Chapter 1: What Kind of Day Has it Been?
As I get back from the hill, I stop to grab a cup of coffee. I know I'm running late and I'm sort of expecting Donna to hit me with a crack about my sucky watch, but she's remarkably silent on the topic.
"Did you get me the meeting with the Vice President?"
"I did, but you're not going to be happy." Oh. This is why she's not making a comment about the fact that I'm running late, cuz I'm already going to be punished.
"We couldn't really, this time, just sit in chairs?"
She smirks at me. "He's jogging at 2; it's the only time he could fit you in."
"Okay, order me boiled chicken and some pasta. Nothing like a meeting you have to carb-up for." That earns me another smirk. She doesn't mind at all when I have to exercise and eat healthy. This is a win-win for her.
"You're supposed to be at the town hall prep right now."
Still no comment about my watch. She's really holding back today.
I zip into my office to drop my backpack off. "Yeah, I'm headed to the Press Room."
Donna calls out from the bullpen. "It started 10 minutes ago."
As I drop the backpack on the desk, I notice something. My chair is missing. "Donna?"
"Yeah?" She says as she joins me.
"Where's my chair?"
"We have to go." She's deflecting. She walks out of the office and I follow her over to her desk.
"Where's my chair?" I try again.
Well, now I know for sure she's up to something. "The chair I sit in at my desk." I try to keep my tone reasonable.
"It's at the shop."
"At the shop?"
"You said one of the wheels was wobbly."
"Yeah, you call up a guy in maintenance, he uses a screwdriver."
"Well, I sent it to the shop."
"I didn't even know there was a shop."
"It's not so much a shop as it is. . ."
"My friend Curtis."
"Your friend Curtis." I don't like Curtis. I don't like the way Curtis looks at her. And I definitely don't like Curtis touching my things.
"Is fixing my chair?"
"I'm throwing him some work."
"And how much is Curtis charging the Federal Government to fix the wobbly wheel on my chair?"
"He said he'd have to take a look at the job."
"At his shop."
Donna looks back over her shoulder at me. I think she's surprised that I acquiesced so quickly. I give her a smile. I may not like Curtis, but I'm not going to spout off about it. I love her. She loves me. There's no need to make this into something. The thing with Joey a couple weeks ago was enough.
. . . . .
When I get back from jogging with Hoynes, Donna meets me in the lobby and walks with me to the Gym so I can shower.
"You look really hot." She snarks in a low tone shortly after Ed and Larry pass us, putting just enough emphasis on hot that I'm not sure if she's being flirty or just harassing me over the fact that I got stuck jogging with Hoynes.
I just raise an eyebrow and wait to see where this is going. When we get to the basement it's pretty well empty.
"Seriously," She looks me up and down hungrily, "I could just jump you right now. Your arms . . ." She takes a deep breath and exhales slowly. "My man is fit."
We arrive at the locker room door and she smiles brightly at me. "Well! Think of me in the shower!" Then she turns and walks away slowly.
I linger in the doorway watching her until she rounds the corner. Then, of course, I think of her while I shower.
. . . . .
Well, that was bad. I hate disappointing Leo. I didn't even think about how he'd feel about the situation. I, mean, of course, I'd want us to get the pilot back alive and unharmed even if there wasn't an upside politically. But there is one. I was only thinking about it that way.
Then going for a hug. Duh. I mean it's work. So we don't do that. I guess for a second it just felt like he was channeling my Dad. He'd always give me a hug after scolding me. And the way Leo moved his arm. I guess I just got caught up in the moment.
Stupid, Josh! Be a person. Think of the human side. But don't take it too far. Remember this is work.
"Hey, you. Penny for your thoughts." My beautiful wife calls out to me from her desk. When I look up she's smiling at me and I immediately start to feel better. I know this secret is wearing on both of us, but I just don't want to take the chance of Leo moving her to another department.
I need her near me. She's my better half. She balances me. She knows when to comfort, and when to kick me in the pants. She knows when to ask questions, and when to demand answers. She's organized. She's a great researcher. She's brilliant. God. I just love her so much.
I give a little head tilt and she gets up with her notepad and follows me into my office. Once through the door, she looks me over then shuts it.
"What happened?" She asks gently.
"Oh nothing. Just a little misunderstanding with Leo. It's fine now."
"Are you sure?"
She walks over to me and wraps her arms around my shoulders and pulls me in tight. I bury my face in her neck and breath in her essence, absorbing some of her strength. We don't say anything, letting the moment linger just a bit longer.
"Better? She asks as she pulls away.
I give her a genuine smile. "Yes."
"Okay. Would it be alright if I didn't go to the town hall tonight? I'm feeling a little tired."
"Are you okay?" I feel my brow furrow. Donna doesn't get tired. Is she sick?
"Yeah. I'm fine. My stomach's just been a bit wobbly today. And we need some groceries. I figured I'd stop at the store on the way home. And then take a little nap before you get there. Then we can have a late dinner and go to bed early. What do you think?"
"That sounds a like a great plan." Since the door's still closed, I give her a quick kiss on the forehead and then whisper "I love you" in her ear.
"Love you too." She mouths before heading back to her desk.
. . . .
As we leave the building, I'm walking with CJ and Sam. Zoey and Charlie are bantering just ahead of us. It's cute. Donna will want all the details. She finds them adorable.
When we are almost through the gates, I point CJ and Sam toward our car. Then I feel my phone buzz. It's probably Donna checking in after grocery shopping. I pause for a moment.
Then suddenly I hear popping noises. What the hell is that? Firecrackers? Stupid. . .
No. It's gunshots. People are running in all directions, I'm forced into the gate and I grab it with both hands trying to stay upright.
And then I feel a sudden burning. PAIN. I grab at it to make it stop, turning and stumbling towards something.
My mind goes hazy, as the world around me slips in and out of focus.
I've got to get away. I've got to get home. I have to get to Donna.
I can't go any further. I feel myself crumbling but I manage to sit down and put my back against a wall.
Donna. Donna. Donna. Her name echoes in my head in an agonizing rhythm.
I put one hand over the other and trying to keep myself together. It's hot and sticky. But I'm freezing.
Don't look down. Don't look down. Stay present. Don't let go. Get back to Donna.
I'm here, Toby. Find me. Help.
"Josh! Didn't you hear me shouting for you? I didn't know where the hell you…"
Toby . . . I try to tell him I need help but nothing comes out.
Toby looks at me in a way I don't understand. Oh god, am I already dead? Then he finds his voice.
"I need a... I need a doctor! I need help!"
As Toby screams, I feel the world tilt. But a strong hand catches my head and lowers it to the concrete. As blackness claims me, I want to tell Toby to tell Donna that I love her but . . .
In between moments of blackness and jagged bursts of pain, I hear voices. I feel someone gripping my hand tightly. I hear my name. I hear crying.
But I don't hear Donna.
An incredible jolt brings me back from somewhere and I realize that I have to start over. I have to get to Donna. Where is she? Where would she be? I can't. . .
Faces . . .words . . . Donna? Start over. Don't quit. Don't give up. Start over.
I manage to rip off the thing holding me back.
"I have to get to New Hampshire." I tell anyone who will listen. I have to start over. I have to get back to Donna.
After I unload all the groceries from the car, I turn the TV on while I put everything away. It's a simple task but when it's over I find myself exhausted. I really hope I'm not coming down with anything. I know I should really get dinner started. Josh will be home within the hour. But I need to just rest a minute.
Just as I'm settling into the couch, a breaking news report comes on.
"Good evening. We are getting reports that multiple gunshots were fired at President Bartlet as he was leaving a public event in Rosslyn, Virginia. The shots were fired approximately seven minutes ago from an office building across the . . . "
Oh my god. I get up and grab my keys and sprint out the door. Think! What's protocol? I dial Josh's number as I hurry to lock the door and get out to the car, but I end up going to his voicemail.
Of course. He probably has 101 things to deal with right now. He's going to need my help.
"Josh! It's me. I just heard. Is everyone okay? Where should I meet you?"
Would he want me to go to the scene? Or should I go to the White House and wait for him to call me back?
Margaret! I'll call her. She'll know.
"Margaret. It's Donna."
"Oh god, Donna. The President's been shot."
"Oh my god! Is he going to be okay?"
"I don't know. Mrs. Landingham just left for GW. I'm manning the fort here until someone gets back."
"That must be where Josh is, then. He didn't answer his phone. I'm going to the hospital too. I'll get my instructions from Josh and then join you once I know what to do."
"Okay. Call me when you know anything."
I can barely get the key in the ignition, I'm shaking so hard. President Bartlet just has to be okay. He just has to be. He's like a father to Josh. He can't lose another person that he loves. And the world needs President Bartlet. He's a good man. Please god. Please let him live.
When I get to the hospital, I can't find a spot, so I finally just squeeze in on an end. I might get a parking ticket, but oh well.
When I get to the emergency door, I'm stopped by an agent that I don't recognize.
"I'm sorry Miss, no one is allowed. Authorized personnel only."
"But I work for the President! I'm Josh Lyman's assistant."
He looks me over suspiciously and I'm sorry that I changed into jeans and sneakers and put my hair up before shopping. I definitely don't look the part of a White House Staffer.
"I left it at home! I ran out of the apartment in a hurry." Suddenly I spot an agent I know. "Wesley!" I call out to him.
He spots me and a strange look flashes across his face. "Donna." He walks over to the agent guarding the door.
"She doesn't have ID."
"It's okay." Wesley responds. "I can vouch for her. I'll walk her to the waiting room."
Wesley is silent as I follow along. I want to ask him a million questions but it doesn't seem right. My nerves are building. I can't wait to see Josh and find out what's going on and what we do next.
"Right there, Donna. I'm sorry, I've got to go." Wesley says pointing to a door then walking away.
As I open it, I realize I'm interrupting a briefing of some sort.
