Title: For in the End
Category: General Josh Focused
Short Summary: Josh has a bit more excitement than is good for him. Set shortly after returning to work (post shooting).
Author's Name: N
Hi, this is my little West Wing Story, and I'm slightly embarrassed to say that my first foray into this fandom is an inauspicious piece of mostly plot-less Josh-Torture. But as you've noticed, this did not stop me from writing it. J Thanks for the much appreciated beta read by Kasey, which was another first for me - but it was surprisingly painless and I highly recommend it. And, of course, thanks to all the great West Wing fan fic writers out there that made me want to try it myself. Feedback is always greatly welcome at email@example.com
Hope you enjoy,
None of the characters in the following piece actually belong to me, and I'm not trying to make any money off this. Being that this is the internet, I feel fairly safe that I won't. J
For in the End
"You'll watch out for him, won't you?"
"Yeah of course."
"I mean it. He is all that I will have left"
"He's going to be great"
"Hey I promised already."
10:02 pm 2001
The White house
In the midst of the third summary that he needed to review, Josh felt his head beginning to nod. Propping his chin up against his hand, he glanced at his watch and stiffened in reaction. Hastily grabbing a sticky note, he jolted his last thoughts down and stuck it in the relevant place in the document for the next morning. He hadn't meant to stay so late.
"Josh?" Sam's voice from outside the office was inquisitive, and for a second Josh considered not answering in order to avoid a predictable conversation about his unhealthy and irresponsible work habits. Sam's head was already looking around the door way and Josh sighed, resigning himself to his fate.
"Just leaving Sam" He replied quietly.
Sam was not satisfied, as Josh could have predicted. "Where's Charlie?"
Sam's question was answered by the rapid fire sound of approaching hard soled shoes on marble floors. Charlie slid to a stop, retaining his balance in a graceful flurry of arms and legs.
"Sorry Sam" Charlie was apologizing before his feet had even stopped moving, "He needed me."
"It's fine" Josh tried to sound as upbeat as he could "I had stuff to finish up"
Charlie looked relieved, but Sam did not. The two of them had been taking turns driving Josh back and forth from work, thereby enabling them to better control Josh's work schedule, while giving Donna a break from her boss. That Josh wasn't allowed to drive on his meds was just a handy pretext for Sam and Charlie. It also allowed them to feel like they were doing something which in turn helped to slowly dissipate the feelings of guilt and helplessness that had surrounded all of them after the shooting.
"uh I'll just bring the car around front." Happy to get away from Sam's disapproving look, and aware that the president would probably be looking for him soon, Charlie took off again down the hall.
"Hold up" Sam called him back, his hand searching through his trousers' pockets for his keys "Take my car the weather -it started snowing again, and I'm not going anywhere soon." Charlie nodded and aptly caught the keys no argument from him. Sam had one of the nicest cars, only C.J's was better.
Turning back, Sam faced Josh again.
"I know Sam, I just lost track of the time" Josh tried again to head off the conversation.
Sam, seeing the regretful look on Josh's face, just nodded.
"Fine Josh it's ok"
With a faint echo of his old smile, Josh thanked Sam for skipping the lecture. He began collecting his stuff into his knapsack as Sam, still in the doorway, leaned against the frame and took the opportunity to study his long time friend.
Josh had been back approximately a week and a half and the hardest part so far was trying to define how exactly he had changed, so that everyone else could start figuring out how they were suppose to respond. Fundamentally it was still Josh. The same verbal bantering back and forth with C.J., the same intelligent brown eyes that furrowed in concern when something was going on that he didn't approve of, even the same slightly out of control wavy hair that was Josh. But too much was gone to believe that nothing had changed. The cocky step and the determined pace had been replaced by a slower shuffle, that when he was tired, favored his right side no matter how he sought to hide it. Josh's patience had never been one of his assets, but since he had been back, it was almost non-existent. He got upset easily, draining everyone's energy levels, although Sam was sure the person they exhausted the most was Josh himself - making him even more impossible to deal with. Even Donna's miraculous patience had been spread thin a few times.
