Happy Birthday Mr. Lyman, Part 3 of 4 By: Jenna
Still PG, Still General/J&D, and alas, Josh et al are still not mine. Hope you enjoy. Anything I failed to adequately address can always be covered in 'The Schedule', just let me know.
* * Saturday, September 23, 2000 * *
"Hey Josh. Where is everyone?" Communications Director Toby Ziegler said looking around expecting to see his co-workers as Josh let him in the apartment.
"CJ and Sam just made a run to the grocery store for beer and to pick up the pizza. Donna's in the kitchen, and my mom's taking the opportunity to spend the weekend with an old friend in Arlington. Come on in the kitchen," Josh lead the way and promptly snitched a celery stick out of Donna's hand as she was just about to artfully arrange it on a veggie tray.
"Hey Toby. Want a veggie?" She said holding out the tray.
"I'm from Brooklyn. I don't eat anything raw. The closest thing I eat to raw vegetables is sauerkraut."
"You're kidding!" Josh exclaimed in disbelief. "You don't eat veggies?"
"Since when did you become a health nut?" Toby responded without thought. He realized immediately what he'd said and one look at Donna's shocked expression and Josh's blank look made him aware they'd caught it too. He cleared his throat, grimaced, and rubbing his forehead mumbled, "Sorry."
"No. It's okay. You can mention it... I mean... we all know it happened. It' not like it should never be mentioned in front of me, or anything. Jeez, I'm not some basket case over it. I don't even remember it, you know. Don't sweat it."
"You sure? 'Cause I really want to nail those bastards. There's a lot more than Carl Leroy out there just waiting to remake America in their own twisted image. The President and Leo -- they won't listen to me anymore -- but, you're their golden boy-- they'd listen to you. We have a chance -- a once in a lifetime opportunity-- to strike a devastating blow to the hate groups in this country, Josh. We've got public opinion on our side. The President's rating's at 75%. We can do this Josh."
Josh watched in surprise as Toby got more and more zealous in his fervor to destroy the hate groups. He'd frequently seen Toby work up a head of steam over some issue or another, but this was just a little off -- a little too extreme. Here he was advocating stripping people's rights instead of defending them.
"Toby..." he gently said. "I can't use this as a personal crusade..."
"Sure you can, Josh. You just say the word and the President--"
"No... Toby... The President would never support legislation to roll back the Bill of Rights. Toby... This isn't-- This isn't like you..."
"I got shot at! The President was shot! You-- " his voice broke and he turned away squeezing the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger.
"Hey! We're back!" They heard CJ yell from the living room as she entered the apartment.
"The pizzaman is here! Come and get it while it's hot!" Sam added.
Josh cocked his head towards the living room but replied to Toby as if there had been no interruption. "Yeah. But it's still wrong. It's not -- it's not who we are..." he concluded quoting his mentor, Chief of Staff Leo McGarry.
CJ pushed open the swinging kitchen door and stuck her head in the door. The smile dropped from her face as she took in the tableau in front of her. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing" Toby responded turning back with a forced smile. "There's nothing wrong."
"Okay..." CJ decided not to press the issue. She'd find out later and would deal with it when Toby settled down. If he'd been haranguing Josh or upsetting him enough to cause any setback there'd be hell to pay. Judging from Donna's expression Toby might find himself banished from Josh's presence for yet another week. "The game's about to start." She motioned with her head that they should join her.
The friends quietly trooped into the living room where Sam was tuning in Josh's big-screen TV to watch the Olympic baseball game between Team USA and Cuba. Conversation slowly returned to everyday banalities and teasing as the pizza and beer were consumed. Donna allowed Josh two small sips of her beer figuring he'd metabolize that before his nightly regime of pills -- about half of what he'd started out taking. Still, she adamantly refused to allow him a third sip and he was relegated to Sprite for the rest of the evening. He groused about not even being allowed the caffeine in a Coke.
