Title: In Need Of Assistance (Part 3)
Synopsis: Being caught between Leo and the president was soon to be the least of Josh's worries.
Spoilers: Anything up to season 5, Memorial Day, but set in an a/u.
Notes: Second in the Stone By Stone series. Starts 2 weeks after Can't Sleep, Won't Slpeep.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
"How'd it go?" Leo asked when Josh entered his office on Monday afternoon.
"Okay, except I think we should tell Shanahan what's happening," Josh replied.
"Did you tell the president that?"
"Yes. He said no."
"Leo, not that I don't like a challenge and learning new stuff you know, but this is your job and I really don't feel qualified to give him the best advice."
"He thinks you are."
"Well he's wrong," Josh replied. "And Margaret keep glaring at me," he smiled slightly.
"You scared of Margaret?"
"Yes," Josh agreed, but he knew he wasn't going to get Leo to talk about the rift between him and the president, so he moved on to his next question. "I know Donna's back next week, but will it be okay if Janet stays on a while, at least until Donna's off the crutches?"
"It's okay by me, but have you asked Janet if she wants to."
"She will, she likes me," Josh said and smiled, "well she likes Donna and I'm sure she'll want to help her."
"How's Donna doing?" Leo asked.
"Okay. She's got PT this afternoon so I'm going to make her dinner."
"You're going to cook?" Leo sounded worried, but his eyes were laughing.
"I can cook," Josh protested. "I'm going to buy take out on the way round," he admitted.
"Leo," Margaret interrupted them. "You're needed in Situation Room."
"What's going on?" Josh asked when Margaret had gone. Then he added, "Actually I don't want to know."
Leo stood up and walked out of the office with Josh. "Don't feel bad about all this, Josh. He'll either come round or he won't, there's nothing you can do about it."
"Yeah," Josh sighed and watched Leo walk away.
"You okay?" CJ asked.
Josh jumped, "Do you have to sneak up on people!"
"Sorry," CJ laughed. "What's up?"
"You know when you were a kid and your parents fought and you weren't sure which one you should speak to?"
"That's what this is like," Josh told her.
"Leo and the president fighting and we're caught in middle."
"It'll blow over," CJ told him.
"That's what everyone says," Josh said. "But what if they get divorced, then what'll happen?"
On Tuesday morning CJ returned to her office and found Josh stood behind her desk looking out of the window.
"Hey, what's up?" she asked.
Josh turned to face her. "Why did you tell Donna I knew about Colin and the photos?"
"It just came out, why what's she said?"
"She's a little pissed at me, CJ, what do you think she said," Josh replied angrily.
"Well that's okay then," Josh snapped. He ran his hand through his hair. "Maybe she's right," he said quietly. "I should have said something when I first suspected."
"She was in the hospital."
"Well, when she came out then. I dunno."
"What did she say?"
"Not that much, most it was shouted. She virtually threw me out of the apartment though. Look I'm sorry I snapped, I'll see you later."
CJ watched Josh walk through the bullpen and back to his own office. She picked up the phone and dialed Donna's number. After the pleasantries were exchanged CJ told Donna that Josh had spoken to her. "Don't be angry with him, Donna."
"Why? He knew about the photos, he let me go out with him."
"Would it have made a difference if Josh had told you not to go?" CJ asked.
"If he'd told me the reason."
"He didn't tell you because he didn't want to upset you, plus he only suspected. He didn't know you were going to see Colin again. When he saw him here on Friday he told me his suspicions and then Steve confirmed them. He didn't want to upset you," CJ repeated. "And," she continued, "if he'd told you, it would have been like every other guy you date. You'd have thought he was finding fault just for the fun of it."
Donna didn't reply immediately. "Yeah, I guess."
"You know it's completely against by beliefs to defend Josh," CJ joked. "But this really wasn't his fault."
"I was pretty horrible to him, CJ. I don't know what came over me. When I opened the front door and he was stood there with a stupid grin on his face, I just wanted to hurt him. I told him he was a lousy friend, that I didn't want him to come round again. Oh God, CJ, I told him, I told him it was his fault. I didn't mean that. I don't blame Josh."
"He knows that," CJ tried to assure Donna.
"No he doesn't. He blames himself, he always does. That's why he's fussing round me so much, and I threw it back in his face."
"That's not why he's fussing. He's doing that because he cares. Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yeah, I shouldn't have yelled at him."
CJ looked up as Carol beckoned from the doorway and pointed at her watch. "Look, Donna, I've got to go and brief. Don't worry about Josh, he can take care of himself. I'll call you later and if you need anything just phone me."
