EPISODE: Post- NSF Thurmont and 6th season premiere
RATING: PG-13 (Language)
SUMMARY: Colin's pictures of the explosion aftermath surface.
DISCLAIMER: Aaron Sorkin is a genus and a linguistic musician – All kudos to him for developing these characters... they are all his.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have a feeling Wells won't take up the storyline of the pictures shot by Colin after the explosion. I was wondering what Josh would do if he found out about them... I was also contemplating the scenes between Josh and Donna when she starts dealing with her experience. Hope to continue this if there is an interest. Also – I swear in an episode, Josh called Donna "JoJo" and I love that nickname and wanted to use it somewhere!
"Oh my God, JoJo. You have got to hear this – Toby said that the other night, Molly..."
Josh Lyman stopped as he came around the corner of the bullpen. His assistant, Donna Moss, was sitting at her desk, completely still and deathly pale, staring at something in her hands.
"Donna..." Josh said as he started to approach her, his normally buoyant stance suddenly very reserved. "What's up?"
The blonde snapped out of her reverie and slid whatever she had been looking at under a pile of folders on her desk.
"What? I'm sorry, Josh, I didn't hear you."
"What were you looking at? It's not time for this year's edition of 'The Hottest on the Hill' is it?' he laughed, the smile not quite traveling to his eyes as he watched her painfully straighten up from her chair and turn toward him. Since her return from Germany, she was a little less graceful, a little less joyous in her movements. Josh couldn't determine if it was from her injuries or from the experience of the attack, but knew, either way, that he would give anything to have her be able to simply get up from a chair with the ease she used to have.
"No, it's not time for that article yet, Josh, you know that. Margaret, Carol, Ginger and Bonnie would have been swooning all day if it had come out," she chided, walking toward his office with a folder in her hand, "It was nothing. Now, remember that C.J. wants the senior staff in her office in about 30 minutes for a meeting on the energy consortium."
Josh stepped aside to let Donna walk by, watching the hitching limp that she carried as a reminder of her trip to the Middle East. Every time he saw her walk, he cursed himself for giving her the spot on the CODEL that day. With each wince or hesitation, he felt himself get sick, picturing the exuberant, naïve and incredibly open woman she had been side-by-side with the quieter, reserved and withheld Donna that stood before him now.
"Please tell me she didn't bring up the Hummer accident again," Josh whined, "I thought I had taken care of that. I swear to God, when that woman gets something in her head..."
"Actually, Josh, I believe yesterday she said she would like to shove the Hummer up your ass, to join the other items she has deposited there over the years, but decided there wasn't enough room," Donna replied moving back out to her desk in the bullpen, "So if I were you, I would tread very lightly around her for a while. Oh, she wanted to remind you that you are on a diet and she told me that if you so much as touch one of the donuts at the coffee station, she'll break both of your hands." The last part of the message was delivered with that beautiful Moss smile and Josh was pleased that something had made it return, albeit briefly.
Picking up a stack of files, she moved down the hallway toward C.J.'s office, throwing her words over her shoulder at him.
"I have to take these to Margaret. Can I trust you not to get into trouble while I'm away? No setting the building on fire, causing a revolt in Congress, or, god forbid, causing another press spectacle?"
"Absolutely," Josh replied, giving her a mock salute, "I will be on my best behaviour for the next 5 minutes... But hurry up – I feel a coup d'etat coming on and according to your list, I'm still allowed a government overthrow..."
He watched her walk down the hallway, noting that she seemed to be moving a little better with each passing day. The physical therapy she endured three afternoons a week was tiring, and she didn't return to the White House when she was finished, going home after to rest. He often came over in the evenings to make sure she was holding up under the strain of coming back to work – he knew the signs for which he needed to be concerned.
In the weeks that Donna had been in Germany, she had never mentioned the explosion. Every time he had tried to bring it up with her, to get her to open up to him about what she was feeling, she would glance away, or put on a smile and change the subject, frustrating him at every turn. Her mother, while she had been there, had also tried to broach the subject, but had less success that Josh had at getting her daughter to talk about what had happened. Mrs. Moss and Josh had agreed that it was better to let Donna do what she needed to do to get through her time in the hospital and if avoiding any kind of talk about the explosion helped her to get back on her feet, then so be it.
