Without and Within
by Vicki James, 2000
Summary: This takes place immediately following the events in What Kind Of
Day Has It Been. Donna reacts to the shooting. This was written as a
response to the season finale challenge on the JoshDonnaFF list. Consider
yourself warned. ;-)
The West Wing and its characters are the property of Aaron Sorkin, John
Wells Productions and Warner Brothers. No copyright infringement is
Please do not post or redistribute this story without the author's
"...into his office and a moment later I hear this crash. He calls me in
there and I see him sitting on the floor peering up at me from behind his
Donna gleefully recounted the day's gossip to her friend Tracy as the two
women relaxed over drinks in a Georgetown pub.
"Oh, my! What did you say to him?" Tracy laughed with such abandon that she
needed to wipe tears from the corners of her eyes.
"We should probably get you something temporary so that doesn't happen
again," Donna recounted, and the women broke into renewed peels of laughter.
"You guys are too much!" Tracy exclaimed.
"We have our moments." Donna happened to glance at her watch. "You know
what, the town hall meeting has probably just ended; I should give Josh a
call and see how it went."
Tracy glared at her in mock annoyance. "Hey, you finally have a night off.
*Take* the night off, would you?"
"It'll just be a quick call." Donna had already fished her cellular phone
out of her bag.
The cell phone had been flipped open. "I'm just going to check in with him."
"Boy, you've got it bad," Tracy announced, shaking her head.
This gave Donna pause. "What do you mean?"
"I mean you've got it bad for him. For Josh."
"Tracy! He's my boss. We're friends."
"Yeah," Tracy chuckled. "Come off it. I've known you for too long for you to
be able to hide anything from me."
"We work together," Donna protested. "There would never be anything between
Tracy gave her an appraising look. "But you wish there was."
"I'm not responding to that. And I'm not going to call him after all." Donna
dropped the phone back into her bag.
After shooting her a victorious grin, Tracy drained a final mouthful from
her glass. "I could stand a coffee but after that I'm going to head home."
"Coffee sounds good," Donna said. "I'll go up to the bar to grab us each a
In the process of rising from her chair, Donna didn't notice a man rush into
the pub and run up to the bar to speak hurriedly to the bartender. She did,
however, notice when she was halfway across the room that the music which
had been pouring out of the speakers suddenly died. The television screens,
set in various corners of the room to broadcast sporting events, quickly
came to life.
A reporter whom Donna recognized as a member of the White House press corps
was speaking. Behind her was the Arlington Newseum, lit by the flashing
lights of emergency vehicles.
Donna stopped moving, stopped breathing as she stood paralyzed, transfixed
by the news broadcast.
"...live from Arlington, Virginia where President Bartlet just moments ago
finished addressing college students in a town hall meeting. When the
president and his entourage were returning to their cars shots were fired
from an adjacent building. The president was taken from the scene in one of
the presidential limos but from where I'm standing I can see several people
have been injured. No exact casualty reports are available at this time."
She heard her name being called only when Tracy began shaking her by the
arm. Donna turned to look at her friend whose eyes were wide with concern.
"Come sit down," Tracy bade her, steering her back to the table.
Donna sat on the edge of the chair and grabbed the phone from her bag,
hastily punching in the familiar numbers. She put the phone to her ear and
listened to it ring once…twice…ten times without an answer. She slowly
folded the phone up and placed it on the table before her. Then she looked
up to meet Tracy's worried gaze.
"He didn't answer," Donna said quietly, needlessly.
"He probably didn't hear it, or he was too busy, with everything going on."
Tracy tried her best to comfort her friend.
Donna shook her head, seeming to snap out of her subdued reverie. "I need to
get to the office. They'll need everyone there." She stood up quickly,
grabbing her jacket and thrusting her arms through the sleeves.
"Let me drive you there," Tracy offered as she also stood. "I think you're a
bit too upset to drive yourself right now."
"Thanks," Donna acknowledged gratefully.
Once in the car Donna tried again to reach Josh, without success.
"Why don't you try someone else who was there," Tracy suggested.
Donna called up in memory the list of staff attending the town hall meeting
"Bonnie," she murmured, keying the number into her phone.
The phone had barely rung before it was answered.
