West Wing "Pandora's Box"
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The West Wing
"Pandora's Box"

“Mornin’ Donna.”Josh Lyman called cheerfully as he passed by his assistant’s desk plucking a powdered sugar doughnut in the process.

“Morning, Josh.”Donna replied distractedly as she continued to organize the never-ending pile of paperwork on her desk.

Josh stopped dead in the doorway to his office and back-peddled to his assistant’s desk. It wasn’t so much the distracted Good Morning that told him something was wrong. It was the fact that Donna didn’t reprimand him for swiping the doughnut. As long as he had known her Donna had always started her day with a cappuccino and a powdered sugar doughnut.
Everybody in this office, including him knew they were off limits.

Josh sat down on the corner of her desk ignoring her glare,”Donna, what’s wrong?”

That got her to look at him,”Nothing.”She replied a little too quickly,”You have a meeting with Sam and Toby in twenty minutes, then a lunch meeting with Senator O’Brien and then at one C.J. wants to see you for a few minutes to go over the latest press release.....”

Josh frowned seeing the dark circles under her eyes and the pallor of her skin. Granted he could chalk both up to her celebrating the New Millennium over the weekend but a nagging feeling told him it was something else.

Donna stood and headed for the copy machine in the corner of the bustling office. She should have known Josh would pick up on her feelings. She also knew that once Josh set his mind to something he couldn’t be detoured for anything. Donna sighed inwardly as she placed the first document. She knew Josh meant well but right now she just didn’t want to talk to anyone. Especially Josh.

As she glanced up she saw that he was still sitting on her desk. Donna turned her attention to the clock on the wall,”Josh, you’ve got less than ten minutes to make that meeting and you know how Toby is when you’re late.”

Josh stood and walked over to the copy machine standing to her left,”Alright, alright, I’m going.”He replied as he turned to leave.
As he took a step away Josh suddenly turned and placed a hand on her shoulder,”You know you can talk to me about anything, right?”He asked quietly.

Donna gently took his hand off her shoulder and she stepped away,”I’m fine, Josh and the last thing I need this morning is to be chewed out by Toby, so go.”

Josh left the office reluctantly knowing pressing her for details wouldn’t get him anywhere. He made a mental note to invite her to dinner. Perhaps in a different atmosphere she’d be more willing to talk.

Donna returned to her desk and glanced absently at her computer screen as she placed the stack of papers down. She did a double take when she noticed the monitor was completely dark.
“Great.”The blonde woman commented darkly as she moved the mouse a few times,”Just what I need this morning.”
It was only then that she noticed that none of the computer’s power indicator lights were on,”Wonderful, can this day get any worse? Forty-eight hours into the twenty-first century and its already bad.”

*****

CJ Cregg frowned as she tried to eject the same videotape for the twentieth time. Machines lately seemed to be taking revenge against her.
“I don’t have time to fight with you.”CJ muttered as she hit the eject button,”Give me the tape and I won’t toss you out the window.”

“Threatening them usually doesn’t work.”Danny stated from the doorway a grin on his face,”Though I have found blackmail works on occasion.”

CJ glared at him briefly,”How’d you get past the guards?”

Danny came to stand behind her right shoulder,”I have a pass remember?”

CJ slapped the VCR in pure frusteration,”Which doesn’t include this part of the White House.”

“How about I make you a deal?”The reporter replied with a smile,”I get your tape out and then we go out to dinner tomorrow.”

CJ sighed inwardly,”Tape's not that important.”
Danny straightened and headed for the door,”Alright, I’ll leave you to your blackmail.”

CJ’s voice halted him ,”I’m only doing this because I’m late. What time for dinner tomorrow?”

Danny gently placed a hand on her left shoulder,”How about I meet you here at six thirty?”

CJ nodded,”That’s fine.”

At that moment the door to video library closed with a loud thump causing them both to jump slightly.

CJ glared at him,”That’s not funny.”

Danny held up his hands in a defensive position,”I swear I didn’t touch it.”

“I’m not saying you did.”CJ replied as she stood,”You probably have one of those remote things.”

Danny glared at her,”Do you really think I’m that juvenile?”

