Josh was an obsessive fixer; that was what Leo had called him. And maybe that was true. But while Josh sat there he couldn’t think of anything but that he needed a fixer. But as he sat there, blood pooling into his nice pants he came to the realisation that there wasn’t going to be a fixer. There wasn’t going to be a medic this time. There just was not enough time.
He could never say when it started, maybe it was back in that house, flames licking the base of the door, Joanie’s screams in his head. When he went to the therapist she explained that he had never heard Joanie that was impossible. If he’d heard her then he would have helped her. He decided not to correct her. After a few months of him stubbornly refusing to co-operate she signed him off, saying that there was nothing more she could do for him.
It got worse around stress, first it was exams. He had to sit exam after exam, in a stuffy classroom packed full of idiots. Because while they were smart they weren’t like him, they weren’t geniuses. And in the end the marks reflected this. But the marks lining his arms did not.
When he got into politics it was by way of an old family friend; Leo. Leo placed down the first brick which Josh built his career on. It was going so well, in a few years he’d run for something and win. Maybe then he could stop the screams. It went to pot when Leo visited again though.
Standing in that room, watching as Bartlet spoke Josh felt something he had not in a long time; hope. He didn’t want to believe it at first. There was no way that Bartlet would be able to win but the hope pushed him along. Pushed him back to Sam. Pushed him to work and win for Bartlet. Really, that hope pushed his father into the grave. Because if Josh had been there, if Josh hadn’t pissed off to be with Bartlet. If he had just done his duty, his father would still be alive. He told himself this as a mantra as he lined his arms with more and more marks, refusing to let them heal.
Donna never seemed to notice the marks, Josh had long ago learnt to keep them covered. She noticed the eating though. Sometimes the food in his mouth would turn to ash and he’d just stop eating for a while, consumed by thoughts of the inferno. It wasn’t always and it wasn’t anywhere near enough that she should be worried but she was. He ignored the cereal bars slipped to him, simply moving on to a new piece of work which allowed him to remain enclosed in his office. He ignored the looks she shot him and simply stared ahead, ignoring the slight swaying of the room itself.
After the shooting it got a bit better and how messed up was that? That Josh got better after getting shot? But suddenly he was being directed at what to eat, threatened by co-workers to eat. He wasn’t allowed to work, he had to relax. It was some of his most hated weeks but mentally it was one of the best. He thought and when he was finally allowed back to work he felt the same alien emotion rising in his chest, just as it had when seeing Bartlet. This time he pushed it down, he knew what happened when he let it bloom.
He knew when he stopped noticing things. He knew when life just started to take a back seat. He knew when he ignored life it came back to bite him in the ass. But he ignored it all the same. Smashing the window was amazing in the same sick way drawing a blade across his skin was. The meeting was terrible and throughout it he kept on feeling the woman’s gaze on his back. When Stanley left she pressed a card into his hand, scribbled on it were a few words, warning him to call her. He knew it wasn’t for a social visit.
He knew his co-workers were worried about him and the experience with PTSD did nothing to comfort them. Instead it made them pick up on his odd habits; how he sometimes showed up in the height of summer in a full suit and refused to take it off, how there were times when he dropped pounds as if they had never existed. But they said nothing, merely shooting him worried looks when he got into one of his “funks”. He was glad for that. It was always worse when people knew.
When Bartlet revealed his MS, and damn him for doing it so late, Josh fell into one of his slumps but it was worse this time. He couldn’t seem to get himself out of it properly and for the first time Sam noticed. The two had been close friends for years but Josh had always been wary around the man, he held too much respect towards him to do anything else. So when Sam noticed a few spots of blood on Josh’s all too large shirt Josh freaked. He passed it off with some excuse but he could tell that Sam didn’t believe him, he knew something was up. And Sam was smart enough to work out what that something was. Josh hid himself away for a few days, working on some ridiculous thing that Leo wanted him to do. Ignoring Sam was too easy and with all of the senior staff on edge no one particularly noticed when Sam and Josh pulled away. When Bartlet announced his second term they were thrown back together and Sam seemed almost afraid to piss Josh off again and so didn’t mention anything. Josh was so relieved, he didn’t think he could cope losing Sam after all this time, he decided to ignore when Donna and Sam started having whispered conversations in his office.
It all came to a head as it would have had to. Donna pulled away and started dating some upstart Republican. Amy came back into his life and he grabbed the opportunity. Dating always meant that hiding his, oddities, was easier. So there were a few problems in the bedroom, moments when he felt her hands slide over his hips and pause, feeling the emptiness which should not exist. But it also meant that he could play the adoring boyfriend, cooking meal after meal for her and not eat a thing. His friends would stop giving him looks because how could they imagine that he was unhappy? He was dating someone and it was their job to deal with his problems.