"Bonnie, it's Donna."
"Thank goodness," came the voice over the phone. "What's going on?"
Donna's heart sank. "I was hoping you could tell me."
"I was still in the building finishing things up when the shooting started,"
Bonnie explained. "Now they're not letting any of us leave until the area is
"Is anyone else there with you?"
"Carol's here, but everyone else left with the president."
"Are you at the office?" Bonnie asked.
"I’m on my way there now."
"Let me know if you hear anything, okay?"
Donna promised that she would and hung up. "She doesn't know anything," she
told Tracy, and then turned to stare out the window.
Her fingers began to tap out a beat as though the motion could urge the car
forward faster. At that time of night traffic wasn't heavy but there were
still stoplights and speed limits to contend with, though Tracy was largely
ignoring the latter.
The radio was on and accounts of the shooting were being broadcast. Donna's
stomach churned with anxiety, though thankfully no fatalities had yet been
reported, nor had injuries to any of the president's staff been announced.
When they finally reached the White House, Donna was ready to scramble out
of the car but before she could do so Tracy placed a restraining hand on her
"You call me if you need me, okay? It doesn't matter what time it is."
Donna assumed the worry in Tracy's eyes mirrored her own. "Thanks," she
offered sincerely before climbing out of the vehicle and nearly sprinting up
She was granted a modicum of relief when she got into the office and
discovered Sam and CJ had arrived shortly before. They were both visibly
shaken but had sustained no injuries other than scrapes and bruises when
diving for cover. Further worries were assuaged when she found out the
president, Zoë and Charlie were all safe and unscathed in the residence.
Still unaccounted for, however, were Leo, Toby, and Josh.
Shaking legs took Donna back to her desk to call Bonnie with the promised
update. The other woman was still at the Newseum as the Secret Service was
understandably taking their time in questioning everyone on the scene.
While her colleagues were busy preparing for the inevitable briefings to
come sooner or later that night, Donna sat staring vacantly into Josh's
deserted office. She was seemingly oblivious to the chaos around her and if
her co-workers noticed her inactivity they let her be.
She stirred when Margaret came into the area to announce that Leo was on his
way in. Donna hoped that Leo had news of Josh and Toby, or better yet, that
they were both with him.
Leo arrived and everyone present assembled in the Roosevelt Room. He advised
that Toby had been injured when a crowd of people around him panicked and he
had been taken to the hospital to have a fracture treated. Other than that
he would be all right.
Anxious to get to work, Leo looked around the room, ready to assign duties.
After his first visual go-round he paused. "Where's Josh?"
"We don't know," CJ advised.
Leo fixed his attention on the press secretary and Sam. "He wasn't with you
"No," Sam answered.
Donna listened to the exchange, biting her lip to keep her composure. She
must have unwittingly made a slight noise and Leo turned to her. His
expression softened from concern to compassion but his true thoughts were
still betrayed by the worry in his eyes.
"I'm sure Josh is okay," he told her firmly.
Donna nodded in response but couldn't trust herself to speak and could no
longer trust herself to maintain a façade of calmness. She stood abruptly
and beat a hasty retreat from the room.
She was followed only by sympathetic looks from the others. A moment after
she had left Sam asked, "Do you think I should…" He gestured in the
direction in which she had fled.
"No," Leo replied. "I'll get Margaret to see if she can find out what's
happened with Josh. Donna will be fine if we find him."
CJ pursed her lips. 'When we find him, Leo,' she thought. '*When* we find
Donna sat in Josh's office, her back to the door, looking out the window and
into the night. How many times had she sat like this before, waiting for
Josh, watching for his return? Only on those occasions she had not worried
that he would fail to come back; her only consideration had been of what
sort of mood his return would find him. Many times she had sat and thought
of what she could do to cool his outrage, calm his agitation, console him in
defeat or celebrate with him in victory.
She had never before sat there wondering if he would return at all. Or what
she would do without him.
Donna took a deep breath as a sob threatened to tear loose from her throat.
'You're being ridiculous,' she admonished herself. There was no sense in
getting upset when there was nothing to get upset about. This was Josh after
all. He was probably still on the scene, right in the thick of things, too
busy to even think about checking in.
