Title: Four Nights
Summary: Josh has been home from hospital for two weeks and he's not a well as he says he is.
Spoilers/Episode: Up to season 2, Midterms.
Part I - Introduction
When Sam walked down the corridor to Josh's office he could see Donna sat at the desk sorting the work into piles, just as she'd done every day since Josh had been shot. There were the things that Josh's staff could deal with, others that could be done by Sam and Toby and finally there was the work that would have to be dealt with by Leo. It had taken nearly two weeks for Leo to admit that he couldn't do his work and Josh's. When the doctors said that it was going to three months at the very least before Josh could return to work, Leo had finally agreed to let the others help, something that they were all doing willingly. The alternative, bringing someone else in to act as Leo's deputy, was something none of them were willing to entertain.
Donna didn't look up when Sam entered the office. He stood looking around, something was different and he couldn't quite work out what it was, but something was missing. Josh's certificates were still on one wall, his photographs were still there. The old map of Poland was on another wall, the picture of Josh and his grandfather was still there. But something had definitely changed. Maybe it was just because Josh himself wasn't there, Sam decided, then it hit him; the silhouette target had gone from above the stereo.
Donna looked up. "Hey, Sam, what's up?"
"Hey," Sam smiled. "I was just wondering where the target had gone."
Donna looked toward the blank wall. "Zach moved it, it's in the bullpen now. He didn't like to throw it away, but somehow it didn't seem right having it hanging in here."
"He should have burnt it," Sam said with feeling as he sat in the guest chair. "Any of that for me?"
"Just these," Donna indicated a small pile of papers.
Sam studied Donna, she looked tired. "How are you?" he asked.
"Fine," she lied.
"When's Clara back?"
"Friday," Donna replied. "She really didn't want to go. Josh threatened to take her to Dulles himself if she didn't." Yesterday Josh's mother had gone back to Connecticut because her friend's husband had died. Maggie Cookson had no family and Clara was torn between wanting to stay with Josh and wanting to be with her friend. Josh had insisted that he was fine, that he didn't need constant care, that he'd survive if she went away for a few days. Donna had agreed with him. So, reluctantly, Clara had left yesterday afternoon. The funeral was on Thursday and Clara was coming back on Friday. Josh had been home from hospital for just over two weeks and, contrary to what he told his mother, he wasn't fine.
"How is he?" Sam asked.
"You saw him last night."
"I saw him for an hour. He looked tired but he was pretending to be fine." Sam sighed, "I know Josh, he hates admitting he's ill and he hates asking for help even more. You stayed last night, how was he?"
Donna considered what to say. If she told the truth Josh would be angry with her. Sam was his best friend though and he wanted to help, if only Josh would let him. "Not good," she admitted. She saw the alarm on Sam's face, he looked like he may bolt out the door and drive straight to Josh's apartment. "He's not about to have a relapse, don't panic," she said quickly. "He's very tired and still in some pain. It's starting to get him down. He hates being cooped up inside. He can't sleep because of the pain. You're right, he hates having to ask for help." When Josh first came out of hospital he'd been happy and optimistic, now he was frustrated, angry and in pretty low spirits. "I'm worried about him." As she looked at Sam there were tears in her eyes.
Sam stood up, walked round the desk to Donna and crouches down next to her. "You need a proper night's sleep. You're exhausted. I'll stay with him tonight, you go home."
"I promised Clara I'd look after him."
"I don't think she expects you to kill yourself in the process."
"I know," Donna said. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be putting this on you."
"Donna. He's not your responsibility," Sam said gently. "He's my best friend. He'd be there for me. I want to help. We all want to help," he saw Donna about to speak and knew what she was going to say. "I know," he interrupted. "He won't want the others stay 'cos he doesn't want them to see how ill he is. He'll let me stay," Sam said with more conviction than he felt.
Donna was quiet for a few minutes while she thought about that. Sam was right, there was no way he'd want CJ or Toby or even Leo to see just how weak and tired he was or how much pain he was still in. He was hiding it from her, she could tell, and that was only making things worse. But maybe he would open up to Sam. They've know each other a long time and are very close. "Yeah," she nodded, "if you're sure you don't mind. It might be good for him to have someone else there."
"I'll leave here early," Sam smiled. "I'll be there about 6."
"One thing though, Sam," Donna said. "Don't take any crap off him. He'll tell you he's fine and to leave him alone."
Sam knew what to expect. He saw Josh in the hospital everyday, but Josh would never let him or any of the others be there when he was having PT, because he didn't want them to see him so weak. He didn't want their pity. "I can be tough," Sam smiled.