The game was meaningless, both teams were already set for the medal round, but it wasn't supposed to be a rout --the US had at least been expected to put up a good show. Down four-zip, the bench-clearing brawl in the fourth when the Cuban pitcher deliberately hit a US batter was the only interesting thing about the game. Josh, who had been nodding off before the brawl, was drifting again by the bottom of the fifth and sound asleep by the seventh inning. CJ asked if they should leave, but Donna assured them they should stay as she pulled the afghan off the back of the sofa, tossed it over Josh, and then pulled his feet into her lap so he was stretched out on the sofa. She casually draped her hands across his ankles and went back to pretending an interest in the game. He woke up later when Toby started yelling over a call he didn't like. Josh promptly denied he'd been asleep but didn't bother sitting back up. He was asleep again in five minutes. He woke up in time for the game to end, and sleepily helped tidy up the mess, and say goodnight to CJ and Toby.
Sam stayed a bit longer to make sure Josh didn't need him for anything and to confirm his plans for picking up Mary Lyman at her friend's house tomorrow afternoon and bringing her back to Josh's. Donna and Mary had decided that Donna would play it by ear on whether or not she should stay the night. Theoretically, Josh should be just fine by himself for the night, but they hadn't left him completely along at night since he 'd been shot. Donna finished up in the kitchen and joined Josh and Sam by the front door as they finalized plans for tomorrow. Josh looked to be about dead on his feet. He'd be asleep again before they got to their cars. She wasn't sure he'd even make it as far as his room. If he forgot to take his pills...
"Are you gonna be all right if I leave?" she asked.
"Donna... I'm fine. Go home." He yawned and swayed a bit, which Donna didn't find at all reassuring or supportive of Josh's argument that he could manage on his own.
"'Cause I can stay..."
"I don't need a babysitter. I'm a big boy. I can brush my teeth and everything."
"Well, okay..." she walked over and grabbed her purse and jacket. Putting her jacket on, she said, "Don't forget to take your meds. Maybe I should just--"
"Donna..." he whined. "I'm fine. I'll take the pills. Get some sleep." He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Donna's mouth fell open in shock. Sam was startled, and then he realized that Josh was half asleep and probably wasn't even aware of what he'd just done.
"uh... Josh... did you just kiss Donna?" he asked diplomatically.
"Huh... I'm sorry?" Josh blinked.
"You just kissed Donna. You never kiss Donna. I mean, you hug her on her birthday or Christmas maybe, but you don't--"
"What? Of course I didn't kiss Donna. She's my assistant!"
"uh... Point of fact -- you just did."
"Well... uh... so what if I did. She's my assistant. People kiss their assistants all the time. To... you know... show their appreciation... for everything they've done... "
"Josh," He took Josh by the shoulders and turned him around and gave him a slight push in the direction of the bedroom. "Go get ready for bed." He turned back to Donna. "I'll just make sure Josh gets his meds and goes to bed. He seems a little confused. We'll see you tomorrow."
Donna put her hand to her cheek and said "Yeah..." then turned and crashed into the closed door. Smiling, Sam gently pulled her away, opened the door, and then turned her towards the open door.
"Donna, you have to move now. Do you remember where your car is?"
"Oh my God! He--"
* * *
As expected, Josh and Donna both pooh-poohed the notion that Josh kissing her on the cheek, however close to her mouth it might have been, was anything other than a simple reflection of his friendship and appreciation. To Sam and Mary's endless amusement, Josh insisted that there was nothing at all revealing in the gesture. Everyone knew that he had both friendship and appreciation for Donna. Even more so since he had become so dependent on her help since the shooting. The end result was that CJ also earned a quick, stilted kiss on the cheek for her friendship and help. Sam and Toby threatened him with bodily harm if he tried to kiss them. Toby settled for a handshake and Sam staved off any awkwardness to the situation by pulling Josh into a bear hug -- albeit a gentle one so as not to hurt his chest.
Leo heard that Josh was making deliberate attempts to show his affection for his support team by doling out hugs and kisses. He debated whether to take advantage of the opportunity and give Josh the hug that he'd evidently wanted before the shooting. A gesture of affection that Leo wished he'd made ever since the devastating moment he saw his protégé wheeled into George Washington with his lifeblood seeping away. Leo was torn between staying away out of embarrassment over the hokeness of showing his affection for Josh and the desire to be forced to show that affection under the pretext that it was Josh's doing. Actually coming out and expressing his affection for Josh was too difficult. In the end, he went to visit, but Josh, afraid of Leo laughing at him a second time did not attempt to hug Leo, and Leo did not reach out.
