Title: Radiant, Chapter 6
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: 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. Also, Charlie and Zoey are still together.

"Okay, let's go to the mess and get some lunch," Josh suggested as he and Donna left the Oval Office.

"I don't feel like eating. I just want this day to be over," Donna said.

Josh leaned in to whisper in her ear as he guided her down the hall with a hand at the small of her back.

"You heard Dr. Bartlet," he whispered. "It doesn't matter if you feel like eating. You need to make sure the baby's getting the right nutrients and stuff."

"Yeah." She sighed. "Okay. Let's go eat."

When they got to the mess, Donna picked up soup and a salad, so Josh followed suit.

“What are you eating?” she demanded when she noticed what he was holding.

“Soup and salad.” Wasn't it obvious?

“But why?” She looked utterly confused.

“Donna, isn't this the kind of healthy stuff you're always trying to get me to eat?”

“Yes, but . . .”

“But what?”

“You don't usually listen to me.”

“I'll explain when we get back to my office, okay?” he asked.

“You don't want to eat here with me?” she pouted.

“I definitely want to eat with you,” Josh answered carefully, “but not here. I'd rather be somewhere where we can talk.”

“Okay.” She followed him back up to his office and began arranging their lunch on the desk as he closed the door and turned around to stare at her.


She looked up.

"Why the hell didn't you ever tell me you had a sister?" Josh demanded.

"No no no," Donna answered quickly. "Wait. First you're going to tell me why you're eating salad. It's freaking me out."

"And then we can talk about the other thing?"

Donna sighed.


"Well first, this IS the kind of healthy stuff you want me to eat, right?" Josh clarified.

"Right . . ."

"And – I don't know. I know you're always taking care of me, but now you really have to take care of yourself too, and then you're going to be taking care of the baby . . ."

"Josh." He looked up at her. There were tears in her eyes.


"I don't want to stop taking care of you."



"You have no idea how happy I am to hear that," he said sincerely. "But I figured it would make it easier for everyone if I just tried to be a little more cooperative."

"That's sweet."

"So you keep saying."

"So that's it? You're just trying to cooperate?" Donna asked skeptically.

"Well, you're a mom now. You have a magical 'people have to listen to me' aura." He knew it wasn't even a very good joke, and she clearly wasn't buying it.

"Yeah, because you listen to YOUR mom how often?"

Josh looked down at his salad.

"You said eating this stuff would keep me from dropping dead of a heart attack," he mumbled, half hoping she wouldn't actually hear what he was saying.

"A . . . what? Oh. And you're suddenly worrying about your life expectancy now?"

He finally met her eyes.

"Somebody's gotta be around to teach that kid of yours about baseball."

Donna burst into tears and launched herself at him, and Josh barely managed to put down his fork in time to catch her in a bear hug. He helplessly stroked her hair as she sobbed in his arms.

"Shh, Donna. It's okay. I'm sorry, Donna, I'm so sorry," he soothed. Josh felt awful. He had thought what he was saying was nice, but had it just reminded her that her baby didn't have a father?

"No, no." She smiled at him as the tears continued to stream down her face. "This is the good kind of crying. There are lots and lots of hormones bouncing around. I think there's going to be lots of crying. About everything."

"Okay," Josh said, relieved. "Maybe we could work out some kind of signal? So I know if you're crying because I said something dumb or because I said something nice?"

She grabbed his hand and brushed her lips against his palm, and then released it so quickly that he didn't realize what was happening until it was over.

"You said something nice," she whispered.

"THAT was the signal?" His eyebrows shot up. "That works."

"Or I can just hit you when you say something dumb," Donna added.

Josh grinned.

"That too." He paused as she returned to her own chair. "We should finish lunch. And I'd kind of prefer it if we didn't go into this media strategy meeting with you looking like I just made you cry."

"But you did," she pointed out.

"Yeah. Which is why I'm going to just go ahead and ask you about your sister anyway."

Donna just shook her head, her mouth full of salad.

"No what?" he asked. "You don't want to talk about it?"

Donna swallowed.

"I'll talk about it, but it wouldn't make me cry."

"Weren't we just establishing that everything's going to make you cry?" Josh asked.

Donna shrugged.

"I've never cried about my sister."

"Okay . . ." Josh was trying to be patient, but this was driving him crazy. How could she never tell him something so important?

"I don't think this is as big a deal as you seem to think it is," Donna started. "I never knew her. She died when she was really young, before I was born. I only brought it up today because she had some kind of congenital heart issue and I don't know if it runs in families or what, so my doctor's going to have to watch out for it."