"I'm sorry. They told me I should come back here. I'm sorry."
Toby is sitting stock still. Sam looks stricken, then looks to CJ, who looks incredibly shaken. No one says anything.
"Is there word on the President?"
CJ finally looks at me. "The President's going to be fine."
I feel an incredible sense of relief. "Oh, thank God. Oh, thank God- that's the best news I've ever heard. I got here as fast as I could. I had a hard time getting in. I had to find an agent who knew me and I was shaking . . I didn't know . . ."
Toby interrupts my rambling. "Donna. Josh was hit."
"Hit with what?"
"He was shot- in the chest."
There's a buzzing in my ears, but I hear CJ say- "He's in surgery right now."
"I don't understand. I don't understand. Is, is it serious?" The buzzing is getting louder.
"Yes. It's critical." Toby says bluntly. "The bullet collapsed his lung and damaged a major artery."
I feel my world collapsing. Everything is pressing down on me. The buzzing is growing and my heart is pounding. My stomach lurches and I press my hand over my mouth so that I don't vomit.
Somehow I manage to stay on my feet even though black dots are swimming in front of my eyes. The man starts speaking again but I can't hear what he's saying. I feel like I'm breaking apart. Josh can't be hurt. Josh has to be okay. We've only had two years. I can't live without him.
Then suddenly I'm completely numb. I feel everything shut down. I can't lose it. I have to be strong. If Josh is hurt, I have to be strong. I have to be strong. I have to be strong.
As I sit in the chair next to Charlie, I vaguely feel CJ rub my back. But no one says anything. After a moment, CJ and Charlie leave. My back is to Sam and Toby, and I stare straight ahead refusing to make eye contact with anyone else. Trying to will the buzzing in my head to stop.
I hear a door behind me open, then Abbey Bartlet's voice. "Oh! Donna!"
I jump up and turn to face her but instantly blackness closes in around me and the buzzing over takes me.
. . . . . .
"Donna. Donna." I hear my name as a strong smell brings me around. I open my eyes and I look up into a kind face. She's wearing pink scrubs.
"Welcome back. Don't try to sit up yet. Can you tell me your name?"
"Donna Moss. I'm Josh's wife. I need to see him."
I hear a gasp, and realize there are others in the room. Sam looks shocked. Toby's eyes are narrowed like he's trying to figure something out. Mrs. Bartlet smiles softly at me.
"Let's sit her up." Mrs. Bartlet suggests to the nurse. Once I'm upright, they give me a few moments.
"How are you feeling?" The nurse asks gently.
"I'm fine. I need to see Josh."
Some sort of look passes between Abbey and the nurse. I look to Dr. Bartlet, ready to beg. I'm sure she can make this happen. She's a very powerful woman.
"Let's move to a private room." Abbey suggests. "We can get Donna a glass of juice, and talk to a doctor. Then we'll see what we can make happen. Okay?"
"Okay." I agree. Whatever Abbey says. She's the key here. She's going to help me get to Josh.
"Okay." The nurse agrees. The two of them help me up. "Doing okay?" She asks.
"Okay, I need you to tell me if you feel wobbly at all, alright?"
They each take an arm and walk me slowly toward a room across the hall. I want to sprint away from them to find Josh. I need to see him. I need him to know I'm here. But I know that I'm going to have to play by the rules to get what I want.
"Okay. Here you go. Take a seat on the bed there. I'll get an aid to bring you a snack."
I don't want a snack. If I tried to eat something right now I'd throw up. But I'm not going to argue with anyone.
Dr. Bartlet rolls a blood pressure monitor over. "Let's just take a quick reading, okay Donna."
I nod, and she hooks me up. She smiles at the reading.
"Well. It's a little high, but not much. So that's good. Now. I need to ask you something."
She looks me right in the eye, and I know what's coming. She's going to ask me if I lied about being Josh's wife just to get to see him. Maybe I should say that I did. That would be an easy out. But it wouldn't be just a lie of omission. And I just can't. I can't deny our marriage while he's lying here somewhere in this hospital clinging to life.
"How long have you and Josh been married?"
That's not quite the question I was expecting.
Her eyebrows shoot up. Clearly she wasn't expecting that answer. I'm just a little please to have surprised her. We've kept our secret well.
"We got married in Connecticut after Josh's Dad . . ." I trail off. I don't want to say the word. I clear my throat and start over. "Leo and the President sent me to help him through it."
"And you married him?"
I smile a little. "I'm a very good assistant." Abbey laughs and tilts her head and waits for me to go on.
"I already knew I loved him. I just knew. I know nobody would've believed me, especially with my track record. But I just knew. I know that people will think that Josh was in a vulnerable place and that I took advantage of that. But it was his idea. And he knew what he was doing. And even his Mom approved. She was there, you know. She saw it too. We just have a connection. That's why I have to see him, Dr. Barlet. I have to see him."
Dr. Bartlet deposits me back into the waiting room next to Mrs. Landingham. A look passes between the two of them, before Dr. Barlet looks back at me.
"I'll go see what I can arrange." She says as she breezes out the door.
Mrs. Landingham doesn't say a word, but takes my hand and holds it. Honestly, it's exactly what I need. I don't want to make small talk. I'm not sure that I could even come up with anything to say if I had to. And although Dr. Bartlet knows my secret, I don't feel like I should tell anyone else that I'm Josh's wife just yet, no matter how much I want to.
But as I sit there, I study Mrs. Landingham's hand. It's thin with faint blue veins and lines that prove she's lived a lifetime. How long has she been a widow? How long as she been childless? How does she stand it? Where does she get the strength?
I'm not that strong. I won't survive if Josh doesn't make it. Truthfully, I don't think I'll even try. What would be the point? He's my soul. You can't go on without your soul.
I try to banish the thoughts. Now is not the time to be negative. I must be positive. I have to believe that he will make it through this. It's Josh. He never backs down from a fight. He's strong. He's determined. I will be the same.
I get a glimpse of my own hand and suddenly I wish more than anything that I was wearing my wedding ring. It just feels so wrong to be hiding anything in this moment. Like, I need to be completely honest and worthy or the universe will not grant me any favors. It's been a long time since I prayed, but I try to remember what my grandmother taught me.
I gently close my eyes for a moment, but all I can see is Josh. My imagination runs wild and I see him covered in blood. I see him writhing in pain. I see him slipping away.
NO! I can't do this. I have to squash this overwhelming sense of dread. I can't do this. I've already passed out, I don't want to throw up, too. But the thought of Josh down the hall fighting for his life causes a lump in my throat. I swallow hard and take a deep breath, letting it out slowly.
The quiet is eerie. I'm so used to Josh's non-stop bustling, and talking, and energy. I feel like I'm going to come out of my skin.
Once again, my mind starts to spin and I wonder for a fleeting moment if he thought of me. I wonder if he needed me and I wasn't there. The thought is almost more than I can handle at the moment. My chest constricts at the thought. I should have been there, I berate myself. I should have been standing next to him. I should have taken care of him. I should have held his hand and told him that I love him. I should have pushed him out of the way.
An aide walking down the hall, taping some signs up on windows, pulls me from the downward spiral of my emotions.
A bag of blood connect to a heart with a wavy line. "Donate Blood to Save a Life." It announces.
That's it. Something I can do! Josh and I even have the same blood type! I have to get out of this waiting room. I have to get away from my thoughts. I have to do something.
Letting go of Mrs. Landingham's hand, I walk as steadily as possible toward the nurse's station. Luckily the nurse that helped me when I passed out isn't around.
"I'd," my voice comes out kind of rough, so I clear it and try again. "I'd like to donate blood." I tell her with a pleading look. "Please. I'd like to help."
She gives me a once over, then finally nods. "Susan," she calls out to another nurse. "Please take Ms. Moss into a room so she can donate."
Mrs. Landingham smiles at me as I follow the nurse down the hall.
Once we are settled into an empty room, the nurse begins.
"Okay, Donna, I have to ask you some basic questions."
"Donnatella Moss. . . . I didn't . . . I didn't change my name." I whisper, feeling a sob start to bubble up inside of me, and my eyes start to blur. The nurse looks at my sympathetically.
"It's okay, honey. A lot of women don't. I bet he doesn't mind, right?"
I just shake my head at her. She's right. He doesn't mind. But I do. I want his name. I always have. I love it when we are home and he calls me Mrs. Lyman. The grin on his face. The look in his eyes. He's proud that I'm his. I want the world to know it. Oh God, Josh. You have to be okay. I have to change my name.
The nurse must sense my internal conflict on the subject. "Can just I call you Donna?" she asks gently. I nod my consent as I pull myself together. I will not lose it. I have to be strong.
"What's your date of birth, Donna?"
"October 31, 1971"
"You were born on Halloween?" She chuckles a little, making me smile. Josh has gotten a lot of mileage out of it. His birthday is a week earlier. We usually celebrate together.
"Have you traveled out of the United States in the last 12 months?"
"No. When everyone went on the trip to Cairo, I had strep."
"Alright, are you currently taking any medication?"
Her brow furrows. "Birth control?"
"Oh! Um, yeah."
"What was the first day of your last menstrual cycle?"
"I don't have my calendar. Let me think. . . . Um, June? There was a concert at the Kennedy Center. No, that was the end of May."
"What about July, Donna?"
"Yes. It's August 8th."
I just stare at her. I have no idea what she's trying to get at. Finally, she takes my hand.
"Donna, could you be pregnant?"
"No," I almost laugh. She doesn't understand. We don't have time to get pregnant.
I mean, of course, we practice a lot and we want kids someday. Like in 5 years, when we're almost out of the White House. I have a plan. I can go off the pill on our anniversary, have the baby after the new President is elected, and then work 3 days a week. After Inauguration, Josh and can work at the DNC and find his next candidate, then we can all hit the road together for the midterms. We can take a two year old on the road with us, right?