Josh was tired now. His movements slow and deliberate as he placed things into his knapsack. But it wasn't until he reached for his coat that he visibly winced and Sam left his place in the door way to help him with it.
"Sam." Josh voice was tight with barely contained frustration, and layered with exhaustion.
"Just- just let me help" Josh stood still while Sam helped him with the dark trench coat before following him out, shouldering Josh's red knapsack. This exchange and ritual happened multiple times a day over a wide variety of daily tasks that Josh still had problems with, problems that he would rather pretend didn't exist.
They were silent walking out, Sam trying to walk as slowly as he could without appearing that he was going out of his way. Nevertheless he could tell that Josh was exerting himself to keep up, pissing him off. Why did Josh have to be so god damn stubborn? It's not like he wouldn't slow down if Josh asked him to. Why couldn't he just ask for help? A small, malicious piece of him made him speed up just a tiny bit, forcing Josh to keep pace or admit that he needed to go slower. Josh's slight limp became more pronounced, but his chin came up, and he sped up to match. Aware that this wasn't a good idea but suddenly annoyed enough to push it, Sam lengthened his stride even further while beside him, Josh bobbled but kept up, trying now to disguise both the limp and the fact that he was starting to breathe hard in effort. With an angry glare, Sam picked up the pace once more, briskly marching down the halls. Unbelievably, Josh was still beside him but now they were there, at the front doors, and they had to stop. Sam glanced at Josh's face, a small part out of spite, as if to ask if it was worth it, but the expression on Josh's face rid him instantly of any anger.
His friend was standing still, slightly hunched over as he wrestled to get back his breath, his mouth open and gasping, his face looking even paler then it had before. And standing there, horribly conscious of how little effort his silly game had cost him Sam felt like nothing except an overgrown bully.
"Charlie's here" He finally said lamely.
Josh nodded, but didn't move, and Sam felt even worse. Josh finally looked up at him, and tried to give Sam a smile. "I'm sorry Sam I..." his voice trailed off and he tried again "It's ..it's ...nevermind." He finally gave up.
Sam tried too "" Hey - it's just temporary right?"
And Josh just sort of kept smiling sadly at Sam. "Yeah right."
There was a silence then Josh nodded to the black BMW idling outside "Charlie needs to get back."
"Yeah see you tomorrow."
Sam watched as Josh slowly made his way to the car, noticing that the limp was more pronounced then it had been leaving the office just a few minutes ago, and even though he hadn't thought it possible he managed to feel even worse.
Josh relaxed back into the bucket leather seats heated, as all good cars were these days. The warmth felt good, seeping deep into his worn bones. Too tired to care or to deal with trying to do up the seatbelt both in getting it across his body, and keeping it from touching his chest, he just let himself sink even deeper into the leather. Meanwhile Charlie was flipping through Sam's pre-programmed radio stations in an unsatisfied manner. Finally settling on NPR, Charlie eased the car into first, and, taking it slow to see how it handled on the fresh snow, left the parking lot.
Josh didn't live far, 20 minutes in bad traffic, 10 minutes if it was good. Tonight there was almost no one on the roads the streets quiet from cars and the newly fallen snow swallowing any other late night city sounds.
Charlie was generally a good driver, safe, cautious, focusing on the conditions although once gaining confidence in Sam's car, maybe speeding a bit in concern that the president would be expecting him. Josh, his shoulder already slumping against the window, was just exhausted. Plus he was 2 hours late for his pain meds, part of what had been making him extra cranky with Sam. He had to make sure he planned better next time - another adjustment in his life that he didn't want to get used to.
