Disclaimer-See chapter 1
Warning: Themes of violence
Donna looked up from the couch at the sound of pots banging. Margaret was still busy in the kitchen. She had been in there for quite a while. Donna knew she was upset. She had wanted to talk about Donnaís options and Donna had shut her down. And she knew that Margaret tended to deal with stress by staying busy. Then, of course, Margaret pretty much dealt with everything by staying busy. When she had checked on her last, Margaret was putting the canned goods in alphabetical order. Prior to that, she rearranged all of CJís utensils according to size and purpose. Donna wondered what compulsive behavior could possibly be left for Margaret to do in there. She decided that her curiosity was not strong enough to get her off the couch. At least Margaret had stopped with the canned soups. Donna was pretty sure that she was never going to have another bowl of tomato soup again.
Donna felt bad about pushing Margaret away. Margaret was a dear friend and, in the last few days, she had more than defined loyalty and friendship. But Donna was tired. Donna desperately needed a break from this madness. She had heard nothing encouraging from Sam and Freida. If anything, she was feeling more trapped now than she had before she had all of this help. They could see two ways out of this and both of them stunk. Everyone wanted to help. They all had ideas. But there was only one person Donna really wanted to talk to right now and he was nowhere in sight.
"Do you still not want to talk to me?" Margaret interrupted her depressed reverie.
"Yeah, I still donít want to talk."
"Iím sorry to be such a crazy person. I never could keep a roommate for more than a few months." Margaret said apologetically. Donna smiled. She knew all about roommates. Until six months ago, she had always lived with other women. When she decided to live alone, she had been excited. Now she didnít know if she could ever handle being alone in an apartment again.
"You are a crazy lunatic, but I still love you very much. You are a good friend to me."
"But Iím hard to live with," Margaret clarified.
"Well, Iíd have to say that if you were my roommate, I would probably have to murder you in your sleep."
"That seems extreme," Margaret pointed out.
"I would feel justified," Donna said gently teasing her.
"Iím not staying here tomorrow. Iím going back to work. I donít care what Leo says," Margaret said defiantly, deciding it was best to change the subject.
"I wonder if Iíll have a job to go to tomorrow," Donna said thinking about the many ways in which her life had changed in the last week. Margaret was poised to comment when there was a loud knock at the door. Margaret sucked in her breath sharply.
"Donít answer it, Margaret," Donna said with eyes as wide as saucers. Margaret stayed rooted to her spot near the door.
"Open up, Donna," insisted the door.
"Itís Josh," she whispered. Margaret wasnít taking chances. She advanced on the door and looked through the peephole. An impatient Josh Lyman stared back at her. Relieved, she opened the door and let him in.
"H," he said cautiously.
"Hi yourself," Margaret replied warily. She hoped that Josh knew what he was doing this time. Donna said nothing.
"Iíd like to sayÖI just want to apologize for myÖIt was wrong of me reactÖIím so sorry. Oh, hell!" he said fumbling over the words he was trying to say. He tried to look at her in the beginning, but ended his apology staring down at his shoes.
Still silent, she was watching him intently.
"Maybe Iíll go for a walk," said Margaret sensing the intimacy of what was happening in front of her. She started after her crutches.
"Margaret, the last thing you really want to do is to take a walk. I know exactly how sore your foot must be by this time of the day," Donna said with the irritation of a doting parent.
"Iím fine," Margaret scowled at her.
"Maybe you would like to go for a walk," Josh suggested to Donna.
"I donít know," she replied not looking at him. "I have a lot to think about right now."
"Let me help, Donna. Please," he appealed to her.
She looked at Margaret for a moment. Margaret nodded at her.
"You should rest." Donna said to Margaret. "I really mean it, Margaret."
"I know. Iíll take one of those pills that make me woozy. Itíll knock me right out," she assured her with a smile.
"Youíll walk with me?" he asked.
"Yeah," she said softly.
When Josh had suggested walking to the mall and around the monuments, Donna shook her head. She needed someplace quiet, without many people. She told him in one word where she wanted to go.
An hour later, she was seated, her arms hugging her legs to her chest, in the sand looking out on the Atlantic Ocean. She had spent the whole drive looking out her passenger window silently. Josh seemed to understand and allowed her this solitude.
Now, he sat in the sand next to her determined to wait until she was ready. The sound of the ocean was soothing and rhythmic. He found himself hypnotized by the waves, watching them crash powerfully onto the shore. It was clear to him why she would find it peaceful here.