* * Tuesday October 3, 2000
Donna Moss and Mary Lyman sat at the kitchen table and chatted over a pot of hot tea while waiting keeping an eye on the roast in the oven and an ear out for screams from the living room. Josh was in the process of being tortured -- as he put it -- by the physical therapist whose latest abuse involved rebuilding Josh's upper body strength by having him lift and hold weights with his arms out parallel to the floor. Since this was a new set of exercises, Sam was also present learning how many of each exercise and how long to have Josh hold the position for the days that he worked with Josh instead.
The women knew that Josh thought it bad enough that he had to have Sam there to witness his humiliation, he sure didn't want his mother and Donna wandering through the room. That would have demoralized him completely. As had been their habit since the beginning of his physical therapy, they stayed out of sight whenever he was learning new exercises. It wasn't a problem to wander through after the exercises were 'cake' to Josh and he could brag about how well he was doing, but they let him retain his dignity when he was struggling. If Josh realized that the paper-thin walls allowed them to perfectly hear his groans, occasional cries of pain, and frequent protests over the impossibility of his doing the difficult exercises, neither he nor they ever mentioned it.
Sam, like the therapist, turned a deaf ear to Josh's complaints and just told him, "Good... Now do it again."
Josh's weights sat in the corner, waiting for him to have the strength to use them again. When dressed in his business suit, Josh looked the typical lazy, out of shape, pasty-faced backroom politician. He used that deception to lull the opposition into a false sense of security. They quickly learned why he was the pit bull of the Bartlet administration. Anyone who saw him jogging, playing basketball, or working off some excess energy in the White House gym could easily tell he was neither pudgy nor lazy. But now the muscles were soft and the man who could bench-press 300 pounds without batting an eye was left shaking when he had to hold 10-pound dumbbells out to his side for 20 seconds at a time.
Sam held Josh's knees in place while the therapist coached him to do sit-ups. He could barely do five before falling back to the carpet, trembling from exhaustion, with beads of sweat lining his upper lip. The session ended late and the therapist had to leave without giving Josh his usual massage. Sam gave Josh a hand and pulled him to his feet as the therapist departed.
"You okay? Sam asked looking at his exhausted friend. "You want to take a shower? I'll--" he shrugged towards the kitchen where he knew that Donna and Mary were preparing dinner.
"Yeah. A hot shower'd feel good. I won't be long." Josh said straightening his posture and trying valiantly to walk out of the room as if he wasn't sore and aching over every inch of his body.
Sam watched after his friend knowing that there was nothing he could do to magically return Josh to the way he was before the shooting. All any of them could do now was to encourage him and push him until he got past the pain and was able to return to a state approximating his old self. The prospect that Josh would ever be able to bench press 300 pounds again wasn't good, but that was supremely unimportant when compared to the fact that Josh could stand, and walk, and think at all.
They'd been scared when Dr. Bartlet had told them that the oxygen had been cut off to his brain... They'd all thought he was fine. He'd been mumbling something about Nashua, so surely his brain hadn't been without oxygen for too long... Sam'd been back at the hospital Tuesday afternoon when the anesthesiologist had come in into the waiting room to let them know that Josh should be waking up soon and asked who's voices he'd most likely respond to out of deep sleep. There was no question that he'd feel he had to respond if it were the President or Leo. Since the President had gotten out of his own sickbed to walk down just to see Josh for a few minutes in the operating room, and had specifically stated that he wanted to see Josh again as soon as he woke up, it was a given that he would oblige. Leo'd gone along, gruffly pretending that he wasn't in the least bit worried about Josh.
They'd all let out a collective sigh when the President had told them Josh had asked, "What's next?" They laughed for the first time in 16 hours and 37 minutes at that, and said 'wasn't that typical of Josh. Having to make a smart-ass clever remark even coming out of recovery.' Josh had been wheeled to ICU a few minutes later, and they'd gotten a glimpse of his pale features as the orderlies whisked the gurney into the elevator. Sam barely recognized Josh as he passed. He thought it was a stranger being moved from the Recovery Room. The Josh he knew was life itself. This was some imitation of Josh lacking the vibrant charisma that filled any room with his presence.