Each lost in their own thoughts - neither of them saw the wildly out of control black car approaching the intersection from the left side. But 21 year old reflexives are marvelous things, and the handling on the BMW was superb as Charlie saw the car, grasped the situation and immediately wrenched the steering wheel to the right while hitting the acceleration. In the blur that followed, he saw a panicked glimpse of the face of the other driver before it too was gone. With the tires of both cars screaming in protest, Charlie, feeling the car beginning to careen out of control, wrestled the car back to the left, trying to keep it on the road. Unfortunately he also hit the breaks in his panic, causing the rear end to spin out the car did a quick 540, snapping Charlie around with it, and then stalled.
"You're ok You're ok You're. O. K." Charlie reiterated to himself as he tried to force his hands to relax and let go of the steering wheel. "It's over." With an effort he managed to pull his hands off the leather wheel and remove his eyes from the road. His first glimpse was to Josh, who was actually in a very similar position as he had last seen him, slouching in the seat against the window, looking fast asleep. Charlie took another deep breath. "didn't hit anything - Car seems to be ok" but he couldn't bring himself to try to start it. He looked around for the other car, but it was gone. He was just beginning to feel a small bit of relief when he realized that Josh still hadn't moved and that was strange considering they had spun in circles, while going from 50 mph to zero in something like 3 seconds.
"Josh?" Gently, well aware of the mess of scars that criss-crossed the older man's chest, Charlie squeezed his arm. "Josh" There were a few interminable seconds before Josh shuddered slightly, and turned to look at Charlie.
"Hey are you ok?"
Josh just blinked at him. He felt anything but ok.
"What happened ?" he finally managed.
"Car accident" Charlie explained briefly, glad that Josh appeared ok. "Someone cut us off and almost hit us. But we did good." Charlie looked at Josh in concern "Are you sure you're ok? You sound... different"
Josh nodded, grimacing at the flares of pain that small action sent up all over his body. "I'm over 2 hours late for my pain meds. That's all."
"Oh" Charlie searched his memory, he had seen Josh's pain meds and had been suitably impressed by the strength of them.
"Oh" He said again, this time in sympathy.
"Yeah" Josh said in agreement, eyes already closing again.
Charlie took another deep breath, put the car in neutral, and started it up again. Sam's engine leapt into life immediately, and the confident sound was reassuring, he could do this. He'd call Sam soon, but first thing was to get Josh home. He put the car in gear, smiling in relief at their escape.
"YOU IN THE CAR- TURN OFF YOUR ENGINE AND EXIT THE VEHICLE WITH YOUR HANDS ABOVE YOUR HEAD"
It was at that moment that Charlie realized that there were flashing lights all around him. His smile faded.
The Oval Office
"Charlie back yet?" Jed Bartlet looked across the scattered papers on his desk and impatiently up at his chief of staff.
"No sir" Leo replied, sorting through his own set of files.
"Cause he is the only one around here other then me who appreciates the true beauty of the Acropolis what those Greeks did with geometry and marble isn't the right Sam?"
"Yessir" Sam replied dutifully, but not looking up from the draft of the president's speech they were reviewing.
"Should be back soon sir" Leo tried helpfully. "Now can you please finish reviewing the notes?"
"Only Charlie" The president muttered again. "Not like the Romans"
"No Sir" A frown was creasing Sam's forehead as he started chewing on his pen, frustrated by a particularly unwieldy sentence.
Jed looked up at Sam's remark, taking it for interest in the contrasting nature of the Roman and Greek cultures. Whatever he was going to say was cut off by the insistent ringing of a cell phone, saving his two staffers from a no doubt accurate but tedious lecture. Both Leo and Sam started instantly searching through all their pockets. "They make these things too good damn small" Leo grumbled "it could be anywhere." Sam eventually fished an object out of his coat pocket that was approximately the dimensions of a cigarette lighter and flipped it open tripling its size.
"Sam Seaborne here...Charlie?....."
Leo and the president looked up as the tone of Sam's voice changed and he abruptly straightened and began pacing.
"They what?.... You're where?... Ok .. no... No. Don't worry about the car where's Josh?"
