Title: Just a Little Boy
Summary: Josh was just a little boy, running away was what he was suppose to do.
Spoilers: Season 1, 'The Crackpots And These Women'.
Characters: Josh and his family
Rating: PG (Angst)
Disclaimer: They all belong to Aaron Sorkin
"Can I stay up and watch TV?"
"Not on a school night."
"But, mom," Josh complained.
"Bed by 9," his mother told him.
"Yeah," Josh agreed sulkily. He left the kitchen and went down the yard to find his father. "Dad, can I stay up late?"
"It's a school night, Joshua."
"Just a bit later?"
"Have you asked your mom?"
"She said it was up to you."
Noah smiled and shook his head. Sixteen years of fatherhood had taught him well and he could spot a child playing one parent off against the other. "Then you have to be in bed by 9."
"Joanie stays up late."
"Joanie's 16, when you're 16 you can stay up late."
"Mike stays up late," Josh tried.
Noah was trying hard not to laugh now, and not to catch Leo's eye. "Shall I call Mike's dad and see what time he stays up to?" he asked.
"No," Josh replied. "What time will you be home?"
"We won't be late, but you'll be in bed by then, won't you?"
"Yeah." Josh gave in and walked back to the house. He was pretty sure he could persuade his sister to let him stay up later, once their parents had gone out.
"That was easy," Leo commented.
"You think? As soon as we've gone he'll think of every excuse he can to con Joanie into letting him stay up later."
"Of course she will. They'll both stay up and he'll rush up to bed as soon as they hear the cab pull up outside," Noah smiled. "Kids don't seem to realize that we were kids once."
"No. Go to bed."
"It's too early," Josh complained.
"It's 9.30, go."
"If I get ready for bed, then can we have popcorn?"
Joanie sighed, "You won't be able to sleep and I'll get in trouble."
"Joanie," Josh pleaded, before grinning mischievously, "I won't tell dad what I saw you and Jason doing last night."
Joanie's eyes narrowed as she stared at her little brother. "What did you see me and Jason doing last night?"
"You kissed him, right outside the house. Is he your boyfriend?"
"Then why'd you kiss him?"
"What were you doing watching me and Jason?"
"I was looking out the window," Josh replied. "You kissed him."
"And I'll tell where you and Mike went instead of practice on Sunday."
"I want popcorn. Please, Joanie," Josh gave his sister his best pleading look.
"Okay," Joanie relented. "Go and get ready for bed and I'll make popcorn."
Josh came out of his bedroom when he heard Joanie shouting him. He'd never heard his sister use that tone of voice before, so he ran down the stairs and along the hall to the kitchen. When he opened the door smoke billowed into the hall. "Joanie?"
"Go outside, I'll put it out."
"I'll help you." Josh ran to the sink and started to fill a jug with water.
"It's too late. Go and get Mr Appleton."
"Come with me," Josh begged her. By now the fire had reached the backdoor and was blocking their escape root. "Come on."
"Go, I'll be behind you," Joanie ordered.
Josh ran back across the kitchen and into the hall; he could feel the heat as the fire seemed to follow him. The hall was full of black, choking smoke and he tripped and fell. As he struggled to stand up he could see flames running across the ceiling and curling down the walls. He wanted to call for his sister, but all he could do was cough. When he tried to get to his feet, he stumbled again, before regaining his balance and running to the front door. He fumbled with the handle, the door opened and he fell outside. He scrambled to his feet and ran across the front lawn, by now the neighbors had seen the fire and were running towards him.
"It's on fire," Josh needless told Mr Appleton, his next door neighbor.
Mr Appleton and his son, Jason, ran to the house. Josh tried to go with them, but Mrs Appleton held him back. "Where was Joanie?" Jason called.
"Behind me," Josh sobbed as he struggled to break free.
"The fire department are coming," the Appleton's 14 year old daughter told them.
Jason and his father tried to get into the house the way Josh came out, but the hall was completely ablaze, along the rest of the downstairs. Jason still tried to run through the flames but his father dragged him away.
"Well I think they make a lovely couple," Clara told Leo and Noah.
"She's two feet taller than him," Leo laughed.
"You can hardly comment on that front," Jenny grinned at him.
"Thanks," Leo smiled. "Someone's in trouble," he nodded to the door, where two police officers were talking to one of the ushers. "He's pointing at us."
"What've you done now?" Noah asked him.
"Me?" Leo smiled.
"Mr and Mrs Lyman?" one of the officers asked.
"Yeah, that's us."
