Title: Here Again
Author: Willow
Summary:
The event was going well and Josh felt fine, but they still had to leave.
Spoilers/Episode: Anything up to season 4, specifically ITSOTG & Noel.
Characters: Ensemble
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: They all belong to Aaron Sorkin, NBC, John Wells and many others who aren't me.


Part III

Saturday Evening

Donna stood and watched the speech on a monitor, but she kept glancing across the room at Josh, although she didn't go over. He'd already told her twice to leave him alone, and she didn't want to annoy him too much.

"Donna," CJ said, walking up behind her. "Is Josh okay?"

Donna glanced at her boss. She doubted whether there was anyone she knew better than she knew Josh. She could tell by his stance that he was nervous, he was dreading leaving this building tonight. Not because they might get shot at again, he didn't think that was going to happen. He was scared because he remembered what happened last time he was here. He was scared of the memories that tonight was going to resurrect. He was scared of the nightmares that he knew he was going to have tonight. But most of all, he was terrified that he was going to have an episode. She had already called Stanley Keyworth and warned him. She had tried to get Josh to speak to him before they went, but he'd refused.

"Donna?" CJ prompted.

Donna carried on watching Josh. "He doesn't want to be here," she said.

"He's not the only one," CJ confided.

"CJ," Carol beckons from across the room.

"See you later," CJ said and walked away.

Donna watched the speech for a few minutes until Josh walked over to her. "Hey," he smiled, "where've you been hiding?"

"You told me to leave you alone."

"Yeah I know, I didn't mean it."

"Why the hell are we here?" she asked.

"The President's giving a speech," Josh smiled slightly.

"Why?"

"Do you know how it would have looked if he'd turned this down?"

"Sensible," Donna replied.

"Weak," Josh corrected her.

"We won the election Josh, we haven't got anything else to run for."

"There's always something to run for. Votes, bills, the midterms."

"Joshua," CJ called. "A word."

"Oh God," he muttered. "What have I done?" he asked and walked away with CJ.

Donna suddenly turned and stared at the monitor, she couldn't believe what she'd just heard the President say. Did he really just talk about the last time they were here? She saw Toby and Will standing a few feet away and walked over.

"Donna," Toby muttered nervously.

"What was that?" Donna asked angrily.

"What?" Toby asked.

"He made a joke about August 2000, how the hell..... who wrote that?"

"Me," Will admitted reluctantly.

"You think it was funny?" Donna shouted at Will.

Toby intervened on Will's behalf. "It wasn't a joke, it was a light hearted reference," he said. "We couldn't come here again without mentioning the shooting, Donna."

"We shouldn't be here at all," Donna said.

"I know that," Toby agreed.

"Who's decision was it?" she asked.

Toby looked down at his shoes, not sure how to answer that. He didn't want Donna attacking anyone over this, and he remembered, 'the rules,' far too vividly to forget how far she'd go to protect Josh. The fact that this was partly Josh's decision wouldn't make Donna any less angry. "It was a joint decision."

Donna glared at Toby for a moment longer, before glancing across at Josh again. "He didn't want me here tonight," she confided, her tone suddenly hurt.

"I know," Toby sighed.

"Why?" she asked.

"You'd have to ask him," Toby told her.

Will watched them and knew that this was a part of their lives that he could never fully understand. Obviously, he knew that Josh was critically wounded, he knew he had a long and no doubt difficult recovery. But he had no idea how the rest of them were affected.

Across the room Josh was suppose to be talking to CJ, but he was watching Donna. She appeared to be telling Toby and Will off, and he had a good idea why.

"Josh, are you listening?" CJ asked in an annoyed voice.

"Not really, CJ," he sighed.

"Josh?" CJ was suddenly concerned.

"Does it matter? I mean if Senator Hughes goes on TV tonight and does his little act, do you really think it's going to upstage us. Have you seen how many news crews are outside? This is getting world coverage. No one's going to care about John Hughes."

"Are you alright," CJ had to ask.

"Ask me that again in an hour," Josh replied.


As the President left the stage, the audience were still on their feet, applauding and cheering. CJ looked at Will and smiled. "Stopped throwing up yet?"

"Yes," Will replied.

"We're leaving," Leo told them.