"I understand what happened to you last night," she said finally, breaking the silence.
"Donít make excuses for my running out on you," he replied.
"It was painful. You are human. You needed to think. I was no better, hiding and lying to you. I betrayed you."
"You had a lot at stake, Donna."
"I do. I guess I thought I would do anything to protect it."
"Donna, Iím not going to run away again. And Iím not angry at you."
"I know that now."
"Please let me in. Let me help," he pleaded.
"I donít know that there is anything you can do at this point," she said, looking at him and smiling sadly.
She returned to looking out upon the water. He waited. It was excruciating, but he waited.
"Sam and a woman named Freida Williams visited me this morning," she said finally.
"They called and talked to Tuckerís lawyers before they came to see me. Sam wanted to understand their intentions further, I guess."
"I have two exciting options from which to choose. If I sign an affidavit that says that nothing happened and accept a gag order, his lawyers say that everything will be dropped. I can go back to my life, or whatever is left of it." She took a deep breath. "If I proceed with filing charges, they plan to ruin me. I wasnít sure how they plan to do that, but Freida assures me that it can be done," she said softly. Josh hung on her every word, struggling to overcome the rage that threatened to explode from within. He knew that it was important for him to be helpful to her rather than out of control. He tried to stay calm in the face of this injustice.
"Tell me what to do," she said searching his face.
"Donna, I canít choose for you," he said gently.
"I know which is the right thing to do," she said. "I just donít think that I have the strength to do it. Iím very tired."
"I wonít let him hurt you," Josh said sincerely to her bowed head.
"I know. But heís very powerful, Josh. And heís rich. Sam says that he thinks Grey is more deeply connected to powerful people and resources than we even know. Iím not sure that we can win."
Josh reached over with his hand and pulled her face toward his. He could see the exhaustion in her eyes. "Donna, listen to me. Donít be frightened away by this manís wealth. Grey doesnít have everything. In fact, I think that he is most definitely lacking in some very important areas."
Donna looked confused.
"He doesnít have your courage, Donna," Josh continued, "and he doesnít have my bulldog determination."
She smiled a little and rested her cheek on the hand that still held her face.
"We have those things, Donna. Plus we have more. We have Samís goodness, Leoís ferocity, CJís sensitivity, Tobyís brilliance, Margaretís loyalty, and we have the President of the United States on our side. I think that we are more than well equipped to take on a rapist. Weíre going to take him to the mat, Donna. I promise you," Josh was looking intently into her eyes as he made this promise. For the first time in almost a week, Donna felt safe.
"Freida says that the police might be tough on me. Iíve waited a week to report. Plus he has already filed charges against me. It will look like I am just trying to get back at him."
"Itíll be okay. I promise."
"Will you go with me?" she asked softly.
"Just try and keep me away," he returned with a smile.
"I want to do it today."
"Thatís a good idea."
The wind was blowing her blonde hair into her face. She shivered suddenly.
"Are you cold?" he asked gently.
"And scared," she admitted. Josh removed his jacket and placed it on her shoulders. He put his arm around her and pulled her to him. She rested her head on his shoulder.
"Let me sit like this for a few minutes before we go."
"You take all the time you need, Donnatella," he said rocking her gently.
"Oh, this is devilish, Toby," the President said with a gleam in his eye. He was still lying in his bed. Although, sometimes when Charlie wasnít in the room, he would walk around the room a little just to remind himself who was the boss. "Iím not sure that it has a chance in Hell of working, but I like it anyway. Toby, youíre a regular criminal mastermind, you know that."
"Well, thank you sir. I think," Toby said considering this back-handed compliment with his brow furled.
"It will require some deceitful behavior on our part, correct?" inquired Jed Bartlet.
"And some bold face lying?"
"Leoís not gonna like this, you know. Heís gonna say weíre the good guys and a bunch of crap about how we should be above all of this kind of criminal behavior." Jed regarded Toby.
"I expect he will," Toby agreed.
"But you want to do it anyway."
"Yeah, me too, but tell me why again. Weíre going need reasons when we invite Leo, the human conscience, in on these conversations. Weíre going to have to bolster ourselves with better justification than "just Ďcause it would be fun."
"Well, they played dirtyÖ" Toby began.
"No good. Heíll have that one covered. Heíll say that we shouldnít play at their level," the President said thoughtfully.