Silence again as Sam continued to listen intently.
"no I didn't know. Shit......Yeah he's right here, I'll tell him. Listen you ok?... uh huh.... Yeah ..I'll be right there. Which one again?" Sam scribbled something down over his speech notes. "Don't worry Charlie, we'll take of this"
Sam flipped the phone shut, and turned to Leo and the President.
"That was Charlie - He and Josh have just been arrested for reckless driving and grand theft auto."
This announcement was greeted by silence for approximately a second before Leo started bellowing.
"What the hell has he done this time?"
"I'm sure there is a reasonable explanation for this." Sam tried.
"Leo" President looked over his glasses "Is your deputy corrupting my aide?"
Leo threw up his hands in a gesture of surrender in the face of this new situation "ah shit where are they being held?"
"Uh" Sam checked his notes "85th precinct"
Sam shrugged "Probably not long if they don't"
"Well let's go Sir, can I trust you to figure out the notes on the international treaty for the meeting tomorrow by the time I get back?"
Jed just waved his hand "Go bail them out My anticipation of hearing the explanation for this will keep me going."
Leo and Sam's ride over to the 85th precinct in Leo's car was surprisingly quiet. Charlie hadn't said much on the phone. Just that they had been arrested, but not charged yet. The whole thing sounded nightmarishly ridiculous. Sam was spending most of his time on the phone to the various other members of the senior staff trying to see if Josh had called any of them with his one phone call.
C.J. hadn't heard anything but was getting out of bed and meeting them down at the station in an effort to try to control the press when this one hit. Having two white house staffers being arrested was news worthy alone, but since the shooting, Josh's fan club had increased ten fold and what he did, and how he did it, had somehow become worthy of national coverage. The press was going to go crazy with this story. At least, she reflected, so far there were no drugs or prostitutes involved.
"And Josh?" Leo asked Sam again when he had hung up with his last call. "has anyone heard from Josh?"
Sam shook his head, "No Charlie said that they were put in separate cars, and I've checked around but no one else has heard from him."
"But they are both fine right?"
"Charlie said that they were in a small car accident but that they were both fine they didn't actually hit anything."
Leo's face relaxed slightly.
"There is one more thing" he said hesitantly, not wanting to repeat what Charlie told him to his already concerned boss, but he also knew how angry Leo would be if he found out later that he wasn't kept informed of every detail. "It's not a big thing just that Josh missed his meds tonight. He left them at home because he was planning on being back in time."
Leo frowned "how long has it been?"
"almost 4 hours now."
"ah shit" he said again, this time softly.
Leo walked in the precinct on a mission the 30 minutes spent worrying in the car was enough to get him worked up in the true McGarry fashion. He went straight to the counter and started hollaring indiscriminately at the two women working the desk.
"My name is Leo McGarry, I am the President of the United States' Chief of Staff, and you picked up two of my employees tonight. Charles Young and Joshua Lyman. I want to see them right now, I also I want to see whoever is in charge right now, and I want to know exactly why they were picked up and why they are continuing to be detained. Right now. Now are you the people who are going to make this happen?"
It had taken Margaret years before she could effectively deal with Leo. These poor women didn't have a chance. "Yes-s sir."
The relief in Charlie's voice was overwhelming, and Leo couldn't help but smile as he caught sight of the young man.
"You doing ok Kid?
"I will be once you get me out of here" Charlie looked nervously around at the other occupants of the large but not large enough holding cell, before turning back to focus on Leo with a sudden look of concern. "You are here to get me out right?"
"Sam's sorting out the details but it looks like you are going to be free, as soon as he agrees that he allowed you to drive his car."
"Is this what started all this?"
Leo shook his head. "The other car the one that cut you off that's the one that was stolen. The cops saw you guys, and made an unfortunate ...although" here Leo paused before grudgingly admitting "honest mistake. It didn't help that the car wasn't registered to either of you."
