Rated R

I rub my hand over my head and sigh. I’m tired. No, scratch that. I moved way past tired two years ago. I think I’m in constant varying states of exhaustion. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.  I push away from my desk and I can’t help but groan a little at the pain that shoots through my lower back. I guess being hunched over a desk for the past fourteen hours isn’t the best thing in the world for the lower lumbar.  I stand from my chair and twist my back a few times to work out the stiffness. What I need is food.

“DONNA!”  Where is she?

“DONNATELLA!” I step from behind my desk and hit my foot on the edge of some policy manuals. I bend down to pick up the books so I can put it…..

“SHIT!” I can’t move. OW! OW! Shit, shit, shit!

“DONNA!” Before I can get the second scream from my mouth she’s running through the door.

“What’s wrong!?” She’s screaming at me.  As I remain bent at the waist and staring at my feet I can’t help but be a little bit irritated.

“Why didn’t you answer me the first time I called you!?”

“You were being you the first two times. What’s wrong?! Why are you bending over like that?” Now Donna is bent at the waist beside me, looking from my face to the floor then back again.

“I called you three times!”

“But the last time was the only time you really needed me! What’s wrong?!”

“I can’t move,” I mutter.  I hope she heard me the first time. I really don’t want to repeat it.

“What?” Yeah, no such luck.

“I can’t move!”

“What? Why?!”

“I rest my hands on the edge of the desk and try to push my weight against my palms in an effort to straighten up.


“Oh my God! You’ve thrown your back out!”

“I have not.” Donna’s look changes from concern to condescending. I can’t actually see her face because she’s no longer bending over, but I can tell. Trust me. I can tell.

“Then what do you call this?”

“I’ve…I’ve…..pulled a muscle.”

“Right. You’ve thrown your back out.”

“No. Old men throw backs out. I’ve….pulled a muscle.”

“You’re an idiot.” She’s laughing at me?! In my time of need, she’s laughing at me?!


“Right, okay. Can you move at all?”

“I don’t know.”
”Can you try?”

“I don’t know.” I’ve kept my hands on the desk for support and it seems to be working. Why mess with what works.

“Give me your hand.”


“Do you want to stand there all night, or do you want me to try to get you home?”

“Uh…..” She just rolled her eyes at me. I know she did.

“Fine.” She leaves my side and walks over to my phone.

“What are you doing?” She’s ignoring me. I hate that!

“Leo?” Noooooo.

“Don’t!” I scoot my feet across the floor and can’t help myself from yelping in pain. Donna puts her hand lightly on my shoulder and I freeze in place. God, this hurts.

“Josh has hurt his back. I’m going to need some help.” She’s quiet for a few seconds, obviously giving Leo time to stop laughing.

“Okay, thanks Leo.” She hangs up the phone and leans down so I can see her face.

“We’re going to get you home. We’ve got to get you to bed.”

“I’m fine.” I know. It sounded just as stupid when it came out of my mouth. Donna snorts a little and rubs her hand down my back.

“Sure, you are. You’re just doing a great impression of a question mark.” Before I can yell at her some more she starts rubbing her hand down the center of my back. It feels good. My back still hurts like hell, but this feels good.

“Josh?” I try to turn my head a little to see Leo as he enters my office. Not happening. OW! CRAP! Wait. There’s another pair of legs. Oh God, no. Please tell me he didn’t.

“Oh dear, Donna call over to the residence and tell Abbey to come over, please.”

“Yes, Mr. President.” I watch in horror as Donna’s feet scurry from the room as two pairs of black wingtips point in my direction.

“Maybe we should try to straighten him up.” What?

“Mr. President, let’s not…..”

“I’ve seen on television where one guy puts his knee in the center of the guys back and pulls while the other guy holds a piece of wood.”


“You know, in the other guys mouth to bite down on.”

“Ah. I don’t think Josh wants to bite down on a piece of wood. Do you Josh?”

“No! I mean…..no sir. No wood.” Why me? Why do all these things happen to me?  I watch in horror as the president’s feet move from my field of vision and take up a position behind me.

“Maybe we can lift him like……”


“I’m sorry, Josh. Did that hurt?”

“Yes, sir.” I’m so proud of myself for not screaming at the President just then. Of course, I heard Leo laugh a little. Maybe he’s laughing at the fact that I had to grit my teeth so tight I think I sprained my face. Where’s Donna?!

“The First Lady is on her way. She said for me to…..well…..”

“Said to what? Go ahead Donna, tell us what we should do.” The president asks her.

“She said I should call in an agent if the two of you tried to touch Josh.”

“A little late for that one.” Leo mumbles as Donna’s feet appear beside me again. She leans down and starts lightly rubbing my back again.

“She’s going to be here in just a minute. Everything’s going to be fine, Josh.”  God, I just want to sink into a hole. This is so embarrassing.