"Donna . . . " the nurse breaks gently into my rambling thoughts, "We need to run a pregnancy test before you can donate blood."
"Oh. Of course," I give her a weak smile. I'll take it and she'll see it's just stress messing with my cycles and then I'll be able to donate.
"There's a bathroom right there," she gestures towards the door. "There's a specimen cup on the shelf. Just follow the directions then bring it back to me."
It feels surreal. But I have to do what I have to do. When I'm finished, I hand her the cup. And she leaves the room with it.
I'm tempted to go look for Josh, but I know I probably wouldn't get far. I hope Abbey figures something out soon. If I could just see him. I'm sure it would help.
In the meantime, I try again to pray. Please God. Please. Let him live. I'll do anything. Just please, give us more time. Please.
"Donna?" I open my eyes at the sound of Abbey's voice. "What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to pray! But I don't know if I'm doing it right!"
"Oh Donna, there's no right way. Just speak from your heart. God will hear you."
"Would you?" I hate to ask, but I'm sure that Abbey knows what to say, they go to church all the time. She sits down next to me and takes my hand and starts reciting in a low voice. I immediately start to feel better.
When she's done, she smiles at me. "Now, I have some good news for you."
Just then the nurse comes back into the room. "Well, Donna, I have some good news for you."
I've decided to change the update schedule to Tuesdays & Thursdays. As always I'd love to hear what you think of this chapter.
The nurse freezes, looking between me and the First Lady, not sure if she should continue.
"Well, go ahead," Mrs. Bartlet urges. "We could all use some good news." And I find myself nodding slowly. She's probably going to tell me I can donate blood. That'll be good. I can show everyone that I can handle this and then they'll let me see Josh. I have to see Josh!
"You're going to have a baby!"
The nurse is grinning at me, like she just solved all my problems. And Mrs. Bartlet is gripping my hand. Which is good because I feel like I'm falling.
"Maybe you should give us a minute." Mrs. Bartlet suggests and the nurse turns and leaves the room.
"Donna? Are you okay?" Mrs. Bartlet asks me gently.
I want to scream. How can anyone ask me that? Josh is somewhere in this goddamn hospital. And no one will let me see him. I'm not alright. I clench my jaw to avoid saying something I'll regret. Throwing a fit is not going to help.
"Mrs. Bartlet. . . please. I have to see him."
"Okay. That's what I came to tell you." She holds up my ID badge. She must have had Charlie pick it up. "Here. Put this on."
Once I do I feel stronger. I'm doing something. Mrs. Bartlet gives me a nod of approval. "Alright, let's go."
She leads me down a few hallways, through a couple of doors that open with a swish of the badge in her own hand. Then she stops at a door and turns to look a me.
"Donna. This isn't going to be easy. Are you sure you want to see him like this?"
"Yes. I'm sure." I make sure my answer is firm and clear. I'm too close to be denied now.
"I wouldn't allow this if I wasn't sure that you were strong enough." She tells me. "People have been underestimating you. I'm not going to do that."
"Thank you, Ma'am."
"But Donna . . . ." She takes my hand and gives it a squeeze. "It's okay to need help."
. . . . .
I feel myself wobble a bit as I look through the window for the first time and see Josh laying there, eyes shut, tubes everywhere. I see flashes of red as the doctors move above him, but I'm glad I can't really see what they are doing to him.
Abbey's hand is steady on my back as she explains what is happening in layman's terms. That machine is circulating his blood, making sure his body gets the oxygen he needs, that one is monitoring his vitals, making sure he doesn't crash.
"Donna- these surgeons. They really are the best in the world. He's getting the best care possible. Don't lose faith."
Once again I try to pray. This time it comes a little easier. It's not a formal prayer, just a silent mantra. Please God. Please God. Please God.
After a few minutes, Abbey touches my shoulder, and asks, "are you ready to go?"
I turn and look at her, perplexed. "Go where?"
I belong here. I will stand here and be his strength. I'm not going anywhere.
Dr. Bartlet gives me a once over, and apparently satisfied by what she sees, nods at me. "Alright. I'll give you a few more minutes. I'm going to go check on the President. I'll send someone in to check on you."
Before she leaves, I realize there is something that I'm not ready to do. And I do feel bad about it.
"Dr. Bartlet . . . " She turns back and gives me a gentle smile. "Did someone call Josh's mother? I know I should but I just . . . ."
My voice trails off. I just don't know how I would tell her that he's fighting for his life right now. I don't know how I could tell her that she could lose another family member. And I just don't want to even vocalize the words.
"Leo is taking care of it. Don't worry, they are old friends. He'll take care of everything and make sure she's able to get here by the time Josh is out of surgery so she can see him."
I give Abbey a grateful nod, and she turns back to the door.
After she leaves I move closer to the window and let my mind start to drift. Maybe my memories can help create positive energy.
As I hold the ID badge, I can't help but think of when we first met. It had been one of my more crazy ideas.
Pack up my stuff, move out of Tom's and start over. Ever since Tom had said he didn't see a future for us, the idea started rolling in my head. Tom said I could stay "until I figured things out" but I didn't really want to do that. And I certainly didn't want to move back in with my parents, but since I only had a few hundred dollars in savings my options were limited.
All of a sudden, I started hearing about Jed Bartlet every time I turned on the radio or TV. I didn't have much money, but I had enough to drive to New Hampshire. And I had enough for a few nights at a cheap hotel. If I could land a job on the campaign I could travel the country, do something exciting, and maybe even figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
It might have not been a great plan, but it was a plan, so I took the leap. After I packed all my stuff, I dropped some of it off in my parents basement, then took off. I drove the rest of the day, then slept in my car in a rest area, before finishing the trip.
I checked into the cheapest motel I could find, took another nap, then showered and changed into clean clothes. When I showed up at headquarters it was pretty quiet. Well not quiet, but everyone seemed to be in a meeting and no one really seemed to notice me. So I slipped up the stairs and walked around for a few minutes. When I found an office with a sign for Josh Lyman, I knew I'd found my calling.
It was a disaster. If ever anyone needed an assistant, it was Josh Lyman.
While I was standing there, the phone started ringing. On the third or fourth ring, I took it as a sign and answered it. Someone wanted to know if Josh was available for a meeting. Looking over his desk I noticed a calendar, so I spouted off his appointments. The person on the other end suggested a time, and I quickly jotted it down. Before she hung up, she thanked me for my help.
That's when I noticed him standing there. Curly brown hair, warm brown eyes, and a confused look on his face. My heart gave a funny little flip, and somehow I just knew that if I could fool him long enough, it would all work out.
But within a few minutes, he was calling my bluff. I still don't know how he knew about Tom, but he did. And then he gave me a chance anyway.
And the next two weeks were amazing. I found myself falling hard. Then I ran out of money. And then Tom called and said he missed me. He wanted to give us another chance. And it really did come down to the choice- sell my car or go home.
I'll never forget the look on Josh's face, when I told him I had to go. Or the devastation in his eyes. Or the thing that he said.
Please don't leave me. I know that I'm a pain in the ass. But you balance me. You make me want to be a better man. I really do find you valuable. I don't think I could do this without you.
So I stayed. And now here we are, with a baby on the way.
I put one hand on the window, while the other rests protectively over my middle. Then I whisper to Josh. "Don't you dare leave us you giant pain in the ass. We need you."
I've lost all sense of time when the door opens. I turn, ready to do battle with anyone who even thinks about trying to get me to leave this room.
"Hey kid, how are you holding up?" Leo walks briskly towards me with his arms open and I feel my eyes fill with tears as he embraces me. He pats my back awkwardly as I try to hold it together.
"He's gonna be okay Donna. I've known him practically his whole life. He's too stubborn to give up. He's gonna be fine." Leo's voice is a little gruff. But his absolute confidence gives me strength, and I find myself nodding and letting go of him.
"Now, Abbey told me that I was supposed to tell you that you needed to come with me and get something to eat and then lay down for a bit."
My head starts to shake before he even finishes the sentence. Leo gives me a penetrating glare, but it has no effect. I can be stubborn too.
"No?" His lips quirk up just a bit around the corners as he realizes that he doesn't want to fight me on this.
" Alright." He continues, "but you have to sit down in a chair for a while. And I'm going to send someone in with something and you're going to eat it."
I'll agree to anything as long as I can stay with Josh. But if they want me to leave this room, they're going to need to send in someone far scarier than Leo McGarry.
When Sam comes in next, I almost laugh. Not that any of this is funny, but Sam? They think Sam is going to convince me to go lay down somewhere?
Sam approaches me slowly, like he doesn't quite know who I am or how to handle me.
"Hey, I brought you some juice. And a muffin. Is there any chance you'll eat it and keep me out of the doghouse with Mrs. Bartlet?"
I shrug my shoulders a little bit. "I'm not really hungry, Sam."
He puts an arm around me. "I know. But you've been in here for hours. Can you at least drink the juice? . . . For Josh. He'd be upset if you passed out again."
It was a low blow . . . . But it worked.
"Okay. I'll drink the juice."
Sam opens the bag and hands me a bottle of orange juice. Then he waits silently until I've finished it.
Once I'm done, he gives me a soft smile. "So . . . ."
I'm pretty sure I know what's coming. Sam was in the waiting room when I blurted out that I'm Josh's wife. But I wait him out. If he wants answers, he's going to have to ask me direct questions.
". . . when did you and Josh get married? I'm really happy for you. I mean, I would have liked to been included, but . . ."
He trails off as some movement in the operating room catches his attention and he realizes that happy isn't a word that applies right now. And that this really isn't the time to take me to task for eloping.
But I find myself telling him about it anyway.