"Sir, this is what you should tell Leo." Toby regarded the President seriously. "They are playing with information obtained at the expense of one of our own peopleís safety and well being. That is unacceptable to us. Tell him we play to win in this White House. Theyíve forced us into a corner now and weíre not going to take it lying down. Even if they beat us, weíre going to go down fighting."
"I like it," the President announced with satisfaction. "They might have us, but weíre going to make them sorry that they won."
"Thatís the spirit, sir."
"My grandmother would want to pray for our souls if she knew what we were up to, Toby," the President added.
"Sir, I promise you that I will try to find some time to feel bad about this. Maybe I can schedule it in during a commercial break some night when Iím watching Larry King or something."
"Oh, I do like it when we can justify misbehavior." The President was positively gleeful.
"Yes sir," said Toby thinking about the Presidentís gleeful behavior and decided that he must have been allowed to control his own pain medication again.
"Read me the thing again."
"Okay, the wording currently reads, "Öremuneration to farmers can occur under circumstances of federal order, FEMA authorization, in the case of special FSA (Farm Service Agency) programs, or under the order of the president."
"I hate that "order of the president" part. Congress almost never lets me do what I want. I hate that they have to approve so many of my orders." The President pouted a little.
"Okay, but the part we are interested in today is the "or" in the sentence. If we move it, it will read, "Öremuneration to farmers can occur under circumstances of federal order, FEMA authorization, or in the case of special FSA programs under the order of the president."
"And if I throw my Farm Subsidy Investment program into the FSAís lap, weíre all set. If we change the "or" I can do anything I want as long as I do it through the FSA." Jed Bartlet was delighted.
"We still have several hurdles ahead, sir," Toby cautioned him.
"The first one is to get that "or" changed."
"Thatís where Sam comes in. Tomorrow, we have him call the Majority Leaderís Office. Heíll be panicked. Heíll tell them that the President is going nuts because he misplaced one "or". Then heíll ask if they could they help him out?"
"You got to get the right person. Theyíre going to be watching for something funny out of the White House."
"The Leaderís chief aide is an arrogant asshole named Stevens. Heís not known for his attention to detail. Iíll have Sam grovel. Stevens likes to be magnanimous."
"And once, itís in. Thatís it."
"The bill canít be touched 48 hours before a vote. If we do it before noon, weíre set."
"What have you got Josh doing?"
"Heís the distraction. Heís going to run around and make a lot of noise up there. Heíll make it sound like weíre desperate to save votes."
"Well technically we are," corrected the President.
"Yeah, but weíre not really chasing that windmill anymore."
"The really tough part will be to effectively threaten Sherman and his stooges."
"Definitely, sir. But I am putting together a plan for that. Youíre going to need invite them over here tomorrow evening, sir. I hope that you will be okay to be up and in your office."
"Donít you worry, Toby. I wouldnít miss this for the world."
"Well, then weíre set. Now we just have to talk to Leo. Maybe you would want to handle that without me," Toby suggested.
"Heís not really mad at you, Toby."
"I would beg to differ, sir."
"He came to see me earlier. Mostly, I think heís disappointed in himself. He doesnít have a clue how to be helpful in a situation like this except to take control. And so, of course, his efforts to be helpful have been pretty unappreciated." Jed Bartlet explained.
"Do you have a problem with what I did, sir?" Toby was trying to ask nonchalantly, but he was very worried about the response he might get.
"No, Toby, I donít. I understand that they felt left out of important business especially concerning the trade bill, but you didnít let it slide. You took care of things."
"Thank you, sir."
"I heard about CJís outburst." The President gently changed the subject.
"I wasnít there, sir." Toby was having trouble meeting the eyes of his president.
"Iím sorry to hear that she ever endured something as brutal as an assault."
"Me too," Toby said in a low voice.
"I get the feeling you didnít know."
"I didnít," he admitted.
"Have you talked with her? Is she doing okay?"
"Yeah. She says sheís fine. She says she wants to wait on a conversation until some of this other stuff gets settled."
"Sheís a bright and strong woman, Toby."
"Iím lucky man."
"Iíll say," said the President with a twinkle in his eye.
"Well thank you, sir. I appreciate that ringing endorsement." Toby teased him.
"Letís kick some butt, Toby. Letís make them sorry that their fathers ever met their mothers."
"Yes sir!" Toby said emphatically before leaving his Commander-in-Chief still lying prone on his bed.
Feedback is appreciated- Sheila