"But I'm clear to go?"
A smile lit up Charlie's face. "So is Josh already out yet?"
"Sam's still working on that one."
By the time Leo and Charlie made it back to the front room, C.J. had arrived, and had joined Sam at the counter where he was arguing with the officer in charge.
"What do you mean you don't know? We are talking about the deputy chief of staff, shot three months ago, in a car accident tonight, was arrested by one of your officers, and you're telling me you don't know where he went? Where are the officers he was with? Do you understand that this is rapidly becoming a matter of national security?"
"Yes Mr. Seaborne, I do understand, and you are not listening to what I'm telling you."
"BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT TELLING ME WHERE HE IS"
Sam slammed his hand down on the desk and before turning away. The officer in charge turned to C.J.
"What I'm trying to tell you is that the officers never brought him here. They searched him in the car on the way back, and they found his White House Identification, recognized him, apologized and let him go."
C.J. looked at Sam, who was already calling out on his cell phone. "He's not picking up at home and his cell and pager are in his knapsack in my car."
She turned back to the person at the counter "We are going to need to talk to those officers immediately."
C.J. pulled Sam back towards Leo and Charlie, letting the officers work. She was just as upset as Leo and Sam, but screaming at people trying to do their job rarely helped.
"This doesn't make any sense, why wouldn't Josh get Charlie out too? It doesn't seem like Josh." Sam was playing it over and over again trying to make it make sense. "Where the hell is he?"
Leo frowned "If he hasn't had his pain meds for 5 hours, I guarantee you he will be looking for it. Get someone to actually check his house, he could be passed out, and not hearing the phone. Next try any of the hospitals in case something else happened to him, or he tried to get the meds there although I can't see him going back."
Sam was already back on his cell phone "Donna's going to stake out his house."
Leo's phone went off next... he squinted at it, checking the caller id. "It's the president." He ran his hand over his face. "He is not going to like this - Hullo Sir...."
Somewhere in Washington D.C.
Josh blinked, but it didn't help anymore then it had last time.
He was tired, he hurt all over, and he appeared to be sitting in the snow. He tried to remember how he had ended up here but couldn't seem to put it together.
With effort he slowly made it to his feet, trying to get his bearings. Had be been drinking? He felt like he had been drinking. But where was everyone? And why then was he so thirsty? Phone, bathroom, he needed to find somewhere to call. But who was he trying to call? He searched his mind but couldn't remember that either.
He looked up and down the street, wondering what on earth was wrong with all the lights on the street he must be drunk. He finally made out a tavern sign miraculously close by, and, with no small amount of difficulty began walking towards it.
"Jesus Buddy you look like a wreck."
Josh half turned, trying to focus on the speaker behind the bar. Young man, dark hair, reminded him of someone who he liked. He smiled vaguely.
Josh just nodded.
"Well you aren't alone in that tonight- can I get you one to relax with while you wait?"
Josh finally spoke.
"Yeah thanks Sam"
"Names Stuart actually, but I'll go by whatever you want, Sam, Woody, Coach, I'll answer to it all." He gave his gentle smile again, and Josh suddenly felt safe here not alone.
Back at the white house C.J. was racking her brains trying to understand what the next course of action should be. Josh was a well enough known face that if they announced that he was missing to the public, it probably would be only a matter of time before someone who had seen him called in. But Josh didn't need anymore publicity; Donna was still answering get well cards from the shooting. Besides of which he hadn't really been missing for a long time.
Her phone disturbed her thoughts.
She glanced over at it not recognizing the caller id.
"C.J. Cregg here"
There was a lot of back ground noise, and C.J. had trouble hearing what was going on.
"Hello? She was about to hang up when she heard her name.
Her hand clenched the phone.
She quickly covered the phone and randomly yelled into the hall "JOSH IS ON THE PHONE"
"you're my first call. Right C.J.?"
"That's right Josh."
"oh kay cause I think I'm in trouble." She could barely hear him over the noise.