"We got married two days after Noah's funeral. Everyone had left the house. It was just Josh and Ruth and me. She was in the kitchen making lunch. Josh and I were sitting on the couch. He was holding my hand and it was . . . I don't know how to describe it . . . it was like this energy, this tingling. And my heart was pounding. He thanked me for being with him. Said he didn't think he could have done it on his own. And then he leaned over and kissed me. Just a little kiss. Light and soft. But it was like a lightning bolt. And suddenly we were really kissing."
I feel myself blush a bit but Sam just smiles at me.
"And then Ruth cleared her throat from the doorway to tell us lunch was ready. And I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me whole. I mean, who kisses someone like that right after a funeral? But she just smiled at us. And when we sat down at the table she patted my hand and said "Noah liked you so much. He had big hopes for the two of you."
I turn and look through the window at Josh, lying there so still. But I keep telling the story, hoping that if somehow he can hear me, it will give him strength.
"After lunch, she went to her room to nap. And Josh and I went to his room and . . . didn't nap. It was incredible. And I just knew . . . he's my soulmate."
Sam rubs my back a little as I choke back a little sob. I will not cry. I will not.
"Getting married was Josh's idea. We were laying there, just holding each other, and all of a sudden he sits up, and he's got this look in his eye, like he's just had the greatest idea ever. And he says "Let's get married."
"I couldn't say no, Sam. It was like all of a sudden he was alive again. And I didn't want to say no anyway. I wanted to marry him. So I said okay."
"And then Josh said- I mean, right now. Let's get married right now. I love you. The rest of the campaign is going to be crazy. And then the White House . . . he knew, Sam, he just knew that President Bartlet would win. He talked me into it, Sam! He said- It'll be too crazy if we wait until after the election! There will be the transition, and then four years will become eight, and we'll never find a better time. Let's get married today! My Dad's old partner is a local judge. I can give him a call. What do you say?"
"What could I say? He's the love of my life. I didn't want to wait either. I'm sure some people will say that I took advantage of him while he was grieving, but it wasn't like that."
"No Donna, I'm sure it wasn't. I know how Josh can be when he's got a brilliant idea. And marrying you was definitely the smartest thing he's ever done! But why didn't you tell us?"
"Well, we did tell his Mom. She was completely on board with it! She went with us down to the Courthouse. When we left she thanked me. Said she'd sleep a lot better knowing that I was going to take care of her son."
"But then on the way back to the campaign, Josh started thinking about the possibility of political ramifications. There might be speculation on why we got married so quickly and that could distract from the campaign. He didn't want to take any chances with the nomination. And then the general was so close, he decided since it hadn't come out, we should just keep quiet. And then, after the election he was afraid Leo wouldn't let me work with him if he knew we were married. And then a year went by . . . and then another. And we still hadn't told anyone so we thought maybe we should wait until after the re-election."
I realize that I'm rambling so I just stop talking. I don't want to think about how we didn't tell anyone. Or about how we didn't take a honeymoon.
I'd rather think about how he recently promised to take me to Hawaii someday. And all the things we still have to do.
"Are you mad at me Sam?"
"God! No! Donna. It's been pretty obvious that you love him. And he hasn't really been able to hide it either. Sabotaging your dates. . ."
Sam's eyes get really wide.
"Uh. . . . Donna? Did you really go out on dates?"
"No. We made them up."
"Oh thank god. Wow. Josh is a better actor than I thought."
There's a knock on the door, then it opens slowly. "Hey Sam, there's a call for you." Charlie tells him in a monotone voice.
"Sorry, Donna. I'd better go. Are you going to be okay in here?"
"I'll stay." Charlie offers.
He sits in a chair facing the window and doesn't say anything. He just stares without moving. Not even hardly blinking.
It occurs to me that I'm not the only one devastated by what happened tonight. Charlie looks up to Josh. Thinks of him as a big brother. And poor Charlie, he lost his own mom to gun violence. This must be hell for him.
"Charlie, are you okay?"
"It's my fault."
"This is my fault. They were shooting at me. Because I'm dating Zoey. It's my fault."
"Charlie! It's not your fault."
Charlie just gives me a look. And it's obvious that nothing I say is going to help. The poor kid. Josh will have to have a talk with him when he wakes up. I'll let him know. It's funny, but Josh, the king of guilty feelings, will know what to say. He's good at comforting other people.
I stand up and l lean my head against the window. Josh. Charlie's going to need you. Stay strong.
Charlie and I stay in the room in silence for a while. There's a clock on the wall in the operating room, but I don't like to look at it.
Eventually Toby comes in. He looks me over then jerks his head in a way that makes Charlie leave the room.
Toby stares at me for a while then he finally says, "you weren't lying to the nurse were you?" His tone of voice reminds me of my Father, when he already knew that I'd misbehaved but he wanted me to confess on my own.
"No." I answer quietly. Toby's face is unreadable. I'm not sure whether or not I'm about to be scolded. I'm not sure if he wanted it to be a lie.
We stare at each other a minute. Then he finally says, "now's not the time, but once he's fully recovered I'm going to have words with the two of you."
Instead of dread, Toby's words give me a sense of comfort. Josh is going to be fine. He'd never make me face an angry Toby alone.
"Josh? Josh, wake up, it's okay."
I hear a voice I don't recognize talking to me. Something is pulling me out of the cold, towards something warm. Donna is warm. I have to try to get to the warmth.
"I want you to wake up." The voice says again, more insistently.
I open my eyes slowly and look around. Leo and President Bartlet are standing there. He puts his hand on my head. I wonder what we need to do. I want to finish so I can get home to Donna.
"What's next?" I ask, but I can hardly even hear my own voice.
"I couldn't hear you, Josh." The President leans in closer, and I repeat myself. He pets my head in a soothing way. This is all so confusing, but it's kind of nice.
"What did he say?" Leo asks.
President Bartlet tells him and then they both smile and looked relieved. I'm still not sure what I did, but if they are happy with me, then I'm happy too.
But I'm really tired. And I really need to find Donna.
. . . . .
I'm watching myself and Donna as we meet for the first time. It's the strangest thing. I watch how we banter back and forth. I notices the sparks in both of our eyes. And I see the way that she smiles at me the moment I decide to give her a chance. It's an amazing feeling.
But there's a nagging pain and I'm being pulled away from us. I can hear voices again. There's a problem. I need to get there.
"What are we going to do with the two of you! I'm a little shocked! Two years! You kept it secret for two years?" Leo's voice is hard. He's upset.
I open my eyes and see Donna hanging her head while Leo scolds her. She's trembling.
"Stop." I say as forcefully as I can. Unfortunately, it only comes out slightly louder than a whisper.
Luckily Donna is tuned to me and rushes to my side.
"Josh! You're awake! You're awake." She plants little kisses all over my face. "You're awake." She starts to sniffle, and I try to lift my arm so that I can cup her face but my body doesn't want to cooperate.
God. It hurts.
Donna sees my grimace and puts a plastic thing into my hand. "Here. This button is a morphine drip. Press it."
I click it a few times. But nothing happens.
Leo comes over to the bed and stands over me. His scowl relaxes. "You scared us kid. But you're going to be fine.
"Don't. Yell. At Donna." I manage to grit out between my teeth.
"Okay, okay. We're going to have to have a conversation about this before you come back to work. But it can wait." He looks between the two of us. "And I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I knew something was bound to happen with you two. Your father warned me."
He gives us a gruff little smile and Donna beams back at him. She's so beautiful.
I feel a heaviness start to come over me and I have a hard time keeping my eyes open.
"It's okay. Go back to sleep." Donna tells me. So I do.
. . . . .
I'm watching myself sit in an airport. It seems familiar, like I've been here before. Then several secret service guys come in and take posts. And Jed Bartlet walks up to me.
"Your father died Josh. I can't believe it."
I want to cry. My heart hurts as I watch the rest of the scene play out. I miss my Dad. But seeing Jed Bartlet comforting me. That's nice. Telling me that my Dad would be proud of me. Offering to go with me to mourn for the man who made me who I am. I can tell he was sincere. I'm going to make that man the President.
And then the scene jumps forward and I'm in my parents' house, answering the door the next morning, and finding Donna standing there.
"Leo and the Governor sent me. They didn't want you to be alone."
I see myself pulling Donna into my arms and burying my face into her hair as I weep broken heartedly.
And I see her taking care of me and my Mom for two days. Mostly just listening as we talk about Dad. But also holding my hand, and letting my mother fuss over us. Then fielding phone calls, and making arrangements, and supporting us in every way.
And I see myself proposing. And I see the joy in her face. And for the first time, I see how I look when she says yes. I see a man that knows that he's the luckiest man in the world.
The picture fades and I find myself drifting upward out of the blackness. It hurts to move, but somehow I know that it'll be okay. Because even though there's pain, Donna will be there waiting for me.
"Oh, Donnatella, everything's going to be okay. He's strong and he loves you."
I open my eyes to see my wife, crying on the shoulder of the President of the United States, as he gently rubs her back. He notices my eyes are open and gives me a fond smile.
"And here he is!"
Donna pulls away from the President and turns to look at me, hastily wiping her eyes as she does. She puts on a bright smile. And grabs my hand.
"Hey! How are you feeling?"
Everything hurts. But I'm so glad to see her. That's all that matters. "I'm okay." I offer trying not to grimace. She narrows her eyes and frowns. I'm not fooling her.
"Josh. . . it's so good to see you awake again." The President offers. "And let me take this opportunity to congratulate the two of you on your marriage!"
Oh. He knows?
"You're not mad?"
"Nah. I knew that someday you'd figure out that you can't live without her. This just proves you're smarter than I gave you credit for! You know, Abbey and I got married just a few weeks after we met too."
"Yes. When you meet your soulmate, you just know."
"But what about the scandal?"
"Nothing scandalous about marrying the woman you love." He reaches over and pats the hand that Donna's holding. Then gives me a wink. "And you know, Abbey and I would love more grandbabies."
