Make your own free website on Tripod.com
"Precious" By Cindy pt.4/4

An hour and a half later Leo McGarry was warding off a feeling of Deja Vu.
The Lyman's living room had the feel of hundreds of senior staff meetings that he had been in charge of over the years. Only this time Leo wasn't in charge and he hated that feeling. Two people who he considered family were
going through a nightmare and Leo couldn't do anything to help.

Detective Choe stood near the front door a cell phone pressed against her left ear. Sam and Caitlin stood in each other's arms by the fireplace. CJ sat next to Josh and Donna on the sofa while Leo and Toby flanked the sofa.
Calculators, pads of paper, pens and pencils, and bank statements were strewn everywhere.

Sam turned to face his wife worry clearly in his blue eyes. He knew Caitlin had slept about as much as he had since they got here which wasn't much.

"Caitie?"Sam asked softly as he lightly touched her face. "Why don't you get a few hours sleep?"

Caitlin shook her head her gaze fixed on Josh and Donna. "I'm okay, Sam."

"Caitie, you haven't slept much at all."

"Neither have you."Caitlin pointed out as she leaned against him.

Sam wrapped his arms around her waist pulling her close. "I'm not the one carrying our child."he whispered into her left ear.

Caitlin turned in his arms so she could see his face. "I'll rest if you will."she replied with a soft smile.

"Caitie...."

"They need us, Sam."Caitlin said quietly.

"I know."Sam replied softly as he glanced over Caitlin's shoulder to Josh and Donna. "But nothing's going to happen here for a few hours."

"I still want to stay just in case."Caitlin stated and leaned forward to kiss her husband as she saw Sam start to protest. "We're fine."she whispered."I'll let you know if I need to lay down, deal?"

"Deal."Sam said resignedly as Caitlin reached into Sam's suit jacket pocket for the cell phone.

"I'm going to call my parents."Caitlin stated as she moved away from Sam and too a quiet corner.

Sam nodded in acknowledgment before walking over to the coffee table and sat down next to it.

Josh tossed the legal pad and pen onto the coffee table and sank back into the couch. No matter how many different ways he tried to manipulate the numbers the money Boxton wanted just wasn't there. Hell, he couldn't even scrape together a third of it.

"Josh, my car and my retirement account are probably worth a few thousand."Donna offered quietly as she turned to face her husband a legal pad of her own in her hand.

"No time, Donna."Josh replied miserably.

"We could take out a second mortgage."Donna said struggling to come up with ideas. There had to be a way they just weren't seeing it.

"He wants it by nightfall, Donna!"Josh shouted as he sprang up off the sofa and stalked over to the fireplace nearly toppling Leo in the process.
"Mortgages and loans take time which we don't have...."his voice dropped to a whisper. "Which Rachel doesn't have."

"Don't you think I know that, Josh!"Donna replied her voice rising to meet his. "I would sell every single thing we own to get her back....."

CJ placed a supportive arm around Donna's shoulders as the younger woman dissolved into tears.

"Josh, what about your investments?"Sam asked glancing worriedly at Donna."You can transfer the money electronically."

Josh shook his head as he leaned against the mantle shoving his hands deep into his pants' pockets."There's nothing there, Sam. I lost most of it in the 2003 crash."

"Everybody here has something tucked away somewhere."Toby interjected gently as he met each person's gaze in turn. "We'll pool the money together, Josh.....it'll work out."

***
At two o'clock Detective Choe sat on the corner of the coffee table. Donna and Josh sat close together across from her on the sofa.

"Everything's ready on our end, Mr. Lyman."Choe reported. "Now we just need for Boxton to contact us with the where and when."

Donna sprang off the couch and walked to the end of it her arms folded across her chest. "God, Josh, when will it be enough?"

Josh stood and closed the space between them pulling his wife into his arms."Donna..."

Tears were running freely down Donna's cheeks as she whispered. "The shooting, me being kidnapped, the divorce and custody hearings, now Rachel...."Her voice trembled and broke forcing Donna to pause."When will we have suffered enough for us to have earned a normal happy life?"

