We Didn't Get Clowns by Willow

Summary: It's Josh's birthday and the campaign staff have organized a party, but the birthday boy is hiding.
Spoilers/Episode: Anything up to season 7, 'The Cold', specifically 'Constituency Of One' and 'The Crackpots And These Women'.
Characters: Josh, Leo and Donna
Rating: PG


Leo wasn't too surprised to find Josh hiding outside at the rear of the hotel, and he knew the younger man was hiding. "Hey, Kid, what you doing?"

Josh looked startled, like he'd been caught out somehow. "Just ... sitting here," he shrugged.

"Hiding?"

"Why would I be hiding?"

"'Cause Annabeth found out that today's your birthday and she's gone and told everyone," Leo suggested.

"Yeah. Do you have no control over her?"

"None whatsoever," Leo agreed.

"Did you tell her?"

"No," Leo laughed.

"Well, she found out somehow and now they've all got this idea about a party, or something else equally intolerable."

"You think they all like you enough to bother?" Leo asked with a smile.

Josh found himself returning the smile. It was kind of hard not to when Leo smiled at you like that, it was infectious. "Nah," he said, "but they'll take any excuse for a party."

"So maybe you should go along and enjoy yourself."

"Maybe," Josh said.

Leo studied Josh. He thought he knew what the problem was, but he wasn't sure. "It's been over thirty years."

"Doesn't make any difference."

"Is it that, or has it just become a habit not to do anything today?"

Josh shrugged, "Both I guess."

"It's not even today," Leo argued. "It was over two weeks ago."

"I know, but ... you know where my mom and dad were?"

"I do." As Leo spoke, something occurred to him. Was that another reason for Josh's feelings of guilt? When Annabeth had reprimanded him for not telling her it was Josh's birthday and had then enlisted the others to organize a party, Leo had been amused. Today wasn't the anniversary and he'd never really understood how Josh's reluctance to celebrate his birthday had continued into adulthood. Now it made sense and Leo couldn't believe he hadn't realized before, years before now. "Is that the reason?"

Josh looked almost embarrassed as he nodded.

"God!" Leo sighed. "You want me to stop them?"

Josh desperately wanted to say yes, to send Leo back into the hotel and get him to ban any mention of birthdays. Instead he shook his head. "'S'okay."

"Doesn't Donna know?"

"Nah. Look it doesn't matter. Honestly, Leo, don't worry about it. It's probably a pretty dumb reason anyway."

"No, it isn't. I'll tell them I couldn't find you."

"They sent you to find me?" Josh's voice held a hint of amused astonishment.

"Not just me. They've got Bram out front, Celia's gone to your room and Otto's checking any other likely places."

Now Josh actually found himself grinning. "They sent the country's next vice president to drag the birthday boy to his party?"

Leo smiled, "Annabeth could give Margaret lessons in terror. Come in when you're ready."

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Twenty minutes later, Josh was walking slowly across the parking lot, when Donna found him.

"Where have you been?"

"Hiding," Josh said.

"From?"

"You lot and your party."

Donna laughed, "You'll be okay, we didn't get clowns."

Josh smiled, but didn't increase his pace from a slow stroll.

"Hang on, how'd you know about the party? Leo found you didn't he?"

"Yes."

"I can't believe he lied to me. More to the point, I can't believe he lied to Annabeth."

"She is scary," Josh agreed.

Donna was suddenly serious. "What's going on?"

"I hate birthday parties."

"No," Donna shook her head. "It's not the parties you hate, you hate your birthday," she suddenly realized

"Yes," Josh agreed.

"And not because of a clown doing his tricks for your sister," Donna said.

"No."

"Why haven't you just told me that before now?"

"Because ... Because every year you like to mock my lack of birthday cheer, I didn't want to spoil that with real reasons."

Donna took hold of Josh's arm and steered him to a bench that was normally used by hotel staff on their cigarette breaks. "So tell me now."

Josh frowned as he wondered whether to tell the truth or make up another stupid excuse. But things had changed between the two of them in the last week, their relationship had shifted, had moved to a better place and he knew he owed her a real explanation. "It was the anniversary of the fire a couple of weeks back."

"I know. Is that the reason?"

Josh shook his head. "When the fire started my mom and dad were at the mall. They were buying my gifts and stuff for my party. After, in the car on the way from the hospital, I sat in the rear next to bag of party stuff. I dunno, birthday parties kind of lost their shine after that."

"Ah, Josh, I'm sorry. If I'd known."

"I know. Look, no one else knows, well except Leo, he guessed, but no one else knows. Sam, and I think even my mom, just think it's 'cause it's only two weeks after Joanie ..."

Donna held Josh's hand and thought of the party waiting to begin in their temporary office suite. "Let's you and me go someplace instead."

"What about the assembled guests?"

"I'll call Leo, if he can lie to Annabeth, he can lie to the rest of them. We'll say you're ill and then we'll go and get something to eat or whatever you want."

"I don't want to spoil your evening," Josh protested.

"It's your birthday, so it's your evening. Anyway, if I'm with you it's hardly likely to be an evening spoiled is it."

Josh gave a relieved smile. "In that case, call Leo and tell them all to enjoy themselves on my behalf."

END

Note: I've been rewatching season 5 and wondered what the deal was with Josh and his birthday, this is what I came up with - not too imaginative perhaps but I hope you liked it anyway.