At nine a.m. Donna walked into the small law office trying to force down the feeling of paranoia. Relax,she told herself sharply, there's no way anyone could know that you used to work at the White House.
Unless they watched C-span.
Donna glanced around the group of five people working and shook her head slightly. Nope, C-span was not high on this group's must see tv list.
A thin woman with short brown hair and green eyes stepped around one of the desks extending her right hand toward Donna. "You must be Donna Moss. My name is Andrea Norton I'm the senior partner here."
Donna shook her hand. The smile she put forth felt false...it'd been so long since she'd smiled. "Nice to meet you, Ms. Norton....I know I wasn't due to start until tomorrow...."
Andrea smiled as she stepped aside and gestured for Donna to follow her into the main part of the office."That's fine, Donna we can at least get the paper work out of the way today. My office is just down this hallway."
"Did she have a history of abusive relationships?"
The word abusive brought Josh back to the matter at hand. Between lack of sleep and his imagination working overtime Josh felt like he was walking around in a fog.
"What?"Josh asked as he looked at the two people gathered in his office for a noon meeting.
Sam glanced at Josh with concern as Paul Robbins repeated his question.
"Does Donna have a history of abusive relationships?"
Josh sank down onto the corner of his desk. "No."
Paul raised an eyebrow."Are you sure? Most cases where a woman leaves like this it's....."
Josh glared at the younger black haired man. "No. Donna is a much stronger person than that. Before we got together she dated a few losers, sure....but if it was something like that, someone from her past coming back, she would've told me."
"Okay."Robbins replied as he pushed his wire rim glasses back up his nose."I'm just trying different possibilities since we have no idea where to look. Her family hasn't heard from her. She cleaned out her checking and savings accounts and there's been no traffic on her credit cards."
Sam leaned forward an idea nagging at the back of his mind."Josh, there's one part of Donna's past that we haven't considered."
Josh met his gaze. "What?"
Sam shifted uncomfortably in the chair. "The reason she came to New Hampshire."
Josh jumped to his feet and started to pace the tiny area between his desk and the two chairs."You're wrong, Samuel."
Paul glanced from Josh to Sam and back again sensing a lead."Why did she come to New Hampshire, Josh?"
Josh ignored the question and looked back at Sam."Donna's not the same person she was then. There's no way she'd give Dr. Free Ride the time of day."
"Still it's a lead to check out."Robbins's replied."Do you know Dr. Free Ride's real name?"
"Calvin Matson."Josh stated as he fought the wave of doubt. "But you're wasting your time."
"He has to check everything out Josh."Sam replied quietly. "It's the only way we'll find her."
Josh glared at his friend."We'll find her. It just won't be through him!"
Before Sam or Robbins could reply Josh snatched his coat off the coat rack and slammed out of the office.
Sam pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes briefly before looking over at Robbins. "Sorry, Paul, this is...."
Paul held up his hand as he stood. "Don't worry about it, Sam. If my girlfriend was missing I wouldn't want people suggesting she was with an ex either. I'll track down Dr. Free Ride just in case and get back to you."He picked up his coat and lap top."Any other ideas where Donna might be?"
Sam frowned in thought. "It's a long shot but you might want to check warm climates. She was always after Josh to take her to Hawaii."
Robbins nodded. "Since there hasn't been any activity on her credit I think Hawaii's out of the question. But I'll check into California, Florida, and Texas."
"Thanks Paul."Sam replied as he stood and walked the P.I to the door.
"I'll call you as soon as I find anything."Robbins promised as he stepped out of Josh's office.
Donna returned to her apartment around four feeling drained. She let herself in and sank down onto the sofa flipping on the tv. Donna had thought that being around people would rejuvenate her....reinforce her belief that she was doing the right thing.
But as the day progressed Donna had felt nothing but miserable. Every time one of the male attorneys passed her desk Donna thought of Josh.
Donna sighed and curled up into the corner of the couch as she drew her knees to her chest. She missed Josh more than she ever thought possible. Donna stretched out on the sofa and leaned her head against the pillow and felt the tears start to flow.
It had barely been a week since she had left the Nation's Capital. If she was this unhappy now how would she be in six months? In a year?
Donna wiped away her tears and slowly sat up. This was for everyone's best interest, she reminded herself sternly, especially Josh's.
At six o'clock Josh sat at The MadHatter staring alternately between the half empty glass of scotch in front of him and the cell phone lying next to it.
He had turned the phone off hours ago after he had stalked out of the White House. Turning it off hadn't been an easy decision for Josh....part of him had wanted to leave it on in case there was news on Donna. But the other part, the one not wanting to hear Leo's lecture had won out.
Now more than anything he wanted to turn the phone back on. More than anything Josh wanted to hear Donna's voice telling him that she was okay. Donna's voice telling him that Sam was crazy to think that she would drop everything to be with 'Dr. Free Ride.'