"Where are you?"
"Donna will be mad at me."
"No Josh No one is mad at you."
Sam, Leo, and Toby all appeared in her doorway. She hissed at them "It's Josh and I think he's drunk."
In a moment that would have been hilarious in different circumstances, the expressions on all three of their faces rapidly cycled through relief, astonishment, and then anger. Leo's in particular was a sight to behold.
She put him on speaker so Leo could speak. He controlled the anger in his voice admirably.
"Leo" Suddenly Josh sounded like he was going to cry. "Leo something's wrong I still hurt. I think I was shot"
Leo suddenly was no longer angry. He stepped closer to the phone, "What hurts Josh?"
The concern in his voice carried through the phone line and Josh answered.
"My front, my side, and my head. Everything."
"I'll get Dr. Bartlet" Toby volunteered and slipped out of the room.
"Josh, do you remember what happened tonight?"
There was a silence before the small, hesitant voice filtered through the room "I was shot."
Sam hit the mute button "He's not drunk" he said urgently " I know Josh drunk and this is not Josh drunk at least its something else as well I think he's delirious"
"It's probably a mixture of pills, booze and god knows what else." Leo said grimly before turning off the mute button. He still looked angry, but it was somehow different directed at the situation, not at Josh, and driven by concern.
"Where are you Josh? You need help, we can help you"
"Leo? Is that you?"
"yeah Josh its me now where are you?"
"Listen Leo, have you talked to my father lately? I can't seem to get a hold of him do know where he is?"
There was a silence; no one seemed to know what to say.
"No Josh" Leo cleared his throat, "I haven't talked to Noah in a while." Sitting next to the phone, C.J. could see Leo's hand pressing down on her oak desk as if trying to find something solid enough to hold him up.
At that moment the first lady walked into the room. "Toby briefed me - Do we know where he is yet?"
Sam shook his head, stepping towards her away from the phone. "He's delirious at the very best he has been drinking on top of medication, worse is that he's actually hurt. He says he's been shot, but I think he is just confused."
"Can we get him to go to a hospital?"
"I doubt it he won't go he's not really hearing what we are saying." He cocked his head towards the phone where Josh was again asking Leo if he had see his dad with the same naivety that he had asked it the first time.
"Here then?" Abby prompted, "Can we get him to come here?"
"We can try" Sam moved back over to the phone "Josh," he interrupted, saving Leo from having to answer the question again "can you get in a cab and get to the white house? We have a meeting. Very important"
"Sam? What are you doing there?" Josh sounded surprised, and Sam wondered where he thought he was calling.
"Uh .. hanging out" he said lamely "Listen, can you come to the White House?" Sam paused as he tried to find something compelling "There are Republicans coming."
There was only silence as Josh apparently digested this news.
"Josh the president needs us" Sam tried again
"That crazy old bat? Gage Whitney" He suddenly crackled. "Gage Witney is the president!"
Leo suddenly interrupted.
"Joshua," His voice sounded different, calmer with softer vowels then usual "Do you think you'll stop by today? I've been waiting for you to call"
There was a pause, and then an incredulous voice rang out over the phone, sounding all of about 10 years old. "DAD? DAD, Is that you?"
And somehow Leo kept his voice steady, "Of course it is Joshua who else would I be?"
"Oh Dad I've missed you I really need to talk to you"
"I know, but listen, I'm here at the white house, and can you come right now? I can't stay for very long, your mother needs me."
The excitement in Josh's voice was painful to hear. "Sure Dad, right now, I'll take a cab right now. Promise me you'll wait for me. Promise"
"I promise, now hurry."
And then there was a click as Josh hung up. Leo slowly turned around, and refusing to meet anyone's gaze, walked back to his office, looking exactly as old as he felt at that moment.
Sam looked around at the faces left.
"This had better work" he said, expressing everyone's fears for them.
