Author's Notes:This is a sequel to "Pandora's Box"
Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman glanced up from his desk as Kathy knocked on his open office door. "Kathy, unless you have some form of caffeine with you whatever you have to say can wait until I get some coffee."
The dark haired young woman shook her head as she stepped into the room holding a pink message slip. "Donna had to run a file to Leo but she wanted you to get this message as soon as possible."
Josh frowned as he stood and walked around the corner of his desk and headed toward Sam's assistant. "Kathy, nobody else is up at this hour of the morning."
Kathy handed him the message. "Except those who work on the Hill. It's from Lillienfield."
Josh snatched the paper from her. "What the hell does he want at six in the morning?"
Kathy shrugged as she headed out the door. "I don't know, Donna took the message."
"Thanks, Kathy," Josh replied as he followed her out the door scanning the bustling communications bullpen for his assistant. "DONNA?!"
The blonde woman in her late twenties touched his left shoulder in response causing him to jump. "I'm right here."
Josh jumped back slightly. "Don't do that! Did you get CIA training that I don't know about?"
Donna glared at her boss. Everyone in the West Wing had worked late the night before getting the health care bill ready to be sent to the Hill next week. On top of that the President had called a five thirty senior staff meeting for this morning so he could be brought up to speed on everything before he left for the Russia summit.
"Josh, I haven't had any caffeine yet so please don't start," Donna replied as she moved toward her desk.
"Kathy just gave me this message," Josh commented as he thrust the piece of paper in front of her. "Does this really say that Lillienfield wants to meet now?"
Moss's expression instantly turned sober as she remembered the brief phone call. "He didn't tell me anything, just that he wanted to see you as soon as possible. I thought you and Sam made a deal."
Josh walked back into his office and snatched his coat from a chair. "We did," he replied firmly as he walked back into the room.
"Then what does he want?" Donna asked with concern.
Lyman placed a hand on her shoulder as he maneuvered them over to her desk. "Guess we'll find out, but don't tell anyone about this. Especially Leo."
Donna frowned. "Josh...."
"I mean it," Josh replied grimly. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
Josh arrived at the foot of the Washington Monument in pouring down rain.
"About time," Peter Lillienfield snapped as Josh ducked into the entranceway.
Lyman glared at the older man. "You're lucky I'm here at all."
Lillienfield chuckled as he leaned against the wall. "Careful, Josh, hostility like that will get you nowhere."
"What do you want?" Josh demanded as he shook rain off his leather coat.
"The deal to salvage McGarry's career is off the table," the Congressman replied with a cold smile.
Josh barely controlled the urge to deck the man. "The deal is concrete there's no way you can renege on it now. If you even try you'll have a war with Bartlet that you will not win."
Lillienfield took a step toward Lyman. "I like a fight which is why I thought I'd be a good sport and give you a heads up on a story the Post is going to run in tomorrow's edition."
Josh snatched the folded newspaper from him but didn't get a chance to open it before the congressman turned to leave.
"I'll be in touch within twelve hours," Peter replied as he paused in the doorway turning back to face a fuming Lyman. "I'm sure once you read the article you'll be willing to talk more about our so called deal. Have a pleasant morning, Mr. Lyman."
Josh glared at the Congressman's retreating back before flipping the paper open so the front page was showing. He was expecting another attack on Leo but what he saw in five-inch bold type made his blood run cold:
/WHITE HOUSE STAFF MEMBER LEADS DOUBLE LIFE AS PROSTITUTE, CONTRACTS AIDS/
"Donna," Josh whispered as he quickly read the article wondering how the hell Lillienfield had gotten a hold of Moss's medical records.
At seven thirty Sam Seaborn was about to head to the Hill for what was sure to be a mind-numbing meeting on the upkeep of the city's parks when his phone rang.
"Seaborn," Sam said as he sat down on the corner of his desk.
"Meet me at Reeves," Josh replied in a quiet, angry voice.
Sam blinked in surprise. "Where are you?"
"Just meet me, Sam," Lyman replied as he signaled to make a left turn.
"I have a meeting on the Hill in twenty minutes," Sam protested half-heartedly.
"Blow it off," Josh replied tightly. "I had a meeting with Lillienfield this morning."
