Title: Radiant, Chapter 8
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.
The phone rang the next morning as Josh was getting dressed for work.
"Hello?" He grabbed it as he was buttoning his shirt.
"Donna? What's up?" She had been fine when she'd given him his wake-up call an hour ago, but now she sounded upset.
"I can't leave. I'm surrounded."
"There are a million reporters in front of my building. I'm afraid to go out there."
"Oh, God. Just stay inside, okay? I'll be there as soon as I can."
"Are you sure? Do you want me to call someone else?" Donna sounded uncertain.
"I'm sure. Let me just finish getting dressed and grab my stuff. And hey, this way they'll see that I'm not already there with you," Josh pointed out.
"Yeah, okay," Donna agreed. "See you soon."
Josh hurriedly finished getting ready for work and drove over to Donna's. He decided to park a block or so away so that he could assess the situation rather than drive right into it. As he got out of the car and started walking toward Donna's building, he saw a familiar red-headed figure headed his way.
"Et tu, Danny?" he called. "I thought you said this wasn't news. Now you're staking out Donna's building with the rest of these idiots?"
"No! Of course not." Danny sounded offended. "Boy, am I glad to see you."
"So what are you doing here?" Josh still wasn't convinced.
"I heard what was going on so I decided to walk over and see if I could help. I'm just a few blocks away," Danny explained. "I was afraid Donna wouldn't call you, so I figured I could at least try to help her get through the crowd if she came out alone."
"Oh. Thanks." Josh felt foolish.
"I'm on your side here, Josh. At least mostly."
"Yeah. Mostly. You're still a reporter." Josh thought for a second. "Wait, why did you think Donna wouldn't call me?"
"Josh, I've been watching you for years, and I have yet to see any evidence that there are limits to what that woman would do to protect you. Have you?"
"No." Josh couldn't help but grin at the thought.
"I hope you appreciate that."
"I do," Josh promised.
"Although . . ." Danny trailed off, lost in thought. "The fact that we're learning about this pregnancy at all means we may have in fact found the limit to what Donna would do for you."
"Huh? How exactly could she have hidden it for very long?"
"I didn't mean that, Josh," Danny said quietly. "I meant something more permanent than hiding it."
Josh's eyebrows shot up.
"I think, for the sake of our friendship, we're going to pretend that you didn't just say what I think you just said."
"I cannot BELIEVE you would suggest that I would ask her – or ANYONE – to end a pregnancy because there might be rumors - "
"I thought we were pretending I didn't say that."
"Apparently I'm too mad at you to pretend right now."
"But no, I wasn't suggesting that you would ASK. Just that she might make that decision on her own because she thought it would be best for you," Danny explained.
"Well, if that's your definition of a limit to what she'd do for me, then I'm glad we've found that limit."
"Does that mean you're happy about Donna's pregnancy? Can I get that on the record?"
Josh rolled his eyes.
"Here's what you can have on the record: As Donna's friend and colleague, I wish her only the best in regards to the upcoming birth of her child. And you should be happy with that, because everyone else is getting 'No comment.'"
"Yeah. Thanks, that was enlightening," Danny said dryly.
"So are you seriously here to help?" Josh asked.
"Well, I was, but I'm sure she'd rather have you at her door than a reporter."
"Yeah, but – here." Josh tossed Danny his car keys. "A few minutes after I go inside, bring the car up as close to the building as you can. As soon as I get her into the car, lock the doors and drive to the White House."
Danny's face lit up.
"I get to drive the getaway car?"
"Apparently." Josh looked him in the eye. "You're really not going to write about this, right?"
"As long as neither Donna nor the kid is running for office, I really don't think it's my beat."
"Yeah. Okay. Well, here goes nothing."
Josh walked quickly but calmly toward Donna's building. As soon as the crowd of reporters noticed him, they started yelling questions.
"Can you confirm that your assistant is pregnant?"
"Why are you here?"
"Josh, who's the father?"
"Is it your baby?"
Josh kept his head down and made his way through the crowd. When he reached the door he turned around and yelled "No comment" before letting himself into the building. He had a feeling he'd be saying that a lot over the next several months. Might as well start practicing. He ran up the stairs and knocked on the door of Donna's apartment.
"Donna?" he called. "It's me. I'm gonna let myself in."
He heard a faint "okay" from inside as he unlocked the door, slid inside, and quickly locked it behind him. He didn't think any reporters had actually gotten into the building, but it seemed best to be vigilant.
