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"Love Conquers All" pt. 4

It seemed like they drove for hours, when they finally stopped it was
pitch black outside and no street lamps.

"C'mon." Jake said as he yanked Donna from the van. She had been
sitting in a crumpled position for so long that her legs gave way and she fell to
the ground. "Oh give me a break." Jake hissed under his breath, and then
pulled Donna to her feet dragging her towards the run down house.

"Set Miss Bartlet up in the back bedroom." Alice said as they entered
the house.

It wasn't particularly cold outside, but Donna found herself shivering
in the house. It wasn't like the other place. The first house struck Donna as
a family type home, this one...the only families she could see living here
were rat families. 'Nice thought Donna' she thought as she hugged herself.

Jake shoved her into the back bedroom and shut the door. 'Well at least
I'm alone.' She thought. Silent tears began to stream down her cheeks.
'This was not how I planned my wedding night. I should be in your arms right
now Josh. Not here. Not alone.

Donna sank down onto the tiny bed and wearily scooted back so she was sitting
against the headboard. As she stared at the dark ceiling Donna couldn't help
but recall the night Josh had proposed to her.

---------

The President had been scheduled to give a speech to the Mayor's association
in Des Moines, Iowa. But due to bad fog air traffic control had forced Air
Force One to land at Chicago's O'Hare airport. So here the President and
senior staff had sat for the past three hours waiting for clearance. The
airport officials had offered to set them up at one of the nearby hotels but
both the President and Secret Service had politely refused citing it was
easier to keep security protocol on a plane than on a twenty-story hotel.

Josh entered the main cabin and handed Donna a can of cola as he retook his
seat next to her.

"Any word?" Moss asked as she raised her arms above her head trying to
stretch out the kinks in her back.

"Another hour at least." Lyman replied wearily as he glanced at his watch,
nearly ten p.m. The breakfast speech with the mayor's was scheduled for seven
thirty. At this rate it was going to be a very long night. "Fog's still
blanketing Des Moines's airport like molasses"

Donna sighed as she balanced the can of soda in one hand and pulled out an
entertainment crossword puzzle she'd been working on earlier from her bag
with the other.

"What's a seven letter Barry White song title?" Donna asked as she took a sip
of the cola.

"Marry me." Josh blurted out before his mind could catch up with what he was
doing.

"No that doesn't fit." Donna replied then she whirled to face her boss as
what he said slowly sank in. "What did you say?"

Josh glanced around the plane for a moment. Then remembered that the rest of
the senior staff had been captured by one of the President's infamous trivia
sessions in the other part of the plane. Lyman turned to face Donna taking
her hand in his.

"I promise I'll do this proper once we get out of this airport." Josh stated
softly as he met her gaze. "But being stuck here.....I began to think of the
last few months and how right our relationship felt. Our relationship is one
of the strongest I've had my entire life and I can't picture my life without
you in it." Lyman took a deep breath. "Donnatella Moss will you do me the
honor of becoming my wife?"

Donna stared at Josh in complete shock. She felt tears start to roll down her
cheeks a s she nodded not trusting her voice.

Josh swallowed hard as he scooted closer to her. "Is that a yes?"

"Yes." Donna whispered happily as she enveloped him in a hug. "Yes, Joshua
Lyman I will marry you."

Josh pulled back from her so he could meet her gaze.

"I love you." Lyman stated quietly as his lips captured hers in a kiss full
of passion and promises for the future.

*******

Josh rose shakily to his feet waving off Sam's offer of help.

"Why don't you get some sleep, Josh?" Sam suggested.

Lyman shook his head firmly. "No....have to be here."

"Then find a sofa here." Sam replied quietly knowing it was a futile gesture
but Josh was nearly dead on his feet from exhaustion.

"Sam...."Josh protested a little more sharply than he had intended as he
glanced over at Alberts who was once again on the phone.

"I will wake you as soon as there is any development" Sam promised as he
reached forward and placed a hand on Lyman's shoulder. "Josh, you haven't
eaten or slept in over ten hours. You're not going to be any good to Donna if
you collapse."

Josh glanced once more at the makeshift command center before reluctantly
turning and walking out of the office.

***

"Where's Josh going?" Caitlin asked Sam as she walked over to him.

"I've convinced him to go get some rest." Sam said putting his arm
around Caitlin's waist and pulling her close.

"Oh, good. He needs it." Caitlin said resting her head on Sam's chest.

Sam placed his fingers under her chin and gently lifted her face to
look at him. "So do you. Go upstairs." He said sternly.

"What about you?" Caitlin asked.

"I promised Josh I'd stay and let him know what happens. Hey you know
I'm a man of great stamina." He replied smiling. "Go ahead, go get some
rest."

"No" Caitlin replied shaking her head.