'Great,' Josh thought and willed himself to follow them.

"It was a good speech," CJ said.

"Thanks," Will smiled.

"You going to come for drink after?" CJ asked Will.

"Yeah, thanks," he replied. "Where are we going?"

CJ followed Will into the lobby. "We'll probably start at......."

Josh tried to listen to them, but he couldn't concentrate on CJ's voice any longer. There were secret service agents all around them. To Josh it seemed that there were twice as many as normal. All he wanted to do was run. There was sick feeling in his stomach and he wasn't convinced that his legs were going to be able to support him much longer. He could hear sirens, and while he was sure they must be outside the building, they could be in his head.
He could see the door now, he could see the crowd outside. He could hear Donna talking to him, but he had no idea what she was saying. He just wanted to run. But Donna was on one side of him, CJ on the other. In front there was Toby and Leo and behind him was Will. All Josh wanted to do though, was run.

The President and Charlie and, what seemed like, two dozen secret service agents, were outside and the noise from the crowd had increased tenfold. Now it was their turn to walk outside. Josh was breathing so hard it felt like his chest might explode, and he was pretty sure that everyone could hear his heart pounding, even above the crowd. There were people holding placards, and although he could see the writing, he couldn't understand what it said. He wasn't even sure where he was or where he was going anymore. He was being propelled along by the presence of his friends.

They were outside now. He could see the motorcade. The President wasn't working the rope line tonight, but he said that last time they were here. Josh knew he mustn't think about last time. He felt like he was watching all this from somewhere else. The panic was back, and it was as bad as it ever was. He no longer wanted to run. His legs didn't want to work anymore. He swallowed hard and tried to take deep breaths, but it didn't help. He was walking on autopilot, blindly following Leo and Toby.

They reached the cars. Donna put her hand on his arm to stop him. An agent opened the door to the SUV and Toby climbed in. After a prompting from Donna, Josh followed, with Donna right behind him. CJ and Will sat in the center seats. Agents climbed in the front. The doors closed, the sirens started, and the motorcade set off. Josh sat in the back, in-between Toby and Donna. He was breathing heavily, his head was full of noise and there was a bitter taste in his mouth. He was shaking so badly that he knew Toby and Donna must be able to feel it. He leant his head back on the head restraint, closed his eyes and took deep, steadying breaths.

"Are you alright?" Donna asked quietly.

Josh nodded, not yet trusting his voice to be able to form the words.

"Take deep breaths," Donna was saying.

Again Josh nodded. When Donna took his hand, he squeezed her hand in return, and smiled slightly. After a few minutes he opened his eyes and looked out of the window, trying to make out where they are, but he had no idea. The feeling seemed to have returned to his legs though, and the waves of panic were subsiding. He was using all the techniques he knew to keep the panic down; take deep breaths, recite the names of the Senators, imagine himself on the beach at Westport, take deep breaths. He wished he could get a mint out of his pocket to get rid of the taste, but his hands were still shaking too much. He was starting to feel normal again though.

"I'm calling Stanley Keyworth when we get back," Donna told him.

"That's a good idea," Josh agreed, relieved to find that his voice was steady.

When they reached the White House, they pulled up behind the Presidential limousine and all climbed out. Josh stood for a minute, breathing in the cold air, before following the others inside. Leo caught his eye, and Josh tried to smile reassuringly, before catching up with CJ.

"I think someone should explain to Will what just happened," Josh told her.

"I don't...."

"The PTSD," Josh clarified.

"You want me to?"

"Would you?"

"If you're sure," CJ said

"Thanks. I'll be in my office."

"Okay," CJ replied. She watched Josh walk away with Donna and then she went in search of Will.


Ten minutes later Donna was sat at her desk, checking her email, when Leo walked up to her. "Hey, Donna. Is he okay?"

"Yeah, he'll be fine."

"Are you okay?" he asked.

"Me? Yeah I'm alright," Donna smiled, "but thanks for asking."

Leo glanced at Josh's closed door. "Can I go in?"

"He's on the phone."

"Who's he.....? "

"Dr Keyworth," Donna told him.

"I thought you said he was okay?"

"That's how I know he's okay. He asked me to call him."