But Josh knew that running from the past was a mistake and he was afraid Donna was walking down a path that would end in tears. His own experience after Rosslyn should have been enough of a cautionary tale, but Josh knew that when you are hurting, there is no kind of caution in the world that is strong enough to break through the pain. Donna might know the signs in Josh, but that didn't mean she would know the signs when the pain became too much for her to bear herself.
As soon as she was out of sight, he walked over to her desk and reached under the pile of folders, pulling out a glossy European news magazine. Flipping through the pages, Josh realized the magazine was in French – not one of his strong suits – and wondered why Donna would have been reading a French news magazine and, moreover, why she would have hidden it from him.
Within seconds, the answer became obvious as he came across an article on the Mid-East conflict and, in particular, violence against Westerners in Israel and Palestine. Josh's French was almost non-existent, but he recognized many of the faces in the photographs and could pick out certain phrases he had seen used in various briefings over the years. As he turned the pages, he suddenly stopped and what he saw made him feel sick.
On the page in front of him was a collage of photographs of the CODEL – shots of Admiral Fitzwallace, Andi, and Donna, in a floppy hat, smiling and beautiful. But there, in the center of the page, was a sight that made his heart surge to his throat and his breath stop. It was a photograph of the burning Suburban, soldiers in black running through the frame, and through the window, a figure hanging upside down, blonde hair visible through the blood and soot.
Josh had seen the coverage of the burning car on the television – at the time he had not known that Donna had been in the truck and later, watching re-runs of the coverage, he found he had to turn it off to keep himself from throwing up. The very idea of Donna slowly bleeding to death in the burning car had been more than he had been able to handle and still proved to be something he could not witness on the newscasts. And here, right in front of him, was the most detailed picture of the whole event that had been shown to date.
Looking at the credit on the photographs, he felt his breath become shallow and his heart race as his anger grew inside him. Colin. That bastard had stood by, while the car burned and Donna lay inside, and fucking took pictures. "Bastard!"
"Josh! What are you doing?"
He looked up at Donna, his jaw set. His words came out in a soft growl he was unable to control.
"He took pictures."
"Yes, Josh, I can see that."
"He fucking took pictures of you!" his voice became a shout and staff in the bullpen stopped to look at him. He glared at her unable to believe that her anger didn't match his.
Donna glanced around the bullpen.
"Not here, Josh!" she hissed, walking over, taking his elbow and pushing him into his office.
"Donna, he took fucking pictures of you while you were strapped in that seat bleeding to death!"
She winced at his words. She shut the door and turned to look at him, his anger palpable from her position at the door. "Josh, please don't shout."
"Don't shout? Don't shout!? Donna – this goddamned son-of-a-bitch..."
He looked up at her and saw something that made his heart break – Donna had never before looked at him with such a look of defeat. Not in all the years of his insults about gomers and self-worth. Not in all the years of overwork and low pay. She spoke his name now as if it was some kind of plea, "Josh..."
"Where did you get this, Donna?" he asked quietly.
"It's not important. Just throw it away, please? It's not worth all of this excitement. All of that is over now."
"It is important, Donna. Where did this come from? We didn't get a heads up on it – which is amazing since pretty much everything that has been written on the CODEL was given to C.J. or Toby first – so where did you get this?" Josh had tried to keep a finger on all of the press coverage of the trip, to keep certain things out of Donna's hands, or to try to warn her when there might be articles she should avoid. His watch covered not only domestic, but foreign coverage as well, and he was amazed that something like this had slipped below his radar.
"I said it didn't matter," she snapped, "Jesus, Josh! Just let it go. I don't want to do this right now."
At that point, Donna threw open the door and walked out to her desk. "I have to go to therapy. Ginger said she'd cover for you this afternoon, so if you need anything you can ask her. I'm leaving." She kept her back to him and refused to meet his eyes as she put on her coat and gathered her things.
As she walked toward the lobby, the click of her heels made an irregular pattern as she limped toward the front door. Josh watched her retreating form from the doorway of his office, hundreds of thoughts chasing one another through his mind. He looked down at the photographs in the magazine and closed his eyes in pain.
"Oh, Donnatella," he whispered, "This is so much worse than stopping for a beer."
(To be continued.)