“Oh dear, look at you.” The First Lady sounds way too happy for my tastes.

“Good evening, ma’am.”  Donna replies as she continues to rub circles on my back.

“What happened?” She asks. I take a deep breath and grimace as the pain shoots through my back again.

“I bent down to pick up these policy manuals and I can’t straighten up.”

“Let’s have a look.” Donna steps away and I feel Abbey moving her hands over my back.  After a few minutes of that she leans over so I can see her face.

“I’m going to call Dr. Tuttle.  He’s probably going to give you a prescription for a muscle relaxant and put you to bed for the next few days.”

“I can’t!” I know she heard me yelp at the end of that sentence. She smiles at me and rubs her hand along my arm.

“You don’t have a say in the matter.  I’m not a licensed doctor anymore, but I am the First Lady. This is an order, Josh.” She looks away from me and stands upright again before speaking. “Donna, will you call Lilly and ask her to call Dr. Tuttle.  Have him put through to Josh’s office.”

“Yes ma’am.” Donna leaves the room again and I have the strange feeling I’m not going to like what’s going to happen next.

“How are we going to move him?” Leo asks.

“We’ll wait until Mark gets here and then see what we should do.” They’re placating me. I can tell. Donna returns and Abbey suggests everyone should wait out in the hall. I watch as The President and Leo shuffle from my office at the prodding of the First Lady.  I’m in hell. I have to be. What can be worse than this?

“What’s going on?!” Oh shit. Sam.

“Hey Sam. Josh threw his back out.” I wish Donna would quit telling people that!

“Josh threw his back out?! Doing what?” I wince again as I try to move a little.

“He was trying to pick up a book.”

“Which book?” What the hell does that matter?!

“Josh threw his back out?” Oh great. Toby.

“Yeah, look.” I lean a little to the left and can make out four pairs of wingtips and two sets of high heels. Dammit, make that three.

“Is there a thing?”

“Hey CJ. Josh threw his back out. We’re waiting on the doctor to call.”  Now I’m in hell. I’m in the seventh circle of hell and I’m among friends. I sigh again once Abbey starts talking.

“Toby, Sam, we may need your help to move him. We’ve got to get him home and in bed. He’ll probably be out of circulation for the next two or three days. Jed, Leo, don’t touch him. We’re not in a Marx Brother’s movie. CJ, Donna, make them all behave while I go check on Josh.”

“Yes ma’am.” CJ laughs.

“Ma’am. May I?” Donna hesitates a moment. God love her. The first lady must nod because Donna follows her into my office and pulls up one of my desk chairs beside me.

“How you doing?” She starts to rub my back again and I can’t help but smile. Donna always knows exactly what to do.

“It hurts.” I whisper. There’s no use lying to her. Not Donna.

“I know. We’re going to get you home soon.”

“I just want to sit down.” I think that came out with a lot more whine than I had intended.

“I know. But I don’t think you want to try moving again, right?” I sigh and nod my head. OW! That hurt.

“Just try to relax.” She soothes.

“Donna, it’s 10:30 at night, I’m bent at the waist leaning against my desk and I’m in pain. Relaxing is not something I think I can obtain right now.”

“Well, if you’re not even willing to try.” She pouts and I can’t help but grin. She’s teasing me.


“Oh for heavens sake Josh, quit whining. It’s just embarrassing.”  Well, that was blunt.  The phone rings and Donna grabs it on the first ring.

“Josh Lyman’s office. Hold please.” She hands the phone to Abbey and we all wait in silence for her to finish her conversation.  She hangs up the phone and walks over to me again. Donna is still rubbing my back and I feel like falling over dead.

“He’ll be here in fifteen minutes. He said for you to stay still and try not to move around too much.”

“Yes ma’am.” Donna leans over so I can see her face. She smiles a little and winks at me.

“You’ll be good as new in no time.” 

“Yeah. Sure.” Donna continues to rub my back while we all stand in silence. Sam, Toby, CJ, Leo and The President are taking turns walking by my door. I can still see their feet.  It seems like an hour before I see a strange pair of shoes. Donna stands and I see Mrs. B walk toward him.

“Mark, thanks for coming out. As you can see, we’ve got a bit of a problem.”

“Looks that way.” Dr. Tuttle leans over so I can see his face. “I’m Dr. Mark Tuttle, Mr. Lyman. Let’s see if we can make you a little more comfortable.”

“Thanks. Call me Josh.” Donna steps out of my field of vision and I feel Dr. Tuttle start to feel along my spine.

“OW!” Well, that just slipped out.