Donna turns pale and I'm at a lost for words. He sounded so much like my father there. But I don't see any babies in the near future for us. There's too much to do! Besides the fact that I can barely move.
"Jed! I said 10 minutes!" Abbey bursts into the room like an angry Mother bear. While Jed occasionally reminds me of my father, Abbey does not remind me of my Mother at all.
"Joshua. I'm glad to see your eyes open. Let's check those vitals, hmmmm?" She walks around the President giving him a little stare. "At least sit down, Jed."
He takes the seat next to Donna a bit sheepishly and I fight back a small chuckle. It hurts to laugh.
Abbey takes my wrist in her hand and looks at her watch for a few seconds. I'm a little confused. I'm hooked up to a bunch of machines. Doesn't one of them measure my pulse?
But I have to admit. Having her hand on my wrist is very comforting. And the way she looks at me, makes me feel secure. She's a smart doctor. I'm glad she's taking care of me.
"Your pulse is a little high. Did my husband get you worked up about something?"
"No Ma'am." I answer, and President Bartlet gives me a grin for my loyalty.
Abbye harrumphs and then flips my chart open and looks it over. The three of us watch her with bated breath for her pronouncement.
Finally, she says- "Well I think you'll make a full recovery. But you need to take it easy. Avoid stress. Follow the doctors orders. Do your breathing treatments and therapy. And use the pain medicine. Your body will recover faster if it's not fighting against pain unnecessarily. Understand?"
"Good boy. Now Jed, it's time for you to get back to your room. Let's give these kids a bit of privacy. I think Donna has something to tell Josh."
Donna's eyes get really wide. "But Ma'am, you just said he needed to avoid stress."
"It will be fine Donna. This isn't a secret you should keep."
I'm looking back and forth between the two of them. Abbey is holding Donna's eye until she gives a small nod of agreement. Abbey nods back and then escorts the President from the room, holding tightly to his arm.
It's at that point something occurs to me. The President of the United States is wearing a bathrobe and slippers.
"Donna- why is the President dressed like that?"
Her eyes fill with tears. "He was shot too."
"Oh my God! No one told me! IS HE GOING TO BE OKAY?" One of the machines starts to beep wildly.
Donna looks really scared as a nurse comes rushing in.
"Mr. Lyman, you need to calm down. Are you in pain?"
I am in pain. I can't believe the President was shot. I still don't understand what happened.
The nurse injects something into my IV and intuitively, I know this means I'm not going to be awake very much longer. I take a deep breath and my chest aches.
Eventually my heart rate settles down and the nurse leaves. Donna hovers by my head, running her hand over my cheeks.
"Donna, was anyone else hurt? CJ, Toby, Sam? Oh my god, Charlie? Zoey? Is everyone okay?"
"Everyone is fine, babe. The President's wound was what they call a through and through. They did exploratory surgery. No internal damage. They are keeping him one more day for observation.."
"Oh thank god. Was anyone else hit?"
"Ron Butterfield was shot in the hand. It was a ricochet bullet that grazed him. He had a couple broken bones. He's got a cast. There was also a lady in the crowd that broke her leg. She's going to be fine too. You took the worst of it. You almost died!"
With that she breaks down sobbing, putting her head on the bed next to me.
I find that I do have enough strength to lift my right arm and caress the back of her head. "I'm okay, baby. I made it. I'm right here. It's going to take a lot more than that to get rid of me."
Donna and I are on a bus, sitting near the back. We are covered by a blanket, her head is resting against my shoulder. It's a comfortable feeling.
Seeing us like that, it's hard to imagine why no one could tell we were in love. I take the opportunity to look around at them. This vantage point of seeing everything is pretty nice.
Oh. CJ is staring at us with a concerned look, but it turns into a small smile when Donna falls asleep and snuggles closer to me as I wrap my arm more tightly around her. CJ turns to look at Toby who is also looking at us. He's frowning.
I see a look pass between them and then he relaxes, gives her a little head tilt and eyebrow raise, and a small shrug. Huh. I never noticed how much they communicate without words. I know they are old friends, but for the first time I wonder if there is or was something else.
The scene changes before I can figure it out. I see Donna slipping into my hotel room in the middle of the night and curling up next to me.
"God. I thought Margaret was never going to fall asleep!"
"I wish you didn't have to share a room with someone."
"I know! It would have been better if I was still sleeping on the bus! If you hadn't put me on staff, it would be a lot easier to sneak in here."
I see myself frown at her, and a little pain stabs through me, remembering how awful it was to discover that she slept on the freezing bus for almost a week before I found out.
The pain grows and the scene fades as I feel myself coming back to reality. Reality hurts.
I open my eyes to find Donna sleeping next to me. She's technically in a chair but it's as close to the bed as she can get it, and she's bent over with her top half across the bed. Her head is close to my hip and my hand is resting on it.
She's not curled up next to me like she was in my dream, but the reality of touching her is better. I'm able to smooth my hand over her hair and it's really nice.
I stroke Donna's head for a few seconds, but she doesn't move. She must be exhausted. I wonder what time it is.
Then a voice from the other side of the bed gets my attention.
"Joshua. You're awake."
"Mom." My eyes start to water a little as I turn to look at her. "You're here. How? What time is it?" I'm so confused. But I'm so glad to see her.
She takes my hand and gives me a little smirk. "Leo send a car for me. They do have highways between here and Westport, you know. Or maybe you don't know that, given how little the two of you visit me these days?"
Anyone else might think that she's a mean old lady, scolding her only son while he lays in a hospital bed. But I know what she's doing. She's hiding how scared she was behind bravado. Playing the part of the Jewish mother who guilts her son to the hilt.
But I do feel incredibly guilty. She must have been so worried. So, like a dutiful son, I find myself apologizing to her. "I'm sorry, Mame."
"Posh! What are you sorry for?" She asks in a strong, but quiet voice.
I have to think for a second. "For getting shot?"
"Oh and that was your fault, was it?"
"No. I guess not. I'm sorry for almost dying."
"Well, you didn't. So, we're done with that."
"Ahkay." Mom's hand in mind feels good. Secure, like an anchor.
"Why did you take a car?" I don't know where that question came from or why it matters, but I'm curious.
Mom gives me a look. Like I could have figured it out if my head wasn't so fuzzy.
"It was late when Leo called. And by the time I could have got to Kennedy for a direct flight it would have taken longer than driving. And . . . " Her tone softens a little. "Leo didn't want me to be alone. By sending a car and driver, he was assuring that I had someone with me the whole time."
Even in my fuzzy state I realize what Leo was doing. He was trying to make sure my Mother didn't hear on the news that I had died. He's a good man. Even with everything else going on, he took care of my Mom.
I give Mom's hand a squeeze. I'm so glad she's here. I didn't realize how much I missed her. "How long can you stay?"
"As long as you need me."
That makes me smile. She might tease, but Mom has always been good at giving me my independence and at the same time making it clear that she's ready when I need her.
"And as long as she needs me." Mom gestures at Donna. "She's been here the whole time. Abbey Bartlet told me that she watched most of your surgery through a window. They could barely get her to sit down, let alone eat something." She smiles a gentle, mysterious smile at Donna's sleeping form, then turns back to pierce me with a gaze. "I think she needs to sleep in a bed tonight. Don't you?"
"Yes, Mom." I answer dutifully. Truth is I'd rather have Donna here. To be able to see her when I wake up. But I recognize that tone in my Mother's voice. She expects my agreement.
I glance down at Donna again. She's pale, and there are dark circles under her eyes. I wonder what "the whole time" means. How long has it been? I haven't been given very much information and I'm having a hard time remembering what exactly happened.
Donna sits up suddenly. She must have heard us even though we were speaking quietly. She rubs her eyes for a second, obviously disoriented. Then she spots Mom.
"Mom!" she cries out, bursting into tears. Donna bolts upright and rushes around the bed to her.
Mom stands up and gathers Donna into her arms, rocking her slightly, rubbing her back, and shushing her.
"There, there, darling. He's fine. Everything is going to be fine."
It's enough to make me a little emotional. I'm still still so fuzzy on everything. And my body just hurts. But I believe Mom. The women who love me the most are here. Everything is going to be fine.
Donna pulls herself together and gives me a watery smile over Mom's shoulder. Then she straightens herself up. When she's standing upright again, she's quite a bit taller than Mom, just like me. But I know how small you feel when you're wrapped up in Mom's arms. Safe, secure. Man, I'd like a hug myself.
But any sort of movement hurts. I can't help the small groan that escapes.
"Press the morphine pump, Josh." Donna instructs me.
"But I just woke up!" I know I'm whining, but if I'm going to understand what's going on I need to be awake for more than five minutes at a time.
"Don't be a baby." Donna quips back out of reflex. Then suddenly she gets an enormous grin, one that practically lights up the room.
"Press the button and then I'll tell you a secret before you fall asleep." She cajoles.
She knows what works on me. I can't help but push the button. I love it when Donna and I share secrets.
Donna gently caresses my face. Then leans over and plants a very soft kiss on my lips, looking me in the eyes before she whispers in my ear--
"We're going to have a baby."
I'm stunned. A baby! Oh my god. A baby? Me? A Dad? Oh my god, my Dad would be so happy. A baby.
Donna is watching me closely. Nervously. Oh my god. Donna is going to have my baby. I feel a grin break out over my face, and then Donna gives me a relieved smile. Oh my god. Donna's going to have my baby.
My eyes flash over to Mom who is watching the two of us with a small satisfied smile.
"Does Mom know?" I ask Donna, who shakes her head no.
"Can I tell her?"
"You're going to be a grandmother."
Mom's face lights up, but she doesn't really look surprised. Then she nods her head once, and then her eyes well up with tears. And her hand flutters over her heart for a moment. Finally, she takes a deep breath and pulls herself together. Then she leans down and kisses my forehead, then gathers Donna back up in her arms and kisses both of Donna's cheeks.