Josh nodded. He didn't even want to think about the possibility of something being wrong with Donna or the baby.

"Do you have her medical records?" he asked.

Donna shook her head.

"They weren't in my parents' papers. And I'm sure my mom always thought she'd be around when I was pregnant, and she could just tell me about it then," she added sadly.

"I'm sorry your mom isn't here," Josh said.

"Thanks. I just wish I had someone to talk to, you know? I mean, Dr. Bartlet is great, but she's the First Lady. It's different."

"Yeah. Let me work on that. And I bet we can get your sister's records from her doctor or the hospital or whatever."

"You really think they'd still have them?"

"Let me try." Josh tried not to beg, but this was something concrete he could do for her, so he was sure as hell going to do it.

"Okay. Thanks."

"But . . . you've never mentioned her before."

"Honestly, it's just . . . not that big a thing in my life." Donna paused. "My parents didn't like to talk about her. They told me to just say I was an only child. It was easier. People wouldn't ask questions. And I never met her, so . . . I don't know."

"I'm sorry you never got to meet your sister," Josh said softly.

"Thanks. And it does make me sad that I never got to meet her. But – it's different, Josh."

For a moment, Josh considered pretending he didn't know what she meant, but it didn't seem worth it.

"I'm not sure it is," he argued.

"Josh, what was I supposed to say? 'I'm sorry you lost the sister you adored in an extremely traumatic way, but hey, I had a sister I never even met'?"

"Something like that," he agreed.


"Really. I would have wanted to know," he insisted.

"Then I'm sorry I didn't tell you."

"What was her name?" he asked suddenly.


"Her name? She didn't die at birth or anything, right? She must have had a name."

"Oh. Yeah. It was Rosamaria."

"Rosamaria," Josh repeated. "That's pretty."

"My mother's flair for the dramatic again." Donna rolled her eyes. "Josh, when you said the thing before . . ."

"Which thing?"

"About baseball."


"You know it'll be a while, right? I mean, babies can't understand baseball. It'll be several years before you can start teaching the baby about baseball. Like five or six. And I don't think they really get into it until a few years after that. And there are term limits, you know. The President can only serve one more term and - "

"Stop babbling, Donna." Josh grinned as he cut her off. "If you're trying to say that the baby probably won't be in Little League until after we're out of office . . . yeah. I'm aware."

"Okay," she breathed.

"Donnatella, you called me your best friend in there," Josh pointed out.

"Yeah . . . was that bad?" She looked worried.

"No. Of course not. Of course you're my best friend. And – God, I can't even imagine ever working without you, but you know I'm your best friend no matter where either of us are working, right?"

By now she was crying again. Of course.

"Okay, I'm pretty sure I didn't say anything too dumb that time, but . . ."

Donna grabbed his hand and kissed his palm again. Josh suddenly realized that if he didn't watch out, he was probably going to start trying to say nice things that would make her cry just to make her keep doing that. And God only knew where THAT would lead.

"I just – I feel so alone and then you say these things . . ." Donna finally managed.

"You're not alone, Donnatella. Never. I promise." Josh stood up and started clearing away the remnants of lunch. "Now I'll clean this up while you go wash your face or something. Please. I don't want Toby coming after me with his baseball bat for making you cry."


Josh leaned his head back against Leo's couch and closed his eyes, trying to drown out the voices in the room. As far as he was concerned, this meeting had lasted far too long. Of course, what he really wanted was for it to never have happened at all. He hated sitting there listening to Donna's life being discussed like any other PR problem, and his patience was wearing thin. He glanced over at Donna. She was sitting next to him on the couch, her body tense and a little too close to his. If anyone had noticed the latter, though, they weren't saying anything, which was probably for the best. Josh knew he would take any excuse to start yelling at people right now.

"I feel like we're going around in circles here," he said suddenly. Everyone stopped talking and turned to look at him. "And Donna has to leave for her appointment soon. CJ, will you just summarize where we are with this so far? Then we can figure out what we still need to decide."

CJ looked vaguely confused at his sudden take-charge attitude, but she nodded and started talking.

"Okay. First of all, we are certainly not making any announcements. We wait for me to get the question. We are assuming that the word will get out once Donna goes to the doctor, so I will be prepared for the question tomorrow morning, but we're going to hope it doesn't come for a few more weeks or months." She glanced around the room to make sure everyone was with her. "Once I get the question, we'll be as transparent as possible but not give them more than they're asking. If they ask if Donna's pregnant, I will say yes. Donna, you can tell me as we go how much you want me to tell at any given time – due date or whatever. Until you specifically tell me I can say something, I will only confirm your pregnancy. Okay?"