Sam shook himself out of his reverie and went into the kitchen to tell Mary and Donna that Josh was taking a quick shower before dinner.
"Hey, Sam. How'd it go?" Donna asked as he came into the kitchen.
"Difficult, Sam replied tersely.
"Josh doesn't like--"
"No, I don't mean... I don't mean that. I mean, Josh is, but he's entitled to that. I mean it really was difficult for him." Sam paused and looked over at Mary preparing to put some brown-n-serve rolls in the oven. "He's taking a shower now. It'll be a few minutes yet."
"Sam?" Donna asked softly, noticing that Sam seemed less in control than usual.
"Sam. Is everything all right at work?" Mary asked, setting the pan of rolls back on the counter to wait for Josh.
Sam sighed and looked away. "It's just... Today I had to go to the Hill and meet with some Congressional aides on some pork-barrel project their guys wanted funded. After the meeting, I walked up on two of them joking about the shooting. Saying it was too bad the West Virginia White Pride were such bad shots, and you'd expect Hillbillies to be able to shoot better than that."
"Oh God. Sam." Donna said shocked that anyone in the Bartlet administration had heard something so crass.
"I lost it. I told them their bosses would not be getting any support from us and they'd hear why. I told them they'd better polish up their resumes and prepare to move, 'cause they were through in Washington. I was so angry... I wanted to-- I came this close" he held his fingers a half-inch apart, "to slamming this one ass-- jerk... up against the wall when he tried to defend their laughter saying 'It's not like Lyman died, or anything.' 'Or anything'... Can you believe that?"
"Sam..." Mary walked over and took Sam's arm, and led him to the kitchen table to sit down.
"Like it's nothing. Like Josh just walked away--" Sam struggled to find words and control his emotions. "It's just that--"
"They don't have to see it. The daily struggle." Mary supplied rubbing his shoulder in comfort.
Donna sat down and put a hand over Sam's hand. "Sometimes I wish CJ would just come out and tell the truth instead of just saying, 'And Joshua Lyman continues to recover nicely at home.' It seems so... inadequate."
"Yeah, but saying 'Josh Lyman continues to struggle to even tie his--" Sam broke off and looked away, blinking rapidly. Donna squeezed his hand. "I've gotta go--" Sam said jumping up from the table. He had to leave before he embarrassed himself by breaking down like a little kid. "Tell Josh something came up and I had to leave. Don't tell him... I don't want him to..."
"Sam..." Donna began then trailed off not knowing what to say to ease Sam's distress.
"Sam," Mary Lyman grasped his arm as he stood by the kitchen door. "When Noah was taking the chemo, he used to get so sick. He wondered why go through it? Why fight? Why not give up? Then Josh would call -- and he'd be so excited about the campaign and how Bartlet was catching up with Hoynes -- that Noah would get excited too. He tried so hard to hold on. Even when it became obvious that the cancer had spread... that there was no hope... he wanted to live to see his son 'win' the election." She smiled slightly and shook her head at the memory. "Josh will get through this. He has his father's will and he's not fighting a battle he can't possibly win. In some ways, I think it may be more difficult for us because there's so little we can do to help him. But you, and Donna, all of you, have been there for him. Giving him strength. It's okay to be angry. We're all angry. I..." She shook her head again, gathering her thoughts. "I never used to understand the desire for retribution -- the cycle of vengeance. I understand it now. I never thought I was capable of such hate..." she shook her head. "But, there's just nothing -- no vengeance -- that would ever be adequate reparation for what's happened to Josh any more than for the Holocaust, or the Oklahoma City bombing, or any other atrocity. We win by surviving this and not becoming monsters ourselves." She ran her hand up and down Sam's arm in comfort. "Josh is alive. We won this one. Come on, Sam. He'll be out in a minute. Stay for dinner."