"On my way," Sam promised quietly as he hung up the receiver.
"Kathy?" Sam called as he walked out of his office gaining his assistant's attention. "Cancel my morning appointments."
"All of them?"Kathy asked in surprise.
"Just do it," Sam replied as he walked past her. "I'll do what apologizing I have to do later."
"Toby?" Mandy Hampton called as she knocked on Ziegler's open office door. "You have a minute?"
The dark haired man in his late forties glanced up from his computer screen. "No, but when has that stopped you?"
Mandy stepped further into the office. "Do you know a Michele Duncan?"
Toby returned his attention to his computer screen. "I believe she worked for Hoynes for about a month."
"She's writing a book," Hampton replied as she sat down.
Toby met her gaze. "About the Vice President?"
Mandy nodded. "I got a call from a friend of mine who's a publisher."
"She was only here a month, how much damage could she do?" Ziegler replied as he took a sip of his coffee.
"Does the Vice President have any skeletons in his closet?"Mandy asked as she stood.
"No." Toby replied as he leaned back in his chair.
"You sure?" Mandy replied.
"Yes," Ziegler replied firmly. "Anything else?"
The dark haired woman shook her head as she turned to leave. "No."
"Okay," Toby replied as he returned his attention to the computer screen.
Sam arrived at the bustling restaurant a few blocks from the White House and scanned the crowd. He finally spotted Josh sitting in a booth against the wall a few feet from the kitchen door.
As he sat down Sam ordered an iced tea from a passing waitress. "What's going on?"
Lyman looked at his friend for a long moment not sure how to start. More than anything he didn't want to betray Donna's confidence but if they were going to protect Leo, Sam had to know everything.
"Lillienfield backed out of the deal," Josh replied as he leaned forward.
"What?!"Sam replied sharply just as the waitress returned with his drink.
Both men waited in silence until the young woman left.
"What does he want?" Sam asked as he fought to control his temper.
Josh shook his head. "He wants a fight. He's out for Leo's blood no matter who gets hurt along the way," he replied as he handed Seaborn the newspaper.
"This from Lillienfield?" Sam asked as he unfolded the newspaper.
Josh nodded tightly. "He's gone after Donna."
"What?" Sam asked in surprise as he quickly scanned the article. "This true?"
Josh glared at the younger man. "Of course not."
"Josh....." Sam prompted. "Is Donna sick?"
Lyman sighed as he thought back to New Year's. "She thought she was."
"When?" Seaborn asked tightly.
"New Year's," Josh replied as he glanced over Sam's shoulder to the window. "She finally told me when we were trapped in the elevator."
"Was she raped?" Sam asked with concern.
Lyman shook his head. "No, she had a one night stand with a jerk who didn't tell her he was HIV positive."
Sam rubbed the back of his neck wearily. "How the hell did Lillienfield find out?"
"I don't know." Josh replied quietly. "I had to pry it out of her.....I doubt she told anyone else."
"Who was the guy?" Seaborn asked as he dumped a couple dollar bills on the table.
Josh shook his head. "She wouldn't tell me. Sam, I can't let this get out...she's been through enough. I don't want her to have to deal with a witch hunt with the press."
Sam nodded. "We have to talk with Toby. We'll figure out a way to deal with Lillienfield."
"Hey Ginger," Sam called as he and Josh returned to the West Wing. "Toby in?"
The young woman shook her head as she walked back to her desk. "He's got meetings on the Hill all day, won't be back until later."
"Thanks," Seaborn replied as he steered Josh toward Lyman's office.
"When's Lillienfield's deadline?" Sam asked as soon as Josh shut the door behind them.
Lyman glanced at the clock. "He gave me twelve hours."
Sam took off his suit coat and laid it across the chair. "You're going to have to tell Donna about this."
Josh shook his head. "No."
"Josh...." Sam replied leaning against the back of the chair. "She's tougher than you think."
Lyman glared at his friend. "I don't want her to have to deal with this. She's just now gaining some of her confidence back after what that bastard did to her."
Seaborn nodded as he took out his cell phone and began to dial.
"Who are you calling?" Josh asked as he stood behind his desk.