Donna nodded.

"If they ask for the identity of the father," CJ continued, "I will say that Donna is not releasing that information at this time. If they ask if the father works at the White House, I will refuse to make any sweeping statements of that magnitude and tell them that they have to ask people individually, and individuals can decide how they want to respond. I am the President's spokesperson, so if they ask if he is the father, I will categorically deny it. I will not speak for anyone else, but if they ask for specific people I will bring them to a briefing and let them answer. For now, we are just expecting that they will ask for those of you in this room. Particularly Josh. Does that about cover things?"

"Yeah," Josh said. "But then what? So they ask for me, and I go in there and say no, it's not me . . . then do they ask for Sam? Toby? Ed and Larry? This could go on forever."

"You don't think they'd just give up?" Sam asked.

"It's more likely they'll just think someone's lying," Toby said.

"Okay. Well. If they ask me, I'm not saying no," Josh stated.

"What?" Donna looked at him, stunned. "You can't say yes. I told you that."

"I know," he told her. "I can say 'no comment,' right, CJ?"

CJ shrugged.

"Maybe. But why would you want to?"

Josh got up and started pacing as he gathered his thoughts.

"Okay, three reasons," he finally said. "First of all, I really honestly believe that this is no one's business. I'm not letting the press think that we agree that they have a right to know everything about our lives. If we give the impression that they have any grounds for demanding this information, they'll start asking more and more, about everything. And it's none of their business. It's none of anyone's business. It's a matter of principle."

"He's right," Sam said quietly.

CJ rolled her eyes.

"Thanks for jumping on the idealistic bandwagon here, Samuel. What else, Josh?"

"If all the obvious people deny it, they're going to keep hounding Donna," Josh pointed out. "They'll follow her, try to find out if she has a secret boyfriend somewhere. And they'll think I'm probably lying anyway, and they'll try to prove it. We want them to get bored with this story as quickly as possible. I really think 'no comment' is the most boring option here."

"Maybe," CJ hedged.

"He's got a point," Leo admitted.

"What was the third reason, Josh?" Donna asked as she tugged at his sleeve to pull him back toward the couch.

Josh sat down and looked at her. He had sort of hoped she would forget he had mentioned three reasons.

"Donna, my offer's still on the table," he said quietly. "I know you said you don't want to marry me, but I'm not going to say anything that invalidates what I offered unless I absolutely have to. If the press gets to be too much . . . well, I just want you to have options."

Donna nodded, and Josh saw that there were tears in her eyes again. He cocked an eyebrow at her and she started giggling and squeezed his hand.

"I'm not hitting you. You'll have to extrapolate from there," she told him.

"Okay." Josh grinned. Maybe they needed another signal that was more appropriate for public consumption. He looked around the room and saw everyone looking at them.

Leo cleared his throat.

"Well, if we're done with that touching if baffling moment, can we get back to the discussion at hand?" Leo demanded. "If Josh says 'no comment' and everyone else says no, won't that basically be taken as Josh saying yes?"

"I'll say it too," Sam said immediately.

"What?" Josh turned and stared at his friend.

"Josh, I agree with you on the principle of the thing. And if there are two of us who won't answer, they'll have to see it as a philosophical position rather than a tacit admission."

"They won't just see it as you covering for your best friend?" CJ asked.

Sam shrugged.

"So we get a third person."

"Donna may be Josh's assistant, but I'm her actual supervisor," Leo pointed out. "It can't be me."

"And I'd happily volunteer, but I take it none of you want that," the President said.

"Please tell me you're joking," Leo answered.

"Yeah, yeah . . ." The President looked pointedly at Toby.

"Usually I – I would, sir," Toby said. "Donna, you know I'd do anything I could to help you. But there's some stuff going on in my life right now and I think it would be a bad idea for everyone."

"Stuff?" CJ asked. "What kind of stuff?"

"Personal stuff," Toby said in a voice that allowed no room for further questioning. "But I don't think we want to get Congress any more involved than they are already."

CJ looked at him, eyes wide.

"Oh. We'll be discussing that later, Tobias."

Toby nodded, resigned.

"I'll do it," Charlie said from where he stood behind the President's chair.

Everyone turned to stare at him.

"Huh . . ." Sam started.

"Charlie . . ." Josh said helplessly. "That's a very generous offer. But, well, as soon as the baby's born, it's probably going to be pretty obvious it isn't yours."

Charlie rolled his eyes.

