Title: Radiant, Chapter 7
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. Also, Charlie and Zoey are still together.
Josh struggled to concentrate on his meeting with Congressman Foster. The man was tedious at the best of times, and this afternoon Josh was so preoccupied with worry about Donna's appointment that he could barely even remember what he and Foster were supposed to be discussing. As he was trying to figure out a reasonably polite way to clarify which bill Foster was rambling on about, Josh's cell phone rang. He grabbed it and looked at the caller ID. Donna. Oh God. Was something wrong?
"Excuse me. I've, uh, I've got to take this," he mumbled to the Congressman as he shot up out of his seat and headed toward the door. Josh reminded himself that he didn't need to make up any elaborate excuses to keep Foster from figuring out what the call was about. With his job, Josh got urgent calls he couldn't explain all the time. Foster would know better than to ask.
"Donna? Are you okay?" he hissed into the phone as soon as he was out of the room. He began walking toward his office in case this call would require privacy.
"I'm okay." She sounded shaky.
"I don't know who to put down as my emergency contact." Now it sounded like she was almost crying.
Josh bit his tongue to keep from suggesting himself. This was probably one of those decisions that Donna had to make without his input.
"Who do you usually put?" he asked.
There was a moment of silence.
"And . . . do you not want to use me this time?" he managed. "I mean, I know the circumstances are different, so it's fine if you don't, if you want someone who knows something . . ."
Donna cut him off.
"No, that's not it," she said quickly. "I'm just afraid that if someone sees your name, they're going to think . . . It almost looks like a confirmation."
"I don't care," Josh said firmly. "Donna, listen to me. I'm all for trying to minimize the press frenzy, but when it comes to decisions that have anything to do with your medical care, I don't want you making any compromises because you're trying to protect me."
"Josh . . . okay." Donna suddenly giggled. "Of course, if you're worried about all my decisions being made with the best medical care in mind, maybe I should put Dr. Bartlet's name on the form instead."
"Maybe you should," Josh said seriously. "She certainly knows way more about this than I do. You should."
"Josh! I was joking. I – I want you to be my emergency contact. If that's okay."
"Of course it is," Josh murmured.
"Okay. Thanks. Sorry to freak out at you like that. You should get back – aren't you meeting with Foster now?"
Josh had to grin as he realized that, even with everything going on in her own life at the moment, Donna was still worrying about him and his schedule.
"Yeah, but you know him. I was dying of boredom anyway. So if you need to call again, and coincidentally rescue me from Foster, feel free."
"Yeah, you wish."
"Seriously, Donna. Call if anything comes up or there's anything you want to talk about or . . . anything."
"Thanks. But I'd better go finish these forms."
"Thanks, Josh. For everything."
Congressman Foster eventually ran out of things to say and left, and Josh found himself back in his office pretending to work while actually watching out the window for Donna. He knew she probably wouldn't be back for another twenty minutes or so, but he couldn't seem to convince himself to focus on anything else.
The office phone rang and Josh grabbed it himself, grateful for the distraction.
"So, are congratulations in order?"
"Uh . . . Danny?"
"Yeah. Hi Josh. Congratulations?"
"On what?" Josh asked carefully.
"We just got some pretty credible information about where Donna spent the afternoon and why."
"Danny, seriously. Spell it out for me here." Josh wondered if he should bother to keep the frustration out of his voice. This was Danny, after all.
"You don't KNOW?" Danny gasped.
"I'm not going to let you trick me into telling you more than you know," Josh clarified.
"We have sources, very reliable sources, saying that Donna is pregnant."
"That still doesn't explain the way you started this conversation."
"Are you the father?" Danny asked bluntly.
"I should make you wait and ask CJ at the next briefing, but . . . so far as I know, Donna is not naming the father at this time."
"Okay," Danny said agreeably.
"That's it? Are you seriously going to write about this? How is this actual news?" Josh demanded.
"Me? No. This isn't news. I can't say the same for our gossip columnist, though."
"You gave this to your gossip columnist?" Josh groaned.
"No! Why would I . . . Josh. The gossip columnist gave it to me. She gives me a head's up when anything to do with the White House comes in. And – well, I just wanted to make sure you guys knew it was out there."
"Oh." Josh felt bad for having misjudged the other man's intentions. Danny was a reporter, sure, but he was basically one of the good guys. "Look, Danny, I'm sorry. Thanks. I can't say I'm surprised that it's out there, but we actually didn't know anyone had it yet. I appreciate the call."
"No problem. And Josh, I think they have pictures. Probably just from a cell phone or something, but still. Make sure she's prepared for this."
"Take care of her," Danny instructed.
"I've heard that one before," Josh admitted.
Josh hung up the phone and glanced at his watch. He decided he'd better take a minute now to call his mom, or he might not have another chance before the news hit.
"Joshua? What are you doing calling me in the middle of the day? Is something wrong?" Esther Lyman sounded worried.
"Uh, sort of. Not exactly. Mom, I wanted to talk to you about something, but I don't have a lot of time."
"Okay . . ."
"There's going to be something you're probably going to see on the news, and part of it isn't true, so I wanted to warn you." Josh took a deep breath. "Donna's pregnant."
"Joshua! Is it - "
"No." Josh cut her off. "No, Mom, I promise. But people are going to say that. That's what I didn't want you to just hear on CNN or something."
"But . . . I didn't even know she was seeing someone. I'm sorry, son. Are you okay?"
Josh chuckled. He liked to think he hid his feelings fairly well, but his mother always saw through him.