"I'm paging Toby," Sam replied as he glanced at his watch.
It was only ten o'clock when Donna walked into a small deli near the White House for a quick lunch.
As she waited in line to place her order she nearly jumped out of her skin as a hand was suddenly placed on her left shoulder.
The young blonde woman turned around and froze.
"Get your hand off of my shoulder or I will scream," Donna stated firmly as she glared at the young black haired man.
Nick Halloway smiled as he lifted his hand. "Now sweetheart, is that any kind of a greeting?"
Donna's heart was beating a hundred miles a minute. After New Year's she thought she'd never see him again. He nearly ruined her life and he has the nerve to act insulted?
Donna took a step toward the door. "Get out of my way, Nick."
"Don't you want to hear what I have to say?" Halloway asked with a wide smile as he slung an arm around her waist drawing her close. "I know how loyal you are to your boss."
"Yes, I thought the mention of Lyman would get your attention," Nick stated as he moved them out line and toward the wall. "You never even asked who I worked for when we dated."
One name popped into Donna's mind as she recalled a certain early morning phone call. If Nick worked for Lillienfield.....
"Lillienfield," Donna replied quietly.
"Knew you were a smart girl," Halloway replied gleefully. "Now I wonder how far you'll go to protect Lyman or McGarry for that matter."
Donna finally pulled away from him and tried to walk to the door. "I have nothing to say to you."
Nick snagged her left elbow and drew her back. "But I have lots to say and so does my boss. I'll be in touch."
Donna glared at him wondering how she ever could have found him attractive. She broke free of his grasp and walked quickly out the door never looking back.
Sam and Josh met an angry Toby on the second floor of the Capitol Building.
"Did Lillienfield assassinate anybody?" Zielger demanded, as the trio stood near a window in a crowded hallway.
Sam shook his head. "No."
"He took Leo's deal off the table," Josh interjected impatiently.
Toby stared at the younger man for a long moment before he rubbed a weary hand along the back of his neck. "He can't take the deal off the table."
"He did."Sam replied grimly. "He's given us a twelve hour deadline."
"What does he want?" Toby asked as he leaned against the wall.
"He wants to kill Leo's career," Josh replied with a shake of his head.
"There's more," Sam added gaining his boss's attention.
Toby sighed. "Of course there is."
Sam handed him the newspaper. "He put an article about Donna in the Post."
Ziegler glanced at Josh before opening the paper and scanning the headline.
"Let the deadline pass," Toby stated quietly handing the paper back to Sam.
Josh stared at the older man in disbelief. "You can't mean that."
"If we give into his demands now, there will only be more," Ziegler replied grimly, hating the fact that Donna was a sacrificial lamb but it was the only way. "If we ignore the story it'll be buried on the twenty third page by Friday and forgotten by Monday."
Sam glanced at Josh. "There has to be a way to kill this story."
Toby shook his head. "Not without giving credit to Lillienfield's demands. I'm sorry, Josh."
Lyman opened his mouth to reply but quickly snapped it shut knowing that whatever he said he'd regret later. Instead he turned on his heel and stalked down the hallway.
Donna sat in her car with her hand on the ignition key not sure where to go. The rational part of her knew she had to tell Josh immediately. But the other part didn't want to go anywhere near the White House.
Donna leaned her head back against the headrest and closed her eyes. God, how could she not have known who Nick worked for? Josh would kill her when he found out and she couldn't blame him.
Not after all the hell that Lillienfield had put Leo through in the past month.
Opening her eyes Donna started the car and threw it into drive. She had a lot of thinking to do and she knew she couldn't do that at work.
Josh returned to his office still seething. He wasn't just mad at Toby but at the whole entire mess. It was only after he'd been in his office for a few minutes that he realized that Donna wasn't at her desk.
In fact he didn't see her anywhere in the communications bullpen.
Lyman stepped into the bullpen, a bad feeling starting to creep up his spine. "Kathy, where's Donna?"
The young black haired woman looked up from her desk. "Last time I saw her she was heading out for lunch."
"When was that?" Josh asked glancing at his watch. Nearly noon.
"I think it was around ten," Kathy replied. "Want me to page her?"
