Summary: Scenes at Bethesda Hospital.
Spoilers/Episode: Post season 6, Third Day Story
Characters: Josh, Abbey, Toby, Mallory and Leo.
Note: Written because there were things in episode that bugged me and I had to get this out of my system.
Abbey saw Josh coming out of Leo's room, she followed him back to the waiting area and sat down next to him. "You okay?"
"Yeah," Josh replied.
Josh gave her a weak smile. "He looks awful, all the tubes and wires. He doesn't look like Leo."
"I know," Abbey agreed. "But then, you didn't look much like you straight after your surgery. Give him a few days and he'll look much better."
"Is he in a lot of pain?" Josh asked.
"He's pretty pumped up with morphine," Abbey replied.
Something Josh vividly remembered following his own surgery was the pain. "So he will be in pain in a few days when they reduce his dosage," he commented but continued before Abbey had chance to reply. "He is going to be okay though?"
"He'll be fine."
For the first time since he'd heard the news of Leo's heart attack, Josh allowed himself to feel emotion. Since they returned from Camp David he'd been doing everything he could to shut out the fear, to stop himself thinking that Leo could die. CJ's challenge, which he suspected had been set to give them both something other than Leo and work to think about, had done just that. Donna returning had been a big help, and of course he'd thrown himself into his work.
Abbey watched Josh and saw the raw emotion that briefly flashed across his face before he had chance to get it back under control. "You okay?" she asked again.
This time Josh just nodded. He could feel his emotions were bubbling to the surface and he was determined they wouldn't break free until he safely locked in his apartment tonight, away from any prying eyes. He certainly wasn't going to give into them here, in front of the first lady.
Abbey changed the subject. "I hear CJ's got you on a health food kick?"
Josh smiled slightly. "Yeah. If I can steer clear of junk food for the rest of the week, she'll cook me dinner on Saturday."
"Have you succeeded?"
"So far," Josh nodded. "I was almost tempted by a brownie in the Roosevelt Room, but I was good," he smiled.
"What about next week?" Abbey asked. "Will you still be eating healthily or will you fall back into your old ways again?"
"Probably the latter," Josh admitted. "I like junk food; I like fries and doughnuts and brownies. They're my only vice. I don't smoke, I don't drink that much and I don't do drugs."
"Which is a relief to hear," Abbey smiled. "It's commendable that you don't smoke or drink too much, but you should still eat healthily, in fact all of you should."
"But especially me?" Josh asked.
"You have a very stressful job."
"So does Toby, and CJ's is about to get a lot more stressful when she moves into Leo's office"
"You're okay with that?" Abbey asked.
"Better CJ than bringing in an outsider."
Abbey wanted to tell Josh that it wasn't that Jed and Leo didn't trust him, but she didn't feel it was her place; if Josh needed any reassurance, and she wasn't sure he did, then it had to come from Leo or Jed. "You still need to eat well," she said instead. "Toby and CJ don't have your medical history."
"I know," Josh agreed. "I get this from Dr Holbrook at every check up. Also Donna tries to force me to eat white meat and salad and fish, and my mom constantly reminds me I'm not getting any younger," he smiled, but then frowned. "She'll be even worse after this."
"Mom's worry," Abbey said. "I saw Donna earlier, she looks well."
"Yeah. I told her to take a few days off, but she insisted she needed to get back into work." Josh suspected Donna needed to work to take her mind off other things; but he wasn't complaining, he was just glad she was back in Washington.
Abbey looked up as Toby entered the room. He looked like a man on a mission, so she left them to talk and went to find Jed.
"Hey," Josh said as Toby sat down.
"CJ's in with him," Toby said. "She'll be getting some pointers for her new job."
"I don't think he's up to that," Josh replied.
"It should be you."
"Don't," Josh shook his head.
"I'm just saying."
"I know, but I don't want it. I'd have covered for him if he was coming back, and if the president had wanted me, but I don't want his job."
"You don't want to be White House chief of staff?"
Josh wasn't sure how to explain that of course he wanted to be chief of staff, he just didn't want it to be in someone else's White House, he didn't want to be someone's replacement, especially not Leo's. "Not yet," he said. "And I don't think the president trusts me enough anyway," he added, although Leo had told him it was his decision, not the president's.
"Nor me apparently."
"You wouldn't have wanted it," Josh said. "At least CJ is one of us. He could have brought in an outsider. Also, it isn't CJ's fault, she could hardly refuse could she."
"No," Toby agreed as CJ entered the room.
"Hey," Josh said. "How is he?"
"You saw him ten minutes ago," CJ replied. "He's tired," she added. "We're heading back."
In his room Leo lay with his eyes closed and thought about his decision. He really hoped Josh and Toby understood. There was no way Jed would work with Toby, they rubbed each other the wrong way and Toby's bluntness would cause Jed to pull in the opposite direction, no matter how sound the advice was. CJ on the other hand would gently lead Jed where he needed to go, would give guidance without causing Jed to shy at the bit. Yes, he firmly believed CJ was the right choice and that she'd accept without question.
Josh was another matter; Leo wasn't sure how his deputy had reacted when he'd told him it wasn't the president's decision to promote CJ over him. In a few days, when he could articulate his thoughts better, he would explain his motives to Josh, for now he just hoped he understood. Leo had plans for Josh, and Jed needed a chief of staff who'd stay until the end of their term. Someone had to challenge Russell for the nomination, and Josh was the man to find and manage that challenger. Leo had been thinking about that for a few weeks now, he just hoped Josh would agree. But most of all he hoped Josh understood. He didn't have the strength to worry about how the others would react to CJ promotion, but he didn't want to have hurt Josh.
After a few minutes Leo drifted into an uneasy sleep. His dreams were full of faces from the past. Jed when he won his first term as New Hampshire Governor. Mallory on her first day at school. Josh as an excited 14 year old telling him he was going to work in the White House one day. Mallory's graduation. Jed's first inauguration. But soon the happy images were replaced by others. His father, drunk and yelling at his mother. Jed telling him he had MS. Josh telling him Noah had died. Jed firing him, the last thing he remembered before waking up here. He stirred uncomfortably and then drifted into a deeper sleep with no dreams and no pain.
Mallory watched her father as he slept. He looked terrible to her, but the doctor had assured her he would be fine, and Abbey no longer looked scared, so she took comfort in that. He was obviously dreaming and occasionally he'd mutter a few words; her name, Josh, Jed; but she couldn't work out what else he was saying. After a while he drifted into an easier sleep and she sat back in the chair. She was woken four hours later by Josh.
"Hey," he said quietly. "How is he?"
"I don't know, I fell asleep," Mallory guiltily admitted.
"He's doing very well," a nurse told her. "You should go and get some rest at home."
"I'm okay here."
"That's why I'm here, to take you home," Josh told her. "Abbey was going to come, but I said I would, you don't mind?"
"Of course I don't mind. Thanks."
"It's okay," he shrugged. "It was for partly selfish reasons anyway, I wanted to see him again."
Mallory smiled. "Sit with us for a while, then we'll go and get some food."
Josh nodded and sat next to Mallory. "How are you doing?"
"Better than yesterday. I didn't know whether to call my mom, but then I don't think he'd want to see her. I called my aunt Josie, she's coming up to see him tomorrow." Mallory looked back her father. "I was so scared, Josh."
Josh took her hand and they sat quietly watching Leo as he slept, both wondering how a man who had seemed unbreakable could look so frail.