But on the day of Leo’s testimony everything came to a head. The day passed in a blur, every second remembering that Leo could be fired. And deep within his brain, in some twisted part he remembered the words his friend had said. Long as I have a job, so do you. He didn’t eat breakfast that day, hadn’t eaten it in a week. Lunch had slipped by the wayside somewhere as had supper. So he really should have gotten used to the dizziness which pervaded his entire being, the shakiness which made writing almost impossible and the occasional times when his vision blurred. The music was back, Christmas always brought music, and with it came the sirens. Not every time, just enough to keep him on edge.
He was in a meeting with Senior Staff when it happened. One moment he was standing in the oval office, asking what Bartlet thought of some new policy, and the next he was on the floor. A sizeable kerfuffle ensued which resulted in Josh being reprimanded for not eating, while trying to ignore the stares of CJ and Sam. As soon as he could he fled the room and escaped to his office. Somewhere deep in the bowels of his desk there was a card, a whole year old, with a woman’s number on it. Sometimes he was so tempted to call it, to tell her so he could stop this. But he never did.
When he got home he was exhausted, the kind that went beyond the point where you could sleep. He needed to do something so he grabbed a few notes he’d taken home and he started reading them through, ignoring the way the words blurred and mixed together. A siren passing the window made him jump violently, leaping from his seat as if he was about to be attacked. He shook his head, he could deal with this. He would deal with this. He sat down slowly. He was Joshua Lyman, deputy Chief of Staff to the President of The United States of America and he could deal with this.
He couldn’t. An hour later found him on the floor of the bathroom with a razor just out of reach where he’d dropped it. His pager was too far away. Donna wasn’t there to make him do something. CJ wasn’t there to tell him to behave. Bartlet wasn’t there to inspire him. Leo wasn’t there to keep him safe. Only Toby was there. Toby was there to find him. Again.
When Josh was shot he stopped thinking. All his mind was centred on was pain. He tried to shout, to call for help but his mind couldn’t imagine a word, his lips seemed frozen and there was a piece of metal lodged in his lung. For what seemed like forever he remained frozen, he’d been pushed down by the bullet and he could not move. He could barely see as sirens exploded and his chest hurt so badly. Each breath was short and shallow and somewhere he recognised the feeling as panic but the pain, the pain was all he could see, hear or feel. Until it broke for a second as he saw Toby.
Toby stepped into the apartment warily, Donna had been worried on the phone and Josh had looked terrible earlier. What hit him immediately was the stench of blood which permeated the air and forced itself down his nostrils. He ran to the scent’s source and immediately wished he hadn’t. He wished that he’d never taken this fucking job, that he was still some good for nothing drunkard in a bar in New York. Because on the floor was Joshua Lyman, again. As he made the call to the ambulance Toby wondered who’d get the job next time. Because surely he wasn’t the only one who had to find Josh covered in far too much of his own blood. That would be unfair on a cosmic level. As he heard the sirens approach he sighed. It’d be him again because if there was one thing that the universe liked to do it was screw him over.
Joanie had always hated hospitals. The bright lights had made her eyes hurt and they smelt weird. Josh had kept quiet whenever she brought up the conversation because for some reason he loved hospitals. He didn’t like going to them because it meant someone was hurt but he still loved the smell and the feeling of people getting better. When Joanie died that changed, he avoided the places like the plague remembering all too much of the night when he was brought into one as a brother and left as an only child. So when he woke up, wrists restrained, inside a hospital he tensed immediately. When he noticed the aforementioned restraints he freaked, shouting and writhing until a nurse ran out to inject something into his IV line. As he drifted off he didn’t even notice Toby sitting at his side, horrified.
When he woke up properly it was to Toby taking one of his chocolates. His bedside table held an assortment of candies and flowers. The flowers were wilting slightly and the candies looked like they’d taken a big hit. The man responsible was studiously ignoring Josh as he tried to finish the crossword
“Six letters. A victory, wherein the victor loses so much that the victory itself becomes null.” Josh frowned as he mulled over the clue in his head. He was a lot less foggy than he had been after the surgery but there was still a sluggishness which he hated.
“Pyrrhic?” Toby clicked his tongue in congratulations as he scribbled down the word. He then started talking, still not deigning to look at Josh.
“A pyrrhic victory, we’ve certainly had enough of them. We managed to get the President out of the firing line, only to throw Leo into the fire. At this rate they’ll try to bring them both down. You know what else would be a pyrrhic victory?” Josh groaned, Toby was going into full speech writer mode and then there would be no stopping the man.