Josh frowned. Donna never took a two hour lunch. An hour lunch maybe, but never two. "No, that's okay I'll try her cell. Thanks, Kathy."
"No problem," Sam's assistant replied as she returned her attention to her computer.
Josh retraced his steps to his office and closed the door. He sat down behind his desk and snatched the receiver.
He dialed Donna's familiar number and waited. After the third ring the operator came on:
/We're sorry but the cellular customer you have reached is either out of range...../
Josh hit the disconnect button and redialed. After getting the same recorded message Josh hung up and tried her pager number.
As he hung up the phone Josh couldn't shake the feeling that Lillienfield might have reached her before he could.
By two o'clock Donna found herself sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial staring out at the reflecting pool. Ironically the same spot where Josh had found her after she had found out the results of her Aids test at the beginning of the year.
She had no idea what to do. If she didn't go to Josh and Leo, Halloway and Lillienfield would win. If she went to Josh he'd be furious that she didn't tell him.
Donna winced as she remembered Josh asking her time and time again to tell him who the guy was whom she had the one night stand with.
Josh had given her every opportunity and then some and still she hadn't told him.
Donna sighed and drew her knees to her chest. It wasn't like she had been protecting Nick. Part of her had been screaming to let Josh file the charges, put him in jail. The other part however had wanted nothing more than to bury the whole thing and move on.
More than anything Josh had wanted to go out and look for Donna, to warn her. But in the end he worked for the people of the United States and there were meetings to attend.
Mind numbing, boring meetings but meetings none the less.
Now as a congressman tried to plead his case to Sam, Josh couldn't help but glance at his watch.
Nearly two-thirty and no word from Donna.
She would've called by now if she had car trouble or was stuck in traffic.
Sam caught his friend's worried move and cleared his throat. "Congressman Whitman, why don't we take a short break? We'll meet back here in about twenty minutes?"
The blond haired man nodded as he stood. "Very well, Mr. Seaborn."
After the man left Sam turned to his friend. "Josh, go."
Lyman jerked from his thoughts. "Go where?"
"Your mind hasn't been in this room since the meeting started." Sam replied compassionately. "She hasn't come back yet and there's a reason for it."
Josh stood placing a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Thanks, Sam. I'll be back as soon as I can."
Donna was walking back to her car when she passed a hot pretzel stand. She didn't notice Danny Concanon waiting in line until the reporter called her name.
"Donna." The red haired man called as he jogged up to her. "Glad I caught you, was just about to come see you."
Donna blinked in surprise. "Me? Why?"
"I saw a preview of tomorrow's Post and wanted to warn you." Danny replied as he maneuvered her away from the crowd.
"I'm not exactly front page material, Danny." Donna replied trying to keep the worry out of her voice.
Danny rested a supportive hand on her shoulder. "You and I know that but the public doesn't. "
Donna leaned against a nearby tree. "What does it say?"She asked quietly.
Danny sighed. "It accuses you of leading a double life as a prostitute."
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?
An hour later Donna clutched a folded piece of white paper in her right hand as she stood in front of Josh's closed office door.
No matter when or where this happened it was going to be rough. She just hoped that someday Josh would understand.
Donna almost chickened out and slid the paper under his door but then the door opened and she found herself staring into Josh's concerned brown eyes.
"You okay?" Lyman asked softly. She'd been distant all day.
"We need to talk," Donna replied quietly as she stepped past him into the office.
As soon as Josh closed the door behind them Donna wordlessly handed him the piece of paper.
Josh cast her a quizzical glance but didn't say a word as he opened the single sheet and began to read.
"Forget it!" Josh shouted as he crumpled up the paper and threw it into the trash can. "You're not quitting!"
Donna flinched but stood her ground. "It's for the best, Josh."
Josh grasped her shoulders forcing her to look at him. "For who? I know this week's been rough for you but it'll get better, I promise. We've been through worse."
Donna backed away and grasped the door handle. "I'll have the rest of the week's schedule printed and on your desk before I leave."
Josh closed the space between them. "I don't care about the damn schedule. Donna, if you need some time off we'll work it out."