"Beshaah Tovah." She murmurs, "Oh! The two of you have made me so happy!"
. . . . .
I'm playing catch in the backyard with Dad. I must be 7 or 8. Between every throw I'm asking questions, I can't tell if there is any rhyme or reason to them. But every time he tosses the ball back, Dad answers me, unphased.
Eventually Joanie opens the door and tells us dinner is ready. Dad ruffles my hair and pulls me in for a hug before we head inside.
"Don't ever lose your curiosity, Joshua. Someday you'll have a son of your own, and you'll need to be prepared to answer all his questions."
I grin at Dad and we walk into the house together. But as we sit down it's not me and my Dad anymore. Suddenly I'm the Dad, and the boy next to me has blonde curls instead of brown. He grins up at me with blue-green eyes and dimples that pop out. He's the perfect blend of Donna and me. My heart fills with so much love it aches.
I smile back at him and ruffle his hair and then feel myself floating away.
No! I want to talk to him. I want to get to know him. I have a hundred questions. What are his hopes, what are his dreams, what does he . . . .
When I come to, Donna's still sitting next to me.
"If we have a son, I'd like to name him Noah." I blurt out. She smiles softly at me.
"That sounds perfect."
"Psychics at Cal-Tech . . . "
As soon as the words come out of CJ's mouth, Josh starts to bang his head against the bed like a petulant child. But as soon as I give him a warning look he stops.
"She did that on purpose."
"Yes, she did."
"She's making me crazy."
"That seems to be going around."
He gives me a pitiful look but I'm on to him, so I just stare back.
"But I'm injured."
"You're getting better. . . . and you'll get better faster if you use that." I give a pointed look at the spirometer in his hand.
"But Donna . . . " He whines. "It hurts. . . and I'm not done with my breakfast yet."
My stomach rolls at the mention of breakfast.
"You're turning kind of green, there, Donna." Josh informs me teasingly as I slap my hand over my mouth and sprint into the bathroom.
But when I come back, Josh does look legitimately worried.
"Are you okay?" He asks softly, showing a tenderness that is reserved just for me.
"Yes, I've been assured this is completely normal."
"Your mother and Abbey Bartlet."
"I'd feel better if a doctor said it."
Shaking my head a little, I give him a look that asks him to think about what he just said. At least he has the good grace to look sheepish for a moment. "I meant an obstetrician." He clarifies.
"Well, I've been a little busy for the last week." The snark flies out of my mouth before I think about what I just said. Josh turns a little pale, and I immediately feel horrible.
"I'm sorry." I climb up on the bed next to him. Now that all the IVs are out and he isn't hooked up to a bunch of monitors 24/7 I can get away with it. Half the nurses think it's cute and half throw a hissy fit. But I don't care. I just need to be close to him. He wraps his good arm around me and I snuggle close.
"This isn't your fault. Well, except for the pregnancy part. I'm totally blaming you for that."
"How long have you known about the baby?" He asks softly.
"Not quite 24 hours longer than you. I tried to donate blood but I couldn't remember my lmp, so they did a test and SURPRISE!"
My tone comes out a bit harsh. I don't know what's gotten into me. I guess I'm still processing this. I want kids. I want this baby. But I this isn't the way I'd imagined this happening.
"Are you happy about it?" Josh asks tentatively. And again I feel bad for my tone of voice.
He looks so sweet. All worried. Of course I want his baby. It's just the timing could have been better.
"My emotions are kind of all over the place. I was so scared, Josh." I can't stop the tremor in my voice, but I manage not to cry while Josh rubs my back. So I go on, "And then they spring this news on me. And it's not what we had planned. I know you wanted to wait until after President Bartlet gets re-elected before we even told anyone we were married! And now everyone knows. And there's a baby!"
When I say baby, his face lights up the way it did the first time I told him. "Are you happy?" It's slowly dawning on me that perhaps he really is.
"Of course! I don't care about our plans. You're having my baby! It's incredible." He places his hand on my belly and rubs it softly. "When will he arrive?"
"He?" I can't help but tease him a little, even though the thought of a mini-Josh makes my heart flutter.
"Or she!" He quickly amends. "When can we find out if it's a boy or a girl?"
"I don't know. I'm not even sure how far along I am. I really should make a doctors appointment."
"That's what I'm saying."
. . . . .
"Boy are you stupid!" CJ announces wagging her finger at us as she walks in the door.
Josh grimaces so I give CJ the evil eye. Everyone knows the rules. They aren't allowed to upset him. She freezes. But it turns out he was just in an uncomfortable position. As soon as he adjusts himself, he starts up with her.
"Yeah, well, I didn't need to be a psychic to know that the two of you would eventually give me trouble. Seriously. A secret wedding in the middle of a dark horse campaign to your much younger assistant? I tell you Joshua Lyman, if you weren't already in a hospital bed!" CJ rants at us but something about her tone and the look on her face tells me that this is just perfunctory.
"Sorry, Ceej." I offer half-heartedly, but Josh just grins unrepentantly. So far no one has had the heart to really chew him out, and he's getting a little cocky about it.
"But you have a plan, right CJ?" He taunts her a little, "you are the PR master, aren't you?"
"Of course, Buckaroo! Our approval is at 81."
Josh lets out a low whistle, but then adds, "Those numbers are soft."
CJ gives him a look of disgust. "Of course they are! Why does everyone assume I don't know that?! Anyway, our numbers are sky high. Everyone loves you, right now. Since you know, they don't actually know you. I think that it's the perfect time to announce that you and your wife are expecting a baby."
"What?!" I can't believe my ears. I haven't even told my parents and we are going to announce it to the whole world?
"CJ . . . " Josh starts in a warning tone.
"Hear me out. I give the Press updates on your health everyday. I'll just slip this in."
"Someone is going to notice."
"Duh. But let's play it out." CJ gives me a quick grin, then launches into her Press Secretary voice. "Joshua Lyman continues to recover nicely at GW. Doctors anticipate that he'll be released sometime next week. And it's just in time because his wife wants him to paint the nursery. I'm sure we can count on all of you to give them the privacy they need during this time of recovery and celebration."
"What the f…"
"None of my reporters would use that language in the press room." CJ cuts Josh off primly, so he tries again. This time playing the part of eager reporter, raising his good arm and everything.
'CJ! CJ! What do you mean Josh's wife? He's been on the top 10 bachelor's of DC list for the last decade! When did he get married? When are they due?"
CJ laughs softly. "Even though we've been reporting on Josh's health, we don't generally comment on the private lives of staffers. Josh's marriage is a matter of public record. He's from Connecticut, you know."
"But that's going to lead them straight to the marriage license! They are going to know it's me!" I cry out.
CJ gives me a sympathetic look. "Yes, it will. And I can understand your dismay over your choice in spouses, but this way we release the information in a nonchalant way that points out the fact that it was never a secret. It was always public record."
"This just might work." Josh smiles.
"It will." CJ answers confidently. "The Republicans really won't make much headway with the nepotism charge while your popularity is this high. And honestly, most of them wouldn't want to deal with you without Donna anyway. There may be a few tabloid articles about a secret marriage, but none of the reputable news outlets will report it. After all, it wasn't really a secret."
"Have Leo and the President approved?"
"Yes. Leo likes this plan. But the President wanted me to make it clear that it's up to the two of you. This IS your private life and you don't have to disclose anything."
Josh and CJ both look to me for my approval. I don't know. I am relieved that our friends know now, but I don't really want to be in the tabloids.
"Okay, I guess, if you think this will work. When will you do it?"
"As soon as possible. I don't know how long these numbers are going to last. Plus, I think it might not be a bad thing for you," she looks over at Josh, "to be here when it breaks. Just in case they do surround your house trying to get a glimpse of your wife. We don't need any photos of you screaming at reporters."
"CJ" Josh growls, "Donna's been spending way too much time here already. I want her to go home at night and sleep in our bed. She needs her rest."
CJ's whole demeanor softens. "You know, sometimes you really are so sweet." She pats Josh's hand, then turns to me.
"I definitely think you should continue to go home. Reporters have already seen you coming and going from the house and we want that to continue. We want them to see that this has been obvious the whole time. The fact that they missed it is on them. Not you. Can you handle that Donna?"
Josh frowns at the idea of me fighting a crowd of reporters, but I pat his hand. "I'm sure everything will be fine. I've never had a problem with reporters before. I don't tell them they're stupid." I tease Josh a little, then turn back to CJ confidently. "Yes, I can, but you can't announce it at the next press conference."
"Because first I have to tell my parents."
"Oh my god, Donna! Your parents don't know? That could ruin this whole plan. If someone quotes them being shocked or surprised we won't be able to claim that the whole thing wasn't a secret."
"ABOUT THE BABY, CJ! Good grief. Of course my parents know that Josh and I are married. They even have a picture of us on the mantle over the fireplace."
"Oh thank God." CJ sighs in relief, then looks curious. "So, how'd they react?"
"Well of course my Mom wished that they could have been there. But they weren't really surprised that I did something spur of the moment. I sort of had a track record for being impulsive at times."
"And how did they take having Josh as a son-in-law? There is a chance that they might get contacted by a reporter. Will they say nice things about him?"
"Surprisingly, yes, they will. After all, it's something you said."
CJ looks confused. "What did I say?"
"Sometimes he really can be very sweet."
I thought I heard her come in as the morning nurse was leaving. When she doesn't respond, I wait five seconds before bellowing again.
Did she really leave me here alone? If she did maybe I can watch some C-Span. While I'm hunting for the remote, I try calling for her one more time.
"Donnnn-aaaaa?" I use a quiet, sing-songy voice as I find the remote and flip the TV on.
"AAAHH!" She almost gave me a heart attack! All stealth and sneaking up on me. Like a cat.
'What are you doing?"