"Leo!" Charlie, forgetting all decorum rushed into his office. "A cab just pulled up"
Leo looked up from the papers he hadn't been reading "That's my boy." He said softly, too quietly for anyone to catch, before standing up.
"Come-on Charlie, let's go."
Abby had Josh's head on her lap and was frowning at him while flashing a little pin prick of light at him.
"Pupils responding slowly and unevenly" Her fingers, lightly going over Josh's skull hesitated, then "contusion to the right temple probably from the car- and, oh dammit his clothes are soaked."
"Josh Josh wake up." There was no response. "Leo you try" she ordered, going back to her examination.
"Joshua" Leo said again, in his best imitation of Noah. "Joshua wake up"
This did it, Josh started mumbling. "Dad?" But there was no urgency in his voice. Just happiness. "Dad -I found you"
"Yes Joshua I'm here."
"Keep talking to him we need to get him inside." She nodded to Sam and Toby- who slowly started to get Josh out of the car and into the white house. "Take him to the largest bathroom it's in the second guest room on the left. Everyone else stays here too many people are not going to help him."
Leo started following her up the steps.
"That means you Leo- you are not in on this."
"Oh yes I am Abby that's Josh I'm in. And yes I know exactly what I am saying because I've been there, and Josh is not doing this without me. So while I appreciate the gesture, I absolutely am in."
Abby stared right back at him; then softened. "Sorry Leo, you're right come on it will help."
The bathroom, despite its size, was crowded, and Josh, slightly more awake then before was standing up right, although leaning heavily on Sam and Toby.
"Josh" Abby was still addressing him, even though he appeared incapable of focusing on anyone. "Josh can you tell me what you've had to drink?" There was no response just Josh twisting uneasily in Sam's grasp,"Wanna go home" he mumbled.
"JOSH" Abby tried again, catching his chin and forcing him to look at her "Did you take any pills this evening for the pain? For a headache? asprin, advil, any medications?"
But Josh's eyes were rolling back in his head, and as his knees buckled, Abby knew she had run out of time.
Grabbing something out of her black bag she held it up to Josh's nose. Some part of her noticed Leo wincing beside her in recognition, but she didn't turn her attention away from her patient as she maneuvered Josh's mouth open and spread something on his tongue.
Josh flinched, and then opened his eyes, becoming suddenly animated in his desperation to reach the toilet. Startled, both Sam and Toby let him go, and he half stumbled half fell towards the bowl. He vomited suddenly and violently, repeatedly emptying the contents of his stomach, gasping as the pain ripped unheeded through his chest again and again. Abby was beside him now, no longer yelling but whispering something in his ear that no one else could hear, while stroking his back with all the experience and compassion of one who had raised three children through all their nighttime illnesses.
Finally the horrible, heaving shudders started coming less and less frequently.
"Are you finished?" The first lady asked gently. And Josh nodded slightly, far beyond speech, eyes closed as he leaned back against her. With a cool damp wash cash she began wiping down his face and neck, pushing his sweat drenched hair back off his face.
Ignoring the hard floor beneath them, she pulled Josh even further back into an embrace, trying to calm the erratic breathing and to stop the frantic jerking of his chest as he struggled to catch his breath.
"We're so sorry Josh" was all she said "So sorry. For everything." She rocked him gently as he started to relax against her. "We are all so sorry."
And she held him, exactly as if he had been Liz, Ellie, or Zoey when they were small and sick and so afraid; while Josh, feeling safe and secure, and not alone, surrendered to the exhaustion and the pain and fell asleep.
George Washington Hospital
The first thing he was aware of was that he was lying on his back, and that there was something pressing against him, holding him in place. Struggling against a force he didn't understand he tried to open his eyes. But the effort was too much and instead he moaned softly, turning his head slightly, again he felt the strange feeling of something pressing this time on his face. He tried to turn his head the other way and when that didn't help; he raised a hand to wipe whatever it was away. Something warm but strong and firm stopped his arm. This time Josh did manage to open his eyes, trying to focus on the shape sitting right beside him, realizing in the process that it was talking to him.