* * *
Dinner was rather somber with Sam poking at his food and Josh grimacing every time he lifted his fork to his mouth. Donna and Mary tried to keep up a cheerful conversation about Donna's day at the office and Mary's eminent plans to abandon Josh to Donna's care and return to her own home in Hartford. Josh loved his mother dearly, and she loved him, but the constant companionship was starting to wear thin. Mary thought that was a good sign. It meant Josh was ready -- if not necessarily well enough -- to be back on his own.
"I talked to Mrs. Landingham today," Mary said.
"Mrs. Landingham called?" Josh asked. Sam quit poking at his food and looked up in interest as to why the President's secretary had called Mrs. Lyman.
"Yes. Is that so strange?"
"That she would call? No. I mean... It's just -- I didn't know you knew her," Josh answered.
"We talked a good bit at the hospital that first week when the President was there."
"She's stopping by tomorrow." Mary returned the conversation to her purpose. "She suggested a woman she knows through her church who cleans houses and what not. Someone who could look after you when I leave."
"I don't need anyone to look after me. I'm perfectly capable..."
"Joshua Lyman, you are not going to impose on Donna to change your sheets and clean your toilet. Do you hear me?" Mary asked firmly.
"No... I..." He looked at Donna and Sam for help. "I can do those things. And if I can get the doctor to agree to let me leave the house--"
"No!" was the unanimous shout from all three of his dinner companions.
"Don't even think about going outside, Josh" Donna asserted.
"Leo'd kill you. And if he didn't the President would send Ron Butterfield to personally do it for him." Sam stated in a perfectly serious tone.
"Josh, the flu's going around." Mary reminded him.
"Donna wouldn't let CJ in the same room with me this morning after she sneezed." Sam nodded, verifying the seriousness of the concern. "And the President made her sit off in the corner by herself at the staff meeting."
"Seriously? The President made--"
"Josh, the President doesn't take your health lightly. You are not allowed to have any more relapses. If CJ or any of us give you the flu, or so much as a sniffle, he's promised we'd be spending the winter as his liaison in Siberia." Sam explained wide-eyed. He wasn't totally sure the President could do that, but that Southern California boy wasn't going to risk finding out.
"Sam, the President wouldn't really send you to Siberia. He can't do that." Josh replied skeptically.
"He's the President, Josh. He can do pretty much whatever he wants."
"Yeah but --Siberia?"
"That's what Toby said, and the next thing we knew he was packing his bags for Kansas City. Or was it Carson City?
"The one with the casinos or the one with the cows?
"Josh," Donna joined in exasperated. "I'm pretty sure that neither of them have cows and both of them have casinos.
"Kansas City has cows. I distinctly remember cows. Granted they were bronze or something..."
"Those were bulls, Josh."
"Cows, bulls, what's the difference?"
"Joshua, I distinctly remember telling you the difference when you were seven," Mary smirked.
"I mean... I know the difference. I just meant they're all generic cows --cattle-- bovines or something..."
"Anyway," Mary returned to the subject, "you're still not allowed out of the house --except to go to the doctor, which reminds me you have an appointment next week. And even if you were allowed out and about you certainly don't have the strength to be lugging laundry and groceries up the stairs or cleaning house -- not that I think you ever did much of that before, mind you. You needed someone to clean for you before all this. You doubly need someone now.
"I can continue dropping the laundry off," Donna offered. "And, since I don't have to be at the office all hours anymore, I can pick up groceries so we can cook here. But I draw the line at cleaning your house. I have little enough time to clean my own apartment."
"No, of course not." Josh went into full guilt mode. "Donna I didn't mean to... I'm sorry... I shouldn't have imposed--"
"Josh. It's not an imposition. Sam and I, all of us, know you'd be there helping us if the situation were reversed."
"I would?" He asked uncertainly.
"Yes. You would. You're not nearly as much... you know... you as you think you are." Donna explained sincerely.
"Donna... You know, that made absolutely no sense whatsoever," Josh said with a gentle smile and showing a trace of the infamous Lyman dimples --the same dimples that had forever won his mother's heart for both the father and the son.
"It made sense to me." Sam blinked innocently.
Mary smiled. At least the kids were talking now. She'd talk to Delores Landingham tomorrow and arrange to meet the woman that her church was sponsoring to see whether she could be trusted to manage one very willful invalid.
* * * See Part 4