Notes: Warning -Spoiler info for WC included, but considering all the
Donna Moss sat nervously at her desk and waited for her boss, Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman to come in for the day. The previous night she had told Josh that she had gone on a blind date with a Republican who was assisting the Ways and Means Committee in their battle against the White House for repealing the estate tax. That wouldn't have been so bad, but it turned out her date, Cliff, had been "traded" to the Congressional Oversight Committee staff that would be investigating the president, Josh, Donna -- all of them -- for anything and everything that they could.
Investigating and thereby paralyzing Presidents of the opposing party was a long-standing tradition in the not-so-hallowed halls of Congress. President Josiah Bartlet's alleged conspiracy to defraud the American People was just the latest. Josh's cold fury the previous night after hearing that Donna had seen the guy again, just hours after Josh having told her what committee was investigating them, had left Donna shaken. She knew seeing him was a clear conflict of interest. She just didn't know what the repercussions were going to be.
Josh walked in and headed straight for his office. It wasn't unusual for Josh to be so wrapped up in his thoughts that he didn't acknowledge her presence, but this time it seemed deliberate, not just thoughtless.
"Good morning, Josh," she said deliberately, grabbing some papers and jumping up to follow him. "Here's your schedule. You have staff in ten and a meeting with Senator Stackhouse at ten."
"Thanks," he replied coldly, refusing to look her in the face.
"Okay... I'll just be out here...." she motioned towards the open door.
"Yeah. Close the door," he replied shuffling through the files on his desk.
* * *
"Donna," Ginger called over to her as she headed to the copy machine. "Toby wants to see you."
"Toby wants to see me?"
"Yeah, they're in CJ's office."
"Okay. Thanks." Donna wasn't sure what this was about, but she grabbed up a pen and note pad as her shield and sword.
Carol smiled and told her to go on in. In retrospect, that was the last smile that Donna could remember seeing for the next three weeks. Certainly the faces that greeted her inside the office were grim.
CJ was perched at the front of her desk, Toby was pacing back and forth, Sam was lounging on the couch looking depressed, and Josh leaned on the back of a chair, still refusing to look at her.
"You wanted to see me?" she asked glancing from Toby to CJ and back.
"You went out with a guy from Oversight?" Toby asked. You went out with him again, knowing he was investigating us?"
"We didn't go out. He came to my apartment."
Josh straightened up at that and, without looking at any of them, simply walked out of the room.
"You had this guy over?" Toby said, his voice getting louder and higher with each word. "Knowing that it was a conflict of interest. A junior high school student would know that was wrong!"
"I know. I'm sorry, I didn't--"
"We thought you were one of us," Sam said quietly, leaning on his elbow in the corner of the sofa. "We thought your loyalty was assured."
"That's not what the survey says," CJ stated. Her arms were crossed in front of her chest and she looked grim. "Survey says you chose a cute and funny Republican you just met over the people you'd worked with day and night for the last three years. Ainsley's blaming herself. She knew you had self-worth issues. She knew he was on the rebound, but she had no idea you were both completely lacking in common sense ethics."
"I..." she started to defend herself and gave up. She knew she had been wrong to see Cliff that second time. Mostly she knew she had disappointed CJ and Toby and Sam, that they were seeing her as a collaborator. They were in a fight for their political and professional lives and she had given comfort to the enemy. And Josh-- she couldn't think about what he was feeling. They had been inseparable; two intermeshed gears grinding along comfortably, if not always in perfect harmony, in their well-oiled Josh-and-Donna machine. "I know. I'm sorry. Is it really bad? I mean... am I going to be fired?"
"If Leo hears about it, he might," Sam stated as the Voice of Doom.
"Donna, if the press finds out," CJ explained, "they'll paint you as Josh's blond bimbo who was so desperate for a man that she sold out her boss and her President for a pair of silk stockings and a chocolate bar."
"Or they'll say that Josh used you to seduce the poor Republican and thereby disgrace and discredit him," Toby gave the counter scenario.
"Either way, Josh is destroyed and you can start selling cosmetics at the department store," CJ concluded.
"Unless you want to pose for Playboy," Sam contributed. "That's what usually happens to the blond bimbo," he stated succinctly.
Donna blanched, "I didn't think-- I don't think it was that bad..."