“Sometimes, yes.”CJ replied as she walked over to the door. The red haired woman turned the handle and frowned.

Danny saw her tense and came to stand next to her,”What’s wrong?”

“The damn door’s stuck.”CJ replied as she braced her feet against the bottom of the door and gave it a tug.

“Here, let me try.”Danny said quietly as he gently pushed her aside and grasped the door handle.
After several fruitless minutes of trying to get the stubborn door open Danny turned to face her,”Well on the bright side you have a better excuse for being late.”

*****

Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn glanced up from the stack of manila file folders in his lap and frowned,”Josh?”
The brown haired man didn’t seem to hear him as he absently shuffled a stack of computer printouts.
Their meeting with Toby had ended early and Ziegler had let them use his office for the rest of the morning. But Josh hadn’t said a word since Toby had left which to Sam was a clear sign that something was wrong.

Sam leaned forward and waved a hand in front of his friend’s face,”Earth to Josh.”

Lyman’s head snapped up and a rueful smile crossed his face,”Sorry, what?”

Sam set the stack of files aside and leaned forward,”Josh, what’s going on?”

Josh shook his head as he set one of the printouts on the table,”Nothing, just didn’t get much sleep last night.”

“Okay.”Sam replied as he went back to the files. He knew that wasn’t the truth but also knew that Josh wouldn’t talk unless he was ready to.

With a sigh Josh set the pile of printouts on the floor next to him. ”No, that’s not it. Have you talked to Donna lately?”

Sam looked up. ”No, not since the New Year’s eve party. I mean we’ve said hi in the hall but nothing else. Why?”

Josh rested his chin on his right hand. ”Something’s wrong. I tried to get her to talk about it this morning but she just insisted everything was fine.”

“Maybe it is.”Sam replied quietly.

“Maybe.”Josh acknowledged.

Though Sam could tell that Josh didn’t believe that any more than he did.

*****

Charlie Young stepped out of the President’s office just in time to see Zoey Bartlet step into the hallway from the east entrance.

The young woman caught his gaze and smiled,”You ready?”

Charlie nodded,”Just have to grab my coat.”The young black man paused by the coat rack as he glanced back at her father’s office,”Are you sure about this?”

Zoey closed the space between them and grabbed his arm pulling him toward the elevator,”We’ve been over this a million times.”

“I know.”Charlie replied ruefully,”But.....”

Zoey turned to face her friend as they waited for the elevator,”Have you had a night off since you started working here?”

Charlie shook his head. He couldn’t remember the last time he had seen his sister when she wasn’t asleep or heading out the door to catch the school bus,”No.....”

Zoey grinned,”Trust me, Charlie. He’s not going to get mad at you for eating lunch.”The young brown haired woman looked at the elevator with disgust,”Let’s take the stairs this is taking forever.”

Charlie shook his head in amazement as he struggled to keep up with the president’s daughter. He should’ve known that this wasn’t going to be just a run-of-the-mill lunch date.

*****

Josh Lyman had just stepped out of his office when his phone rang. The brown haired man retraced his steps and grabbed the receiver. The meeting with Sam had run longer than ether had expected and now he was nearly late for lunch with Senator O’Brien.

“Senator O’Brien?”Josh replied not being able to keep the surprise out of his voice,”I was just on my way out the door.....”
“Of course, Senator, I understand. We can reschedule, just call my assistant and let me know what time. Hope you feel better, Sir.”Lyman said as he ended the conversation.

As he glanced out the window he saw Donna getting something from a file cabinet. Maybe she’d be interested in lunch.

“Hey, Donna.”Lyman called as he stepped out of his office,”Have you eaten yet?”

Donna closed the cabinet drawer,”Does coffee count?”

Josh grinned,”No, come on, I’ll buy lunch.”

Donna stared at him in amazement,”You’re buying lunch?”

Josh took the file from her and set it on her desk,”Yes.”

Donna didn’t budge as she studied her boss,”Okay, who died?”

Josh gently grabbed her elebow,”Nobody. I’ve treated before.”

Donna picked up her coat and purse, ”When?”

Josh grinned,”Keep it up and you’re buying desert.”