Absently Josh noted that the crowd behind him parted slightly to allow a woman to sit down next to him. For half a second Josh hoped it was Donna. That this had all been a bad nightmare and Donna had come to drag him out of a bar and safely home just like always.
"White wine, please."A familiar voice told the bartender and Josh winced.
"Go home, Claudia Jean."Josh stated softly as he picked up his glass of scotch and took a sip.
CJ shook her head. "Not on your life, Joshua."
"I'm in no mood for a lecture."Josh snapped as he set the glass down a little too forcefully causing some of the brown liquid to sloush.
"You're going to get one."CJ replied as she turned in her seat to face her friend. "Josh, how could you not tell me what was going on?"
"Aren't you always quoting deniability, CJ?"Josh asked bitterly. "If you didn't know about me and Donna then there was nothing for you to deny."
"Stuff the party line, Josh."CJ replied quietly just as the bartender arrived with her wine. "Besides I've known about you and Donna since the campaign. You were the blind one."
CJ reached forward and placed a hand on Josh's arm. "I wasn't talking about not coming to me as a Press Secretary I was talking about you not coming to me as a friend. I thought you knew that you could come to me with anything, Josh."
Josh sighed and rubbed his hands over his eyes. "It wasn't you, CJ. Since you told me she quit I've been reacting and not thinking. "
CJ reached for her glass and took a sip of wine. "I'm sorry Josh. I should've talked with you before I just thought that you had tracked Donna down by now and that you were working things out."
"I have no idea where she is, Claudia Jean."Josh whispered sadly as he picked up his glass.
CJ blinked in surprise and sat the glass down. This she hadn't heard....she knew there was a temp working as Josh's assistant but she had assumed that Donna was taking some much needed time off. CJ shook her head sadly by now she should know not to assume anything.
"Did you check..."
"Her apartment?"Josh finished as he took a swig. "Empty except for her roommates stuff."
CJ reached over and gently took Josh's shoulder turning the stool and him to face her."No note?"
Josh shook his head. "Not even a 'Dear Josh' letter.....I'm scared CJ, she wouldn't just disappear...not after everything...."
CJ nodded and stood. She reached into her purse and placed a few bills on the bar before turning back to Josh."Come on."
Josh shook his head. "I'm not going back to work, not without Donnatella."
CJ grabbed his arm and gently helped him down off the stool. "I'm taking you home and we'll call Sam."
Josh wobbled slightly on unsteady feet as CJ led him toward the door."Why?"
CJ placed an arm around his shoulders as she opened the door. "So we can figure out where Donna is."
Josh shook his head as the stepped outside. "Hired a P.I."
CJ glanced at him as she raised her hand to hail a cab. "You did? They find anything? Never mind we'll talk about this at your place."
Sam arrived at Josh's townhouse around eight....traffic had been a nightmare.
"Sorry."Sam apologized as CJ opened the door. "Traffic was hell."
"No problem."CJ replied as Sam stepped around her and into the apartment. "Josh was just filling me in on the PI you guys hired."
Sam winced. "CJ, we were going to tell...."
CJ placed a hand on his shoulder. "Forget it. Let's just pool our information and figure out where Donna is."
"Where'd you find him?"Sam asked in a lowered voice as they paused in the hallway.
"The MadHatter."CJ replied worriedly. "I don't think he'd been there long enough to get very drunk."
"With Josh it doesn't take very long."Sam pointed out as he shrugged out of his coat.
"He's sober enough."CJ replied in a hushed tone glancing toward the living room where Josh was sitting on the sofa. "I've been pumping him with coffee since we got here. We've got to find her, Sam, the not knowing is...."
"I know."Sam stated sadly."I just have a bad feeling about this, CJ. Donna would've contacted him by now. If nothing else to tell him she was okay."
"Something scared her off."CJ agreed quietly. "We just have to figure out what it was."
"Are you two through whispering about me?"Josh asked from the living room doorway a tired grin on his face. But CJ could see that the smile didn't quite reach his eyes. "I just got off the phone with Paul....he thinks he might have a lead."
"On Dr. Free Ride?"Sam asked then mentally kicked himself for bringing up the subject.
Josh glared at him slightly ignoring CJ's blank look. "No, on Donna. That warm climate tip you gave him might have panned out. He's on his way."
Around eight o'clock Donna pulled herself off of the sofa. She headed toward the kitchen and grabbed the phone book. Donna picked up the phone and ordered some Chinese take out for dinner.
Donna returned to the sofa and flipped on an old movie. She wasn't hungry but knew she had to eat something and get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow was her first full day at her new job.
Her first full day of her new life.
Her life without Josh Lyman.
Paul Robbins wiped rain from his glasses as he stepped into Josh Lyman's apartment. A typical early spring downpour had started as soon as he had left his office and showed no sign of letting up.