The phone ringing prevented whatever Josh was going to say. Josh squeezed Donna's hand before stepping away and picking up the cordless phone. He glanced at Detective Choe who nodded.

"Hello?"Josh said as he hit the talk button. The others gathered around him.

"Clock is ticking, Lyman....tick...tock...."Boxton replied with a wide smile."Is my money ready?"

"Yes."Josh lied praying that Boxton would buy it. Even with all of them pitching in every spare cent they could only come up with three million and that was with the added generosity of Jed Bartlet. "Where are you?"

"Goderich, Ontario."Boxton replied as he moved away from the window."Go to the marina, there will be a pay phone at the bait shop. I will call it at seven o'clock.....if you don't answer it Rachel disappears."

Josh's hands balled into fists."What if the plane's late...."

"You better pray that it's not."Harry stated as he looked at Rachel who was sleeping peacefully on the bed."And I don't think I need to tell you to come alone, Mr. Lyman. I believe you remember what happened the last time somebody
backed me into a corner."

"Let Rachel go."Josh pleaded trying one last time to reason with Boxton. "She doesn't deserve this."

"Neither did my wife."Harry replied coldly as he hung up the phone.

***
The room exploded in protests as soon as Josh explained what Boxton had said.
Josh stepped away from the desk and held his hand out palm forward to silence the room.

"I don't have time to argue with any of you."Josh informed his friends. "I'm going to meet him, under his terms."

"That is not very wise Mr. Lyman."Detective Choe advised as she stepped forward."Boxton hasn't given us any reason to trust him."

Josh glared at the dark haired woman. "He hasn't left me any choice, now has he? You guys have done such a great job so far of finding my daughter."

"She's right, Josh."Sam replied his blue eyes filled with anxiety and fear. "You can't meet this guy on your own with no backup."

"Sam....."

"Just listen to me please."Sam begged as he stepped toward his best friend and moved him away from the others. "Do you remember how Boxton reacts when he's shoved into a corner? The FBI couldn't reason with him and we nearly
lost Donna, hell we thought we had. Do you really think you can just walk in there hand him the money and he'll hand Rachel over nice and easy?"

Josh closed his eyes briefly fighting against a migraine. "I don't have a choice, Sam."

"Yes you do, Josh."Sam pointed out. "Work with the police, the FBI. He's taken Rachel across state lines, out of the country it's a federal crime now. Give them a chance to come up with a plan to end this nightmare."

Josh shook his head. "Rachel is too precious to risk on a botched sting operation, Sam."he stated in a whisper.

"And what about you, Joshua?"Donna asked in a trembling voice as she stepped toward them gaining everyone's attention. "Do you expect me to just sit here
while you go off and get yourself killed? I can't lose you too."

Josh's gaze softened as he closed the space between them and drew her into an embrace. "You'll never lose me, Donnatella."

Donna shook her head fiercely tears running freely down her face. "Please, Josh, work with the police."

"I can't, Donna."Josh replied stubbornly."He said to come alone."

"We can make it appear that way, Mr. Lyman."Choe interjected calmly. "Let me get in touch with Canadian authorities. After the exchange we'll grab Boxton and this will be over."

Josh met her gaze for a long moment as he remembered the last time somebody had asked him to trust the plan.
---------

Finally Alberts's phone rang. 'How? Why did you let him get that close? Fine just keep me posted.'

'What?' Josh demanded as he stood and crossed the room.

Alberts glanced at Josh with a sympathetic gaze that chilled Josh to the bone. 'I'm sorry Mr. Lyman but the
exchange didn't go as planned. Harry Boxton is now with his wife in the house and they know that Donna is not Ms. Bartlet.'

'No!' Thomas shouted. 'How did this happen? I thought it was supposed to be an exchange? How did they let Donna go back in the house with them?'

'I don't have any answers yet.' Alberts said. 'But I am going to get them.' He picked up his cell phone and started dialing as he left the office.