Donna shook her head barely able to keep the tears under control. "I'm sorry, Josh."She replied quietly as she threw open the door and ran down the hallway nearly knocking Danny Concanon over in the process.
Danny stood next to CJ's office looking from Donna's retreating form to Josh's angry face and back again.
"She okay?" Danny asked with concern.
Josh shook his head his gaze fixated on the spot where Donna had been. "No," he replied quietly before turning and heading back to his office.
After a few moments Danny found Donna sitting in the back row of the deserted press room. The red haired reporter quietly sat down next to her and handed her his handkerchief. "Thank you," Donna whispered between sniffles.
"Anytime," Concanon replied as he turned to face her.
"Sorry about running you over earlier," Donna stated softly as she wiped away a few stray tears.
Danny smiled as he touched her shoulder. "Don't worry about it. After covering the White House for all these years I know how to move quickly. So what did Lyman do?"
Donna shook her head, the mention of Josh's name nearly bringing on a fresh wave of tears. How had everything changed so fast? "No, Josh is wonderful."
"Then this is about the article?" Concanon prompted quietly.
Moss nodded weakly. "I just lost my job."
Danny blinked in surprise as he started to stand. "Lyman fired you?!"
Donna placed a hand on his arm as she shook her head. "No, Josh didn't fire me, I quit."
"What do you mean she quit?" Sam asked incredulously as he watched Josh pace his office.
Lyman glared at the younger man as he threw up his hands. "Just what I said, Sam! She handed me her resignation and ran out of my office." Sam raised an eyebrow.
"Why now?" Josh shook his head as he leaned against the closed door.
"It's obvious that Lillienfield got to her."
Sam stood and walked around his desk. "What more could he possibly hold over her, Josh? He already played his trump card with the Post article."
"The only thing I can think of is that he threatened me some how. Convinced her that quitting would be the only way to protect me," Josh replied wearily.
Sam sat on the corner of his desk. "We've got to take this to the President."
Lyman shook his head. "I don't want Leo finding out about this."
"He's going to find out sometime, Josh. Wouldn't you rather he had all the information instead of Lillienfield blindsiding him? Lillienfield's playing mind games with us, Josh, they need to know."
"Okay," Josh agreed reluctantly as he pushed himself away from the door. "But no matter what, I'm going to be the one to take Lillienfield down."
Danny retook his seat. "Donna, why did you quit over this? It's going to be forgotten by the weekend."
"It made things too awkward," Donna replied quietly as she stood and returned the handkerchief."Thanks for the handkerchief and for letting me bend your ear."
"Anytime," Danny replied as he followed her to the end of the row. "Do you want me to talk to Josh? See if this can be straightened out?"
Donna turned to face him smiling sadly. "Nothing to fix."
Danny watched her disappear into the sea of reporters that filed in for CJ's afternoon briefing. There was a story here he could smell it. But Danny had worked in the political arena long enough to know he'd never know the whole truth. He just hoped that Donna wouldn't be too hurt by this mess.
Nick Halloway knocked on Lillienfield's closed office door around three and poked his head in.
The gray haired man waved him forward. Nick nodded and crossed to stand in front of the desk waiting for the Congressman to finish his phone call.
Lillienfield briskly ended the phone conversation and turned his full attention to Halloway. "Well from the grin on your face I assume you have some good news to report?"
Nick nodded as he leaned against the corner of the desk. "Your plan against Lyman and McGarry is going just as you expected. Moss is a nervous wreck, Lyman's about to lose everything and he doesn't even realize it. McGarry's completely in the dark."
"Excellent."Lillienfield replied with a wide smile as he leaned back in his chair. "That tidbit of information you gave me about Moss is certainly paying off in spades. I think it's time for phase two."
Donna stepped through the doorway of Josh's apartment and quickly shut the door. She collapsed back against it and closed her eyes the tears starting to flow again. Her conversation with Danny had helped some but she still didn't know what to do. But on the drive here one thing had become clear....she couldn't stay in his apartment any longer. Not after the mess she had made. She couldn't look at him every morning and wonder if his feelings were real or just obligation.
After a few moments Donna pulled herself together and walked through the living room to Josh's bedroom. Once there she picked up her small yellow overnight bag and began to pack.