*****

CJ frowned as she placed the phone receiver down in the cradle.
Danny caught her expression,”What’s wrong? Can’t get a hold of the crack White House maintenance team?”

CJ shook her head as she stood,”No, can’t get a hold of anyone the phone’s down.”
Danny moved away from the door,”Y2K thing?”

“No,”The press secretary replied as she leaned on the arm of the chair,”Everything was triple checked.

Danny grinned as pulled his cellular phone out of his jacket pocket,”Sure, the phone just died on its own.”

CJ snatched the phone from him and started to dial Sam’s number .She stopped when a loud beep interrupted her,”When was the last time you charged this?”

Danny sheepishly took the useless phone from her,”Okay, we’ll use yours.”

CJ turned her attention back to television which had gone dark,”Why has this thing gone dark?”

“Where’s the phone,CJ?”Danny repeated with a grin.

“Its in my car.”CJ replied quietly.

******

“So where do you want to go?”Josh Lyman asked as he leaned against the back wall of the elevator.

Donna turned to look at him,”My choice and you’re buying?”

Josh smiled,”It was my New Year’s resolution.”

Donna nodded and turned her attention back to the lighted numbers above the door.

Josh could only hope that if he got her out of here and she had some of her favorite food that she would open up and tell him what was troubling her.

All of the sudden the elevator jarred sharply as it screeched to a halt. Donna lost her balance and fell against the back wall. Josh quickly reached forward to steady her.
Donna sighed as she pushed away from Josh and reached for the emergency box that held the phone.

“Doesn’t work.”Donna reported as she slammed the metal door shut.

Josh came to stand next to her and pushed the alarm button.

”So much for the White House being Y2K compliant.”Donna muttered darkly as only silence greeted them.

“Guess all we can do now is wait.”Josh replied as he moved back to his previous position,”Someone will miss us eventually.”

“You sure?”Donna asked quietly as she stood next to him.

“Well, by Friday at the latest.”Josh replied with a weak grin.

******

Charlie Young glanced around the underground parking garage. He had lost Zoey on the stairs and even though he had been in the private parking garage several times he wasn’t sure which car was Zoey’s.
Suddenly a car horn honked causing the young man to jump slightly. Charlie looked to the right and saw Zoey behind the wheel of a bright red jeep.
Charlie shook his head slightly as he hurried over and got into the passenger seat.

“This is nice.”Charlie commented as he glanced around at the leather interior.

“Was a graduation present from my parents.”Zoey replied as she reached above him to hit the garage door opener.

“Battery dead?”Charlie asked when the door remained closed.

Zoey shook her head,”No, the light still comes on.”She opened the door and got out of the vehicle,”I’ll use the opener in my father’s car.”

Charlie watched as she moved to a black Lincoln and opened the passenger door.
The garage door still didn’t open.
With a nagging feeling in his stomach that Charlie knew wasn’t hunger he got out of the jeep and walked over to the stairway door.

“Zoey.”Charlie called as he struggled with the door handle,”We’ve got a problem here.”

“No we don’t.”The young woman replied,”I just need to find a garage door opener that works. Has to be one here somewhere.”
After giving up on the door Charlie crossed over to the elevator. He hit the button several times but the elevator still didn’t come.
The lighted numbers above the door didn’t activate ether.

“Zoey,”Charlie called as he turned away from the elevator,”The door’s stuck or locked I can’t tell. Plus the elevator isn’t working.”

Zoey reached his side and tried the button a few times before realizing he was right,”Okay, this
is weird.”

*****

Josh sighed inwardly as he glanced at his watch. It had been almost an hour since the elevator had stopped.
He glanced over at Donna to discover she had her knees pulled up to her chest and was resting her forehead against her knees.
She had said barely more than five words no matter what attempt at conversation Josh had tried to make.

Josh scooted to the right so he was facing her. No matter how mad she got at him he had to know what was bothering her. Maybe he could help.

“Donna?”The brown haired man called softly,”Please, tell me what’s wrong.”

“We’re trapped in an elevator.”Donna’s muffled voice replied.

Josh tentatively touched her left hand,”You know that’s not what I meant.”