"It doesn't matter what you think, Donna, it's what people are going to say -- what the press is going to write -- if this gets out," CJ said more gently and warmly than her earlier tone.
"Get back to work," Toby said.
"You hurt Josh bad. He adores you. Or he did," Toby said.
You just stomped all over his heart with your big high-heels. Congratulations," Sam concluded.
Donna looked at CJ for support from the sisterhood, but CJ just looked at her coldly. Their loyalty was with Josh, not the girl who sold him out for silk stockings and a chocolate bar. She turned and left the office.
* * *
The next few days passed in excruciating cold silence. Josh barely spoke to her and would not look at her when he did speak. CJ, Sam, and Toby were all coolly professional but avoided her. There was no friendly bantering anywhere in the West Wing. The Senior Staff was grimly resolute to get through this latest mess. The assistants and junior staffers quickly picked up on the fact that Donna was being shunned. That she must have done something unforgivable if Josh and the Senior Staff were avoiding their former pet-assistant. They took their cues from their bosses and also avoided her.
Donna was called to testify before the Oversight Committee. She was asked about the records kept by the White House, by the Deputy Chief of Staff's Office. She was asked about any personal records she kept. She was asked if she kept any sort of journal, diary, or calendar other than those already provided to the committee that might contain information concerning meetings or appointments of the Deputy Chief of Staff's -- meetings that they might not want on the official record. She said "No."
She could see Cliff at the counsel table sit up at that. He leaned over to speak to his colleague. He requested that the question and answer be read back. Donna looked back defiantly.
* * *
"Get in here." Josh yell at Donna as soon as she walked back into the West Wing, the first he'd looked her in the face or voluntarily spoken to her in days. "Close the door."
"Why did you lie?"
"I didn't lie," she said defiantly.
"Yes you did. I know you. You were lying. Your boyfriend knew you were lying too," he snarled with sarcastic emphasis on the word 'boyfriend.
"He won't say anything. He'd have to say how he knows I keep a diary."
"Ya think!" Josh exploded. "You don't think he's smart enough to just ask your friends or your roommate if they've ever seen you writing in a diary or heard you mention keeping one? He probably did that before you left the building."
"I... it's a personal diary. There's nothing in there about the President's MS."
"They don't care!" Josh shouted. "You could be charged with perjury! You could go to jail for that little stunt! We're going to have to see Leo." He picked up the phone and dialed Leo's office. "Margaret, I need to see him. 'Kay, can you tell the guys to join us? Thanks," he hung up. "Let's go," he said grabbing her arm and marching her out of his office. She shrugged his hand off so that she would not be pulled along like an errant child.
The met up with Toby and Sam in the hallway. CJ was talking to Margaret when they arrived. They went into Leo's office.
"What's so important?"
"Donna just lied to Oversight." Josh stated bluntly.
"Christ! Donna! What the hell were you thinking? Are you crazy!" they all shouted simultaneously.
"Okay. Let's calm down people," Leo squirmed in his chair. "How bad is it?"
"She was asked if she kept any sort of journal, diary, or calendar other than those already provided that might contain information concerning meetings or appointments that I might not want on the official record. She said "No."
"Donna, you know not to write anything down about appointments we don't want on the record," Leo said.
"She keeps a personal diary, and he boyfriend knows about it."
"He isn't my boyfriend. I wish you'd quit saying that. It was just the one time," Donna complained.
"Oh, and that's supposed to make it all right?" he derided her.
"Enough!" Leo bellowed. "Donna, what's in the diary?"
"It's a personal diary. What do you think is in it?" she asked with an involuntary glance at Josh who had taken a position of leaning on the back of a chair, staring down at his hands.
"Josh," Leo concluded. "Christmas?"
"Everything. The recovery, the PTSD, every time I've hated him for something he's said.... Every time... the opposite..." she trailed off quietly.
Josh glanced up uncomfortably. "I should leave..."
"Stay." Leo ordered. "Donna, you can't protect Josh. It could be the chip that brings down the White House if they convict you of perjury. You're going to have to turn over your diary -- any that you've written since joining the campaign. We'll say you misunderstood. That you didn't even think about your personal diary because it was unrelated to the investigation."
"They could be waiting at her apartment with a search warrant," Toby said.
