Author: Cindy Brewer
Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman hummed softly to
himself as he walked through the bullpen. The staff
meeting he had just come from had gone well. Josh
opened his office door and nearly tripped over his
assistant Donna Moss who was curled up in a sitting
postion against the right wall.
Lyman quickly closed the door behind him instantly
dropping to his knees next to her. Josh's first
thought was that she was hurt or sick. He hadn't seen
much of her this morning due to his hetic schedule....
"Donna?"Josh asked anxiously as he gently reached up
to touch her right shoulder. "Are you hurt?"
The young blonde woman shook her head as she finally
met his gaze. Josh was shocked to see the sadness in
her bright blue gaze. Tears were flowing freely down
"What is it, Donnatella?"Lyman asked quietly his fear
starting to escalate. "Please tell me what's wrong."
Donna pulled herself into a sitting position and
struggled to compose herself. She sniffled and
swallowed hard before she felt the lump of
tears disapate enough so that she was able to speak.
"I-I'm sorry Josh....I know I shouldn't be....but I
needed a quiet place...."Donna replied weakly.
"It's okay."Lyman assured her quickly his brown eyes
full of concern.
"A-about twenty minutes ago I received a call from my
father."Donna began still not quite believeing the
news that she had heard earlier."He told me that my brother Tom's f-16 crashed off the coast of San Diego early this morning.....they-they haven't rescued him yet."
Josh instantly pulled her into a tight embrace gently
stroking her back. "I'm sure he's okay, Donnatella. You know the military....keep things under wraps until the last
minute. I'll talk to Leo and see if we can find out some more recent information."
Donna pulled back from him a small smile on her face."Thank you."
Josh nodded as he handed her his hankerchief. "You're
welcome."He replied as he gently pulled her to her
feet."Stay here as long as you need to. I'll be back
as soon as I can."
After Josh left Donna walked over to the window and watched the rain.
She struggled to remember the last time she had seen Tom.Despite a heavy snow storm Donna had managed to get home for Christmas and spend a few days with her family.
But Tommy hadn't been able to get leave so the family had settled for a short phone converstaion on Christmas Eve.
All too short Donna thought sadly as she realized she hadn't seen her brother for nearly a year.
The last time had been at her father's birthday party shortly after Bartlet took office.
"Hey Donnakins," Thomas Moss greeted his little sister as she walked in the front door of the Moss home in Buffalo, New York.
"Tommy!" Donna cried as she dropped her suitcase in the doorway and nearly tackled her brother in a bear hug. She hadn't been expecting to see him. He had been assigned to the John F. Kennedy which was in the Persian Gulf. "I missed you."
The red haired young man took a step back so his sister's hug wouldn't topple them both. "Missed you too. But I'm not the only one with a hetic schedule. Did Bartlet forget to pay the White House phone bill?"
Donna punched his left shoulder playfully but flashed him a sheepish smile. "Sorry," she replied as Thomas set her down. "But working in the White House is like working in controlled chaos. Takes awhile to get used to."
Tom picked up her suitcase and placed an arm around her shoulder. "I bet. So tell me little sister, all about your big important life in D.C."
A fresh wave of tears rolled down Donna's cheeks as she remembered their long conversation that day. Moss folded her arms across her chest and leaned heavily against the wall staring out the window. She had two other brothers whom she loved dearly but Donna had always been closest to Tom.
Donna closed her eyes tightly. She wasn't sure how the family would deal with losing Thomas....or how she would deal with it.
Josh knocked lightly on Leo's open office door and was waved inside.
"What's going on?" McGarry asked seeing the dark look on Josh's face.
"We've got an F-16 down off the San Diego coast," Lyman replied tightly as he came to a stop in front of the chief of staff's desk.
Leo nodded. "Yeah, we're getting intel about it now. Sounds like it was a mechanical problem."
Josh winced inwardly as he replied. "The pilot is Donna's brother. Do we know anything about him?"
Leo stood as he reached for the phone. "Nothing yet, but we'll know as soon as I get Fitzwallace in here. How's Donna holding up?"
Josh sighed as he leaned against the desk. "She's a mess. It sounds like they were really close and I'd like some good news to take back to her. I really don't want to be the one to break her heart Leo."
McGarry nodded grimly as he picked up the phone and began to dial.
"Well?"Josh demanded as soon as McGarry hung up the phone.
"Fitzwallace is on his way."Leo replied as he walked around the desk.
"And?"Josh asked anxiously.
Leo shook his head sadly. "Still no sign of the plane."
"Did Moss eject?"Lyman asked quietly.
"We think so."Fitzwallace replied grimly as he entered Leo's
office."But there's been no sign of the shute."
"That was quick."Leo stated as he greeted the black man.
"Cell phones can be a pain but they can also save one precious time."Fitzwallace replied as he handed Leo several eight by ten black and white photos.
