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"Love Conquers All" pt.3

For the millionth time that day Josh wondered how this all went so horribly wrong. This was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives and now it was a living nightmare. Was this his punishment for not acting on his feelings
for Donna sooner? Josh squeezed his eyes shut as images of what Donna could be going through danced through his mind. He tried to shove those thoughts away with happier ones....

----------

Donnatella Moss stared at her boss as if Josh Lyman had just grown three heads and was breathing fire. 'W-what did you say?'

Josh grinned as he sat down on the corner of her desk. They had been working late gathering research on a bill that was being sent to the hill next week to reduce gas prices. Now it was nearly two in the morning and the only light
coming from the communications bullpen in which they were standing and from Lyman's office a few feet away.

'You heard me.' Lyman replied.

'You're asking me out?' Donna inquired softly.

'Yes.'

'Not as a business meeting or a fund-raiser or some other democratic event but as a full fledged bona fide date?'

'Yes.' Josh replied as he stood. 'Why do I feel like I'm being interrogated by the CIA.....I thought this was something you wanted. What we both wanted.'

Donna quickly crossed the space between them. 'It is, Josh....it's just.....with us working together....I thought you didn't want a relationship.'

Josh gently reached up and caressed her cheek, "It wasn't so much us working together but that I didn't want to lose our friendship."

'Do you think we will lose it?' Donna whispered their faces just inches apart now.

'I think it'll only grow stronger.' Josh replied quietly as he lowered his lips to hers.

-----------

Josh was jerked back to the present by the ringing of the phone. He quickly turned and watched as the President hit the speaker button.

"Bartlet" The President said, forgoing any formalities.

"Well Mr. President, it's been an hour." The woman's voice sounded."Have arrangements been made?"

"I'm afraid it's not that simple."

"And why is that?" the woman asked harshly. "Don't you care about your daughter?"

The President glanced over at Caitlin as he answered, "Yes very much."He turned back to the phone, "And I want to do everything within my power to get her back."

"Then what is the problem?" Alice asked, frustrated.

"The problem is..." the President paused recalling what Agent Alberts told him to say. "that Boxton is being held in a state prison in Georgia for the subway explosions. I cannot just release him, it is not within my jurisdiction. I need to contact the Governor of Georgia, which my staff
is doing, to make arrangements." Bartlet took a deep breath hoping they believed him. It sounded far-fetched even to him, but they needed time to stall.

"Not within your jurisdiction? Well that's some job you've got Mr.President- I thought you could do it all." Alice said.

"I find myself to be a slave to this job and its boundaries more times than I'd like to recount." Bartlet said quietly. "We will need a little time. Boxton's crimes are serious in nature..."

"He is just a concerned American citizen, voicing his distaste with the path this country has taken. The crime, Mr. President, is committed by the government every day when they take steps to confine and weaken its
citizens." Alice said, her voice full of strong emotion.

Alberts frantically handed Bartlet a piece of paper. "Keep her talking.Almost got the trace."

The President decided to play on the woman's fanaticism. "The government does not, I do not, try to hurt my citizens. If I have, then it was inadvertent."

"Inadvertent? That's a laugh Mr. President. The whole purpose of government is to control people. We don't need to be controlled, we need to be free of the tyranny of government!"

The President took a deep breath, not wanting to antagonize the woman while she held Donna. "Please" he said. "I just need some time. Do not hurt my daughter."

"Your daughter is safe, for now. I'll tell you what Mr. President. You have until tomorrow morning- 8am. At that time we will call, no more stalling after that. Secure Harry's release, or your daughter will pay the price for your oppression."

The line went dead and Bartlet looked anxiously at the FBI agent.

"We've got it." The Agent said.

***

"Where is she?" Josh demanded before Bartlet could open his mouth.

Alberts glanced down at the computer printout. "Baltimore."

"So why are you still standing here?" Lyman asked angrily having it up to here with bureaucratic red tape.