"I was just . . ."
"Trying to sneak in some extra TV time?" She asks in an admonishing tone.
Damn. She's really learned a lot from Mom. I'd better start over.
"Hey baby. How're you feeling?" I ask her in the sweetest tone. But she just raises one eyebrow at me.
"I'm fine. Here's your sandwich. I brought some work from the office for you to sign. I'll go get it."
She stops in the doorway and turns back. "What's the rule about C-Span?"
"No more than 30 minutes a day." I mumble.
As soon as she's out of earshot, I turn the TV back on. The rules are dumb.
When she comes back in, I put the TV on mute. As long as it's on mute, it doesn't count. Donna hasn't quite agreed to this rule modification yet, but the morning nurse doesn't know that. So I'm okay.
As Donna hands me papers to sign, I start talking to her about the Grand Unified Theory again.
"I don't think anybody but me realizes just how big of a deal this is. I wanna talk to somebody in Geneva."
"Well you've always been a visionary, Josh. Eat your sandwich."
Huh. I don't think she's going to make that call for me. The phone rings before I can remind Donna that she's still my assistant, so I just hit speaker.
"How you doing?" CJ greets me excitedly. "Are you wearing the pajamas I bought you?"
I'm not, but she doesn't need to know that. A little white lie won't hurt.
"Yes. I love 'em."
"You're wearing that grungy sweatshirt, aren't you?" CJ's always been a step ahead of me, I shouldn't be surprised that I didn't fool her.
"What do you want?"
"Is Donna there?"
"No." Another white lie. I don't want her to talk to Donna. I want her to talk to me. I'm bored. Donna gives me a look and I make a little face that usually gets me off the hook.
"Good. Because something's come up and I want to run it by you before I take it to Sam. And Donna's getting insane about making sure you're not stressed, . . . and she's sitting right there, right?"
"I won't bother you then, I'll just take it to Sam."
Donna reaches over and hangs up the phone. "She'll call back in a half an hour."
Donna takes the last piece of paper back from me, and puts it in her stack. "Toby's probably going to stop by later too."
I can't help but be excited. Rule number 3 has been no visitors. It's only been Donna, Mom, and the nurse. I need more human interaction.
"He wants to talk to you about the Hate Crimes and how best to bring it to the President."
"I've got the materials he sent and I talk to him 93 times a day."
"That's what I said!"
"What did he say?"
"He said the rules are dumb."
Donna's voice breaks a little, her shoulders droop, and she blinks rapidly a few times. She looks on the verge of tears.
I'm confused at her sudden change in demeanor, then it occurs to me that my pregnant wife is doing her best to keep my office running and keep my blood pressure in a healthy range so I don't stroke out before our first child arrives. And none of us are making it easy on her. We've all been harassing her for setting guidelines to try to keep me alive. Suddenly, I feel kind of stupid.
"Hey. C'mere." I pat the bed closer to me and she snuggles up to me. "The rules aren't dumb. You are amazing. How about you go get your sandwich, then we eat lunch together. And then after that we can take a little nap, and when CJ calls back you can hang up on her."
"Okay," Donna responds happily. While she's gone, I turn the ringer off.
. . . . .
Opening my eyes, I find Donna still snuggled next to me sleeping. How smart was I to turn the phone off? And how lucky am I to have such a beautiful wife?
After a few minutes of just watching her sleep, I'm tempted to turn C-SPAN on, but I don't want to disturb her. She really does need more rest. I know I'm not the easiest patient to manage.
So instead, I reach over and grab the spirometer. I really hate the thing, but rule number 1 is follow the doctor's orders. So Donna insists that I maintain the breathing exercises, and no matter how much I whine, I'll do anything for Donna.
I'm almost done with my sets when she opens her eyes. The dazzling smile she gives me makes it worth the effort.
"Good boy." She gives me a quick peck on the lips. "What time is it?"
"Why'd you let me sleep so long?" She responds a little frantically, starting to get up. "I've gotta get back to work."
"Your boss said it was okay." I offer, trying to keep her with me.
"Seriously, sweetheart. You've been burning the candle at both ends since August. I'm worried about the two of you." I rub her belly a little. "I can't do much else, please don't be mad at me for giving you a long lunch."
Donna gives me a little smile and acquiesces, leaning back up against me. " for looking out for me."
The joy her response gives me is a little silly, given that she's really the one that's been looking out for me, but being able to do something for her, and having her appreciate it really feels good.
It hasn't be nearly long enough, when she starts to move again, saying "I really do have to go. I've got to get this paperwork back to the office. But I'll make sure your Mom's here before I leave, and I'll be back before 6."
I'm pretty sure Mom's here. She arrives at 1 like clock-work. Between the morning nurse, Donna, and Mom, I'm never alone. But I like Donna best.
. . . . .
"Toby Ziegler's here." Mom announces from the door. "Should I send him in or make him leave?"
I'm tempted to have Mom shoo him away. I know he wants to talk more about Hate Crimes Legislation and seizing this opportunity, but I'm really not in the mood. And since this is the first I've seen him in person, I'm also not completely convinced that he's not going to chew me out for not telling anyone about my marriage. But, I'm starting to have bits of fuzzy recollection, and I think Toby might have saved my life. So the least I can do is talk to him face to face.
"Yeah, send him back." I tell mom. Besides if he bugs me too much, I'll just call for her to save me.
Toby starts to barrel into the room, but stops short when he sees me in the hospital bed. He's rarely at a loss for words, so I can't help but tease him a little.
"Do I really look that bad?"
I am wearing the grungy sweatshirt, and I haven't had a shower today, but I feel better than I have in a long time.
"No. . . you look a lot better than in the hospital. I just didn't expect that bed."
"Yeah, I'm hoping to graduate back to a regular bed next week. I'd like to sleep with my wife again."
At the mention of wife, his eyes narrow a bit. I'll admit it. I was baiting him. If he's got something to say, I'd rather he do it now, when Donna's not around. If he made her cry, I'd have to beat him up, and I'm just not sure I'm capable at the moment.
"Yeah. . . about that . . ."
I raise my eyebrows and wait.
"Really? That's all you're going to say?"
"Well, if this had come to light under other circumstances, I'd be chewing you both out. I mean, talk about stupid! The damage you could have done keeping this a secret. The Republicans could have had a field day with the charges of nepotism. And that could have easily been avoided by just having Donna work in communications."
"See. I always knew you had your eye on my wife and that you'd steal her from me if given the chance!" I taunt.
"Seriously, Josh. This could have ended badly."
"Yes, but it didn't."
"You're right. You got lucky."
I see the horror hit his eyes, as it suddenly dawns on him that my "lucky" circumstances arose from getting shot in the chest and almost dying.
"Okay. I'm done." He spits out.
"Ahkay. You're not planning on giving Donna this lecture too, are you?"
"No, the poor girl has to live with you. I think she's been punished enough."
Mom clears her throat from the doorway and gives Toby a look. She loves Donna and she's not going to tolerate any talk of Donna being punished. Toby has the good sense to look embarrassed. But as soon as he does, she forgives him.
"Toby, I made some pie. Would you like some?"
"Yes, ma'am." Toby says with a smile.
I knew I could count on her to keep Toby in line. He's just lucky she's so nice. I hope she brings me a piece too, but she takes rule number 2 pretty seriously.
. . . . .
A few days later Sam pokes his head in at lunch time. I was expecting to see Donna, but Sam's a good second choice. I haven't seen him since I got out of the hospital. It almost feels like he's avoiding me.
"Hey man! I didn't know you were coming over!"
"Donna said I could."
"Well, Donna's the boss."
"Yes, she is. But. . . " he drops his voice and looks around cautiously, "the rules are dumb. So I brought you something."
Sam opens his briefcase and pulls out a Good Stuff Eatery bag.
"Oh my god, Sam. Is that what I think it is?"
"Best Chili Cheese Fries in DC! If we're going to break rule number 2 we might as well do it big!"
That makes me laugh Yeah, I don't think there's really any way to make these fit into the requirement to eat healthy food.
I turn on C-Span while Sam and I chow down on the fries.
"Uh. . . you got some on your sweatshirt, there, man."
"Crap! Donna's gonna find out."
Sam's eyes get comically large. "Don't tell her I brought you junk food!"
"She's gonna know, Sam! It's not like my Mom went out and got it for me. Speaking of which, Mom's going to be here in about 15 minutes. So you'd better help me change."
I can't help but chuckle to myself as I hear Sam in the laundry room muttering to himself as he tries to start a load of clothes. Lucky for him, Mom arrives and takes over.
"What did you tell Mom?"
"The truth! That you spilled something from lunch and I didn't want it to stain."
"You're a good friend, Sam!"
"Really?" Sam asks a little plaintively. "Cuz, I thought I was your best friend, but you didn't even tell me you got married."
Ah. So we're going to do this now.
"I'm sorry Sam. I really am. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But honestly, I didn't take any joy in keeping you in the dark. There were many, many times I wanted to tell you."
Sam stares at me a minute, gauging my sincerity. I hope he knows its true. He really is my best friend. After Donna, that is. Finally he smiles a little, and I'm pretty sure he's forgiven me.
"Well, in hindsight, I'm amazed that none of us figured it out. You've got a pretty bad poker face."
"So, we're good?"
"Well then, fill me in on what's going on in the office while Donna's not here."
'Well, Toby's trying to throw out the Constitution."
Posted a day early for my friend who is waiting in the airport. Enjoy! And safe travels.
Just 1 chapter left!
Chapter 10: Everything Stayed the Same?
Chapter by kcat1971
"Hey Zoey! How are you?"
"Why haven't you come to visit me?"
"I didn't know you wanted me to ."
"Of course I do! I've been stuck inside for forever. I'm really an outdoorsman, you know."
"You are not an outdoorsman, Josh. You got lost in the orchard at the farm."