"What are these?"Josh asked as he took half the pile from Leo.
"Surveillance pictures from the carrier."The Admiral replied.
"I thought you hadn't found the plane."Lyman stated as he held up one of the photos to the sunlight to get a better look. "This looks like an f-16 to me."
"I just got these after I hung up the phone with Mr.
McGarry."Fitzwallace replied. "They found the f-16 about two hundred miles from the Kennedy's current position."
"You're positive Moss ejected before the crash?"Leo asked quietly.
Fitzwallace nodded. "The pilot seat was gone. Plus what was left of the plane's canopy was crushed and off kilter."
"How long can he survive in the water?"Josh asked with concern as he flipped through the rest of the pictures.
Fitzwallace exchanged a glance with Leo that Josh didn't miss.
"It's been too long already, hasn't it?"Lyman replied as he handed the pictures back to Leo.
"He has better odds since he landed in the Pacific and not the Atlantic.But this time of year the water doesn't get above fifty degrees."Fitzwallace stated quietly.
"So there's still a chance?"Josh queried as he stepped forward.
The older man nodded. "Yes. You two will be my first call as soon as we hear anything."
Josh walked around them and headed toward the door. "I'll fill Donna in."
"Want me to tell her?"Leo offered.
Josh shook his head. "No, she's expecting this from me. Be easier for her to hear it from me."
Donna turned away from the window as soon as the door opened. Josh paused briefly in the doorway seeing the fresh tears. He wished he could tell her what she wanted, needed to hear.
"They haven't found him have they?"Donna asked quietly as she turned her attention back to the window.
Josh closed the door behind him and walked over to her placing a gentle arm around her shoulders.
"They found his plane."Lyman replied softly as he drew her close. "Fitzwallace is sure that he ejected before the crash."
"They should've found him by now, Josh."Donna whispered hoarsely as she rested her head against his chest.
Josh tightened his hold. "They'll find him, Donnatella. And when they do I'll make sure the first person he speaks to is you."
"I should get back to work."Donna stated softly twenty minutes later as she gently pulled away from Josh.
Lyman shook his head. "Why don't you go home? I'll call you the instant there's any news."
Donna sat down on the corner of the desk. "I'd go crazy at home, Josh. At least here I have something to do."
"Okay."Josh replied as he touched her shoulder lightly. "You know where I am if you need anything."
"Thank you."Donna said softly as she left the office.
Josh watched her go wishing he could do more. With a sigh he reached for his phone and dialed Leo's familiar number.
"Leo, anything from Fitzwallace?"Josh asked as he turned to look out the window. The rain was coming down harder.
"No."McGarry replied as he took some papers from Margaret. "How's Donna?"
"A little better."Josh commented as he absently rolled a pen along the surface of the desk. "I tried to get her to go home but she decided that work was the best medicine for her right now."
"We should know something soon."McGarry replied quietly. "After you left Fitzwallace told me that two other carriers had joined in the search."
"Okay."Josh said as he stood. "I've got a meeting with Abott. Call me as soon as you know anything."
"Will do."McGarry replied as he ended the conversation.
By six o'clock Donna was on the verge of collapse but struggled to hide it. There hadn't been any new news on Thomas all day. Finally a half hour later Donna sat down at her desk and laid her head down. She couldn't keep the tears away any longer.
It had been too long. She had to accept that Thomas was gone....but at least she had the small comfort that he had died doing what he loved the most.
"Hey, Donna?"Josh's voice called from behind her. "Can you get the Spain file?"
"Yeah."Moss replied wearily as she pushed herself away from the desk and stood. She wiped the tears away as she walked toward the file cabinet. She never saw who was standing next to Josh in the doorway of the bullpen until she heard a familiar voice.
"So, Donnakins, this is what I have to do to see where you work? Spend a day floating in the Pacific?"
Donna froze her hand on the handle of the file cabinet not quite believing what she was hearing. Slowly she turned around and the Spain file hit the floor.
Her brother stood in the doorway of the bullpen Josh a few feet away.
Thomas had several cuts on his face and hands and his left arm was in a sling.
Donna opened her mouth to call his name but no sound would come.
Instead she raced into his outstretched arms and held him tight.
"Donna, I can't breathe."Tom stated hoarsely a few minutes later causing his sister to jump back.
"H-How?"Donna whispered as she looked from Josh to her brother and back again.
"They finally found me around noon."Thomas replied as he ran a hand through his red hair. "By the time I got back on board the Kennedy it was almost two. Your boss here had me flown here to D.C. as soon as I got the Doc's okay."
At Donna's look Josh stepped forward. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you. But I knew you'd want to see him for yourself. But I didn't want to get your hopes up if I couldn't arrange it."
Tears flowing freely Donna stepped past her brother and enveloped Josh in a hug.
"Thank you."Moss whispered as she pulled away.
Josh gently touched her face. "You're welcome, Donnatella."