sparsenicjade
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AN: Thank you to rufus for the fantastic and quick beta. All remaining mistakes are mine. Written for ihearttwojacks who sponsored the "hospital stay" square on my first hc_bingo card to support Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

***


Josh wakes up and is surprised to find that when he tries, he remembers the night before. The way he feels should only be caused by traumatic collisions with Mack trucks or the occasional bender. But no, he'd been working on the problem with the defunded medical clinics until around two the night before and then he'd gone to bed. According the clock by his bed, it's now eight. Six hours of uninterrupted sleep is practically a miracle.

He does not feel like a miracle has occurred. He feels like the exact opposite of a miracle has occurred.

For a moment, he considers calling in. Running Sam's VP campaign had made him admit, at times, that he's not as young as he used to be. But Donna is spearheading the next-gen VAWA legislation, CJ's kid has the flu and she's putting together the response on the jobs report, and while Josh hand-picked the rest of their staff, he still isn't ready to let any of them run things on their own.

It would be okay, maybe, if Sam were actually in the office, but Sam's currently on-site at the opening of a new and more technologically advanced clean-energy farm, and has a cabinet meeting that will last easily four hours right afterward.

Josh rubs a hand over his face and thinks to himself he'll leave early, once Sam is back and things as settled as they can be at the moment. Then he rolls over to get out of bed, falls out instead, and only just makes it back to his feet with the aid of his nightstand and an a stubborn determination not to give into the dizziness that makes him want to sink right back down.

*


By ten, Josh has ingested more water than he has in his life, but even the thought of coffee makes his stomach flip dangerously. Food is seriously off the table, pun probably intended. Earlier he swallowed a couple of aspirin to try and get rid of the bitch of a headache he's got and maybe deal with what Josh is pretty sure is a fever, but all that happens is it comes back up a few minutes later.

He really shouldn't have gone over to CJ and Danny's for dinner on Sunday. Yes, they got a lot of work done, but Josh has always argued that children are biological weapons and this is only proving his point. He even got his damn flu shot, for fuck's sake.

A fire—not a literal one, although, Josh might prefer that at this point—breaks out over school lunch legislation while Sam is in his meeting, and by the time he's back, Josh is on the phone with his ninth senator. He can't even keep the water down at this point, so he's got a system of puking in between calls. He's shut his door in the vain hope that he won't contaminate the entire office.

Sam buzzes him and says, "Come down here and tell me where the hell we are with this bananas and milk thing."

"It's actually an apple juice and yogurt thing." Josh presses the palm of his hand into his eye so hard he's surprised he's not doing damage. It doesn't help with the throbbing. "I've got Ebola, we can either talk about this over the phone, or I can send Ginger with an update."

"Send Ginger and go home. The last thing this office needs right now is a rash of suspicious viral deaths."

"Actually, that's the second to last thing this office needs right now, so I'm gonna get back to the actual last…thing and—" Josh blinks. He's not even sure what he was talking about. He's gonna need to make notes. On paper. With bullet points.

"If you're still here in an hour, I'm coming down there and exposing myself to your death ray."

"Your agents have been given strict instructions to prevent that in whatever manner possible, up to and including temporary bodily harm."

"I think I could take them," Sam says. Josh hangs up on the Vice President of the United States of America.

*


Josh cabs it home within the hour. He manages to pour himself a glass of water, situate a waste bin beside his bed, undo his tie and shuck off his shoes before falling face first into the bed and passing out.

He wakes panicky and freezing, certain he's forgotten something. He needs to call Leo. He finds his phone and hits memory two. The phone is picked up on the second ring with a bleary, "Nuclear war has broken out?"

Josh's heart rate spikes. "You're not Leo."

There's a moment of silence before not-Leo asks, "Josh?"

"Where's Leo? What have you done with Leo?" He needs to get up, needs to tell the president, needs to—

"Josh, hey, hey, calm down. You called Sam. It's Sam."

Sam? Josh blinks down at his phone. "Musta hit the wrong button."