Halfway through the task Donna paused......she couldn't go back to her apartment the press were still camped out. She couldn't stay here and Donna didn't feel like explaining to any of her friends why she needed a place to stay. So where did that leave her?
Donna sighed and continued to pack. She'd have to stay at a hotel....but that could only be for so long. No job, no money to pay off the credit card bills.
One thing at a time, Donna chided herself as she zipped up the bag with a grim smile. First a place to live then a new job.
Donna slowly walked toward the door and paused near the dresser as she turned to look at the small bedroom. She tried to capture as many happy memories from the room before turning and leaving the apartment with a heavy heart.
It was nearly five o'clock before the President and Leo could both free up a wide enough block of time to meet with Sam and Josh.
By the time Josh sat down in the Oval Office his thoughts were going in a million different directions. After talking with Sam, Josh had tried countless times to reach Donna by every number he had to no avail.
Sam sensed his friend's unease and placed a reassuring hand on Lyman's shoulder just as Bartlet and McGarry entered the room. "This was the right thing to do, Josh."
"It better be," Josh replied quietly.
"Alright," Jed began grimly as he sat in a chair opposite Sam. "What's the big crisis?"
Seaborn looked from Bartlet to McGarry and back again before replying. "Lillienfield."
Bartlet sighed and leaned back in the chair. "What's he done now?"
Leo however had picked up on something else and he leaned forward looking squarely at his deputy chief of staff. "Josh, what have you two done this time?"
Sam saw Josh hesitate. "You're going to have to tell them about Donna."
Bartlet frowned. "Is Donna alright?"
Lyman shook his head as he met the President's gaze. "She quit."
"What does Donna's quitting have to do with Lillienfield?" Leo asked trying to piece things together.
Sam sighed. "For lack of a better term he's blackmailing her."
Bartlet stood and leaned against the back of his chair. "What does he have over her?" he asked with concern.
Josh shook his head angrily. "He has nothing over her, Sir! He's using her to get to me and Leo."
McGarry frowned. "Josh, take a breath and start at the beginning."
Josh stood and walked over to Bartlet's desk. "That would take us back to New Year's and the computer hacker."
As soon as Donna checked into her hotel room she felt silly. She dropped her suitcase at the foot of the bed and looked around the badly decorated room. How could she have allowed Halloway to mess with her mind? How could she have let things get so out of control?
Donna sighed as she sat down on the bed. Leo, Josh, and Sam had fought Lillienfield before and won....so why hadn't she trusted them enough to stay and fight?
Because you were scared, Donna admitted to herself with a shake of her head, scared of losing Josh, losing her job, losing herself.
With renewed determination Donna reached for the phone. She had a lot to apologize to Josh for....Donna just hoped that he'd understand her actions.
Leo sighed as he rubbed a weary hand over his face. "Josh, if I've told you two once I've told you a thousand times. I can fight my own battles."
Josh ducked his head slightly. "I'm sorry, Leo, I just thought with everything that you had on your plate you didn't need this added to it."
"Either way," Bartlet interjected. "You should've come to me with this."
Sam glanced at Josh then back at the President. "We thought we could squash it before it gained any power."
"Well that didn't happen did it?" Bartlet replied a little more sharply than he intended to. "I want to send Lillienfield a message that he can't do this again to any member of my staff."
Leo stood. "I'll brief CJ in case Lillienfield tries to use the Press again."
Bartlet nodded. "Thanks, Leo."He turned back to Sam and Josh. "Sam, meet with Toby and Leo and figure out a strategy."
Sam nodded as he stood. "Yes, Sir."He replied as he followed the Chief of Staff out of the Oval Office.
"What do you need me to do, Sir?" Josh asked quietly as he looked down at his folded hands.
"Find Donna and bring her home," Jed replied as he stood and placed a reassuring hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Lillienfield's probably filled her head with God knows what. Reassure her that she has a place here no matter what."
"Thank you, Mr. President," Lyman replied softly as he stood and quickly left the office.
Josh returned to his office pausing for a moment to look across the busy communications bullpen.
He should've handled the resignation thing better but it had come completely out of nowhere.