Leo didn't quite understand the logic behind that, but Donna knew Josh better than anyone, so he accepted what she said. "Okay. Will you ask him to call by my office before he leaves?"

"I will."

Leo walked back through the bullpen, still not completely convinced that Josh was alright. Toby had been a little concerned about Josh's behavior in the car, and Toby wasn't one for over-reacting. Donna didn't look too worried though, so maybe Josh was fine.

"Leo." CJ interrupted Leo's thoughts.

"What's up, CJ?"

"Josh asked me to explain to Will about the PTSD, you think that's a good idea?"

Leo considered that. When Josh was diagnosed, the only people on the staff who were told were himself, CJ, Toby, Sam, Donna, Charlie and The President, along with Treasury. It wasn't deemed necessary to tell anyone else, in fact it was Josh who told Charlie. However, Will was now on the senior staff and telling him was Josh's idea. "Yeah, I do. You don't mind?"

"Depends how he takes it," CJ replied.


CJ found Will in his office. "Hey, where's Toby?"

"I don't know," Will replied. "You want me to give him a message?"

"No, it was you I wanted to see." She closed the door and sat in the visitor's chair.

"Is Josh alright?" Will asked.

"He'll be fine."

"He didn't seem fine in the car," Will commented.

"No, he didn't," CJ agreed. She studied Will for a moment. He sounded concerned about Josh, and she knew they liked each other, but she wasn't sure how he was going to take this. "After the shooting we were all pretty shaken up, it took a while for us to get back to normal," she began.

"I'd imagine," Will said.

"Josh was in ICU for six days and then in GW for a further two weeks. He spent over two months at home recovering," CJ said. "When he came back to work, after the midterms, he seemed fine. Leo restricted his work load a little, because he'd come back to work earlier than the doctors would have liked. But he seemed fine." CJ could see that Will was wondering where this was going. "He seemed fine until about three weeks before Christmas." She paused for a second and watched Will.

"Did have a relapse?"

"No, well not physically. He started behaving out of character. At first we just thought he was tired. He's good at hiding how he's feeling. Then, in the week before Christmas, it became obvious that something was very wrong. Leo arranged for him to meet with ATVA. He was diagnosed as suffering from post traumatic stress disorder."

Will was quiet for a moment, before he saying quietly, "I had no idea."

"It's under control." CJ assured him.

"That's what was wrong tonight, in the car?" Will asked. "He was having an attack?"

"An episode. Yeah I think so."

"Does he talk to someone, a counselor I mean."

"I'd imagine that he's talking to someone right now, if I know Donna."

"Good," Will said.

CJ couldn't read what Will was thinking. Some people react badly to any form of mental illness, and she didn't know Will well enough to know whether he was one of those people or not.

"I can't believe that he'd put himself through that tonight," Will commented.

CJ smiled slightly, "He's Josh."

"He'll be okay though?"

"Yeah" CJ replied, still unable to read him.

"Is there anything I should do?"

"Like?"

"I'm staying with him tonight. Is there anything I can do to help him?"

"No," CJ said. "If he needs to talk he will, but it'll most likely be to Donna or Leo." She watched him and asked, "You okay with this?"

"Yeah, of course I am," Will replied, sounding a little hurt that CJ would think he wouldn't be. "Does he know you've told me, I mean it's immensely personal."

"He asked me to tell you," CJ smiled. "Come and have a drink with us all."

Will returned her smile. "Okay."


Josh talked to Stanley for thirty minutes, and he promised to make an appointment with his counselor for next week. But he felt fine now, a little shaky, but fine. The panic had gone, the fear was gone and he hadn't had any flashbacks. He didn't doubt for a minute that he was going to have nightmares tonight, but he could cope with nightmares.

"DONNA!" he shouted.

"You hollered" Donna smiled as she opened the door.

"Where is everyone?"

"I don't know," Donna replied. "You okay?"

"Yeah. I had to promise to see Richard next week."

"I'll make an appointment," Donna told him. "Leo wanted to see you before you leave."

"Thanks."

She sat down in the visitor's chair and studied Josh. "Why didn't you want me to come tonight?" she asked.

"Donna, can we just leave that now?"

"No. I don't understand why, what have I done?"

"Nothing."

"Will wasn't there last time, but you didn't try and stop him going."

