.
"Donna!" The President greeted her. "Come, sit down." He gestured toward one of the couches.
"Thank you, sir." Donna sat and looked down at her hands.
"First of all, Donna, I wanted to say congratulations."
"Sir?" This clearly wasn't what Donna had expected.
"I've been told that you've decided to have a child. If this is true, then congratulations are in order." The President paused. "If I've been misinformed and you haven't yet decided whether you will have the child, then you have my sincerest apologies for speaking out of line."
"You weren't misinformed, sir." Donna finally looked up at him. "It just wasn't the reaction I was expecting."
"Donna, I firmly believe that every child is a blessing and a gift from God. What could I possibly say other than 'Congratulations'?"
"Thank you, sir. But I have a feeling you have several other things to say." Donna giggled nervously. "'Congratulations' was the first thing Josh said, too, sir. I mean, before he had any idea what the situation was. He found me crying in his office, holding a pregnancy test, and he said 'Congratulations.'"
"The boy has good instincts."
"Yes, he does."
"I do need to ask you some questions," the President started.
"I know, sir."
"The decision to keep the baby is entirely your own choice, right? I wouldn't want you to feel as though the fact that I'm Catholic means that you would be pressured by the administration to have this child."
"Honestly, sir, I was afraid that the administration wouldn't want me to have the baby."
"I'm pro-choice for a reason, Donna. This is entirely your choice."
"Yes, sir. I'm going to have the baby."
"All right, let's move on, then. Do you want to stay in DC?"
"Sir? I need my job."
"Yes, of course. But the nice thing about running for reelection is that I have offices in every state in the country right now. You could have your choice."
"Permission to speak freely, sir?" Donna asked. Her tone was suddenly frosty.
"Are you saying you want to send me away because I'm single and pregnant? Hide me so I don't embarrass the administration? That's awfully Victorian of you. Not to mention illegal. Sir."
"No, no," the President said quickly. "I think you've misunderstood me, Donna."
"What did you mean, then, sir?"
"I meant that as soon as the press gets ahold of this, DC is not going to be a very comfortable place for you to be. You have the complete support of this administration, and of Dr. Bartlet and myself personally. But we're not going to be able to keep all the nastiness away from you, although God knows Josh will probably kill himself trying. I know you need your job. Of course you do. So I'm trying to give you the option of doing your job someplace a little quieter for a while."
"Oh." Donna blinked a few times, and President Bartlet could see tears in her eyes. "Thank you, sir. But I don't want to run away."
"Okay. If you ever change your mind, let me know," the President told her. "But just between us, I'm glad you want to stay. Operations would entirely fall apart without you."
"Thank you, sir."
"Josh tells me that you don't have any close family. Is this true?"
"Then I wanted to offer – but this is really just an offer, you understand? If you had someone else in mind, there will be absolutely no hard feelings."
"Yes, sir?" Donna looked puzzled.
"If you didn't already have someone in mind – well, when it comes time for the baptism, Abbey and I would be honored and delighted to be your child's godparents."
"Oh. Thank you, sir." Now she was really crying.
The President put a hand on Donna's shoulder.
"Now, if you were thinking of someone else, that's just fine. We consider you to be part of our family regardless, and you know we're always in favor of more grandchildren."
"Thank you, sir," Donna repeated.
"Donna Moss, there are many people here who think of you as family and want to help you. Never forget that."
"I know, sir. And – I'm sorry to have caused all this trouble, sir."
"Don't be ridiculous," the President said sternly. "You caused none of this. It sounds like they won't actually let me just have Williams shot, but I promise you, we will make him pay for this somehow."
Donna smiled through her tears.
"Between you and Josh, sir, I'm sure you will."
The President paused, unsure of how much he should say.
"Josh is a good man, Donna. Let him care for you." President Bartlet didn't want to betray Josh's feelings directly, so he hoped Donna would understand his double meaning.
"Yes. I'll try, sir," Donna said. "But usually he's the one who needs to be taken care of."
The President smiled.
"I know he is. But trust me, it works better if you let him take care of you at the same time."
Just then, there was a knock at the door.
"Yes?" the President called.
Charlie opened the door.
"Sir, your wife is here. She said to tell you that this is a family issue and you can't make her wait for an appointment to talk to Donna."
President Bartlet raised an eyebrow.
"She's right, of course, but let's try to keep our voices down when we're talking about what my wife is telling me I can and can't do, all right, Charlie?"
Dr. Bartlet pushed past Charlie and entered the office.
"Donna, would you like to talk? I don't think it's really any of my husband's business, so I see no reason to wait around for his schedule to open up."
"My schedule is completely open!" the President protested.
"No, sir, it really isn't," Charlie pointed out.
"It is now." The President glared at him. "Fix it."
"Uh, yes, sir." Charlie paused in the doorway. "There's one other thing, sir . . ."
"What is it, Charlie?"
"Jed, I think Charlie's trying to tell you that your Deputy Chief of Staff is wearing a hole in your carpet with his pacing out there."
President Bartlet looked at Donna with a question in his eyes. She nodded.
"Josh, get in here!" the President yelled.
Josh practically ran into the room.
"Yes, sir?" His question was directed at the President, but he was looking at Donna.
"Is there anywhere you need to be right now?"
"Uh . . ." Josh looked at Donna sheepishly.
"You don't have any meetings until three," she told him.
"Okay, then." The President looked between them, amused. "I think you need to be right here."
"Yes, sir." Josh sat down on the couch next to Donna. "Are you okay?" he asked her quietly.
"Yeah." She smiled up at him.
"I'm okay. But are you sure you have time to be in here?"
"Ask the boss."
Donna turned to the President.
"Do you want him here, Donna?" the President asked.
"Yes, sir. He's my – he's my best friend," Donna said quietly, refusing to meet Josh's eyes. "But I understand if you need him to do his actual job."
"Let me worry about that, then," the President said. "Let's see if all those other people we pay to be in this building can manage to run the country without the three of us for a few hours."
"I'm not so sure that's a good idea, sir," Josh quipped. He was trying not to focus on what exactly she had meant by "best friend."
Donna suddenly turned and looked at him.
"Josh, if you need to be doing something else, I'm not forcing you to be here."
Josh took her hand.
"There is absolutely no where else I want to be right now," he told her seriously.
"Josh, will you just give her a hug?" Dr. Bartlet interjected.
Josh's eyebrows shot up.
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