----------

Josh shook himself away from the bad memories and looked over into Donna's tearful gaze. How was he supposed to trust the authorities with his daughter's life? He had done that with Donna's life and everything had gone so terribly wrong.

"Josh?"Donna prompted not liking his silence. When Josh was silent he was planning.

"Okay."Josh admitted finally as he drew Donna close against him ."Come up with your plan, Detective. I'm going to call the airlines."

"Thank you, Joshua."Donna whispered as she buried her head against his chest.
She knew how tough that had been for him.

"Our family will be together again, Donnatella."Josh assured her softly."No matter what it takes."

***
Caitlin stood in the doorway of Josh and Donna's bedroom as she watched Josh toss various items into a suitcase.
After a few minutes the young brown haired woman stepped into the room and closed the space between her and Josh.

"Josh, stop for a minute."

Josh stepped past her and over to the closet grabbing a white shirt. "I don't have time for a lecture, Cait."

Caitlin sat down on the corner of the bed. "This isn't a lecture."

"Good."Josh replied absently as he returned to the suitcase.

Caitlin reached over and touched his right arm. "Josh, you are going to cooperate with Detective Choe, aren't you?"

Josh glared at his friend. "He has Rachel, Cait. I'm going to do whatever I have to, to bring her home."

Caitlin's eyes narrowed with worry."You dodged my question."

Josh met her gaze. "No, I didn't."

"Just promise me that you won't go off on your own."Caitlin pleaded remembering all too well the hell that Boxton had put them all through when Donna was missing.

"Cait...."

"Or I'll send Sam with you."

"I need you and Sam to take care of Donna."Josh replied quietly as he fiddled with the handle of his suitcase.

"Then promise me."Caitlin insisted.

"This man has turned my life upside down twice, Cait."Josh pointed out anger creeping into his voice.

"Don't let him take your life away, Josh."Caitlin begged as she scooted closer to him. "Follow the plan Choe has worked out....."

"Plans didn't work last time."Josh replied angrily. "Donna was....I can't go through that again, Cait."

"This plan is sound, Josh, it'll work if you let it."Caitlin argued.

"It better."Josh replied resignedly. "Rachel deserves a quiet, normal life."

"She'll have one, but she also needs a father."Caitlin commented softly. "Please, Josh, promise me that you'll follow the plan no matter what happens?"

"I'll follow the plan."Josh promised as he returned his attention to packing.

"Okay."Caitlin replied with a smile. "Are you sure you don't want Leo or Toby to go with?"

"I can't risk it, Cait. He said come alone."Josh stated as he moved over to the dresser.

Caitlin stood and moved toward the door. She turned back toward Josh wanting to say more but knowing there was nothing to say. Boxton was in control as long as he had Rachel.
Caitlin watched Josh pack for a moment longer before stepping out into the hallway and going back downstairs.

***
It was nearly three fifteen by the time Josh stood in the doorway of his home surrounded by close friends and family. But the only gaze he sought was Donna's. Josh saw the fear and worry in her blue eyes and wished he could wipe it away. She had endured far too much through her relationship with him.

"Donnatella....."Josh began as he pulled her out onto the front steps to give them a little privacy.

Donna reached up and gently touched his right cheek. "Don't, Joshua, don't tell me not to worry."

Josh grinned weakly."Thought I'd give it a shot."

"Josh...."

"I'll be fine, Donnatella."Josh promised quietly as his arms encircled her waist and drew her close."And Rachel and I will be home before you know it."

Donna tried to force back the tears but they came anyway. "Please, Joshua, be careful."

"I will."Josh assured her gently as he stepped back.

"Let me come."Donna pleaded as she caught his left arm.

Josh glanced over her shoulder to see Detective Choe in the doorway glancing at her watch. It was time to go. "Donna, we've been over this."

"I need to be there for her."Donna replied tearfully even though she knew it was futile.

Josh gently cupped her face and wiped away the tears. "More than anything I wish you could be there, Donnatella, but it's too dangerous. We have to work with the demands he gave us."