"That hasn't got anything to do with it," Josh protested.

"Then why?"

Josh sat in his chair and ran his hands through his hair. He really didn't know how to explain, but he had been terrified something was going to happen to Donna tonight at Rosslyn.

"Josh?" she asked.

"Whenever we go anywhere, you're always with me, you're always stood next to me."

"I didn't think you minded, I know the other assistants......" Donna sounding hurt.

"That wasn't what I meant. I do like you being there," he assured her with complete honesty. "But if you'd been with us in August 2000, you'd have been with me," he said.

"You have no idea how much I wish I had been."

"No," Josh told her firmly. "No," he repeated.

"Why?"

"Because if you'd been with me, you might have been shot too, and I couldn't have stood that," he admitted quietly.

"No I wouldn't," Donna told him. "If I'd been with you, you'd have got help straight away."

"That didn't make any difference," Josh replied, but remembering the fear he felt sitting, waiting for someone to find him, convinced he was dying and not wanting to be alone.

"You know that isn't true, Josh." Donna walked round the desk and crouched down in front of him. "You know if you'd got help sooner, your leg and arm would be fine."

"They don't bother me."

Donna sighed, she knew that was rubbish. She'd seen him limp a little when he was tired, she'd seen him sit with his feet on the desk, rubbing his right leg. She wasn't sure how his arm affected him, but she knew it probably did.

"I still wish I'd been there," Donna told him. "How does that affect tonight though?"

"Call it superstition," he smiled a little self-consciously. "If history was going to repeat itself, I didn't want you to be there."

"There's nowhere else I would have been," Donna assured him.

A knock on the door interrupted them. "Yeah?" Josh called.

CJ opened the door and asks, "What you two doing now?"

"No idea," Josh replied.

"Come and get drunk then."

"Doesn't it worry you, that that's your solution to every bad day we have?" Josh grinned.

"Not if you're paying," CJ smiled.

"Where we going?" Josh asked

"Hawk & Dove , Iota, then either Toby's or your apartments," CJ replied.

"I'll see you at the Hawk," Josh told her.

"You okay?" CJ couldn't help but ask.

"Yeah," Josh replied. "I want to see Leo before I leave."

"Well don't be long, you're buying the first round," CJ smiled.


Josh walked through Margaret's empty office, knocked on Leo's door and walked into the office. "Hey, you wanted me?"

"Yeah," Leo replied, "have a seat. Are you alright?"

"I liked it before we started doing that," Josh smiled. But Leo was giving him that intense look that breaks lesser men. "I'm fine, Leo, honestly. Donna made me call Stanley, but I'm fine."

"Toby mentioned....." Leo began, but Josh interrupted him.

"I was a bit, I dunno, panicked when we left the building and in the car. But it passed."

"And now?"

"I feel okay"

"Really?" Leo asked doubtfully. He wasn't convinced that Josh could recover that quickly from an episode.

"Yeah." Josh saw the skepticism in Leo's eyes. "I didn't have an episode."

"Okay." Leo decided to let it lie.

"What you doing now?" Josh asked.

"Meeting Jordan."

"Good," Josh smiled.

"Good?" Leo echoed.

"She's nice."

"I'm glad you approve," Leo said sarcastically.

"Mal likes her."

"You and Mal discuss....... actually I don't want to know," Leo smiled. "What are you doing?"

"We're going to the Hawk & Dove," Josh said. Then he smiled, "I think it may be another of CJ's initiation rituals for Will."

"Which is bad news if he's staying with you."

"Yes," Josh agreed. "I should get down there and make sure he knows he's staying with Toby tonight."

Leo smiled. "I'll see you on Monday."

"Yeah, night, Leo," Josh smiled and left the office.

There was a light knock on the connecting door and Jed walked in. "Josh alright?" he asked.

"He's fine, Sir," Leo assured him.

"Good."

"And him and Mallory approve of Jordan, apparently," Leo smiled.

"So do Abbey and I," Jed smiled.

"Well, that make me feel so much better," Leo grinned. "Now if there's nothing else Sir, I have a date."

END


NOTE
I know that the Newseum in Rosslyn has been closed since March 2002, while they move to their new location. But by the time I'd found that out, I'd already written this - so please allow me some artistic license. Thank you :-)