Donna was standing in the kitchen, clutching a mug of tea. Josh quickly walked over to her and enfolded her in a hug.
"You okay?" he asked softly.
She nodded against his shoulder.
"I'm sorry I made you come all the way out here."
"It's fine, really," he insisted. "I wouldn't want you going out there by yourself."
"Thanks," she whispered as she stepped back. "We should be getting to work."
"Yeah. But I have a plan!"
"Is this a good plan or a Josh plan?" she asked skeptically.
"A Josh plan?"
"Like your secret plan to fight inflation."
"No, this is a real plan. Danny's out there with my car. He's going to pull it up front and as soon as you're in the car, he's locking the doors and driving to the White House."
"Danny? Danny Concannon?"
"Yeah . . ."
"Danny's a reporter, Josh," she said.
"I know. But he's also our friend, and he promised me he's not going to write about this."
"Okay . . ." She didn't sound entirely convinced. "Wait. As soon as we're both in the car, you mean."
"You said he was going to lock the doors and drive as soon as I was in the car. You meant as soon as you and I were both in the car."
"Well, we'll see," Josh hedged.
"Joshua. I'm not leaving you here with a bunch of reporters and no car."
"I sense a disappointing lack of faith in my ability to take care of myself, Donnatella," he teased.
"Disappointing? Maybe. Unjustified? No." She flashed him a quick grin.
"I'll do my very best to be in the car with you," Josh promised.
"Okay. Ready to go?"
"Yeah, my bag is by the door," Donna said.
They left the apartment and walked down the stairs in silence, both worrying about what they would encounter on the other side of the door. They reached the building's foyer and Josh put an arm protectively around Donna's shoulders as he steeled himself to open the door.
"Josh, you don't have to - "
"I'm getting really sick of having this argument," he grumbled. "Donna. If you want to walk out there by yourself, fine. That's your right. But don't do it because you're afraid of how things will look if my arm is around you."
"Okay. Thanks. I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize," Josh told her. "Just let me help you."
She smiled wanly.
"Okay. Let's go."
As soon as Josh opened the building's door, the reporters started yelling questions. He scanned the crowd quickly and was happy to see his car almost directly in front of the building.
"No comment," he yelled again as he steered Donna down the steps and toward the car. The questions continued, and a few of the reporters got a little closer to Donna than Josh would have liked, but no one seriously tried to stop them. Josh figured that was good, because CJ would probably be mad if he started beating up reporters in full view of several TV cameras.
When they reached the car, Josh opened the door and gently pushed Donna into the backseat. She slid over to the far side and Josh jumped in after her.
"Go, Danny," he said as soon as he closed the door behind him.
As instructed, Danny locked the doors and started driving.
"Hey, did they recognize you?" Josh asked. "Are they going to throw you out of the reporter club or something?"
"I think I'll live," Danny said. He looked at them in the rear view mirror. "How are you holding up there, Donna?"
"Okay, thanks," Donna said carefully.
"I told Josh, but I'll tell you too. I'm here as a friend. I'm not going to write about your personal life."
"Thanks, Danny." Donna smiled at him. "I appreciate the help."
"Actually," Josh said slowly, "we do want you to write about her personal life. Sort of."
"What?" Danny asked.
"WHAT?" Donna echoed.
Josh turned to Donna first.
"We need to get the question," he whispered. "It needs to be phrased the way we want it."
"I can't hear you," Danny called from the front seat.
"Imagine that," Josh teased. "I wasn't talking to you. But when we get to the White House, I think Gail might appreciate a visit."
"You know, your fish? She gets lonely. You should visit her."
"Oh, Gail." Danny thought for a minute. "Huh. Okay. Whatever you say."
Sam entered Josh's office shortly before CJ's morning briefing was scheduled to start.
"Hey, I wanted to talk to you about something."
Josh glanced at his friend.
"Yeah, okay. After the briefing. I want to watch."
"I was thinking more like tonight. Somewhere other than here."
"What?" Now Josh gave Sam his full attention. "What's going on?"
"I want to talk to you about something," Sam repeated. "And I think it would be best to have the conversation somewhere other than the White House."
"And you can't even tell me what it is we're talking about?" Josh pressed.
Josh felt the blood drain from his face.
"Are you having second thoughts about the no comment thing?" he demanded. "Because you're not giving us much time to come up with another strategy here."