"You were attacked, you've been going non-stop ever since you woke up,
your emotionally run down, yet trying to help everyone else. You need to
sleep."

Caitlin put her hand on his chest and looked up at him, "Sam really I'm
OK. The FBI may need to ask me more questions, I need to be available to
them..."

He looked at her and knew she was making excuses, knew she was hiding
something. "Caitie" he said softly.

Caitlin stopped and closed her eyes. He was the only person in the
world to call her Caitie, and he only did it as an endearment or when he wanted
her full attention. "I don't want to be alone Sam." she whispered, as a
tear ran down her cheek.

Sam wiped the tear away and ran his fingers through her hair pulling
her close.

"They were after me Sam. They took Donna but they were after me. I'm
just so tired of this, tired of being the target, tired of being afraid." She
said as she choked back a sob.

Sam pulled her into his arms and held her tight, not wanting to ever
let go.
"I know. So am I. So am I." He whispered, his own voice cracking. Then
he took her hand and led her to the couch. He sat down and placed one of
the pillows on his lap. "Lie down" he said gently pulling her down. Caitlin
stretched out on the couch and placed her head in his lap. She shut her
eyes as he began to gently caress her cheek and stroke her hair. Before she
drifted to sleep, she whispered "I love you Sam."

"I love you more than you could ever know." He replied softly. "Now get
some sleep."

******************

Josh sat in his chair behind his desk and stared out the window. He
knew Sam was right. Knew he needed sleep, but he just couldn't close his eyes.
Every time he did he saw Donna's smiling face, and he felt this ache inside
that was unbearable. So instead he just stared out the window at the Big Dipper.
He smiled as he remembered standing on the Ellipse one night with Donna
looking at the stars.

"Look there's the frying pan" She said pointing up.

"The what?" Josh asked.

"The frying pan- see right there."

"Donna, that's the Big Dipper."

"Does it or does it not look like a frying pan?" she asked matter of
factly.

"Actually it looks like a pot." Josh asked staring up.

"Well it's a frying pan."

"Big Dipper."

"Whatever"

"I love you Donna" he whispered.

******************

Donna tried to sleep, knew she needed her strength but it was no use.
She couldn't close her eyes. So she sat staring out the window at the
frying pan, Big Dipper, whatever. She smiled to herself and placed her hands on the
window. "I love you Joshua." She whispered.

***


"How are you holding up?" Leo asked quietly.

Bartlet shook his head as he glanced over at Caitlin curled up asleep on
Sam's lap. "It could've been her, Leo." Jed replied softly as he sank down
onto the corner of his desk. "I thought that after the shooting that we had
stepped up security enough to prevent this. But obviously it wasn't
enough.... it's never enough."

"We'll get Donna out." Leo promised as he placed a reassuring hand on his old
friend's shoulder.

"Mr. President?" Alberts called as he took a file from another agent. "We
have the forensics results from the house."

Sam gently touched Caitlin's shoulder but she was already awake.

Caitlin stood and moved to stand next to her father.

*********

Josh turned away from the window and sat down heavily into his chair. He had
just rested his head on the desk when there was a knock on the door.

"Hey." Sam called as he entered the familiar room.

"Hey." Josh replied as he leaned back in his chair.

"Get any sleep?" Sam asked as he stopped in front of Lyman's desk.

Josh wearily shook his head. "No....everytime I close my eyes I see her."

"I'm sure the First Lady could give you something to help you sleep." Sam
suggested not wanting to tell his friend what he had to tell him.

It was only then that Josh remembered Seaborn's earlier promise. "What's
going on?"

Sam hesitated. "Josh, this doesn't necessarily mean anything....."

"The blood?" Lyman whispered as he stood.

Seaborn nodded. "It's Donna's....."

"Oh God." Josh breathed as he leaned heavily against his desk. "They know
she's not Caitlin."

Sam shook his head. "No, Josh, we don't know that. All we know is that a
small amount of blood belongs to Donna. She could've scraped her knee...."

Josh stalked around his desk and snatched a spare set of car keys from the
top of the file cabinet. "She's not five, Sam! Those bastards have hurt
her....."

"Where are you going?" Sam demanded worriedly.

**********

"Josh. Josh." Sam called trying to deter his friend's determined steps.

Josh didn't listen as he headed towards the Oval Office. He was going
to find out where exactly the first house was in Baltimore then go there himself.
Josh rushed into the Oval Office and over to Alberts. "Where was the
house?" he demanded.

"Excuse me, Mr. Lyman?"

"The house, in Baltimore where she was being held. Where was it?
How do I get there?" Josh demanded again through clenched teeth.

"Josh...." Leo began.

"I'm sorry, you can't go there." Alberts said forcibly.

"Try and stop me." Josh said, anger flashing in his eyes.