“No Josh, answer the question!” Toby’s voice rose as he spoke and Josh blinked a few times in surprise, Toby pissed was scary. He tended to say things that even Josh would avoid saying. But in his defence, Toby always did it a lot more eloquently. “A useless victory. Do you know how difficult it was to keep you alive? Your heart stopped in the ambulance! You nearly died on the operating theatre and you were just going to throw all of that away? What the hell?” Josh opened his mouth but Toby spoke over him. “The President and Leo are losing their minds right now! They don’t know what the hell happened and I tried to keep it that way! I lied to my commander in chief just so we could have this talk! So tell me Josh was it worth it?” Josh stared up at the man for a few seconds before breaking eye contact and looking down.
“No. It wasn’t.” Toby sighed before talking again, this time somewhat quieter.
“You know what I saw when I got into your apartment?” he chuckled quietly, devoid of humour. “I saw Rosslyn again, I saw you shot and then I find out that it wasn’t some crazed white supremacist. It was you? Josh, give me a hand because I have no idea what’s going on! How long has this been happening?”
“For longer than we’ve known each other.” Toby spun on his heel and paced forwards before whipping back around, filled with an anger which was directed only at Josh.
“And you didn’t think to talk to someone? You got shot! You got a mental illness which affected your work! You’re telling me that ATVA didn’t pick up on this? Call me up that therapist and I’ll get him sacked because you could have died tonight Josh!”
“You think I don’t know that?” Josh snapped back, Toby was talking down to him as if he was a disobedient child, or some stray dog.
“Then what the hell was that?” Toby shouted. “Why the hell did I walk in on that?”
“Maybe because I’m sick of this!” As soon as the words left Josh’s mouth he knew he’d screwed up. It was a thought he’d entertained, sometimes briefly and sometimes for all too long. During bad times he would think back to his will, which he kept nice and updated. During good times he just tried to ignore the feeling at the back of his head. It didn’t do him any good.
Toby took a half step backwards, expressions flying over his face until he settled into one; anger. It seemed to be his favourite
“That was going to be it? You were going to bleed out in some piece of shit bathroom in a crappy apartment and not even say something?”
“Why the hell should I have said anything Toby? You don’t give a damn about me why should I care about you?” Toby stepped backwards and for a moment Josh wondered if he’d hit a nerve, actually finally hurt the man. But when Toby spoke it was quiet, as if he was more pissed than Josh had ever seen him.
“You want to die? Go ahead and do it. But you’re letting them down. You’ve been out three days and Leo hasn’t slept. Donna barely left your bedside! Sam took time off to deliver the news to your mom personally!” Josh flinched slightly as Toby gesticulated wildly but it didn’t stop the man. His voice rose and Josh idly wondered if a nurse was going to come in at some point. “CJ messed up in the press room! The President was ready to declare war! And do you know what the worst is? We can’t say a damn thing because of you! Because if you ever want a chance of running this can’t have happened!” he chuckled again, running his hand over his head “We’re defrauding the American public again. And you just want an easy way out? Tough. You’re stuck here.” Toby turned on his heels and left the room, pausing in the doorway.
“Toby I shouldn’t ha-”
“No you shouldn’t.” Toby turned back and Josh sucked in a sharp breath of disguise. The man looked exhausted. “Don’t do it again, please.” With that Josh was left alone in a hospital bed, tubes pumping blood back into his body. He groaned and leaned back. He’d really screwed up.
It didn’t stop there, of course it didn’t. Slowly, over time he got better. There were days when he needed the blade but they were normally followed by Donna crying or Sam glaring at him silently. Those days Josh hated. When the food turned to ash in his mouth CJ or Toby would step in. CJ would take him to restaurants and just create conversation from nowhere. By the end he always found that he’d eaten more than he thought he had. Toby was more subtle, would get him food to eat and then just eat it, snatching fries and bits and pieces until Josh would start eating it just to make sure Toby couldn’t. On the nights he woke up screaming, drenched in sweat from a fire that had long ago disappeared he found someone to talk to. It was often Leo, the older man normally still half way through some work. Whenever Josh had the worst nights, when everything happened then it was the President himself who helped. Leo would silently pass the message on and within an hour Josh would find himself sat in front of a chessboard, watching as the President rattled off obscure facts or policy shifts.
It didn’t stop, but it got better. When things got bad everyone was worried, apart from Josh. He could cope. And while he sometimes missed the darker thoughts, the easier solutions, he had his friends. Because whilst he was a compulsive fixer, they weren’t too far off either. After all, they worked in politics.