"Hey Josh, it's ok to wake up."
He recognized the voice before the face, and tried to smile.
"Welcome back" Leo said softly.
Josh blinked a few more times before trying to use his voice "Hey Leo"
And Leo looked incredibly relieved; there had been a part of him petrified that Josh would wake up still expecting to see Noah, and that somehow he would have to explain that his father was really dead, and that it had only been him.
"what .. what happened?"
"You were in a car accident," Leo explained, still holding Josh's arm. "On the way home from work we think you hit your head... we don't really know what happened next, but you and Charlie got separated, we... we couldn't find you." Leo almost swallowed the last four words, suddenly dragged back to the night at Rosslyn. "Aah anyway eventually you called from some bar and we convinced you to get in a cab to come to the white house." Leo paused not sure how much Josh would want to know. "The first lady tried to take care of you, but you were in so much pain, that we took you to the hospital." After he and Sam had put Josh to bed, he hadn't settled crying out softly in his sleep from the pain, his chest inflamed and angry for what it had been through that night. But the first lady refused to give him any more medication unless he was in a hospital. It had been an easy decision to go. "And that's how you ended up here. Charlie is fine" he added hastily.
Through this Josh had been taking in more and more of his surroundings the morphine drip was back, as was the oxygen, and the millions of tubes that had been needed right after he had been shot.
"How bad am I?"
"Not that bad" Leo reassured him. He searched his mind for the doctor's words "Most of this is precautionary... your head seems to be ok - but you did reopen some of your chest, causing some damage, and the doctors are worried about some of the sounds in your lungs."
Josh just stared at the ceiling. "Fun."
"Could be worse Josh it almost was"
There was silence for a few moments, and then Josh looked at him. Saw how exhausted and worn Leo looked. He could imagine that everyone else looked as bad. He closed his eyes, trying to remember more.
"Hey Leo" he began softly
"I had a dream"
"Yeah" Leo looked a bit nervous.
"Yeah" Josh confirmed, "I dreamt that I had a chance to say good bye to my father. Cause you know I hadn't talked to him in a while when he died too busy with the primaries"
Leo didn't say anything, staring intently at Josh. Waiting.
"It was the best dream I've had in a while."
Leo managed a smile "that's good Josh" he said awkwardly, then "listen the others want to say hi, and I promised the president and Mrs. Bartlet that I'd call as soon as you were awake. Sam and Toby are out there, C.J had to go make a statement, since someone leaked the fit Sam threw at the police station when they couldn't find you, and, well you know Donna."
Josh smiled. "Thanks Leo" he said softly, already getting drowsy again. He struggled briefly against the traitorous pull of the drugs on his mind and body.
"yeah well, you know. Just get better we can't, I can't, none of us are capable of going through that for a third time. You really scared us Joshua."
Leo didn't know what made him use Josh's full name, and it wasn't clear that Josh caught it as his eyes were already closing again as he gave up the futile struggle and began sliding back into unconsciousness.
Softly, Leo laid Josh's arm back on the bed, and despite what he had just said, remained there for some time longer. Just sitting, and watching, and thinking. Knowing that he would never forget the way Josh had appeared cold, wet, exhausted and in pain, yet desperately looking for him because he thought he knew where his father was. Thought he was his father. He bowed his head.
"Please forgive me Noah He is yours I was just trying to watch out for him. The way I promised to."
"Do you know what your son did today?"
"Probably something stupid and potentially career ending?"
"You won't like it He joined Hoynes"
"You know - He just needs someone to help him figure things out."
Leo sighed "and that's me again why?"
But Noah just smiled "You know why old man"
"Yeah you've told me 'cause he's going to be great."
"That's my boy"
Well that's it. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it. Feedback, comments, suggestions will find willing eyes and ears at firstname.lastname@example.org