Donna nodded weakly as she stepped back toward the house. Leo placed a supportive arm around her shoulders.

Josh stepped forward and kissed her. "I love you."he whispered as they broke apart.

"I love you too."Donna replied softly as she watched Josh walk away and get into a waiting cab.

"He'll be okay, Donna."Caitlin assured her friend as she came to stand next to Leo. "They both will be."

Donna didn't reply as she watched the yellow cab until it disappeared from sight.

********

As Josh waited at the gate at O'Hare airport he saw Choe and three FBI agents at the opposite side of the gate pretending to read.
They had accompanied Josh to the airport on the slim chance that Boxton had an accomplice in the States, watching.
Josh had been wary about it, what if they were spotted.....but in the end he had given in. After all it was part of the plan.

Finally the flight attendant announced boarding and Josh headed toward the line that had started to form. Josh handed his boarding pass and then headed through the door and down to the plane and took his seat. As the other
passengers filed in Josh pulled out his wallet and took out a small picture.
It was one he had taken of Donna and Rachel at Thanksgiving.....Rachel was wearing a pilgrim hat that Donna had found somewhere.

Josh tenderly traced his daughter's face. He wondered if she had grown any since the last time he had seen her. They just had to get her back safely, they just had too.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your pilot Captain Sanders."A voice boomed over the speakers causing Josh to jump slightly. "I'm afraid there will be a slight delay in take off....we're sixth in line. The seatbelt light will remain on for your safety."

Josh felt his insides clench at the word delay. No, there couldn't be any delay.....Rachel's life depended on him getting there on time. Just as Josh rose from his seat to flag down a flight attendant his cell phone rang.
Josh swallowed hard as he fumbled to retrieve his phone from the inside pocket of his jacket. If it was Boxton maybe he could negotiate something.....after all that's what he'd done with congressman and senator's during his four years in the White House....

"Lyman."

"Josh? I was hoping I'd catch you....Caitlin said you'd just left the house."A familiar voice replied causing Josh to sink back into his seat with relief.

"Mr. President."Josh began still feeling weird calling the ex-President by his first name, even after all this time."Its good to hear from you."

"How are you holding up?"Jed Bartlet asked with concern as he sat in his living room in New Hampshire.

"One minute at a time."Josh replied quietly as he massaged his temples. "I'm stuck on the plane waiting to take off. They said there's a delay....Boxton set a time limit....if I don't get there in time...."

"You will, Josh."Jed assured the younger man wishing there was more he could do.

"With all due respect, Sir, how can you be so sure?"Josh asked as he leaned back against his seat. His gaze locked on Rachel's picture.

Jed met Abby's gaze across the room as he said. "Because I know the game, Josh. Politics or crime it's all the same. Boxton knows what he's up against, who he's up against that's why he asked for money. With the money he thinks he's won but he hasn't. He started this plot out as simply revenge and then changed it halfway through that's his weakness. I know it'll be hard but keep your emotions in check, for Rachel's sake. Things will work themselves out, they always do."

Josh glanced up and saw a frowning flight attendant."Thank you for your support, Sir, I won't forget it. We're about to take off so I better end this call."

"Alright."Bartlet replied as he stood. "Be careful, Josh."

"I will."Josh stated quietly as he ended the call.

*******

At seven local time Josh stepped out of his rental car and walked toward the marina in Goderich Harbour. He immediately spotted the pay phone against the wall of the closed bait shop. As Josh came within forty feet of the shop he heard the phone ringing. With no idea how many rings it was on Josh took off at a dead run.

"Hello?"Josh greeted as he snatched the receiver struggling to catch his breath.

"We were just about to give up on you, Mr. Lyman."Boxton replied smugly.

"Where do you want to meet?"Josh demanded forgoing any pleasantries. Please let Rachel be alright....he couldn't face Donna if....

"Right to the point are we?"Boxton asked with a chuckle."Very well. Let's see.....how about the Menesetung Bridge on the Maitland Trail in forty five minutes."

