Summary: Store robberies, Mary Marsh and Christmas parties.
Spoilers/Episode: Set in an a/u that leaves the series after season 5, Memorial Day. This chapter is set a month after chapter 7.
Rating: PG (a little angst, well you know I can't resist)
Disclaimer: We all know they aren't mine.
Friday Evening, Senate Party
"I'm not sure Toby would agree with you there," Jed told Josh. "I wanted to ask about Shanahan," he said and led Josh over to a quieter part of the room. "Does he have the votes this time?"
"The Whip count says he doesn't, but he thinks he does. I'm trying to find out who's not being completely honest with the Whip's Office."
Jed nodded. "If he does?"
"That'll depend on who he has, Sir. I still think he's bluffing."
"I hope you're right, Josh."
"Me too," Josh agreed.
Jed knew there wasn't much Josh could do until after the holidays. "Where's Donna gone?" he asked.
"Her parents' wedding anniversary. She's back on Sunday."
"You'll be missing her," Jed smiled.
"She says she'll need to come in early on Monday to tidy my office," Josh smiled. The smile vanished when a Champagne cork popped behind him.
Jed saw Josh's expression change, saw his eyes suddenly lose focus and look inwards. "Josh?" he asked, but Josh didn't reply. Jed took a gentle hold of Josh's arm and steered him through an open door and outside. "Sit down," he told him when they reached a low wall. Josh did as he was told and Jed turned to his agents. "Clive, find Toby Ziegler and ask him to come out here, discretely. Wait over there," he told the other agents and indicated the doors, "Don't let anyone else out here."
Josh meanwhile was trying to focus on something real, anything real. His hands, the lawn, a tree, a plant, anything that didn't involve noise. This hadn't happened in so long that he'd forgotten how to control it. He hadn't gone completely, he was still aware of the president sat next to him, he knew he was sat in a garden at the White House, knew he wasn't at Rosslyn. But he could hear screaming and sirens, his adrenalin was pumping and he wanted to run. The president was talking to him and he tried to focus on his voice. He was telling him about Gus wanting a baseball bat for Christmas and his parents not being too keen, seeing as Gus had broken four ornaments and a light fitting with his last one, before it was confiscated.
Jed watched Josh as he spoke. He wasn't sure that Josh could hear him, he couldn't tell how bad this attack was. He could see the younger man was breathing heavily, his hands were clenched and he hadn't moved since Jed had sat him on the wall.
Clive found Toby talking to two senators. He walked over and touched Toby lightly on the arm. "I'm sorry to interrupt, Mr Ziegler, the president would like you to meet an old friend of his from home."
Toby studied Clive briefly, before turning back to his companions. "If you'll excuse me." He followed Clive across the room. "What's going on?" he asked.
"I'm sorry, I don't know. He's just out here."
Toby was a little surprised to find the doors blocked by two agents, who let him through when Clive told them to. He saw the president sat on a low wall with Josh and walked over, wondering what had happened with Shanahan now. "Sir, Josh," he said.
Josh didn't move, but Jed stood, led Toby a few feet away and told him what had happened. "I have to give a speech in two minutes, can you sit with him? I'll keep agents on the door, I think the last thing he needs is people around him."
Toby nodded and went to sit next to Josh. "Hey."
Josh tried to steady his breathing but it wasn't easy. "Hey," he replied quietly. He wanted to tell Toby to go and listen to the speech, that he'd be fine, but the words wouldn't come. He hung his head and closed his eyes against the sounds.
Once the president's speech was over and the senators and staff were enjoying themselves inside, Toby had taken Josh home. Josh had insisted he was alright now, that Toby should rejoin the party, but Toby had ignored him.
"Does the president know what happened on Tuesday?" Toby asked Josh.
"Leo told him," Josh replied as he sat on his couch. "You know...... never mind."
"I hate this, this," Josh shook his head. "Why does everyone have to know, why do I have everyone keeping one eye on me?"
Josh looked at Toby and then hung his head. "Yeah."
"Oh yeah, just great," Josh replied and looked back up. "I mean I just had an episode in front of the president, but yeah I'm great."
Toby didn't know what to say to that. "You should get some sleep."
"I don't need babysitting."
"I'm still staying."