"I'll make a call. Donna, give Margaret your key and tell her where to find it --or them. Then pack your desk."
"Should I type up a resignation letter?"
"No. You're not being fired. I can't fire you or it looks like the White House is using you for our scapegoat. Obviously, you can't work for Josh any longer. I'm moving you to Mrs. Landingham's desk. But you're on probation. When Margaret gets back, you'll take the diaries to Oliver Babish. You may leave now." Leo concluded coldly.
Donna turned as with as much calm dignity as she could muster left the room. As she was pulling the door closed behind her she heard Josh softly ask, "Am I going to have to resign?" and Leo reply, "Yes." She put her forehead against the closed door and touched her fingers to it as the impact of her actions sank in. The West Virginia White Pride hadn't managed to bring Josh Lyman down, but she had.
* * *
Margaret went to Donna's apartment and found the three blank books that Donna had filled with her thoughts since she had joined the campaign and her current diary. Donna had moved into Mrs. Landingham's desk under the watchful and disapproving eye of Charlie Young, the President's bodyman. Charlie knew which way the wind blew in the White House and removing Donna from Josh was tantamount to banishment. Margaret handed her the four journals and gave her a slight sympathetic grimace. Donna stood up and sighed. She took the books and headed to the lion's den, better known as the Office of the White House Counsel.
Shortly thereafter Josh and Leo showed up to see the President. Josh had put his suit coat on and had straightened his tie. This was a formal visit, and judging from the folded letter he was running through his fingers as he waited for Charlie to inform the President of their presence, it wasn't good.
Josh and Leo proceeded into the Oval Office where the President was seated at his desk.
"Good afternoon, Mr. President," Josh said politely as if it were any other visit. "I... I'd... I'm here to offer my resignation."
"I heard," the President put his pen down and looked up grimly. "Not interested."
"Sir. Donna's diaries, they're going to be used to destroy my reputation."
"You think she's that hard on you?"
"Yes," he replied quietly.
"I rather doubt that."
"Sir, it doesn't matter what she wrote about Josh." Leo interjected. "She could have written that he was the greatest thing since sliced bread, by the time the Committee gets through with it he'll look like the Marquis de Sade on a tear."
"Yeah," the President conceded. "We'll revisit this if it comes to that. In the meantime, I don't accept your resignation. Now get back to work."
Josh looked at Leo for his cue, and objected, "Sir, by that time it'll be too late. The damage will have been done. We have to shut this down before it becomes a problem."
"It's a little late for that. If I want you're resignation, I'll ask for it."
"Yes sir," Josh conceded defeat and Leo motioned that he should leave.
After the door closed Leo softly stated, "this could bring us down."
"Nah. I've had worse fights than this with Abbey."
* * *
Ainsley Hayes handed the package to her college friend with a civil haughtiness, "The White House apologizes again for the unfortunate misunderstanding regarding Ms. Moss' personal diaries, which we are now freely divulging."
"Ainsley--" Cliff started.
"Ms. Hayes," Ainsley corrected. "Only my friends are allowed to call me by name."
"Thank you, Ms. Hayes. The White House can expect to hear from our office tomorrow on any further clarification needed."
Ainsley nodded coolly and departed. Cliff opened the package and sorted through the books to determine the correct order. Then he started reading. He read late into the evening, took the diaries home and read some more. Donna's life was laid out before him: the last days of her life with the medical student "Steve" who was so obviously taking advantage of her. He read her subsequent excitement over traveling to New Hampshire to make a new start as a campaign worker for Josiah Bartlet.
The years unfolded as he read of the growing relationship with her arrogant, egotistical, and amazingly sensitive boss Josh Lyman. He saw the love growing on the pages even as he doubted that Donna or Josh were ever aware of it. He felt her agony at learning that the brilliant sun she orbited had been shot and might yet die. He encouraged her efforts to retain her humor and her sense of normalcy during the worst days of Josh's frustrated struggles at rehabilitation and recovery.