Finally the blonde woman raised her head and she quickly wiped away the tears that had been flowing only a few minutes earlier.

“Donna?”Josh prompted her tears starting to scare him.

“I thought I had met this really nice guy.”Moss replied quietly,”We met on the subway and we went out one time, last Monday. After dinner we went back to my apartment and had a drink.”

Josh froze.....he knew where she was leading and he prayed that he was wrong. She couldn’t have been hurt like that.

Donna caught the pain in his eyes and shook her head,”No, he didn’t rape me if that’s what you’re thinking.”

Lyman sighed in relief but as she continued he saw that relief was to be short lived.

“We had a nice time, or so I thought.”Donna stated softly,”We had breakfast the next morning and then I never saw him again. Not until I ran into him, ironically on the subway on Friday.”

Donna looked away from her friend as she said the last part of her story. She didn’t want to see the pity,”His personality was completely different.....he was rude to the point of being mean. Then....then....he told me that he had Aids.”

“Oh God.”Josh replied softly not being able to be quiet any longer.

“You used a condem,right?”Josh asked tightly.

Donna shook her head her blue eyes bright with tears,”No, I went to my doctor this morning as soon as he opened. But....but they haven’t gotten the results back yet.”
For once Josh Lyman was at a loss for what to say. All he could do was pull her into his arms and hold her tight.

******

President Josiah Bartlet glanced at his watch then back at his empty office and back again before stepping out into the outer office.

“Mrs. Landingham, have you seen Charlie?”Bartlet asked his long time secretary.

The blonde haired woman shook her head,”Not since before lunch, Sir.”

Bartlet frowned,”That’s unlike him.”

“Yes,Sir.”Landingham agreed not glancing up from her pile of paperwork.

“See if you can track him down.”Bartlet ordered as he glanced once more at his watch,”Didn’t I schedule a staff meeting for three o’clock?”

“Yes,Sir.”The secretary acknowledged.

“Then why is my office empty?”The President asked as he came to stand next to her desk.

“They still have five minutes, Sir.”Mrs. Landingham replied as she picked up the phone.

******

“Will you please stop that.”CJ demanded as she searched her purse for the bottle of aspirin that she knew she had somewhere.

Danny Concanon glanced at her innocently,”Stop what?”

CJ glared at him,”Clicking your pen.”

“Sorry.”The reporter replied sheepishly,”Bad habit I acquired from waiting for press conferences to start.”

Giving up on the aspirin search, CJ grabbed a pad of paper and a pen,”Okay, let’s try to figure out what’s going on here.”

Danny nodded,”Its got to be Y2K related.”

CJ glanced up,”Why? Just because the tv’s down?”

“And the phone and the door.”Danny replied sarcastically.

CJ glanced at the door,”The door’s not computerized.”
“Bit it has a lock, right?”Danny asked.

CJ nodded.

“And the locks throughout the White House are on a computerized key system?”Danny added.

CJ nodded grimly,”But I still don’t buy that this is a Y2K thing.”

Danny stared at her,”You heard the same news reports I did. CJ, we dodged a bullet on Friday but most computers weren’t activated till today.”

CJ glared at him,”I know that but you didn’t sit through endless Y2K seminars. The government’s been getting ready for this for the past five years. Everything was triple checked.”

Danny leaned back in his chair,”Okay, I’ll bite. If this isn’t a Y2K problem what is it?”

CJ shook her head as she tossed the pad and pen down on her lap,”I don’t know, Danny. But I don’t think the video library is the only part of the White House that’s affected.”

******

Curled up in Josh’s arms Donna Moss finally allowed herself to deal with the emotions she had kept bottled up for the past week.
She couldn’t believe this was happening to her.
The New Year was supposed to be about clean slates and unlimited potential happiness.
Not sickness and no future.
Donna squeezed her eyes shut. She finally had a great job, bright future ahead of her and a number of good friends.
This should be the best time of her life.

Josh held her while she cried never having felt so helpless.
Every sob tore through his very soul. He knew there were evil people in the world but he just couldn’t grasp how a human being could do this to another.
More than anything Josh wanted to ask her who it was. But he knew that was none of his business. It was probably a good thing that he didn’t know who it was right now. Good for the bastard because Josh would kill him.