"Let me talk to Rachel."Josh urged as he gripped the telephone receiver.

"Forty two minutes."Was Boxton's only reply before the line went dead.

********

"Shouldn't we have heard something by now?"CJ asked as she stood restlessly by the fireplace. She glanced over at Donna sitting on the sofa. She had been unusually quiet since Josh left.

Toby looked down at his watch. "His plane just landed a little while ago. Probably be another hour or so before we know anything."

"If all goes well."CJ muttered as she met his gaze. "Do you think Josh might...."

Toby shook his head. "No.....the old Josh might have but there's too much at stake. He'll do whatever he has to, to bring Rachel back."

"But this is Boxton we're dealing with."CJ replied anxiously keeping her voice low not wanting to upset Donna any more than she already was.

Toby reached over and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "He'll be okay, CJ."

********

As soon as Josh got back into the car and pulled into traffic he picked up his cell phone and called Detective Choe.

"Meet with me on North Harbour Road."Choe insisted after Josh told her where Boxton wanted to me.

Josh glanced at the clock there was only a half hour of Boxton's time limit left. "No, there's no time."

"Mr. Lyman per your request we didn't place the wire on you prior to your departure from the airport."Choe replied quietly."We need to get together to finalize...."

"I've gone along with the plan so far, Detective and I will continue to do so."Josh snapped as he changed lanes. "But if you're not on North Harbour Road in less than ten minutes you can kiss the plan goodbye."

Josh threw the phone into the passenger seat and looked at the clock again. Twenty minutes and counting. They were cutting this too damn close.

********

Caitlin pulled her green jacket tighter around her shoulders as she stepped out onto the back deck. Donna had walked out here a half hour before without a coat.

Donna glanced at her friend gratefully as Caitlin handed her a coat.

"Come inside, Donna."Caitlin urged.

Donna shook her head. "I'm okay."

Caitlin placed a gentle hand on her friend's shoulder."No, you're not, Donna. It's the middle of January and you came out here without a coat or long sleeved shirt. Come back inside, let me make you something to eat."

Donna stared out at the back yard. "What if he takes them both away from me, Cait?"she asked in a whisper.

Caitlin shook her head. "Boxton won't win, Donna. This has to work out, it just has to."

********

"No!"Josh shouted as he stood on the shoulder of the road with Choe, FBI agent Wilks and RCMP inspector Morton.

Choe took a step forward as Wilks continued to attempt to place the wire taping device on Josh even with his animated movements.

"Mr. Lyman, this is the RCMP's jurisdiction we have to work with them."Choe stated firmly.

"That's fine."Josh snapped as he ran an angry hand through his hair. "Just as long as they're no where near the bridge."

"We have to have people ready to move in and grab Boxton as soon as the exchange is over with."Inspector Morton interjected. He was a tall thin man in his thirties with close cut red hair and green eyes.

"Then camp them out here."Josh replied tersely as he gestured toward the road. They were parked a mile from the trail's entrance. He looked at his watch, eleven minutes.

"Mr. Lyman...."Choe began but Josh cut her off as he stepped away from Wilks and started toward his rental car.

"Do what you have to, Detective."Josh stated as he opened the door. "Just don't jeopardize my daughter."

********

When Josh arrived at the Menesetung Bridge he was surprised to find it nearly deserted. He started forward down the wooden bridge his brown eyes anxiously scanning the area ahead of him for any sign of Boxton or Rachel.
The Menestung Bridge was a pedestrian walking bridge that had been converted from a rail road bridge. It spanned the Maitland river and offered a view of the river, Goderich Harbour and Lake Huron.

Finally when Josh was half way down the bridge he spotted two forms at the end. His grip tightened on the briefcase that held the ransom. Josh just prayed that he could some how get his daughter away from Boxton before Boxton realized he didn't have the full amount.

"Stay there."Boxton shouted.