"Fine!" Josh stormed into the bathroom. He stood and looked in the mirror trying to calm down. The episode had passed almost a quickly as it had appeared, and now he just felt shaken and angry. He returned from the bathroom, "I'm sorry," he told Toby. "I'm angry with me, not you."
"It's been four years," Josh shrugged. "I've not had anything even approaching an episode in well over three years. I know you thought I was heading for one at Camp David, but I really wasn't." He smiled slightly, "I really should start listening to Donna, she's been telling me all week to call Stanley."
"And you're going to call him tomorrow?"
"Yeah. I am okay, you don't need to stay. All the windows are safe."
Toby shook his head. "I'm staying."
Jed tapped gently on the adjoining door and entered Leo's office.
"Hey, Leo, you busy?"
"Yeah," Leo replied, but smiled slightly. "What's wrong?"
"It's 7.20, I haven't seen him yet."
"But you saw him over the weekend?" Jed guessed.
"I did, he seemed fine."
"You think I should talk to him?" Jed asked.
"No," Leo replied. "Definitely not. He just wants to move on and do his job. Honestly, Sir, apart from being mortified that he had an episode here, in front of you, he's fine."
Jed nodded. "Keep a close eye on him."
Leo watched Jed as he left the office and wondered whether the president thought Josh's PTSD was suddenly an issue. He knew the last thing Josh needed was Jed analyzing his every move.
CJ and Toby sat in her office eating lunch and watching the TV. "What are you doing on Saturday?" she asked.
"Not seeing the twins?"
"You okay with that?"
"Why wouldn't I be, she's their grandmother."
"It's Christmas though, and don't say you're Jewish."
"I'll see them on Friday before they go, it's not like they really know what day it is, CJ. They're 18 months old."
"Not going home?" Toby asked.
"No, I'm going to stay with Peter at New Year, I'll see everyone then." CJ seriously doubted that her father would know whether it was Christmas or not, so a week didn't really matter. "Why don't you come round for Christmas dinner?" she suggested.
Toby smiled, "Are you cooking?"
"I can buy things pre-cooked," CJ replied. "You want to come or not?"
"Yeah," Toby nodded.
"What are the others doing?"
"You're asking me?" Toby shrugged. "I would think Josh has no plans," he offered.
"Invite him then, and Donna and Charlie. I wonder what Sam's doing?"
"California," Toby replied.
"Are we ever going to get to meet Chloe do you think?"
Toby though was watching the TV. "What the hell?" he muttered.
"What did you do to them?" CJ asked.
"Nothing," Toby muttered as he watched Mary Marsh railing against the Bartlet administration and in particular the president's advisors.
"Josh'll be pleased. Although probably not too shocked," CJ smiled.
"You're not bothered?"
"By Mary Marsh?" CJ asked. "She hasn't said anything new in 6 years, so not really, no."
"What's next?" Jed asked Josh.
"We're done, Sir. Apparently you still have Christmas cards to sign though."
"I don't know why I can't use the autopen for everyone," Jed sighed. "Anything else on Shanahan?"
"Most people have gone home for the Holidays, but I still think he's bluffing."
"I remember when he was on our side. Now," Jed hesitated and glanced at Josh, "You don't think he's setting up for Iowa?"
"I think that's exactly what he's doing," Josh agreed.
"And the vultures begin circling." Jed shook his head. "They do know we've got two years left?"
"It's the next thing they've got to run for."
"The troubling thing is that Russell's included in that group. President Bingo Bob," Jed sighed and Josh grinned. "I don't actually have to endorse my VP though do I?"
"Luckily you don't, no, Sir."
"Thank God for that," Jed smiled. He watched Josh collect his papers. Leo was right, Josh appeared fine, no one would ever suspect what had happened on Friday night. Although Leo had told him to leave it, Jed still wanted to ask, because he was concerned. "Are you alright?"
Josh had known this was coming, it was the reason he'd been dreading staffing the president this afternoon. "Yes, Sir."
Jed nodded, Josh's answer didn't invite further discussion. "Good."
"Thank you though," Josh continued. "For what you did on Friday."
"I didn't do anything," Jed replied. "You've spoken to Dr Keyworth?"
"On Saturday," Josh replied.
"Good," Jed smiled. "Now go and do some work, I have Christmas cards to sign."
"Thank you, Mr President."
END OF CHAPTER 8
Chapter 9 will be along shortly.