"The Maryland bureau is already moving in, Mr. Lyman." Alberts replied briskly.

"Can you still contact them?" Bartlet asked quietly as he placed a reassuring hand on Josh's shoulder.

Alberts nodded. "Yes, Sir."

"Tell them to do whatever possible to bring Donna to safety." Bartlet replied grimly. "But do not hurt anyone unless it's absolutely necessary."

"Understood, Sir." Alberts replied as he pulled out his cellular phone.

*********

Alice swore darkly as she glanced at a nearby clock. She'd stayed on the phone too long....damn....Harry had warned her about that. She pushed herself away from the phone and turned to Jake.

"Pack the princess up and get her out of here." Alice ordered sharply drawing confused gazes from everyone assembled.

"Why?"

"We got Bartlet right where we want him."

"Moving her is too risky."

"Just do what I say!" Alice snapped as she stormed toward them. "The phone call was too long they've traced the call by now. If we don't move her we've lost any chance of getting Harry out."

Donna stumbled as Jake grabbed her roughly by the arm and yanked her to her feet and across the room. Not thinking Donna felt her temper kick in and she broke free from Jake. She had just enough time to punch him sharply in the
stomach before the other two men grabbed her.

"Bitch!" Jake growled as he straightened one arm over his stomach as he advanced toward her. "Nobody hits me and gets away with it."

Before Alice or the others could move Jake grabbed Donna away from the other two men and slapped her full across the face.

Moss cried out in pain as the force of the blow sent her sprawling backwards.
Her head connected solidly with the tiny coffee table knocking her unconscious.

"You moron!" Alice shouted as she advanced on Jake slamming him against the wall. "What the hell did I tell you about handling her with care? She's our meal ticket, remember?"

"She hit me." Jake replied angrily. "Nobody hits me."

"I'm about to if you don't pick her up and get her into the van." Alice stated icily. "The Feds are probably coming down the street as we speak."

********

"This is the FBI! You are surrounded. Come out with your hands up and no one will be hurt." Agent Clay from the Maryland Bureau spoke through the megaphone in front of the house identified in the trace.

The Agents waited, weapons ready, for any move the kidnappers might make. They had the President's instructions to get Moss out alive and keep all injuries to a minimum.

Agent Clay moved his eyes surveying the ground area, there were two cars out front, but no movement from inside. His instincts from 20 years on the job were screaming at him that something wasn't right.

He signaled to two of his agents to approach the house from the West side where there was the most cover in order to get a better look. He waited and watched as the men crept up to the house, under a window, looked into the window, then stood up walked to the front door and opened it.

"Damn!" Clay hissed under his breath.

*******

Alberts hung up his cell phone and looked towards the people in the Oval Office. The President and his staff, the poor girl's parents and her anguished fiancÚ, cases like these were the ones he hated most about his job. He took a deep breath and began, "There was no one inside."

"What do you mean, there was no one inside. I thought you said you had a trace!" Tom said, trying to keep his voice steady and under control.

"We did, they checked and rechecked but by the time our men got there the place was cleared out."

"The woman knew she spent too much time on the phone" Leo said quietly.

"Now what?" Josh asked from the back of the room where he was standing, feeling more helpless than ever.

"We go through that house with a fine tooth comb and look for any clues." Alberts turned to Donna's family. "It is late but we will have Agents there all night going through everything." He turned back to the President.
"I also think it's time we spoke to Boxton. See what we can get out of him."

The President nodded his head, giving them approval to move ahead with what they thought was necessary. 'Damn it!' he thought. 'Hang in there Donna.'

Josh leaned against the wall. He didn't know how much more he could take, he felt himself breaking down but he knew he needed to be strong for when Donna came home to him. And she would be coming home- she had to, she was his life.

******

Donna moaned as she began to wake up. She opened her eyes as she realized she was moving in some type of vehicle. She was in a van with Alice, Jake and three other men. She tried to look out the windows to get some idea of where she was but there were no side windows and it was too dark outside to
make anything out up front.