Josh instantly froze and watched worriedly as Boxton approached him. As the younger red haired man came closer Josh saw that he was holding Rachel.
The rage that Josh had felt while watching the video clip of Boxton holding his daughter was nothing compared to the anger he felt watching the real thing. But Josh clamped down hard on that anger and shoved it aside. He had to.
For Rachel's sake.

"Place the briefcase down and slide it over to me."Boxton ordered as he shifted Rachel over to his left arm. As he did so Rachel finally saw Josh and started to reach for her father.

"Daddy!"

"It's okay, shorty."Josh assured her fighting to keep his voice even. He turned his attention back to Boxton."Let Rachel go."

Harry laughed. "Do you really think I'm that stupid? Money first, then daughter that's how it works. Shove the briefcase over here now!"

Josh placed the briefcase down and kicked it over to Boxton. The briefcase landed by Boxton's left foot.

Still holding Rachel close Boxton picked up the briefcase and positioned it against his right hip so he could open it. Harry hit the small levers and the briefcase popped open.

With Boxton briefly distracted Josh considered taking Rachel. But in the end Josh shoved the thought aside, it was too risky and after all not part of the plan.

'Try to keep his attention.'Choe's voice sounded in his right ear startling Josh, he had forgotten about the ear piece.

Boxton straightened and turned his attention back to Josh. "Did you think you could pull a fast one on me, Mr. Lyman?"

Josh swallowed hard and felt his heart start to race. He forced himself not to look at Rachel. He didn't want her to pick up on his fear. "I don't know what you're talking about. I did everything you wanted."

Boxton tossed the briefcase down to the ground. It bounced once and some of the money slid from the open lid. "I asked for four million."

Damn, Josh had been praying that he wouldn't count it. "I'm not a rich man."He replied in a tight voice."I got what I could in the amount of time you gave me."

Boxton glanced down at Rachel. "Say goodbye to your Daddy, Rachel."

Josh took several steps forward eyes blazing. "The money there is more than enough for you to live on....."

Boxton raised an eyebrow."Really? An ex-convict with no job history how long do you think three million will last?"

"That's not my problem."Josh countered as he cautiously took another step forward. "Please, just let Rachel go..."

"Daddy."Rachel called as she tried to reach for Josh again.

Boxton quickly shifted her to his other arm shushing her. "Alice always wanted children...."he replied softly not taking his gaze off Rachel.

Josh was about to reply when he caught movement over Boxton's right shoulder. Inching toward them Josh could see Inspector Morton, Agent Wilks and four men in suits that he didn't recognize.
All had weapons drawn.

It took all of Josh's will power not to go into full-blown panic. With great effort Josh shifted into politician mode schooling his expression back to neutral. No matter what he couldn't let Boxton turn around and see the police officers.
This man had nearly taken Donna from him there was no way in hell that Boxton was taking Rachel.

"If your wife wanted children, loved children."Josh replied trying not to think that this same woman had held Donna captive for days. "Would she want you to hurt a child in her name? Would she want you to keep a child from its parents?"

Just when Josh thought he had made a dent everything went to hell. One of the FBI agents had made it within ten feet of Boxton. But the agent had tripped over an uneven plank alerting Boxton to the officer's presence.

"No!"Josh shouted as he struggled forward but it was too late.

Boxton whirled around to face the officers his arm snaked around Rachel's tiny neck.

Rachel screamed but Boxton held tight. He moved toward the railing.

Josh quickly moved around Boxton so he was between Boxton and the armed police officers.

Josh risked a glance back at the agents his hands held toward them palm forward. "Please, put the guns down."

Morton shook his head. "I'm sorry Mr. Lyman but we can't do that."

Josh glared at the younger man. "You can and you will! Now!"

Morton nodded to the other men and slowly lowered his weapon to the floor of the bridge. The others quickly followed.

"Deal's off, Lyman."Boxton shouted as he started to lift Rachel over the railing.

Rachel was now crying as she tried to squirm out of Boxton's grip.

"I can have more money wired!"Josh called out desperately.

