Breaking Down
By Ashley Calvert

Hey, everybody. This story falls into what I call the Angst Chronicles, because, as you may have guessed, it's packed full of the angst. Cautions: Multiple POV's (different narrators), a violent image, and spoilers. Saying which spoilers may actually spoil the ending of *this* story, so I will caution the entire Season 2. A *very* big thank-you to Marguerite, who went over this story with a fine-tooth comb for me. She's an amazing writer and I appreciate her contributions immensely! And, as always, I don't own 'em, but I sure wish I did. Feedback would be cherished and can be sent here: alterashley@hotmail.com. I hope you enjoy.

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* tell me he's going to be okay.
* you'll know when I know, alright?
* he's going to be okay, right?
* get these people out of here!

I'll go too

* bag him!
* Josh -

I'll clear out with you guys

* how many units of blood lost?
* about two, maybe three
* Josh! we'll be out here
* get them out of here!

It's like one of those early mornings where you know you have to get up, but where you are is the most comfortable place in the world

* pulse ox 62

and you know you have to get up and go start your day, and pick up your life where you left off

* can you get him intubated or not?
* I can do it, one second,

but your body's fighting you, keeping you from leaving the warmth of your bed

* tube him now!

Only it's cold.

* I'm in
* Okay, prepare to

it's the same feeling, only it's not warm, it's cold.

* ruptured pulmonary -

Something's telling me that I should be hanging on

* another unit of blood

that I should be getting up

* flatlining

but I can't remember why

* charge to 50

but I can't fight it

* clear

I can't fight it

* * *
My nails are dug into my hairline and the adrenaline is coursing through my veins. No feat of strength could drag my hands from my eyes right now. I'm a grown man. I'm supposed to be able to handle this. Why can't I get a grip?
"Sam?"
I hear my name, but I can't answer. I can't function. I can't think.
"Sam..." A soft voice. Pressure on my shoulder. And shaking, I slowly peel trembling hands from my face. I breathe. I'm on autopilot.
"C.J.," my voice murmurs, half-conscious. There's a pat on my back, an attempt to soothe. The pressure and pain in my nose is killing me. I force in some air and let out a shaky sigh. I look up at C.J. and she smiles at me, and I can't figure out how she's doing it.
"Hey," she says softly. The tears I'm fighting back are killing me. I'm trying to keep my composure, honest to God I am.
"How could this happen?"

* * *
I couldn't tell you where I am, I couldn't tell you anything. I'm not thinking in words. I'm thinking in faces and time and a siren song.

I see you; you had your hands on my chest, and they're red, like I'm red; You look terrified. I feel sort of scared, I guess. It's scary to be so heavy and empty.

I see you; when you said "You need to get up and shave, Josh"; when you were by my side; when I wish I could.. just tell you.. Donnatella

* pulse is increasing
* BP 90 over 30

I see you; you'll always look younger, won't you; you'll probably always have a great head of hair; when I said "This guy's the real thing, Sam"

* Mr. Lyman, can you hear me?
* 92 over 36..

I see you; when I smelled smoke, and I ran; I heard your screaming and I didn't go back in; and for thirty years I've wished it had been me instead of you;

* let's get him up to surgery

* * *
I'm uncharacteristically rubbing Sam's back - like I could actually be any sort of comfort in a time like this. His best friend is in there dying, and somehow I'm left outside of it all. Sam looks up at me, shaking, his blue eyes somehow bluer and frighteningly piercing.
"Has the President been told?" he asks quietly.
"Leo's telling him now."
"Christ, C.J. - how could this happen?"
I shake my head. This is one I don't have an answer for. I'm fine, at least. I'm shaken, but I'm fine.
"We don't have to release a statement, do we?" He sounds as though the very idea makes him ill. This whole night has thrown Sam Seaborn through a serious loop. I'm not sure I've ever seen him so shaken.
"I don't know," I reply. "Certainly not yet, if at all." I stop, and think for a moment. "How are you?" I ask, the words already sounding stupid as they leave my lips. Sam snorts.
"It didn't happen to me."
I take my hand from his back and lean forward, exhausted. "No," I reply. "It happened to all of us."

* * *
* Mr. Lyman, can you hear me?

Donna.

* Mr. Lyman? Can you hear me?

I don't know how I know, but somehow I just know that she's not here, and she's not going to be here.

* Can you open your eyes?