"You will be interfering with a Federal investigation. If you insist,
we will be forced to take you into custody to prevent that." Alberts said.

"Take...take me into custody?" Josh paused taking a breath. "Do it." He said
and turned to make his way out.

Alberts reached out and clamped a hand on Josh's shoulder. Josh reacted
by swinging around, grabbing Alberts by the collar and throwing him to the
ground. He reached back his arm to punch him, but Sam grabbed him from
behind to try and stop him, instead Josh whirled around and slammed his fist
into Sam's face. Sam flew to the floor, blood spurting from his nose.

"Josh!" Emma Lyman cried.

"Sam!" Caitlin yelped as she dropped to her knees next to him. She
gently placed her hands on his face trying to assess the damage.

"I'm OK." He said softly.

Josh looked down at the two of them horrified at what he had just done.
"Oh God...Sam..I'm...." Josh stuttered as he bent over towards Sam. Almost as if he were afraid to touch him, Josh backed away and stared at everyone in the room, a wild, inconsolable look in his eyes. "I....I" he tried but
his emotions were choking him. He continued to back up, running his hand through his hair, feeling the walls closing in on him.

Caitlin and Sam watched helplessly from the floor, tears streaming down Caitlin's cheeks. Alberts had gotten up off the floor and stood as far away from Josh as possible. The President discreetly picked up the phone to call Abby, in case someone would need medical attention. Mrs. Lyman watched Josh closely, feeling her heart breaking at the pain her son was going through. Leo began to slowly move towards Josh, afraid of what the younger man might do.

Josh continued to back up until he walked into a side table by the joining doors to Leo's office. Feeling cornered literally and figuratively, Josh grabbed the first thing he could find and hurled it against the wall.
As the vase shattered, Josh's own emotional control broke. Great sobs wracked his body and he held onto the table behind him to support himself. However,the sobs and emotions were too strong even for the table to hold and Josh
felt himself slipping. Before he was able to fall, Leo reached out and pulled Josh into a fatherly embrace. He didn't say anything, he just held Josh tightly and let him release all of his fear and anguish.

***

Atlanta, Georgia

Two weary and frustrated FBI agents showed their ID's at the prison gate.

"Any idea what this is about?" Eugene Bowen asked his partner as they were
waved through security.

The blond man shook his head. "Just that this came all the way from D.C.
Let's make this interrogation as quick as possible. I promised Anna I'd be home early."

Bowen laughed as he glanced at his watch. "I'd bring flowers if I were you, Steve. It's nearly ten now and we were supposed to be off at eight."

Steve checked his own watch to confirm. "Damn."

As they reached the maximum-security section a guard glanced up from a clipboard he was holding. "What prisoner are you here for?"

"Boxton." Eugene replied as he double-checked the name in his notebook.

"This way." The guard replied as he buzzed them in.

*****

"Take him upstairs, Leo." Jed ordered quietly. "I'll let Abby know you're coming."

McGarry nodded as he put one of Lyman's arms around his shoulders taking most of the younger man's weight. "Come on, Josh." Leo urged quietly just as one
of the secret service agents came forward and took Lyman's other arm. "You'll be okay." Leo said as they walked Josh out, followed by Mrs. Lyman.

**********

Harry Boxton was brought to a small interrogation room where Agents Bowen and Campbell were waiting.

Boxton entered with a knowing, confident smirk. "Hello, gentleman.Isn't it a wonderful night?" Boxton asked sitting down.

Agent Bowen leaned in, "For some maybe, but for others this night is one of torment." He said quietly but forcefully trying to garner some compassion from the prisoner.

"Really?" Boxton asked with feigned shock. "For the Bartlet family perhaps?" He continued with an ominous inflection to his voice.

"Mr. Boxton we are giving you a chance to cooperate. Obviously you know what has occurred. We believe you to know where Miss Bartlet is being held."Agent Campbell said.

"And if I did?" Boxton asked.

"It would be in your best interests and those of your associates to tell us. This plan that has been concocted will not work. You will not just be released with a flick of the wrist.." Campbell said, feeling his
frustration mounting.

Boxton stared at the two Agents for a moment, a superior grin on his face. "Won't I?" he asked.

"No" Bowen said. "You sealed your own faith when you set those bombs."

"I see. The only problem with that theory is that I don't think the President would be too enthusiastic about receiving his daughter back in a long pine box."

The two Agents gave each other side glances. It was obvious that Boxton would not voluntarily cooperate and that his associates were prepared to take their plan to the ultimate extremes. Bowen and Campbell would have to approach this differently.

******************

The First Lady spoke quietly to Josh in one of the bedrooms of the Residence. Josh sat on the side of the bed while she sat in the chair across from him. In her hands she held a glass of water and two pills.

"Here, Josh. Take these. They will relax you enough so you can get some sleep."