"Where is she?"Josh demanded as soon as Robbins stepped into the living room.
Paul glanced at the others gathered before pulling a computer printout out of his briefcase."Florida."he replied quietly as he handed the paper to Josh.
"Are you sure?"Josh asked as he read the address. After everything he didn't want his hopes to be pinned on a false lead.
Paul nodded as he set his briefcase on the floor. "Yes. I got lucky on one of the apartment searches....she didn't use a false name on the lease."
"At least we know she's okay."CJ said with relief as she sat down on the sofa.
"Thank you."Josh said to Robbins before crossing over to the phone on the desk.
Sam watched his friend closely. "Who are you calling?"
"Airlines."Josh replied without looking up. "I have to see her, Sam."
"Josh."Sam stated carefully."She may not want to be seen."
Josh met his gaze. "I'll deal with that when I get there."
CJ and Sam exchanged a concerned look as she stepped past Robbins to come to Sam's side.
"Josh, I don't think going down there now is a good idea."CJ warned.
"She's been gone a week, Claudia Jean, I have to know why. I have to know what I did so I can fix it."Josh replied struggling to keep his voice from wavering.
Sam reached over and placed a gentle hand on his friend's shoulder. "Josh, matters of the heart aren't dealt with best by jumping in head first."
"No offense, Sam, but you're not one to give relationship advice."Josh retorted as he returned his attention to the phone.
"At least give it till morning, Josh."CJ advised quietly.
Josh shook his head as the airline finally let him off of hold. "Sorry CJ, I have to see her, now that I know where she is."
'TransGlobal Airlines how can I help you?"
Josh jerked his attention back to the phone. "I need you next flight to Clearwater, Florida."
"Washington, D.C."Josh replied automatically almost wishing he could borrow Air Force One.
"The next flight we have leaves at 11:38. Will this be one way or round trip?"
"Better make it round trip with an open leave date. I'm not sure what day I'll be coming back on."Josh replied hoping against hope that he wouldn't be coming home alone.
Josh stared blearily out the cab window as the city flew by. Due to the thunderstorm his 11:30 flight had been delayed out of D.C. for nearly an hour. So here he was at three a.m. going to Donna's apartment.
Several times Josh almost told the driver to drop him at the nearest hotel. But after all the hours of not knowing Josh had to find out what was going on with Donna.
On a basic level Josh could feel that she needed him desperately and he needed her.
The cab pulled to a stop in front of the beachside apartment building and Josh got out. He paid the driver and paused on the sidewalk pulling out the sheet of paper Robbins had given him.
Josh double-checked the apartment number and headed up to the second floor.
It was three knocks before a bleary eyed Donna opened the door. Even rumpled and sleepy she took Josh's breath away. He hadn't realized how much he had missed her until he saw her again.
"Donnatella."Josh whispered tenderly as he reached out to touch her.
Donna backed away quickly barely keeping control of the tears that were threatening to overwhelm her."Josh, please leave."
"I can't."Josh replied quietly his brown eyes wide. "I know it's late but I hopped the first flight I could as soon as I found out where you where. Can we talk? Please?"
Donna hesitated her right hand still clamped to the door. She didn't know how he found her, but Donna knew that if she let him inside her resolve would crumble. "I can't...."
Josh blinked in surprise. "I've been going crazy since I came back and discovered you had left without a word. Please, Donna....after everything....you owe me....no you owe us a chance."
Donna stepped back allowing Josh entrance to the apartment. Josh was right.....after all they had been through in the past three years he deserved an explanation.
Josh broke the silence as they reached the living room. "Why didn't you talk to me?"
Donna turned slowly back to face Josh before sitting down in a chair to the right of the sofa. This was not at all how she had pictured this conversation....if it had happened at all.
"How did you find me?"Donna asked in a shaky voice not quite being able to meet Josh's gaze.
"Sam."Josh replied softly as he sat down on the sofa taking off his coat. "I hired a PI and Sam gave him a tip about you liking warm climates. We lucked out with you not using a false name on the lease for this apartment."
Donna shook her head slightly. "Guess I should've paid more attention to those bad spy movies."
"Donna...."Josh pleaded as he scooted closer to her. "Please tell me what's wrong....did I do something....to make you leave?"
The sadness in his voice made Donna reach out and instinctively grab his hand in hers. "No, Josh, no....you didn't do anything."
Josh reached out with his free hand to touch her face needing to be close to her. "Then what....what was so bad that you had to run? What was so bad that you couldn't wait for me to come home and we could talk?"
Donna swallowed hard and pulled away from him settling back into the chair. Now that the moment was here she didn't know how to say it....wasn't sure how Josh would react.
"Donna."Josh prompted anxiously she was really starting to scare him.
"I left for you, Joshua."Donna replied as she stood and walked over to the window.