"Thanks, Josh. I had never noticed that I don't look like the rest of you."

"Sorry," Josh said.

"But Josh, that's why it would work," Charlie continued. "They'll see it really IS a matter of principle, because as soon as that baby is born, either I will be ruled out or you and Sam will."

"This could work," CJ pronounced.

"Wait. Do I get a say here?" Donna spoke up.

Josh turned to her.

"Of course," he said, his voice softening.

"Charlie and Sam – thank you. I appreciate it. I hate having to ask you to do this, but I think you're right that it's the best way." She paused. "But Charlie, you are only doing this if Zoey's on board."

"Oh God . . . 'President's Aide Cheating on First Daughter with White House Staffer'?" Toby groaned. "Is that what we're looking at now?"

"Probably," CJ agreed.

"I think Zoey would think it was pretty funny," Charlie said.

"Sir?" Josh turned to the President. This was his daughter they were talking about, after all.

President Bartlet sighed.

"If it's okay with Zoey, then fine."

"And it's okay with you if Zoey knows the whole story, Donna?" Josh asked.

"Yes. I trust Zoey."

"Speaking of telling people . . . does anyone have a problem with me telling my mom?" Josh added.

"I guess it's okay with me," Donna said. "But why?"

"Because I'd rather she not hear that she's going to be a grandmother on CNN."

Leo chuckled.

"She'd kill you," he told Josh.

"Oh!" Donna looked horrified. "I'm so sorry. It didn't even occur to me that your mom would hear that and be mad."

"Oh, that's not what she'd be mad about," Leo said.

"Leo . . ." Josh tried to cut him off, but Leo spoke right over him.

"Donna, you know I've known Josh's mother for a very long time, right?" Leo asked.

Donna nodded.

"I did NOT mean that she would be mad if she thought you were having Josh's child. I meant she'd be mad at Josh when he told her it wasn't true."

"Oh," Donna whispered.

"You know how often she begs me for grandchildren," Josh said. He didn't add that his mother had brought it up a lot more frequently since Donna had started working for him.

"So," the President interjected. "The only people who are currently authorized to know the whole story are those of us in this room plus my wife and daughter and Josh's mother. Right?"

Everyone nodded.

"Okay. Now, what are we going to do about Williams?" Leo asked.

Donna suddenly stood up.

"Can I not be here for this part? Josh knows what I want. He has my permission to make decisions for me on this one thing."

"Let's just summarize what you want so they know I'm not making stuff up, okay?" Josh asked her. "You have to leave for your appointment soon anyway."

"I don't want Williams involved," Donna said firmly. "I want as little contact with him as possible, outside of work stuff. I don't want his money or anything. I don't want it to become a thing, I don't want anyone beating him up, and I don't want my child to be used as a political pawn to make him do what you want. Got it?" Her eyes swept the room.

"Uh, yeah. We've got it." CJ grinned at Donna's sudden show of independence.

Josh got up and put his hand on Donna's arm.

"Come on, I'll walk you out," he said softly.

After Donna had gathered her purse and jacket from her cubicle, Josh gestured for her to follow him into his office.

"Got everything?" he asked.

"I think so."

"Are you absolutely sure you don't want me to come with you?" He had offered, many times.

Donna sighed.

"I'm sure. If you come, it's game over. Someone will recognize you, and it will be as good as issuing a press release that you're the father. If I go by myself, there's a chance that I'll be able to avoid the attention for a little longer. Please let me have that chance."

"Of course," Josh conceded immediately. "But call me if you need anything at all. And if you change your mind and want me to come pick you up, I will."

"Thanks." Donna smiled at him and opened the door to head out. "One other thing, Josh," she called over her shoulder.


"Before, the thing you said I said? Just for the record, and don't make anything of this, but just in the interest of full disclosure, I'm pretty sure I never actually said that. Not that this is me saying the opposite or anything. Bye!"

She was gone before Josh could parse her hurried statement. What he'd said she'd said . . . OH.

"Donna!" Josh ran out of his office, desperate to catch her before she left.

"What?" She was halfway down the hallway, but at least she wasn't pretending she couldn't hear him.

"What I said you said . . . do you mean when I was talking about my third reason?"

She just smiled at him for a minute.

"I'm just saying. You know I'm a stickler for accuracy," she teased. "Don't put words in my mouth."

"Okay." Josh stared after her as she left. What had she said during their original conversation, exactly? He thought it was something about his plan being a bad way to start a marriage. She hadn't actually said she didn't want to marry him, had she? Josh returned to Leo's office with a grin on his face.

Previous | Next