"I don't know what I'd do, if -"
"Donna, don't. Honest to God, everything's okay."
"I'm just saying, that if you ever let something happen to you.."
"Donna!"
"Goddammit, Josh - I couldn't lose you. Okay?"
"Nothing's going to happen -"
"Okay?"
"Okay."
"Josh, listen... I.."

* * *
"Excuse me." The two senior staffers jerk around, looking like lost children. C.J. sits up to speak. Sam looks unable to do much of anything.
"What is it, Leo?"
I've never felt like such an old man before in my life. My heart feels heavy. That can happen, with the world on your shoulders, I guess. Right now their world, our world, is heavier than anything I've ever carried before.
"He's out of surgery," I tell them - I tell C.J., that is. I can't bring myself to look at Sam. He suddenly looks alert, though.
"So he's going to pull through?"
"I take a breath, and when I break eye contact I know now they already know.
"It's not certain."
There's an uncomfortable silence that you couldn't cut through with a kitchen knife. Finally, I say, "You want to see him?"
I can't tell if the idea enthuses Sam or not. For the past couple minutes he's looked like he's going to throw up. He nods, though, and somehow I manage to lead him away from the chairs and up to the ICU.
There's one light on over Josh's bed, and I can feel Sam shrink when he enters. He's just thought exactly what I've thought:
Josh looks dead.
He's not, though. There's a machine breathing for him and a box by the bed that's wired to this thing on his finger, and the fact that the box is beeping and the machine is pumping disproves at least that fear. I motion for Sam to go ahead, not that I needed to; he makes his way to Josh's side and I don't even think he's aware that I'm still here. I back through the door just as he starts wracking with sobs. I don't want to be here for this.

* * *
* Josh?

This is so easy. It's like staying in bed when the sheets are nice and warm, instead of going to work.

* Josh, can you hear me?

I've let go - I don't have to move or think. Everything's so natural.. I even feel the air go in and out, but it's like I'm not even making it happen.

* Jesus Christ, what happened to you..

Only it's cold, is the difference, and heavier

* Jesus, Josh, what did you do?

* * *
"I called Donna," I say flatly, unbuttoning the top button of my shirt collar and undoing my tie.
"How'd she take it?" Leo asks. What a nightmare of a night. I didn't ever think we'd be in this position again. C.J.'s drifted into a half-sleep stupor, but she startles with every squeak on the linoleum.
"Toby?" Leo says. "How'd she take it?"
"She says she's not coming," I answer.
"She's not coming?" Leo repeats, surprised. "Why wouldn't she come?"
"She's upset," I say. Leo looks thoughtful for a moment, then nods.

* * *
* You lied to me, Josh.

"You honestly mean to tell me you never wondered if you were suicidal?"

* You said you were fine.

"I never wondered that."

* You said you were doing better!

"I never wondered that!"

* * *
I can't bear to look at anything except his face. It looks calm and restful, and it doesn't at all match the violence he's so obviously inflicted upon himself. He's sleeping, I think, ready to wake up and get back to business, keep the sarcastic comments rolling, get on with life. His arm is thickly bandaged.
They told me he got drunk and slit his arm open, and probably when it didn't... work.. like he'd expected, he
Oh, Jesus, Josh, how could you. How could you.
I wasn't there and I can still see it in my head, I know exactly what he would have looked like when he did this. How could you do this. I wasn't there and I still can't stop picturing it when I close my eyes, I see you stabbing yourself like the crazy man I know you aren't. You could have been alright, Josh. You could have asked for help. You could have talked to me, you know - I would have helped you through it, if you had just let me, if you had just let me

* * *
This is - incredibly - prosecutorial -

I don't care.

* Josh...

I just don't

I just don't

I just don't want to be alone tonight

* * *
Josh Lyman, you son of a bitch. I'm not planning your funeral. Do you get that? I'm not planning your funeral.
How could you. How could you do this. How could you do this to me.
Oh, for Christ's sake, of course I'm coming to the hospital, Joshua. As soon as I get a grip. Catch my breath. Get my coat. Get a grip, Donna...
Don't listen to Toby, okay? I was just angry. I'm furious. I'm seething.
I'm heartbroken.
How could you do this to me.
But let's be clear. I am not forgiving you for this.
How could you? How could you do this? How could you do this to yourself?
I am not planning your funeral.

* * *
* You could have talked to me, you know

"You honestly mean to tell me you never wondered if you were suicidal?"

* I would have helped you through it, if you had just let me

"I never wondered that."

* If you had just let me...

I knew it.


2002 Ashley Calvert