'You'd better hope you can,' Donna thought.
At 1 o'clock Sam was eating a quick lunch in the mess when Leo walked over. "Hey, Sam," Leo sat down, "sorry to interrupt your lunch. Have you talked to CJ yet about tomorrow?"
"I'm seeing her in 10 minutes."
"Good. Donna gone to Josh's?" Leo asked needlessly.
"I'm worried about her, Sam, Josh is too. She's doing way too much and with Clara away she's not likely to get much sleep."
"I know," Sam agreed as he finished his fries. "I'm going to stay with Josh for the next few nights to give her a rest."
"That's a good idea." Leo said, wondering if he should have offered himself. Except that he wasn't leaving work until gone midnight most nights, so it really wouldn't have helped anyway. "Don't take it all on yourself though, ask Toby and CJ."
"We thought about that." Sam stood up and he and Leo walked out of the mess. "Josh isn't going to be too happy about me staying. There's no way he's going to let anybody else look after him. He'll spend the entire night pretending he's okay when he isn't."
"Yeah," Leo agreed. "When's Clara back?"
"It's only Monday, you can't stay all week, you'll be exhausted."
"I'll be fine," Sam insisted.
"He'll let me stay," Leo said, trying to remember his schedule. "I can get away early on Wednesday."
"That'll be the first time in five weeks, Leo. You need rest as well."
"Yeah. But you don't have a monopoly on wanting to help," Leo replied. "Talk to Josh about the others staying. We can do one night each."
"He'll hate it."
"He's worried about Donna. The only way she's going to leave him at night is if one of us stays."
"Okay," Sam nodded. "Donna's over there now telling him about tonight."
When Donna let herself into Josh's apartment, he was sat in a chair watching TV. "That better not be C-Span," she smiled.
"Course not," he grinned, "I'm watching Friends."
"Yeah," he said. "I'm a little puzzled though." he stood stiffly and followed Donna into the kitchen.
"Well, only two of them appear to have full time jobs, which they hardly ever go to. So how do they afford to live in Greenwich?"
"Ross works in a museum and lives somewhere else. Monica's apartment belongs to her grandmother, her and Rachel both have jobs, sometimes. Chandler works in an office somewhere in Manhattan. Phoebe lives with her grandmother some place else and Joey sponges off the rest of them. Of course that all depends which series you're watching."
Josh smiled at her. "You're a bit of a fan then?"
"Matthew Perry's kind of cute," she smiled back.
"I'm more of a Phoebe fan myself." He took his lunch from her and walked slowly back into the living room.
Donna sat on the couch and ate her lunch. "Toby wanted to send some more stuff for you to read."
"He's becoming obsessed," Josh commented. "He can't really think that we're going to pass laws against what people think and believe. That's heading down a very slippery slope."
"He feels he needs to do something."
"I know," Josh sighed. "But he has to leave it alone now and concentrate on the midterms."
"This is probably a really dumb question, but do you have any painkillers?"
"What's wrong?" Josh asked.
"So we're talking non-prescription then," he smiled, but there was concern in his eyes. "There's some ibuprofen in the bathroom cabinet." Josh watched Donna stand and walk to the bathroom. She looked exhausted and he was worried about her. "Stay at home tonight, Donna, get a good nights sleep. I'll be fine."
"Yeah, cos I'll sleep really well knowing you're here alone."
"I'm not a child," he snapped.
"No, you're not," she replied in the same tone. She returned to the couch and continued quietly, "You almost died five weeks ago. You were only allowed out of hospital so early because there was someone to look after you. Don't look at me like that. You have to learn to accept help. It's not forever."
Josh knew she was right. When he told his mom that she had to go to Jack Cookson's funeral, he didn't actually think of the consequences for himself or Donna. "I know," he said. "I'm a terrible patient. I am grateful for what you're doing. I don't know how I'd have coped without you. But I don't want you to get ill. You're working 8 hour days and then coming here. At least when my mom's here, you go home and sleep, but how much sleep did you get last night?"
"Come on," he said, "I slept for about 3 hours, so you didn't get much more. Stay at home. I can always call someone if I need anything."
"Sam's offered to stay tonight," she said tentatively.
"He doesn't need to stay."
"I'm not leaving you alone."
"I'm alone all day."
"That's completely different."
"I know." Josh sighed, he also knew when he was beat. "Is it the only way you're going to stay at home and sleep?" Josh asked and Donna nodded. "Okay then," he agreed and then smiled, "It wouldn't have mattered whether I'd agreed or not would it?"
"No," she smiled. "He'll be here around 6. Which is actually why he's doing it, he gets out of work early."