At 10.15 that evening, Josh walked into his building, opened his apartment door and wondered why he hadn't turned the TV off when he left for work that morning. He closed the door, dropped his keys on the table and walked into the lounge, where he found Donna asleep on his couch. He smiled at the peaceful look on her face and went to make a coffee. The smile turned to a grin when he saw a box containing his favorite cheesecake on the kitchen counter. He walked back into the lounge and stood watching Donna sleep for a few seconds, he decided to have a shower before waking her. Ten minutes later he came out of the bedroom in sweatpants and a t-shirt and walked over to Donna.
"Hey," she said. "I didn't hear you come in."
"You were asleep. I was too scared to wake you," he smiled.
"I came over to apologize, but you weren't here. CJ said you left at 8, where've you been?"
"I went to see Will. We have to meet in secret so we don't incur Toby's anger," Josh grinned. "You want to share the cheesecake?"
Donna nodded and moved up to let Josh sit down. He handed her a drink and a fork and they sat eating the desert and watching television.
"What are we watching?" Josh asked.
"I don't know. When I put it on it was a train journey through the Alps, I have no idea what this is." Donna put her fork down and turned to face Josh. "I'm really sorry. I didn't mean any of that last night. I was angry, but not at you."
"I should have said something," Josh offered.
"No. CJ's right there, I wouldn't have listened. You always find fault with the men I date."
"Not always," Josh protested.
"Always," Donna repeated.
"What about Jack? I seem to recall I got you the date," Josh reminded her.
"Yes, that was strange," Donna agreed.
Josh watched her, she looked tired, exhausted in fact. "Does your leg hurt?" he asked.
"No. It aches sometimes that's all. Why?"
"You look tired. I thought it might be keeping you awake."
"Then what is?"
"Nothing. It's hot and it's uncomfortable in bed that's all."
"Donna, look at me. Are you sure everything's alright?"
Josh tried a change of tactic. "You know when I was young my dad drank?" he asked and Donna nodded. "He once told me that when he first met Leo he knew he was a drinker. Like spotting like I guess."
"What's...?" Donna began.
"CJ told me what you said to her about wanting to hurt me, and last night when you were shouting at me, I saw it your eyes."
"You didn't see anything, I was angry about Colin."
Josh shook his head. "I've seen that look before and so have you. I've seen it when I've looked in the mirror."
"I do not have post traumatic stress disorder," Donna replied.
"Maybe not, but you're not sleeping, you're angry, you're......."
"I'm not heading for a breakdown. Don't you dare say that," Donna shouted.
"Why? Because it's unthinkable. Because it only happens to other people?" Josh asked, "weak people. I know you're stronger than me. But you should still talk to someone."
"Donna, please. Just talk to a counselor, get it out in the open. It might help, it certainly can't hurt."
"No," Donna repeated.
"Why?" Josh could see Donna was getting upset but he carried on anyway. "What harm can talking to someone do?"
"Because I don't want there to be anything wrong with me. He might say there is and I don't want that. I don't want people.... " she trailed off.
"You don't want people what?" Josh asked. "You think people treat me differently now. Do you treat me differently? Do you think I'm weak, a nut job?"
"You know I don't," Donna replied.
"You had to almost drag me to my first few sessions with Frank," Josh reminds her. "You told Janet I wasn't allowed to cancel appointments with him."
"Then why is it okay for me to see a counselor and it's not for you?"
"Because you know what's wrong with you. You know you can control it, you can live with it. I don't."
Josh put his arm around Donna's shoulder and pulled her to him. "The worst he can say is PTSD, and we know how to deal with that," he told her. "The only reason I got so bad was because I tried to hide it, I thought it'd go away, that I could handle it. If I'd admitted something was wrong straight away, it'd be so much easier."
Donna didn't miss the use of the present tense there, she lifted her head off Josh's shoulder and looked at him. "Why didn't you?"
"I'm an idiot," Josh smiled. "You're having nightmares, yeah?"
Donna nodded and put her head back on his shoulder, something that made her feel safe and protected.
"That's how it started for me, nightmares. But I have nightmares anyway, so I shrugged them off and tried to carry on, even though deep down I knew something was wrong. But I reasoned it was being back at work, you know the stress, the sudden change from being at home for three months. I knew I could hide the effects of the nightmares because I've been doing it most of my life," Josh confided. "By the time I spoke to Stanley though..... I think if I hadn't been forced I would never had sought help. I was on a downward spiral, Donna. 'Locked into damage control' was how Stanley put it and that about sums it up."
Donna took hold of Josh's hand. "We should have noticed sooner."
"No, I'm good at hiding things," Josh replied. "I'm not saying you're ever going to go through that. There may be nothing wrong, but you should talk to trauma specialist just to be sure. Even if it's only to shut me up," he smiled sadly.