"Can we have a word in private?"
Leo and Jenny watched with concern, as Noah and Clara walked away with the officers. "That doesn't look good," Jenny commented.
Noah returned to the table to collect his jacket and Clara's purse. "We have to go."
"What's wrong?" Leo asked.
"There's a fire at our house."
"Oh God. What about the kids?" Leo asked.
"I don't know."
Josh was lying staring up at the ceiling, while a nurse dressed the cuts and minor burns on his legs and arms. Every so often he coughed, but he hadn't said a word since he arrived at the hospital.
"Josh, your mom and dad are here," another nurse told him.
"Where's Joanie?" Josh asked his mother, who just shook her head and pulled Josh into her arms. He could feel her sobbing and he didn't understand. "Is she coming?" he asked his father.
Noah glanced at Clara and wondered how to do this. "Joanie's not here."
"She said she was behind me. Where is she?"
"Josh," Noah began, but he couldn't tell him, he couldn't say those words.
Josh was alarmed to see tears on his father's face, dads don't cry. "Where is she?"
Clara pulled away from her son. "She was very badly hurt, Joshua," she glanced at her husband for help.
"Are the doctors making her better, like when dad crashed his car?"
"The doctors can't make her better, son," Noah told him.
Noah sat on the bed next to Josh. "Joanie's gone. She died, Josh. Like Mr Robinson last year."
Josh shook his head, "She was behind me, she said."
"Josh...." Noah began.
"No," Josh screamed as his mother and father held him and cried.
Leo stood with Jenny near to the grave. It had been three days since the fire and, as he watched his friends and their son, he couldn't even begin to imagine what they were going through. For the last two nights he hadn't been able to sleep for checking on his three year old daughter, just to reassure himself that she was alright. Noah and Clara looked shattered, while Josh just looked lost.
Josh watched the rabbi as he said the words over the grave. He tried really hard not to think that that was his sister -- his beautiful, funny, clever sister -- in the box. He didn't want to be here, wearing this stupid black suit. The trousers were rubbing on the cuts on his legs and the burns stung. He didn't want to be doing any of this. He wanted to be in school, he wanted to be able to come home from school today and tease Joanie about Jason.
When they arrived back at his grandfather's house, Josh stood in the corner of the lounge and tried to be invisible. Everyone was watching him, giving him sad looks. People kept coming up to him and patting him on the head, and it was driving him mad. His parents said he had to stay downstairs, but he wanted to go to his room, which wasn't really his room, but he'd still rather be there than here. He slowly made his way around the edge of the lounge, avoiding his mom and dad and trying to avoid the other adults as well.
"Trying to escape?"
Josh looked guiltily up at his father's friend and nodded.
Leo thought Josh looked thoroughly miserable and desperate to escape. "Go on, I'll tell your dad you've gone upstairs."
"He said I've got to stay here."
"He doesn't want you wandering off, as long as he knows where you are he'll be okay."
Josh nodded and gratefully made his escape, while Leo went to find Noah.
Once Josh reached his new bedroom he pulled his tie off and shoved his yarmulke into a drawer, before sitting on the edge of the bed and kicking off his shoes. He thought maybe he should cry, everyone else had cried today, even his dad, but he couldn't. So he lay on the bed and closed his eyes, eventually falling asleep.
Josh opened his eyes with a start and stared at her. "I knew you'd come back," he smiled.
Joanie stood and watched him, "Why aren't you at school? And why are you dressed like that?"
"They all think you're dead, Joanie. They think I left you."
"I didn't, you're here."
"You left me, you ran off and left me."
"No, not if you're here."
"I died, I'm in a box in the ground, I'm gone because you left me behind."
"The fire got me, it should have got you too, but you ran off and left me."
"NO! Joanie, NO!"
Josh trashed around and lashed out at the person shaking his shoulder, "No, I didn't, no...."
"Josh, wake up. Joshua."
Josh opened his eyes, "Mom?"
"It was just a bad dream, honey."
"No, Joanie was here, she was there," he pointed to the foot of the bed. "She was there."
"No she wasn't." Clara tried to pull Josh into her arms but he pushed her away.
"She was there, she said I left her and she died, it was my fault."
"No it wasn't, Josh, it wasn't your fault. Joanie would never have said that to you." Clara stroked Josh's hair. "It was just a bad dream, I promise, Joanie would never say it was your fault."
"But it was," the little boy gulped back a sob.
"No it wasn't," Clara pulled her son into her arms and held him while he finally cried.