Josh tried to curb the rage he was feeling. The rational part of him knew that Aids wasn’t the death sentence it once was. Donna could live a normal and happy life for many years before any symptoms surfaced.
But the very thought of his friend being victimized made his blood boil.

Donna felt the tears finally stop and she drew in a ragged breath. She allowed herself to lie in Josh’s arms for a few more minutes. Donna couldn’t bring herself to turn around and look at him. She didn’t want to see the disappointment and pity.
Josh Lyman was a kind, sweet and generous man but even Josh had his limits.
Donna had a feeling that she had just reached his.

Josh felt her shoulders stop shaking and knew she had stopped crying. He drew her closer wanting her to feel safe and secure.
Tenderly he reached out and tucked a stray blonde hair behind her right ear.

“When did they say they’d have the test results?”Josh asked in a choked voice.

Donna swallowed hard before replying,”Usually takes three days. But Doctor Howard is an old family friend. He had the lab put a rush on it. Might know as early as tonight.”

“You wont’ go through this alone.”Lyman promised quietly.

Donna winced and sat up, disentangling herself from his arms. The young woman stood and walked to the opposite end of the elevator. Donna ran a hand through her hair in a futile attempt to comb it.

“I’ll clear out my desk as soon as we get out of here.”Donna stated quietly.

Josh scrambled to his feet,”You’re quitting?”He asked incredulously,”Why?”

Donna met his gaze,”If I’m......sick........I could be a political liability.”

Josh quickly closed the space between them and grabbed her gently by the shoulders,”That’s crazy! You’re not a liability and Bartlet would be the first to say so.”

Donna shook her head,”Josh.....”

“No.”Lyman replied firmly,”You’re not leaving. We’ll deal with this one step at a time. And the obvious first step is to find a way out of here.”
With that statement Josh stepped away from her and searched the ceiling for the small utility door.

******

"Charlie!"Zoey called out from her perch on one of the car hoods.
/Slam/

"Charlie."Zoey tried again but the young man didn't seem to hear her.

/Slam/

With an exasperated sigh the young woman hopped down and walked over to the stairwell door.

"Charlie,"Zoey said as she tried to get his attention,"You're going to hurt yourself."

Charlie shook his head as he rammed his shoulder against the door,"I think its starting to give."

Zoey shook her head as she placed a hand on his left shoulder,"Charlie the only thing you feel give is your shoulder."She ushered him away from the door and back to the car she had been sitting on,"You don't have to play hero. I'm sure my father already has the swat team and the secret service on red alert."

Charlie leaned against the car Zoey had been sitting on earlier and felt a wave of fire start to move through his shoulder and upper arm. He winced at the pain but tried to hide it from the president's daughter.

"I promised my sister we'd go for ice-cream when she got out of school."Charlie said ruefully as he looked at his watch, nearly three o'clock.

"I'm sure she'll understand."Zoey replied softly as she wondered what was keeping the secret service. They'd been trapped here for almost two hours....surely long enough for someone to alert her father that she was no longer with the secret service guard.

Zoey scooted a little closer to Charlie as she realized that something was definitely wrong in the West Wing.

*****

Toby Zigeler glanced up as Sam Seaborn knocked on his office door. Toby waved him in returning his attention to the paper he was writing.

"Aren't you supposed to be at the staff meeting?"Toby asked as Sam came to stand in front of his desk.

Sam nodded, "Still got five minutes. I thought you were coming to this too?"

Toby set his pen down,"You're correct."

Sam glanced at his watch,"Have you seen Josh lately?"

"Not since the meeting this morning."Toby replied as he stood and pushed back his chair,"Why?"

Sam started for the door,"I stopped by his office about an hour ago to run a speech by him and he wasn't there. I checked around nobody's seen Donna or Josh since noon."

Toby smirked as he walked around his desk,"Maybe they grabbed a nooner."

Sam stopped dead in the doorway turning to face the older man,"Donna and Josh?"

"Stranger things have happened in this office."Toby replied with a grin as he walked out of the office.