Josh blinked in surprise that had been the last thing he had expected her to say. "What?"
Donna folded her arms across her chest her gaze never leaving the ocean below. "If the Press found out...."
She had said the last part so softly that Josh barely heard her. He stood and crossed over to stand behind her. "Found out what, Donnatella?"
Donna closed her eyes tightly and yet a few hot tears still escaped. "I'm pregnant, Josh."she whispered.
Stunned Josh rocked back on his heels. When he had found the torn doctor's appointment card Josh had feared the worst....feared that some disease might take Donna from him. He had never contemplated the idea that this might be a happy thing.
Recovering his voice Josh grasped Donna gently by the shoulder and turned her to face him. Her eyes were still closed.
"Donna."Josh began in a choked voice. "Donna, look at me."
Slowly Donna opened her eyes and met his gaze tears streaming down her face.
"Did you honestly think I wouldn't be happy about this?"Josh asked as he cupped her face with his hands drawing her closer.
Donna swallowed hard. "I'm your assistant, Josh....this could....is a scandal."
Josh shook his head fiercely. "I don't care what people think, Donnatella. All I care about is you....and I need to know....do you still love me?"
Donna nodded. "Yes."she whispered. "I just didn't want to.....everybody's been through so much this year....if the Press got this....if Ann Stark got this...."
"This....is our baby, Donnatella....our family."Josh replied tenderly his voice catching. "We'll find a way to make this work."
"How, Joshua?"Donna asked tearfully. "There's two years till reelection....I don't want to be the reason..."
Josh gently led her back to the sofa and they sat down. Josh pulled her into his arms and leaned back against the armrest. "I don't have the answers right now, Donnatella, but I promise you we will find a way to make this work."
Josh woke when sunlight filtered through the glass doors and splashed across his face. For a brief moment Josh was disoriented then the memories of the night before slowly came back. He looked down and saw Donna curled up against him his arms wrapped around her waist. Josh smiled and pulled her close careful not to wake her.
Truly amazing what the difference a year could make. Last year he was working a job he loved, but lonely in all other aspects. He still missed his father, seeing Mandy again had rekindled bad memories.
Josh started for a moment....something somewhere had interrupted his thoughts. Then he found the source and relaxed back against the sofa. Donna's alarm clock had clicked on and was playing the local radio station.
The music drifted out into the living room but it didn't bother Josh. He closed his eyes with Donna in his arms the music wasn't affecting him. Not that it really had the last few months Stanley had done a good job with his fractured psyche.
/It was no accident... me finding you.
Someone had a hand in it... long before we ever new.
Now I just can't believe... your in my life.
Heaven's smiling down on me... as I look at you tonight./
Josh's eyes snapped open as the lyrics of the song penetrated his thoughts. He strained to hear the rest of the song. He couldn't have heard right....the words seemed to fit him and Donna perfectly.
/I tip my hat... to the keeper of the stars.
He sure knew what he was do...in... when he joined these two
I hold every... thing... when I hold you in my arms.
And I've got all I'll ever need... thanks to the keeper of the
Soft moonlight on your face... oh how you shine.
It takes my breath away... just to look into your eyes.
I know that I don't deserve... a treasure like you.
There really are no words... to show my gratitude.
It was no accident... me finding you.
Someone had a hand in it... long before we ever knew./
Donna stirred in Josh's arms and looked up at him a bright smile on her face. "Good morning."
"Yes it is."Josh replied tenderly as he caressed her face. "Did I wake you?"
Donna shook her head. "No I heard the alarm...."she trailed off as she remembered Christmas. "I'm sorry, Josh did the music..."
"No, I'm fine."Josh assured her.
Donna held his gaze for a moment then looked away. "What time is it?"she asked sleepily.
Josh squinted at his watch. "Nearly eight."
"That's Washington time, Josh."Donna replied as she sat up. "And it's your watch which sucks so it's almost seven thirty my time which means I'm late for work."
Josh sat up and placed an arm around her shoulders. "After last night I thought...."
"That I was coming back?"Donna replied quietly feeling the tears starting to form once again. "I thought about it before I fell asleep Josh and I just can't. I've built a life here....."
Josh took her hand in his as he met her gaze. "In a week? Donna, we can work this out....I'll talk to Leo."
Donna stood and turned to face him. "Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to leave? Especially after the doctor told me.....but I knew that if the Press got a hold of it...."
Josh stood and pulled her into his arms no matter what happened he wasn't going to lose her again."Nothing is more important than our family, Donnatella. Come home with me, please?"
Donna melted against him all the tension and worry of the last few weeks draining out of her."I love you, Joshua."
Josh pulled away slightly so he could see her face. "Is that a yes that you'll come home? You know I'm useless without you."
Donna smiled teas flowing freely down her face. "Yes, Joshua,I'll come home."
"I love you."Josh whispered as his lips captured hers.