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Contrary to what some people think, she doesn't ruminate on her deafness every moment of every day.

Her ears had been closed to the noise of the world since she emerged from the womb. Sometimes, people (bordering on foolish or insensitive) would tell her that they couldn't imagine a life in silence, that the idea horrified them. For her, the concept of noise was a bit frightening; she didn't know what she'd do if she was suddenly surrounded by the thuds and giggles and bangs and squeals that she had read about in books. Her world was quiet, but it wasn't a cocoon, she didn't feel deprived, and she didn't lie around bemoaning her fate.

She had to admit, though, that there were times - like now - when she wondered what it was like to live in a noisy world.

Something is wrong.

It might not be apparent to the average person, or even to someone who wandered through the bullpen every day, but her career was gathering information, and she was damn good at it. She had known since she came in this morning that something wasn't quite right in the White House. No one had said anything to her, so she assumed either she didn't have clearance yet or it just wasn't important enough to bother her with now.

The look that flashes on Josh's face when he thinks no one is looking makes her think it's the former, rather than the latter.

If so, there's nothing she can do about it, and the problem is in the hands of people more capable than her own, anyway. So she doesn't worry (too much).

She imagines that Josh's voice would be deep, although she's not really sure what that means. She's read about pitch and tone, about sopranos and altos and basses and tenors. She knows how the voice box generates sound. She knows her throat feels different when she says her lover's name during orgasm, and he calls it a 'growl.' But she has no real concept of what a deep voice is. A friend who had lost his hearing at the age of twenty-three once told her that the difference between a high-pitched voice and a deeper one was like the difference between pale pink and crimson, the difference between fine silk and worn leather, but she still didn't know what it meant.

It was highly likely that she'd never hear Josh Lyman's voice in her lifetime. People assume that makes her sad; it only makes her curious.

Whatever the problem is, CJ and Toby seem aware of it as well. She reads his lips as he curses, her view of his face occasionally obstructed as he gestures wildly. Kenny catches her eye from time to time, and she sees in there a silent reprimand for eavesdropping. Normally, she wouldn't abuse her abilities like this, but her concern outweighs her morals at the moment.

Josh keeps touching his face. More than usual.

Donna's out of the loop, at least for now. The trepidation that graces her features in between phone calls and random discussions is vague, without focus. She's worried because Josh is worried, but she doesn't know why.

For some reason, she thinks Donna's voice would be rather high-pitched.

She continues to work, eyes scanning for clues when she's able. As the day goes on, she becomes more convinced that whatever is happening is serious, as in This-Could-Screw-Up-The-Campaign-Serious. Possibly This-Could-Be-Bad-For-The-Free-World-Serious. Her anxiety grows, but she knows they'll come to her when (if) they need her.

By noon, Donna's been made aware of the situation. There's a clear purpose behind her smiles, skilled misdirection at work. She's putting out a calmly cheerful demeanor that only looks like a façade to those who know her. Her eyes are clouded with apprehension, and they spend too much time locked on Josh's (closed) door, as if he's single-handedly saving the world in there.

And for all Joey knows, maybe he is.

She can't help but feel that if Josh's assistant is on the inside, she ought to be, as well. Whatever it is that's going on, it definitely could be bad for the campaign. She knows this because Sam said so, in the latest of his discussions (arguments) with Toby that she was privy to.

It's late - to the point where there are only a handful of people still around - when Leo summons her to his office. The rest of the senior staff is there, and they don't look pleased. Josh's hair is rumpled, his shirt wrinkled, his face dark. His tie is the only part that is neatly straightened, and she assumes that's because Donna fixed it for him. Leo motions for her to sit, but with only one chair available, she chooses to remain standing with Kenny.

"We have a situation," Leo begins.


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