He was shocked at the discovery that Josh Lyman suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. That was news, indeed. Josh was in therapy for the disorder, and it was not the first time he'd seen a therapist. They could use this to paint a picture of Josh Lyman as a nut case. They could use this to argue that the White House has a clear pattern of lying about the health of the Senior Staff. He continued to read. By the end it was clear that neither Donna nor Josh had been aware of the President's MS prior to the dates that they had indicated. It was also clear that Donnatella Moss loved Joshua Lyman with all her heart, and Cliff was 90 percent sure that her love was returned. It was certain that he had never stood a chance with Donna, whether it was too late to mend the fragile bonds of love that had developed between Donna and her boss was uncertain.
He closed the final diary and placed the books back into the envelope. He sealed the package and handed it to his secretary. "Have this returned to Donna Moss at the White House. There's nothing in here that we can use."
* * *
Josh Lyman left the chambers of the Congressional Representative he had been smoozing and ran face to face into Cliff. He turned away in shock and started to walk in the other direction.
"Josh!" Cliff called quietly. "I returned the diaries. There's nothing in there I care to use."
"Can't have your conflict of interest come to light?" Josh snarled softly.
"I'm barely mentioned. Just an unfortunate coincidence that we went out before we were aware of the conflict."
"And later? The night you were in her apartment and saw her diary?"
"I was never in her apartment. I stood at the door and apologized for leaving her on the street. She'd obviously been writing in her diary and had carried it to the door. I saw it in her hand. I made a joke about it. I shouldn't have gone over there; I know that. I never meant to get her into trouble, or cause a rift..."
"Yeah, well Donna's working for the President now. She's not my problem," Josh said, the hurt and anger lacing his words. He turned to walk away.
"You love her."
"I don't," Josh replied firmly walking quickly away from Cliff.
Cliff caught up with Josh, "don't be a fool. Donna's the best thing you've ever had. If I thought I stood a chance I'd give you a run for it. You love each other," he emphasized. "Go for it. She works for the President now."
Josh walked away hearing the words but refusing to listen.
* * *
For the next couple of weeks the Senior Staff continued to ignore Donna when possible. They were coolly professional when they acknowledged her presence, but she was no longer part of their inner circle by virtue of being Josh's other half. Josh still wouldn't talk to her beyond what was required to do his job and it seemed unfathomable that he had ever smiled and flirted with her. And it wasn't likely to ever return. Donna couldn't continue this way.
"Mr. President," she stuck her head in his office. "Do you have a minute?"
"Donna, sit down. What can I do for you?"
Donna sat at attention on the edge of the chair. "I want to thank you for allowing me to serve the Presidency. It has been a real honor."
"But, I can't continue like this."
"You think you can get your friends back by running away?"
"No, sir. I just think it won't hurt so much."
The President sighed and picked up his phone. He punched an extension and said, "Get in here, pronto!" and hung up.
Donna waited awkwardly. The President ignored her, returning to his paperwork, for the two minutes that it took for Josh Lyman to appear in the Oval Office. Donna stood up at his entrance so that they would be on equal footing standing before the President's desk.
The President looked up at his entrance. "We're going to settle this here and now. Donna wants to quit."
Josh glanced at her startled to hear the news.
"Do you want her to move away and be out of your life forever?"
"No," Josh quietly answered.
"Donna, do you want Josh to be out of your life forever?"
"Josh, are you willing to work to restore the bonds of friendship and love that you had with this woman?"
"I believe the correct phase is 'I do'," the President said with mock-sternness.
"And Donna, are you willing to work to restore the bonds of friendship and love that you had with this man?"
"I do," she returned with a shy smile.
"Then by the powers vested in me by the United States of American, I pronounce you 'more than friends'. You should at least hug the-- whatever," the President concluded, waving a hand.
Josh and Donna nervously put their arms around each other for a quick awkward hug.
"You can do better than that. Let's try that again. Longer this time. I'll tell you when to stop."
Josh and Donna repeated their actions, the nervousness fading as they relaxed into each other. Donna began to rub her hand along Josh's back. He sank his face into her neck and kissed her collar.
"That's better," the President encouraged.
They pulled away smiling and touched foreheads. "I've missed you," she said.
"Me too. I do."
"Love you," he whispered.
"Yeah, me too. I mean, I love you too, not I love myself too."
"I knew what you meant."
"I was going to be a priest you know," the President commented reminding them they were still in his office. "I don't think we're going to have to worry about Josh becoming a priest though."
"Yeah, that too."
* * * The End