“Okay. Josh. Looks to me like you’ve just strained your back a little. Nothing too serious. It’s just going to hurt for a day or two. I’m going to give you a muscle relaxant and prescribe bed rest for at least a day. After that you need to start moving around to strengthen those muscles. You’ll need to start adding some back exercises to your workout.  I recommend massage therapy at least once a week from now on.” I cringe as he says this because I can hear Donna writing down every word he’s saying.  God I hope she doesn’t invoke The Rules, anything but The Rules.

“Thank you, Doctor.” He pats me lightly on the shoulder and walks over to Abbey. She thanks him again and they step out of the room.  Sam, Toby and Leo walk slowly in the room and I have a feeling I’m going to be screaming like a girl any minute now.

“What are you doing?”

“He says we’ve got to move you.” Sam’s smiling while he says that. I can tell.

“Can’t I have the drugs first?” I hear Donna come back in my office and wait for what’s going to happen next.

”Okay, Josh. I’m not going to lie to you. This is going to hurt like hell.” I groan as Donna starts to bark orders at the three men inching toward me.




How I made it home with out passing out from the pain is a miracle to me.  At one point, I was sure I had broken the fingers of Donna’s right hand.  I think we both screamed at the same time.  Now I’m lying flat on my back in my own bed with a house full of people. Toby, Sam, CJ and Donna are in my living room rearranging my schedule for the week and drafting a statement for the press. It’s kind of hard to hide the Deputy COS being carried like a sack of dirt from the White House.  Donna manages to get things nailed down for tomorrow and proceeds to kick everyone out of my apartment.  I think I heard her invoke The Rules. Dear God in heaven, I hope not.  I’m staring up at my ceiling as she walks into my bedroom and sits gingerly on the edge of the bed.

“How you doing?”

“I’m great. Wanna dance?” I ask with as much sarcasm as I can manage.

“Take this. It’ll help.” She holds the pill over my chin and waits for me to open my mouth. I sigh in frustration before allowing her to place the pill on my tongue. She then offers me some water through a straw.  Where she found the straw is beyond me. Probably in some secret stash from when she stayed with me during my recovery.  I swallow hard and close my eyes. I feel her hand brush lightly across my forehead and I can’t help but smile.

“I’m getting old Donna.”

“This has nothing to do with being old.”

“I’ve thrown my back out Donna.” I open my eyes to see her leaning over me and looking me in the face. She’s got the most serene look in her eyes and if I could move I just might try to kiss her. Whoa. That’s new. Not really. Must be the drugs. I’m sure they’ve had time to take effect right? Fast acting pain medication. That’s what it is.

“I’ve hurt my back before Josh.”

“Really? How?”

“I was in college and……”

“Donna, if this has anything to do with you, Dr. Freeride and creative sexual endeavors, I don’t want to hear it.” Donna scrunches up her face and frowns.



“I was working as a waitress and it was near the end of the late shift and I had pulled a double for one of the other girls. I was tired and sore and I went to lift a palette of bread from one of the racks in the storage room. I felt something pull and by the time I got home, I could barely move.”

“Who took you home?”

“Harry.” She says with a grin.

“Who’s Harry?”

“The bus driver for the Route 2 Metro Bus.”

“Why didn’t you call…..” Before I can finish my sentence she looks down at my shirt and I have my answer. “You did call him.”

“He had an early test. He needed to sleep.  If he had come to pick me up it would have been after one before we would have gotten back home.” I have the sudden urge to throw something. Anything. A brick. A piece of furniture. A certain Doctor off the top of a building.

“I would have picked you up.” I say with conviction. She looks me in the eyes and smiles.

“I know you would have, Joshua.” She brushes her hand across my forehead again and I sigh with contentment.

“Will you stay?”

“Of course. Will you be okay long enough for me to go home and grab some clothes for tomorrow?”

“I think so.” I’m smirking and that makes her laugh. I love her laugh.

“Okay. I’ll be back in thirty minutes. I’ve got my key. Hopefully you’ll be asleep by then.”

“But you’ll wake me up to let me know you’re back?”

“Of course.” Donna stands and I reach out for her hand. She stops and looks at our joined hands and then at me.

“Why do you take such good care of me Donnatella?”  She gives my hand a squeeze and sits back down.

“Because you’ve taken such good care of me.” Her answer shocks me a little.

“I haven’t done anything that would compare to what you do for me Donna.”

“That’s not true.  You gave me a chance to be the person I’ve become. And whether you’ll admit it or not, I’m valuable to you.” She says with a grin. I let go of her hand and place it against her cheek.

“You have no idea, or do you?” She smiles again and leans down to place a light kiss on my cheek.

“Yeah, I know.” She whispers before standing again. She leaves the room without looking back and I can’t help but smile. I know one thing is certain. Before these drugs kick in and I can’t remember my name, I’m promising right here and now to take care of Donnatella Moss for the rest of our lives.  Now I wonder how I’m going to get up and go to the bathroom.

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