"She's not seeing anyone. She's not releasing the name of the father, which is why people are going to think it's me."
"Oh. So . . . who?"
"Mom, I want to tell you, but you absolutely cannot tell anyone, ever. You're the only person outside the President's family and the senior staff who is going to know this. It cannot get out. Okay?" Josh knew his mom would never betray an important confidence, but he was still nervous.
"She was date raped, Mom." Josh heard his voice break. "By a senator. Williams, the new guy from Oklahoma."
"Oh, my God," Esther Lyman gasped. "Is she okay?"
"She will be, I think," Josh said carefully. "It's really hard. Obviously."
"And she's keeping the baby?"
"The poor girl. You'd better take care of her, Joshua, or you'll be answering to me."
"Everyone keeps saying that."
"Well, it's true."
"Are you sure she's okay?"
"Well, she's as okay as can be expected, Mom. Of course she's upset."
"What are you going to do to him?"
"Make sure he loses his seat next time."
"That's all?" Mrs. Lyman was clearly disappointed. "He does something so horrific to the nicest woman on the planet and all you're going to do is beat him in an election? Didn't I raise you better than that?"
"Mom . . . I know. I wish there were something else we could do. But we don't have enough evidence to win any sort of trial, so if we went public it would just end up being a huge ordeal for Donna. She doesn't want to expose him under these circumstances, and I'm trying to respect that."
His mother sighed.
"All right. She's going to need help, though, Joshua. And not just from you. From a professional."
"Is she getting that help?"
"Not yet. She says she doesn't want to talk about it, and I'm trying to give her a little time. She's at the doctor right now. That was our first priority. And . . . I need to find someone I can trust. She can't talk to just anyone."
"You have someone you can trust. Call Stanley. For both of you, Joshua."
"Yeah. I will, I promise." Suddenly Josh thought of something else. "Look, Mom, you can't tell anyone that I said I wasn't the father."
"When I'm asked, I'm going to refuse to comment. We went over all the options, and we think it will be easiest for Donna if a few of us say 'no comment.' Otherwise they'll keep following her around, trying to figure out who it is. And if they think it's one of us, they'll be less likely to say it's the President."
"The President? Seriously? They would say that?"
"They'd say anything, Mom," Josh said sadly.
"Who else isn't commenting?"
"What? Oh. Sam and Charlie."
"Good. Is there anything I can do?" Mrs. Lyman asked.
"Actually . . . would you mind if she called you?"
"Donna's always welcome to call me. She knows that."
"I meant about this. She doesn't have any close family, and I'm kind of getting the impression that she could use a mother right now," Josh explained.
"Of course." His mother's voice softened. "She must be feeling so alone. Please, ask her to call me."
"What's Donna doing for Thanksgiving?"
"Uh, I don't know. With everything else going on, it hasn't really come up," Josh confessed.
"She should be with us," Esther said firmly. "She won't have to work if you're not working, right?"
"Probably not." Josh always worked Christmas, so this year he was actually taking Thanksgiving off and his mother was coming to visit.
"Yes, ma'am." Josh smiled. Why hadn't he thought of this himself?
"Invite her along for sight-seeing on Friday, too," she continued.
"Mom, pretty soon I'm going to think that you're actually just coming to see Donna, not me," Josh teased.
"Well, she is a much better tour guide than you are," his mother pointed out. "Of course I want to see you, Joshua. But don't you think she needs some family right now?"
"Yes, of course. You're right, and you know I'd want her to come anyway. I'm just worried . . ."
"You're worried that if someone sees her showing me around the Mall, they will take that as confirmation that she's having your baby?"
"Something like that," Josh admitted.
"Joshua, when it's time for Donna to buy a crib, who's going to go with her to pick it up and assemble it?"
"Uh, me, probably," Josh said, confused by the sudden change in direction the conversation had taken. "Maybe I'll get Sam or someone to help."
"Well, now I'm picturing you and Sam trying to assemble furniture, and I can't imagine that would go well," Esther giggled. "But that's not the point. So you're not going to let her try to get heavy furniture home from the store by herself because you're worried it would look bad if you helped?"
"No! Of course not." Josh was offended that his mother would even suggest that.
"Are you going to start avoiding her in public? Stop dancing with her at functions? Stop sharing your food in restaurants?"
"No. None of that." Josh was starting to see where his mother was going with this.
"Joshua, do you actually MIND if people think the baby's yours?" his mother asked quietly.
"No. I guess I don't . . . Mom, I offered to say the baby was mine. To tell people that we had been together for months. To marry her," Josh confessed.
"Good boy." His mom sounded proud. "She said no?"
"Yes. She said it would be a bad way to start a marriage."
"She's very smart, Josh."
"So we've established that you don't have a problem with people assuming the baby is yours."
"And we've established that Donna is a very smart woman."
"Yes . . ."
"And that she knows how to stand up to you."
"She definitely knows that."
"So why don't you let her decide how involved she wants you to be? You just worry about being her friend and being there for her and that precious baby."
Josh thought about this for a moment.
"You're a very smart woman too, Mom."
"I know." Esther Lyman laughed. "I love you, son."
"I love you, too."
"Tell Donna to call me."
"And I'll see you both next week. See if Sam and Leo are free for dinner on Friday, too. I haven't seen either of them in far too long."
"Okay. Bye, Mom."
Josh was smiling as he walked out of his office. He should have known that talking to his mother would make him feel better. He stopped at CJ's office on his way to the lobby to wait for Donna.
"CJ? Danny just called. They've got it . . ."
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