Title: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Author: Cindy Brewer
email: cindyryan7@yahoo.com

Four o'clock found Josh alternating between pacing the hallway outside Donna's apartment and running up his cellular phone bill. During the past two hours Josh had gone everywhere he could think of that Donna could be and had come up empty. He had even considered driving to Baltimore because he knew Donna liked the shops and seafood restaurants the city offered.

Several times Josh had nearly called the Secret Service to see if any of the agents had seen Donna but had hung up every time. A request like that would eventually get back to Leo and that was the last thing Josh wanted. Leo had enough on his plate he didn't need to know about Lillienfield's latest threat.

Halting his pacing Josh leaned back against Donna's door as he once again held the phone to his ear. "Come on Donna," Josh whispered as the phone entered its fourth ring. "Pick up."

"What would be the point since I'm standing right here." Donna replied wearily as she stepped past her boss and thrust her key into the lock.

"Donna!" Josh exclaimed in surprise as he jumped back nearly tripping over his briefcase in the process. "Where the hell have you been?"

"And hello to you too, Joshua." Donna replied as she opened the door and stepped into her apartment Lyman close on her heels.

"I've been worried about you," Josh replied as he closed the door behind him and moved into the living room.

Donna didn't look at him as she dropped her coat and purse onto the couch and walked into the small kitchen. "I had to take the afternoon off. I'm sorry I should have told you."

Josh sighed as he quickly closed the space between them and gently grasped her by the shoulders ushering her back into the living room."We need to talk, Donna."

Donna sat down on the blue sofa her gaze fixed on the window over Josh's shoulder. "I know about the article."

Josh blinked in surprise. "Lillienfield got to you first, didn't he? Damn....."

The blonde woman shook her head. "No, Danny told me. What does Lillienfield have to do with this?"

"He planted the article, that's what the meeting this morning was about," Josh replied as he took her right hand in his. "He thinks he can use this to get to me and to Leo."

Donna's eyes widened."He told you he'd pull the deal you and Sam made to save Leo and print the article about me if you didn't give him what he wanted."

Josh nodded. "He gave me a deadline of twelve hours."He met her gaze. "Donna, I swear I tried to stop the article but Toby overruled me."

"The article's going to run?"Donna whispered as she stood and walked over to the small fireplace on the opposite wall. She knew she shouldn't let the article bother her. She knew that all the people who knew her wouldn't believe what it said. But to have the nightmare she endured over New Year's on the front page of the Post for all to read unnerved her, even if they weren't printing the whole story.

Josh stood and walked over to her gently pulling her into his arms. "I'm sorry, but it's going to be ugly for a few days."

Donna leaned back against him and closed her eyes. "I know."

"You might want to come stay with me until this blows over." Lyman replied softly as he rested his chin on the top of her head. "The press will be camped on your doorstep."

Donna reluctantly pulled away from him and started to walk toward her bedroom. "I'll pack a few things."

Josh caught her hand and turned her so she was facing him. Gently he cupped her chin with his hand. "Donna, you know that if there was any other way out of this I would've jumped on it."

"I know," Donna replied quietly. "Leo's what's important."

"So are you."Josh replied. "We'll get through this....it'll be okay, I promise."

Donna smiled slightly as she reached over and gently touched his cheek. "I'll go pack," she replied quietly before turning and walking toward her bedroom.

**********

By one o'clock the next afternoon Donna knew things were going far too smoothly. She knew Josh was having Margaret deliver the day's tabloids and newsmagazines to his desk so she wouldn't see them. Donna sighed as she rubbed the back of her neck wearily and leaned back in her desk's chair. She loved Josh for trying to shield her from it but on the other hand it caused her to doubt his faith in her. Did he really think she couldn't handle a few lies printed in the news media? Did he really think she was that fragile?

"Donna, is Josh in?" Leo McGarry asked as he came up behind her.

Donna jumped three feet causing Leo to frown with concern.

"Sorry didn't mean to startle you," The older man replied as he placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Everything okay?"

Donna met the Chief of Staff's gaze and for a brief moment almost told him everything. He deserved to know what was going on. Josh, Sam and Toby couldn't protect him forever no matter how hard they tried.

"Donna?" Leo prompted quietly.

Moss shook her head as she stood forcing a smile for Leo's benefit. "I'm fine, really, just haven't slept much lately. Josh is in Sam's office."

"Thanks." Leo replied as walked out of the bullpen.

********

After Leo left Donna stood and picked up a couple of files before turning and heading into Josh's office. She placed the files on the desk before Kathy knocked at the doorway.

"Donna? There's a call for you on line three." Sam's assistant said with a smile.

"Thanks." Moss replied as the two women moved back toward the bullpen.

"Hello?" Donna said quietly as she picked up the phone at her desk.

"Now lover, we really need to work on your greeting," Nick Halloway replied smugly.

Donna quickly sat down scooting her chair closer to her desk. "I have nothing to say to you."

"For someone who went to Harvard your boss is really stupid," Halloway replied. "Did he really think ignoring the deadline would make everything go away?"

Donna glanced up in time to see Josh walking back toward his office. "What do you want?"

"To have a little fun," Halloway replied. "Tell Lyman that you're quitting."

Donna shook her head. "He'll never buy that. Besides your boss isn't the only one with friends in the press. With a few phone calls all of Washington will know what a bastard you are."

"Temper, temper, Donnatella," Halloway stated with a smile. "Now if you value Lyman and his career you'll convince him that your quitting is in everyone's best interest. And don't try anything....I have spies everywhere."

Donna slammed the phone down and buried her face in her hands. What the hell was she going to do?

end of part 6 TBC

 

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