"Well if Donna would let me out, I could be an outdoorsman. . . . But since I'm stuck inside, you could come over here. You could bring your homework. I could help you."
"I'm in college. I don't really need help with my homework."
"Okay. Then you could could come over and we could talk about the Super String Theory."
"Josh, have you talked to Charlie?"
"He seems . . . . I don't know. He hasn't been himself. He snapped at my Dad."
"Charlie?!" Charlie never loses his cool. This isn't good at all.
"Yeah. I think he feels responsible."
"For the shooting?"
"Yeah, I've tried to talk him down, but he's not out of it yet."
"It's not his fault."
"I know that. It might help if he heard it from you."
"Do you think you can get him to come visit me?"
"Because you're bored?"
"No. Because I know a thing or two about feeling guilty even though something wasn't your fault."
"Okay, then. I'll try."
. . . . .
"Hello, Mr. President."
"How are you feeling?"
"I'm good, sir, but no one seems to want to let me participate in this election."
"I know what you mean! Have you heard of Elliot Roush?"
"You beat him in your first Congressional Campaign, didn't you?"
"Yes! And now he's running for the Board of Education in Manchester. He's polling at 46%."
"Well, that's not okay. Not okay at all."
"Precisely. So here's what I'm thinking. You could call up Danny and tell him I'd be willing to go on the record if he were to write a story about this."
Well, that's such an incredibly bad idea, I don't even know where to start. He must be giving CJ fits.
"No, you can't do that, Sir. But I can make some calls to some operatives in New Hampshire. See what we can do."
"Thanks, Josh. So how's Donna?"
"She's good, sir."
I look across the room into the kitchen where Donna and Mom are making Matzah Ball Soup. Donna looks up and gives me a big grin. She's glowing. God, I love her so much.
"When's the next Doctor's Appointment?"
"Next week, sir."
"Okay then, you keep us posted. And Josh, thanks for making those calls."
. . . . . .
"I'm glad you're the one undressing and putting a gown on for a change!"
"Yeah. It's about time I got to check out your cute little backside."
I wiggle my eyebrows and imagine her bare bottom peeking out of a gown. I find myself reacting to the image and try to tamp it down. My body is definitely interested in resuming sexual activity. My brain never stopped. It's getting harder to wait on the green light from the doctor. I really hope it's soon, because eventually a red light isn't going to stop me.
"Josh. I hate to break it to you, but I don't have to put on a gown."
"No." She teases me, "is there even any point in you going?"
She rubs her hand over the very slight bump in her abdomen. I can't believe she's almost halfway through the pregnancy and she's still hardly showing. I bet we could have kept it a secret a lot longer if we'd wanted to. But CJ's plan worked flawlessly, so I can't really complain. I wrap my arms around Donna and put my hand next to hers. Our baby is in here.
"Yes, of course, I want to go." I tell her, even though I know it was a rhetorical question. "We get to find out if it's a boy or a girl, right?"
"Yes, and we get to stop call her it."
"I think he's a boy."
It really doesn't matter whether it's a boy or a girl, but I like to tease Donna. And I can't shake the dream I had right after she told me about the baby. I think it's a sign that we are having a boy and he's going to have curly blonde hair, and blue-green eyes, and we're going to name him Noah James after his grandfathers.
"We'll see." Donna responds coyly, giving me a small smirk. Yes, A little girl would be incredible too. A tiny version of Donna, who I can spoil to my heart's content. I'm perfectly fine with that. Maybe we can have another kid after this one and we'll get one of each. A little Norman Rockwell, picture perfect family. We could buy a house.
"Earth to Josh!"
"Ready to go?"
"Yeah, let's go."
. . . . . .
Donna's in Downward-facing Dog position. And I have to say I'm enjoying the view. When the physical therapist suggested yoga, he really did me a favor.
As we follow the video, Donna moves seamlessly from Big Toe Pose to a High Lunge and then into a Low Lunge with her hands over her head. I struggle to keep up. This isn't nearly as easy as it looked when I was just watching her.
In Garland pose, I find myself sweating profusely. The physical therapist is evil. I'm pretty sure he's a sadist.
The phone rings. "Please God. Let it be for me," I mumble to myself as Donna answers it.
"Hi Leo. Yeah, he's available."
God Bless Leo.
As she hands me the phone Donna whispers, "I'll go do my kegels while you are talking to Leo and we'll finish the video when you're done."
Oh man. I wonder how long I can keep Leo talking?
When we're done delivering the bad news about Tom Jordan to Sam, I try to think of something else.
"Hey Leo, you know there's something called the Super String Theory, which at its most basic level says that the universe consists of these tiny loops of string that vibrate at different frequencies."
"How did that bullet not kill you?" Leo asks gruffly, in disbelief at the change of topics.
"Just lucky I guess."
Leo clears his throat. "Yeah. We're all lucky. Are you following Donna's rules?"
"Well, I've been following her rule about not yelling at you for months now. So if the rules are suspended, you let me know."
"What have you got to yell at me about, Leo?" I ask, just to avoid rule number 1, following doctor's orders, a bit longer.
"Are you kidding me? On the day that you hired her, what did I tell you about inappropriate behavior with your assistant?"
Oh. That. Well, I guess it's time to get this over with.
"It wasn't inappropriate, Leo. I love her. I married her."
"Yeah." I admits without enthusiasm. But since he admitted it I decide to push my luck a little.
"Are you going to transfer her? You know she's the one that keeps me in line, right?"
"No. I'm not going to transfer her. CJ's plan pretty much ties my hands. We can't change the arrangement and still claim we weren't doing anything wrong all along."
I really do need to buy CJ a gift. She's brilliant.
"And," Leo continues, "I do know that Donna's the one who runs your office. There's really no reason to shoot myself in the foot now, is there?"
"I'm sorry, Leo." I offer, then clarify, "Not that I married Donna. But I should have told you."
The apology is apparently just what Leo needed, and his tone softens. "Yeah, well. Water under the bridge now. Just don't screw it up like I did, okay? You take care of Donna, and your baby."
"You done okay, kid. Your Dad would be proud."
I can barely croak out a thanks before Leo hangs up. Neither of us really like the emotional displays. I doubt he'd have ever told me that to my face, but man does it feel good.
. . . . .
It's election day and I'm crawling out of my skin. Toby, CJ and Sam are coming over after the polls close, and I've finally convinced Donna that I can go outside for a few minutes. I think it helped that Mom isn't here anymore for them to tag team me.
Having Mom here for two and a half months was incredible. She took care of Donna through the worst of the morning sickness, and took care of me at the same time. She's an amazing lady. But eventually, we were all ready to get back to our own lives, especially once the doctor cleared Donna and I to resume sex, even though it is within certain limits.
I was kind of sad that Mom missed celebrating our birthdays with us, but it's probably a good thing given the gift she gave us. A new king bed. I can't help but grinning as I think about how Donna and I had our own little party.
When the doorbell rings at 7pm, I'm a little surprised. I wasn't expecting anyone until after 9. Donna's out getting beer and party supplies. We're breaking all the rules tonight!
I get up and make my way over to the door. I'm not up to full speed yet, but I really am getting much stronger.
After I look through the peephole, I throw the door open. "Zoey! Charlie! Come in." I'm so glad to see them.
"Hey Josh. How are you doing?"
"I'm good!" She gives me a gentle hug. I've noticed that everyone is treating me a lot more carefully than before. I miss bear hugs.
"Hey Charlie- howya doin'?" I ask giving him a little clap on the shoulder. I'm really glad Zoey brought him over. I really want to talk to him. But, I'm not sure if I should bring up the shooting or not.
"So . . . . what are you guys up to?"
"We just got back from voting."
"That's good. The others will be here after the polls close."
"Oh we can't stay that long. My Dad is going to need someone to comfort him after Elliot Roush gets elected to the school board." Zoey quips.
"Well I'm glad you stopped by. I've missed you guys."
"Really?" Charlie asks, looking a bit hopeful.
"Of course! The two of you are like the younger siblings I never had!"
"You're not mad at me?"
"Charlie. You didn't shoot me. And it's not your fault that some sickos used your relationship with Zoey as an excuse to shoot at all of us. If they'd only wanted to take you out, they would have done it one day on your way home from work. They wanted to do something big, to make history, and they didn't care who they shot. They weren't aiming for you. They were aiming for what you stand for- freedom, equality, and love. If I gotta get shot, at least I got shot because I'm on the right side of things."
"Yeah, okay." Charlie nods slowly, and I can tell he's still feeling a little guilt, but hopefully we'll get through to him.
. . . . .
I can't even believe what Sam's reporting. I rub my eyes in frustration. "After four months and 400 million dollars, everything stayed the same."
"Yup." Sam responds without any enthusiasm.
"Tell me democracy doesn't have a sense of humor. We sit here, we drink this beer out here on the stoop, in violation of about 47 city ordinances. I don't know, Toby, it's election night. What do you say about a government that goes out of its way to protect even citizens that try to destroy it?"
Toby looks thoughtful for a moment. "God bless America."
We all look at each other and echo him. This is what we've dedicated our lives to. I'm glad we are remembering just how precious the ideal is. We clink our bottles together and then take a swig.
Suddenly CJ lights up. "Hey! Didn't you guys have your ultrasound last week?"
Donna beams back at her. "Yes, we did and baby is doing great! Everything's on track."
"Well. . . " CJ asks expectantly, and everyone else leans forward in anticipation. "Is it a boy or a girl?"
I look at Donna for confirmation. She grins at me. Then I look back at the group.
"We're not telling. We've decided to keep it a secret."
. . . . .
Okay, actually, I've been persuaded to continue this universe a little longer. I'm going to jump ahead a few years and do a post-ep story for S5 E16 Eppur Si Mouve. It'll be sort of an epilogue to this story. Watch for it sometime this summer.