Her head was throbbing. She reached her hand up to try and soothe her headache and felt something sticky. She removed her hand and looked at it.
Blood.
Donna closed her eyes to fight the tears that were threatening to spill.

"Oh calm down." Jake called out to her. "It's hardly a scratch. But if you ever hit me again, it will be far, far worse." He threatened.

Donna looked him straight in the eye, without flinching. She would show this man no fear. She would build up a wall around her and not let them touch her. It was the only way she could survive.

***

By eleven Caitlin approached Thomas who was standing by the back door of the Oval Office. She wordlessly handed him a cup of coffee.

Thomas flashed her a brief smile as he took the black mug with the White House emblem from her. He took a sip of the dark liquid as he turned and looked at the room. Thomas had convinced his parents to go get some rest only
after the President had offered them a room in the Residence.
Now the office was empty except for the President and his daughter, Lyman and Seaborn.

Caitlin started to say something to Thomas about how sorry she was about the whole mess but quickly changed her mind as she remembered his outburst earlier. Things were too fresh right now. Nothing she could say would ease his pain.

"Wait." Thomas called as Caitlin turned to walk back towards Sam.

Bartlet paused and turned back to face the pilot.

"I want to apologize for what I said earlier." Thomas stated in a voice barely above a whisper." I know there was nothing you could've done....its just that she's my baby sister and I can't do a damn thing to help......"

Caitlin nodded as she placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Donna's one of the toughest people I know, Thomas. She'll be fine."

Thomas placed his hand on top of hers and squeezed it gratefully. Just then movement by the front doors caught Thomas's attention.

"What's going on?" Moss asked grimly as he stepped forward.

Caitlin followed his gaze to where Alberts was talking animatedly with four other agents. "I'll find out." She promised as she started across the room.

Josh and Sam had seen the commotion as well and had stood meeting Caitlin as she reached them.
The President stood and moved past them placing a hand on Caitlin's shoulder silently telling her that he'd deal with whatever was going on.

"Agent Alberts?" Bartlet called as he stood in the doorway catching the younger man's attention instantly. "Do you have new information?"

Alberts sighed inwardly as he moved forward to meet the President in the doorway. "The agents in Baltimore have finished a preliminary search of the house where Ms. Moss was being held."

Josh swallowed hard not liking at all the way this conversation was going.
"And?" He asked weakly.

Alberts chose his words carefully. "The house was basically undisturbed except for signs of a struggle in the living room. We discovered a small blood stain on the carpet near the coffee table."

At those words Josh felt his strength leave him both physically and emotionally. Not caring who was in the room Josh sank into a sitting position on the floor and buried his face in his hands.

Caitlin quickly dropped beside Josh on the floor as Sam did the same on the other side. Sam put his hand supportively on Josh's back, while Caitlin watched fighting her own panic. Suddenly she grabbed Josh's face in her hands and gently but forcibly made him face her. "No, don't go there Josh. We don't even know if the blood is hers. It's still
speculation. Donna is fine, look into your heart. You would know if she weren't."

Josh just looked at Caitlin, wanting to believe her, but all he knew was that his heart was being ripped out and he couldn't breathe.

Caitlin got up and looked at Alberts, "Is the blood being analyzed? Are we sure Donna was actually there."

"No" Alberts said. He looked at Josh, "we don't have definitive answers yet," he moved his gaze to Thomas, "so there is no reason to think the worst."

"Have the Agents in Georgia spoken with Boxton yet?" The President asked.

"They are on their way over as we speak." Alberts answered, he began to move away toward the other end of the room where the make shift command center was being set up. He was followed by Caitlin, the President and Thomas, but Josh remained on the floor, still unable to move.

Sam stayed by his side, wanting to comfort his friend. "I've learned never to argue with Caitlin, she has this annoying habit of being right."

Josh turned to look at Sam, unable to say anything over the lump in his throat. He just nodded slightly trying to find strength and comfort in both of his friends' words.

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