"I suppose I could talk to Frank. I mean I know him, so that may be okay."
"Yeah," Josh agreed. He held her for a few minutes and they sat quietly watching a documentary on the conquest of Everest, before Josh said. "I'm sorry about what happened."
"I didn't mean what I said last night. I don't blame you. I know you won't believe this," Donna said, "but none of this is your fault. It was a terrorist bomb, there was nothing you could do to prevent it and no way you could know it would happen."
"Maybe, but I'm still sorry."
"I know you are," Donna replied, because she suspected that was the answer that Josh really wanted, the answer he really needed.
The following day CJ and Josh walked back to their offices after senior staff. "Have you spoken to Donna?" CJ asked.
"Yeah she came round last night, we sorted it."
"Is she okay?"
"She's fine," Josh replied. "Why?"
"She seemed upset yesterday when I spoke to her."
"She was angry about Colin," Josh shrugged.
"But she's okay? I mean, it was a lot to go through, Josh, and the last couple of times I've seen her she's looked tired and a little withdrawn."
"I know. It's warm at night and her leg's keeping her awake."
"You think that's all it is?" CJ asked hopefully. "You don't think there's anything psychological going on?"
"I'm not an expert in the human psyche, CJ."
"I know, but..."
"Yeah, I know. If I thought she wasn't handling things I'd make her get help. I promise."
"Okay," CJ smiled. "I'll see you later," she said and went into her office.
Josh walked into his office, closed all the doors and sat down. He picked up the phone, dialed Frank's office and made an appointment for Donna for Friday. She'd insisted that no one at work knew about the appointment, so Josh was going to pay for it himself and he was going to go with her to be her cover story. That way if anyone here did find out she'd been at the offices of an ATVA therapist, they'd assume she'd been with him.
Josh had taken Donna to the therapist's office on friday afternoon. He'd waited while she had her appointment and then he'd driven her home. Now he couldn't hold off any longer, he had to ask, "Well?"
"Well what?" Donna asked.
"How'd it go with Frank?"
"Okay. He asked how you were."
"I almost daren't ask, but what did you tell him?"
"I told him you were fine, fussing a little, but fine. I think he was just being polite though, I don't think he really cared," Donna smiled.
"Thanks," Josh returned the smile.
"He's very easy to talk to."
"Do you tell him things you wouldn't tell anyone else?" Donna asked.
"I've told him about the fire, about what happened and how I feel."
"Did it help?"
"Surprisingly, yes it did. It actually prompted me to talk to my mom about it, I hadn't done that before, not properly." He smiled then, "I'm pretty screwed up, I don't know if you'd noticed."
"Years ago," Donna smiled. "Did it make it easier though?" she asked.
Josh considered that, 'did it make it easier?' He knew what she was really asking, 'did it help the feeling of guilt that you survived?' He really didn't know how to answer that. If he was truthful then the answer was no, but that wasn't what Donna needed to hear. "You mean did it make the guilt go away?" he asked, stalling for time.
"You shouldn't feel guilty," Josh told her.
"Yes," he agreed. "But I was eight, I didn't understand what had happened or why. I was the one who wanted popcorn, she came back for me and then I left her. You didn't leave anyone behind, Donna. It was just fate I guess, but it wasn't your fault."
Donna watched him, even though she'd always known he felt guilty about surviving the fire and she'd guessed why, this was the first time he'd actually admitted it to her. "There was nothing you could have done," she pointed out.
Josh nodded his agreement, the same as he always did when someone said that. But how do they know, he always wondered. No one else was there, so how do they know there was nothing he could have done? He didn't want the conversation turning to him though, this was about Donna. "What did Frank say?"
Donna smiled slightly, "There was nothing I could have done to change what happened. It would have happened whether I'd been there or not. I was unconscious, there was no way I could have helped anyone. I was last in the car, so I didn't force anyone to sit in the seat they were in."
"I know, but I think I need to be told a few more times maybe."
"So you're going to see him again?" Josh asked hopefully.
"Yes. I made an appointment for next Friday."
"Good," Josh smiled. "How do you feel?"
Donna smiled a real smile this time. "Do you not remember how much you hated being asked that question?"
"Yes," he said, "but I thought we'd agreed that I'm screwed up."
"We did," Donna said. "I feel better to have talked about it. The thing that was really got to me was that I couldn't remember what happened just before the explosion. I remember talking to Colin and then I woke up in Germany. Now I remember talking to Andi as well and getting in the car." Donna was quiet for a few seconds. "I'm okay you know, I meant what I said, I'm not heading for a breakdown."
"You know you can talk to me any time you need to."
"I might hold you to that."