Title: Simoom
Author:
Willow
Summary: A helicopter crash in The Middle East and the CCTV documentary keep the staff busy.
Spoilers/Episode: Set in an a/u that leaves the show's timeline after season 5, Memorial Day. This chapter takes place a month after chapter 10.
Characters: Ensemble and Danny
Rating: PG


Part IV

"How bad would it be if people knew?" Sam asked.

"For Josh personally or for the administration?" CJ asked.

"I'm sat here," Josh complained.

"Sorry," Sam said. "But I meant work, the administration."

"I don't think it would matter," CJ said.

"But it might," Toby added.

"Why is it going to be an issue?" Leo asked. "He isn't doing Taylor Reid."

"I can leave you lot to it if you'd prefer," Josh offered.

"Sorry," CJ said. "Go on."

"This is about me," Josh told them. "I don't know how it would affect the administration if it became public knowledge that I have post traumatic stress disorder, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be good."

"Why?" Sam asked. "How does it affect your work?"

"That's not the point," Toby told him.

"Of course it is," Sam argued.

"No it isn't," Josh said. "This is an administration that's had a VP resign in sex scandal, the president omitted to tell people he had MS," Josh glanced unintentionally at Leo.

"Yeah," Leo agreed. "Not to mention me and rehab."

"We survived those."

"Barely," Toby replied. "But this isn't about the administration. Josh isn't elected by anyone, he doesn't have to make public any details about his private life."

"That's nice in theory, but it's not how it works," CJ replied.

"What about you?" Leo asked Josh. "Would you care if it was public knowledge?"

Josh considered how to answer that. He knew that there were those on The Hill who suspected, mainly people who knew him well, people he'd worked with, people he was friends with. And not just on The Hill. He had a suspicion that Danny knew something had happened that Christmas. But people suspecting and him admitting it outright were two entirely different things. "Yes I would."

"Then that's an end to it," Leo said. "No interviews, no talk shows."

"It's not that simple," CJ replied. "They're going to ask why?"

"Let them," Sam said. "It's been four years, Josh just wants to move on, he doesn't want to live in the past. He was shot, he recovered, there's nothing else to say."

Josh gave Leo and Sam grateful looks and then turned to CJ. "That sounds good to me."

"Okay," she nodded. "But, and I'm sorry, Josh, but I think we need a plan just in case someone asks."

"Why?" Sam asked.

"Because if a reporter asked CJ outright, she can't lie," Toby replied.

Josh sighed, it was going to be a long day.

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CJ caught up with Josh as they left Leo's office twenty minutes later. "Hey, I'm sorry."

"Why?" Josh asked. "You did warn me."

"It's likely that nothing will happen."

"You hope," Josh replied.

"Even if it does though, it's been over four years. No one can say you're not capable of doing your job."

"Seriously?" Josh asked. "You don't think the Bartlet Baters will ask how a man with a psychological disorder can be advising a president with MS?

"Let them."

"Please!" Josh sighed. "You don't mean that."

"Yes I do."

"Personally you do, I know. But as the press secretary, you don't," Josh told her. "You already know how it would play out. They'd point to every foul up over the last four years, especially Carrick, and ask whether it would have been better to have someone more stable in such a senior position?"

CJ glared at him. "I've worked closely with you over the last four years, you're one of my closest friends. Don't let anyone, including you, tell me that you're unstable."

"I had an episode at Christmas, CJ."

"I know, and you handled it."

"Maybe."

"Don't start questioning yourself, Josh. This isn't even an issue yet, it may never be one."

Josh smiled sadly. "It's an issue for me though. Always will be."

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Friday

CJ sat in her office and read through the wires and the news items Carol had highlighted, but there was nothing about Josh and the documentary. Last night she'd watched Taylor Reid; the show was about victims of gun crime, just as billed. He'd mentioned that Josh had been invited on but that he'd had a prior engagement he couldn't cancel. The engagement was in fact accompanying Sam to a late meeting in place of Larry, but Reid didn't know that and the meeting was with Matt Skinner, who was unlikely to contradict the White House's statement if it meant embarrassing Josh on something like this.

CJ looked down the corridor and through the bullpen, Josh's office door was open so she went to see him. "Morning, Joshua," she smiled as she walked in.

"Morning. What's up?"

"Nothing. Nothing was said, nothing was mentioned," she replied.

"I know."

"So you should maybe look a little happier."

"I'm happy."

"But?"

"What about next time?"

"Why would there be a next time?"

"Because I'd like to work in politics for a few more years, like at least 20, and I'm fairly sure that in that time, someone will find out."

"So if they do, you handle it then," CJ replied and Josh nodded. "It's nothing to be ashamed off, you didn't do anything wrong. It's an illness."

"Yes," Josh agreed. "But most people are wary, if not scared, of any kind of mental illness. It isn't something they can see, it's something they don't understand and they don't trust. They're never quite sure the suffer isn't about to freak out and hurt them."

"I think you're exaggerating."

"Maybe," Josh replied and kicked himself when he remembered CJ's father. "I'm just feeling a little, I don't know..."

"Vulnerable?" CJ suggested.

"Yeah."

"Well, if anyone did find out and tried to make an issue of it, you know we've all got your back."

"I do," Josh smiled. "And I'm not ashamed of it, I just don't want any part of my private life, least of all my health, to be public knowledge."

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"What have you been saying to CJ?" Donna asked Josh that afternoon.

"About?"

"You."

"Nothing," Josh frowned.

"Really, because I know you're your favorite topic of conversation," Donna teased.

"You're my favorite topic of conversation," Josh replied and grinned at the look Donna gave him. "Yeah, I'll stop doing that now."

"Good."

"What's CJ said?"

"She seems to think you're a little down."

"I'm not."

"Something about PTSD always being an issue for you."

"Ah," Josh nodded. "I didn't mean it in a bad way, I just meant it would always be there. I'm not depressed about it, most of the time I don't even think about it. You think I should talk to her?"

"No. Just carry on being your normal self and she'll get the message that you're fine."

"Okay. So what are we doing this weekend?"

"Working," Donna guessed.

"Not on Sunday we're not, not unless there's an emergency. Let's do something."

"Go somewhere you mean, just the two of us?"

"Yes. We couldn't celebrate Valentine's Day properly, so let's go away like a real couple."

Donna smiled. "That would be nice. We could go on Saturday and stay over someplace."

Josh nodded. "Go on then, what are you waiting for. Get checking the internet for hotels, small discreet hotels."

"Where?"

"You choose."

END OF CHAPTER 11

Chapter 12 will follow in the New Year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


Notes:-

The figures for helicopter accidents and some of the information in that section the story came from the Veterans For Peace web site. But please remember this is just a story, I'm not an expert on anything military, I only know what I read.

Simoom is a hot, dry, suffocating, dust-laden wind, that blows occasionally in Arabia, Syria, and neighboring countries, generated by the extreme heat of the parched deserts or sandy plains. - Webster's 1913 Dictionary