He was not lying hurt somewhere...or worse. Donna squeezed her eyes shut to
prevent the tears that were welling up from overflowing.
"So you really do sit in here when I'm gone," a voice from behind her said
Opening her eyes, Donna turned in her chair to see Josh leaning wearily
against the doorframe. His jacket and tie were gone, his shirt unbuttoned
and marked with stains. He appeared exhausted.
Donna was overjoyed to see him. But for some reason when the tension she had
been feeling abated, anger rose to the fore. She knew it was irrational, but
she couldn't help herself.
"Where have you been?" she demanded sharply.
Josh looked surprised. "Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks for asking," was his flippant
"Josh, we've all been worried. Why the hell didn't you call?" Donna glared
"I lost my phone," he admitted.
"Oh, and there are no other phones in Virginia?"
"It's a long story, Donna."
"I'm listening." Her mouth was set determinedly and her tone brooked no
Josh sighed and took a seat across the desk from her.
"I was a bit behind the president and everyone else when we left the
Newseum. When everyone else reached the cars and the shooting started I had
just about reached the gates. Shots were going everywhere, including into
the crowd. A woman near me, a girl really, got hit and after it was all over
I stayed with her until the paramedics arrived. I took off my jacket to
cover her with and my phone was still in the pocket when they took her
Donna looked horrified. "Josh, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have...I'm sorry. I
don't know what's wrong with me."
"It's okay," he replied quietly.
"Was she all right?" asked Donna.
Josh shook his head. "I don't know."
Donna reached out and placed her hand lightly on his. "I was really worried
about you," she told him quietly.
"I tried to call," he responded. "They wouldn't let anybody back into the
building and I argued with some rookie cop for a few minutes about letting
me through the gate to the motorcade but he didn't believe who I was and I
didn't have my I.D. It had been in my jacket too."
"How did you get back here?" Donna asked.
"I walked a couple blocks from the Newseum until I found a coffee shop that
was open. They let me use the phone there but I couldn't get through. All
the lines to the White House switchboard were jammed."
"Why didn't you call on one of the private lines?"
Josh looked slightly sheepish. "You know how you know all those numbers off
by heart?" When Donna nodded he continued, "Well since you do, I don't. I
have the numbers programmed into my phone but as we know from lesson one, I
didn't have my phone anymore."
He might have been physically and emotionally drained, but Josh hadn't lost
his wit. Donna had to smile.
"There was a cab driver in the coffee shop and I managed to convince him
that he could drive me here and bill the White House. Oh and by the way, if
a Mr. Porvonen calls we will be delighted to give him and his family of six
a personal tour of the White House."
Josh concluded, "So despite frenzied gunfire, no phone and a lack of funds,
here I am. And how are you doing?"
"I'm..." Donna started to supply a smart retort but her tumultuous emotions
of the past hours at last caught up with her. She pulled her hand back from
Josh's, bowed her head and covered her face.
Josh looked on in concern as Donna's shoulders began to shake. He stood and
moved around the desk, reaching down to pull Donna up and into his embrace.
She wound her arms around him and buried her face in his shoulder. He held
her tightly, stroking her hair where it fell down her back and murmuring
words meant to sooth.
When Donna had regained her composure she held on for just a moment longer,
savoring the strength and comfort she found in those arms. Then she pulled
back and took a step away from Josh.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
She nodded. "I am now."
"Good." Josh stifled a yawn, stretched, and sighed. "I need to wash up, get
a cup of coffee and find out how everyone else is before anyone else
discovers I'm here and wants me to get to work."
Donna reached out and wiped at a streak of dirt on his cheek with her thumb.
It wasn't a caress, but their eyes met when she was doing it and their gazes
held, and the moment was drawn out until she dropped her hand from his face.
"You go and clean up and I'll get you a coffee. But first I have to call my
friend Tracy," Donna said as she walked around him toward the door.
"Isn't a bit late to be calling your friend? It's the middle of the night,"
Josh pointed out.
Donna paused to look back at him. "Tracy was with me when I heard about the
shooting; I want to let her know everything's all right."
A secret smile graced her face. "She was also trying to get me to admit
something tonight that I kept denying. Something I've denied for a long
time. I'm going to let her know she was right."