"How much?"Boxton asked warily not noticing more officers coming in from the side of the bridge that Josh had entered on.

Josh took several steps forward wishing there was something he could do from that distance to calm his daughter."As much as you want."

"You said you didn't have money."Boxton pointed out with a frown. This was not going at all the way he'd planned.

"I have investments that I couldn't get access to in time for this."Josh pleaded. "I'll do anything to make sure Rachel is safe.....please....you shattered my family once....don't do it again."

Boxton hesitated and let go of Rachel's neck bringing her closer to him.

That thaw was all Josh needed. Sending off a prayer Josh reached forward and snatched Rachel out of Boxton's arms and backed away as fast as he could.
But it wasn't fast enough Boxton lashed out catching Josh in the chin with a right hook.

The contingent of RCMP officers and FBI agents quickly surrounded Boxton forcing him to the ground.

Josh did his best to shake off the stars as he covered Rachel protectively with his arms.

Two officers went down as Boxton continued to struggle. It took four more officers and ten more minutes before they had Boxton flat on the ground and in handcuffs.

Josh felt his strength drain away and he crumpled to the ground cradling Rachel in his arms.
It was over.
It was finally over.

Detective Choe reached Josh's side and knelt next to him placing a supportive hand on his right shoulder. "Are you alright?"

Josh nodded not trusting his voice. He continued to rock Rachel in an effort to calm her.

Choe glanced up as Boxton was hauled to his feet and placed in handcuffs. Josh followed her gaze.

"When you're ready we should get Rachel to the hospital and check her out just to be on the safe side."Choe stated gently.

********

It was three seventeen in the morning before Josh finally placed the key into the lock of his front door. Rachel slept soundly curled up against his right shoulder.
After a doctor had given Rachel the okay and Josh had given a statement to the police it had been ten before he had been able to board a flight for home. He had called Donna as soon as they had left the bridge. He'd never forget the relief and happiness in her voice when he told her it was over. That Rachel was safe.

Caitlin and Sam were the first to greet Josh as he stepped into the living room. Caitlin instantly enveloped her friend in a bearhug.

"I'm glad you're home."Caitlin whispered as she released him.

"You okay?"Sam asked quietly noticing the bruise that had started to form on Josh's chin.

Josh nodded. "Yeah."He replied wearily as Sam reached over and gently tousled Rachel's hair. "Where's Donna?"

Caitlin gestured toward the sofa just as CJ,Toby and Leo approached. "She tried to stay awake, Josh she really did but everything finally caught up with her and she fell asleep around ten."

Josh glanced at his friends then down at his sleeping daughter and back again. "I know you guys dropped your lives to come support us.....I don't know how I'll ever repay you for that. But I want you to know that Donna and I wouldn't have gotten through the last few days without you."

"We wouldn't have been anywhere else, Josh."Leo replied gently.

CJ nodded as she stepped forward and squeezed Josh's free arm. "I'm glad your home safe, Joshua. We'll always be here when you need us....that's what a family is for."

Josh smiled at his friends before stepping over to the sofa where his wife slept. As he rounded the corner of the sofa Josh saw that Donna was laying on her back with her head propped up against the right arm of the sofa.
As gently as he could as to not wake both of them Josh carefully laid Rachel on top of her mother. As if Donna knew what was happening her arms instinctively came up and encircled Rachel drawing her closer.

Josh watched them sleep for several long moments before he sat down in a chair by the fireplace. In moments he was asleep content in the knowledge that his family was safe.

Epilog


FORMER PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES BIRTH OF GRANDCHILD

By Danny Concannon
Senior Editor
Washington Post

Former President Josiah Bartlet and his wife Dr. Abigail Bartlet proudly announced on Wednesday the birth of their second grandchild.

On Tuesday July 23rd at 2:13 a.m. Caitlin Bartlet-Seaborn gave birth to Matthew Josiah Seaborn. The newest member of the Bartlet household weighed in at seven pounds, five ounces.

Both mother and son are doing fine.


end