The Deputy Chief of Staff jumped slightly when his cellular phone rang. Josh had completely forgotten he had it on him.
Josh pulled the phone out of the inside pocket of his suit coat. "Lyman?"
"Josh? It's me," Donna replied quietly.
Lyman quickly stepped into his office so he could hear better. "Donna? Where are you? I'm sorry about earlier...."
"So am I Josh, about everything," Moss replied wearily. "Can you meet me?"
"Just tell me where and when," Josh stated as he reached for a small pad of paper and a pen.
Sam returned to his office to find a stack of mail waiting for him. He sat down behind his desk and started to sift through it. Most of it was routine but a plain manila envelope at the bottom of the pile caught his attention.
The envelope was legal sized and contained no postmark or return address. Just his name written in blue ink. Sam frowned as he opened the clasp and took out four black and white photographs.
All were close-ups of him and Laurie.
Sam angrily set down the photographs and picked up the phone.
"Toby?" Sam stated quietly. "I think Lillienfield's made his next move."
As soon as Donna opened the hotel room door Josh instantly enveloped her into a hug.
"I'm so sorry," Josh whispered as he kicked the door shut behind him. "I handled that badly. I wasn't trying to shut you out I thought I was protecting you. Obviously I didn't do a very good job."
Donna pulled away from him and reached up to caress his left cheek. "No, Josh. I over reacted," She turned away from him and walked back toward the window. "I saw you guys pull together and fight for Leo. I should've had more faith......"
Josh quickly crossed the space between them and pulled her into an embrace. "Donnatella, you are the strongest person I know. You were scared...nobody would've reacted any different."
Donna melted back against him not wanting to ruin the closeness of the moment but she knew she had to tell him eventually.
"Josh, there's something I have to tell you and I can only hope that you'll forgive me."
Josh gently turned her around so she was facing him. He placed a hand under her chin forcing her to meet his gaze.
"Donna, there is nothing that you could ever say that would change how I feel about you."Lyman stated quietly.
Sam tossed the photographs onto Toby's desk.
"Just the pictures?"Ziegler asked softly as he sifted through them.
Seaborn nodded tightly. "Yes. This is obviously a signal that Leo isn't the only one he's going after."
"The President's going to want a meeting with him," Toby stated as he stood behind his desk.
Sam nodded. "That's inevitable. We have to prepare for it though. Lillienfield obviously doesn't care about committing career suicide."
Toby nodded. "He's gone after Leo, Josh through Donna, you; so who's his next victim?"
"You," Sam replied quietly. "If he's found out about everything else he might have discovered your insider trading trouble."
Toby bristled. "That wasn't insider trading."
Sam nodded. "You and I know that but the press and the American public doesn't. And that's Lillienfield's point. That everyone in this administration has a skeleton in his or her closet. He thinks he can use that said skeleton to gain more power in Congress."
Josh sat on the corner of the bed next to Donna waiting for her to continue. Her silence was starting to scare him. It'd been at least ten minutes since she had told him there was something he needed to know and he could only wonder what was so difficult for her to tell him. He had thought that they had the kind of relationship both personally and professionally that she could confide in him about anything no matter what.
Donna folded her hands in her lap and cleared her throat. "Josh, back in January you asked me time and time again to tell you who the man was that I had a one night stand with."
Lyman felt fear creep up his spine. If the bastard had come anywhere near her... "Has he been in contact with you recently? Has he threatened you?"
Moss swallowed hard as she nodded. She felt Josh tense and instantly reached out to place a hand on his upper arm. "Josh, he didn't threaten me in the way you think."
Josh forced himself to calm down as he turned back to face her. "Donna, a threat's a threat. What did he say to you?"
Donna finally met his gaze. "He threatened you, Josh."
"What?" Josh asked in surprise. "How could he threaten me?"
"I swear I didn't know this at the time, Josh," Donna replied anxiously. "But his name is Nick Halloway and he's an aide to Lillienfield."
"I know we were expecting him to do something like this, Leo," Bartlet began as he looked at the pictures Sam had given him. "But Lillienfield has to know he won't win this. He's going after each member of my staff and that will not be tolerated."
McGarry nodded grimly. "We'll set up a meeting for tomorrow afternoon."