Josh sat staring at nothing. "No" he said softly but forcefully.

Abby looked up at Leo then back down at Josh. "Josh, you are not helping anyone, least of all Donna, by forcing yourself to stay awake and running yourself down."

Josh still didn't look at her.

"Josh either you take these pills or I will get a syringe and make you drop your pants." She said forcefully with only a hint of a teasing tone.

This got Josh's attention and he turned to her, a shocked expression on his face. Abby returned his look with one daring him to test her. Then she held out the glass of water and the sleeping pills. Josh looked down at them
briefly, then sighed relenting and took the pills, swallowing them down with the water. Then he laid back on the pillows and forced his eyes closed.

Caitlin watched from the door as his breathing became more even, she knew he had finally found sleep. Abby patted his arm, then got up and walked towards the door, followed by Leo. She stopped in front of Caitlin.

"I gave his mother one of the rooms next door to lie down in as he sleeps.
You should get some sleep too." Abby said, pushing some of Caitlin's hair behind her ear.

"I did." Caitlin answered softly. "I'm going to sit with him for a while."

Abby knew there would be no deterring her, so she squeezed her arm and left.
Leo kissed the top of her forehead as he left, leaving Caitlin alone with Josh. She sat down in the chair her mother had vacated and watched Josh for a few moments.

"I'm sorry Josh." She whispered. "I'm so sorry."

*********

Agent Campbell pushed himself away from the table and glanced first at Boxton and then at his partner. "I know I need some caffeine. Anybody else want something?"

Boxton laughed as he replied. "Don't insult me with the good cop/bad cop routine. It won't get you or the President what you want. Miss Bartlet is in good hands.....she will be returned only when our demands are met. It's up to
the President whether she's alive or dead"

***

"How's he doing?" Sam asked quietly as he held a folded wet cloth to his nose.

Caitlin reached over and took his free hand in hers. "Sleeping finally. How's your nose?"

"Not broken." Seaborn replied with relief as he pulled a chair over next to her and sat down. "I forgot what a powerful left hook he's got."

They both turned back toward Lyman as he started to move around in his sleep....hands grasping at air.

"Can we wake him?" Seaborn asked with concern as he leaned forward. "Looks like he's having a nightmare."

Caitlin stood. "He just fell asleep a few minutes ago, Sam. I don't want to wake him unless we absolutely have to."

Josh returned to the Oval Office early the next morning surprised to see it empty. No FBI agents,no recording equipment, no President......just a television sitting square in the center of the room on a chair running the morning's newscast.

'For those of you just joining us this morning....'A female red haired newswoman began as she stood in front of a rural house that was nothing but rubble. 'A bizarre turn of events that played out last night starting with a White House Rose Garden wedding that lead to a kidnapping which ended with a police standoff in this house in Rockfalls, West Virginia.'

Josh swallowed hard as he stared at the images on the screen.....they got Donna out in time....he
told himself sternly....that's why nobody's here.

'The wedding was to be of Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman and his long time assistant Donna Moss. Moss is a close friend with the President's middle daughter Caitlin that is where this tale turns tragic. Kidnappers disguised as caterers entered the White House Residence and took Moss
thinking she was the President's daughter. After several false starts the police got a lead which led them to this small farm house. Unfortunately after a four-hour standoff the wife of federal prisoner Harry Boxton triggered a bomb. Everyone inside the house including Moss was killed
before the police could make a move.....'

Josh felt his whole body go numb.....this couldn't be happening.....he couldn't have lost Donna....not
his Donna...not now......

'NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!'Lyman shouted in fury as he lunged toward the TV.

Josh sat bolt upright in bed, body drenched in sweat and breathing heavily. He looked around the room disoriented for a moment.

"Josh!" Caitlin cried and sat on the bed next to him after his outburst. "It's OK, Josh..." she tried to get his attention, but he didn't seem to see anyone. Then he turned and looked at her.

"Caitlin" he whispered. He dragged her into his arms and held on tight, as if his life depended on it.

"What..." Caitlin began looking towards Sam, who looked as helpless as she felt.

"She's dead. Donna's dead." Josh whispered.

Sam leaned in and placed a hand on Josh's back. "No we don't know that Josh. They wouldn't kill her, they would be stupid to do that, and they were smart enough to get into the White House so they are not stupid." He said trying to calm Josh down.

"But...bomb..." Josh choked out.

"No, Josh it was a dream. There was no bomb. It was only a dream." Caitlin said in a soothing voice, stroking Josh's hair.

Josh slowly pulled back from Caitlin and looked from her to Sam. "It was so real." He said hoarsely.

"But it wasn't, Josh. Donna's alive, we're going to get her back." Sam said putting a supportive hand on Josh's shoulder.

Josh nodded his head. "Yeah, we have to. I don't want to live if I can't have her."

***



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