"No, no, it's not about that," Sam assured him. "It's nothing to do with the press or strategy or – anything."
"So what's it about?"
"My feelings?" Josh wiped a hand over his face. "Seriously, we have to do this now?"
"Not now, no. Tonight."
"Great," Josh grumbled. "Where?"
"My place. I'm not letting you use the chance of people eavesdropping as an excuse not to talk about this. We'll order from that Italian place on my block that you like."
"If you're making me talk about my feelings, there had better be beer involved."
"That could probably be arranged."
"Okay." Josh had to admit that it would be something of a relief to talk about this with someone other than the President or his mother. And that's what best friends were for, right? "Hey, can you get Kathy to get Williams to come over here to meet with you sometime today?"
"Me?" Sam asked.
"Well, I'm not going to ask Donna to make the appointment. And I don't really want there to be any records of him meeting with me about this."
"Uh, sure. I'll let you know what time he's coming, and we can send Donna over to the East Wing or something for a while so she doesn't run into him." Sam glanced at the TV. "CJ's starting."
"DONNA!" Josh yelled. "Get in here!"
Sam rolled his eyes.
"Yes?" Donna appeared in the door.
"CJ's starting the briefing. Come watch with us."
The three of them watched as CJ went through her opening.
"It's gonna be the first question," Josh murmured.
"Really, Sherlock?" Donna fired back. "You don't say."
Sam shushed them.
"Here we go . . ."
"CJ, we have pictures of Josh Lyman's assistant Donna at an obstetrician's office yesterday. Can you confirm that she's pregnant?"
CJ took a moment to gather her wits and then started.
"Yes. On behalf of all of Donna's coworkers here at the White House, I would like to congratulate her on her pregnancy. Martha?"
"Who's the father?"
"Donna is not releasing that information at this time. John?"
"Is Ms. Moss married?"
"No, she isn't. Ann?"
"CJ, can you tell us whether the father works at the White House?"
"I'm not going to make any sort of blanket statement for thousands of people. You know that." She paused. "If you would like to ask specific staff members intrusive questions about their personal lives, feel free. It's up to each person whether or not to comment."
"Okay, we want to ask Josh Lyman." The follow-up came quickly.
"I know you guys aren't going to write about anything that actually matters to the country until we go through this, so I'm going to throw you a huge bone here and bring Josh to the afternoon briefing." She scanned the room, looking for the hand she knew would be raised. "Danny?"
"No sense just bringing in Josh. Can we have Leo McGarry, Toby Ziegler, Sam Seaborn, and Charlie Young, too?"
Good boy, CJ thought. She feigned irritation.
"I'll see what I can do, Danny. But these people do have a country to run, you know."
"Hah!" Sam yelled.
"Game on!" Josh added. "We got 'em."
"Ohhh," Donna said slowly. "So that's what you were talking about in the car. With Gail."
"Yeah." Josh smiled at her. "See why we needed Danny?"
"Gail?" Sam asked.
"Nothing," Josh said. "That went exactly the way we wanted, right? It'll make the story about all of us, not just me."
"Well, we can hope," Sam answered. "It'll still be mostly about you. But yeah, this is what we wanted. Okay, I'm gonna go set up that meeting for you."
"What meeting?" Donna asked Josh as Sam left the room.
He reluctantly met her eyes.
"You okay with this?" Josh asked.
"Yeah. I mean, I knew this was coming, it's just . . . I don't know. Do I have to be here?"
"Absolutely not. I think there's something they need you for in the East Wing around the time he'll be here, actually."
"What time will he be here?"
"I don't know yet."
"So they don't really need me in the East Wing?"
"Not really," Josh admitted. "I just – you have that stuff about the congressional races to read today, right?"
"Yes, my insane boss tends to pile on the reading," Donna agreed.
"Well, I'd feel better if you took your insane quantities of reading to the East Wing while Williams is here. Will you do that for me?" He smiled at her, knowing she was hard-pressed to say no to his dimples.
"We need a better name for him."
"Williams. We need something more . . . descriptive."
"Like your charming moniker for Dr. Freeride, you mean?" Donna asked.
"Yeah, just like that," Josh mused. "I'll work on it."
"You do that," Donna said. "In the meantime, I'm going back to my desk to do some actual work relevant to running the country. You might want to consider it sometime."
"Consider what?" Josh was still distracted by trying to think of a name for Williams.
"Isn't that what I have you for?"
"Yeah, yeah . . ."
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