"Josh," Sam says sharply, just as he's about to hang up the phone. "Josh, what do you need Leo for?"

"Think I forgot something. Um, maybe about the hearings. I can't—I can't think." Josh feels like he's crying, but that's ridiculous, he has no reason to be be crying.

Softly, Sam asks, "The senate hearings, Josh? About President Bartlet?"

Frustrated, Josh barks, "Are you busy with some other senate hearing just now? Got too many to keep them all straight?"

"Josh, I need you to call Donna and tell her I told you to call and stay on the phone with her, okay?"

"What is Donna gonna—"

"Donna fixes everything all the time, stop pretending otherwise. Just call her."

There's something wrong with Sam's tone. Josh frowns, his teeth chattering from the cold. "There'd better be an explanation for this, Seaborn."

"I promise you, there is. Call Donna, I'll explain in a bit."

Josh hangs up and goes to his contacts. He's not sure why his memory numbers are all wrong, but it's not important. Sam's right, Donna will help.

*


He senses it takes him longer than it should to locate Donna in his contacts. She answers with a growled, "I swear to everything you love, Lyman—"

"Sam said to call you," Josh tells her. "About the—" He stops, trying to remember why he is calling her.

"If this is about the pomegranate juice and—"

"No, what? Juice? No, it's about…the hearings."

Slowly, Donna says, "Hearings?"

Josh is really cold. He looks down, but no, he's dressed, so he must have forgotten to turn the heat up when he got home. "Hearings. With the President. And the…" he looks at the hand that's gesturing wildly for a moment before realizing she can't see it. His head really hurts. "I need Leo. I tried to call, but I—but Sam—"

"Josh," Donna's voice is calm and suspiciously gentle.

"Sam told me to call you," he finishes, not sure how that thought really connects to any of the others.

"What else did Sam say?"

"Sam says a lot of things," Josh tells her petulantly.

She doesn't laugh. "Yeah, well, he's a politician, hon. What'd he tell you on the phone?"

"Don' remember," Josh tells her. "Maybe…I think you're supposed to fix things."

"Okay. Why don't you tell me what's wrong, and maybe I can do that."

He means to say something about Leo or the president or anything important, but all he can seem to say is, "It's cold."

"Are you near blankets?"

Josh shakes his head, not in negation, but trying to clear it. "I really have to—"

"Find a blanket," Donna says.

Josh sighs, but he does as told. He's just wrapping himself in it when the doorbell rings and he scowls. "What the—"

"Go answer the door, Josh," Donna says.

Josh really doesn't want to, but ignoring Donna only means being pestered, so he does it. Sam's standing on his doorstep. Josh says, "Sam's here."

"Give me to him."

Josh frowns, but hands over the phone. "She wants to talk to you."

*


Time fuzzes out for a while. Sam yells at him about something, but he can't figure out what's gone wrong. Then they go somewhere and there are other people and…

Some time later Josh wakes up in the hospital. It's bright out, so day time, but that's all he can figure out. Charlie is sitting in a chair by his bed, reading something on a tablet. Josh frowns. "Don't you have a job?"

Charlie looks up and smiles. He stands and offers Josh a cup with a straw. Josh sips a little bit, but not too much, since he's still piecing things together. Charlie tells him, "Turns out when the Vice President tells you to go sit with his chief-of-staff, even senior partners let things slide a bit."

"Slacker," Josh says.

"Mm," Charlie agrees without qualm, which he can, since he's easily the firm's most successful junior partner.

Josh closes his eyes and tries to think. When he manages to connect some dots he opens them. "Am I in the hospital with the flu?"

"It happens. You don't have a thermometer, which Sam is on the warpath about, by the way, and when he got you here, you had a temperature of 105.1."

Josh blinks. "That only happens to babies and old people."

"And dumbasses who realize they have the flu and don't do anything about it."

Josh scowls. "I'm an important person, you know?"

"Yeah, well, you might want to get some important sleep, since your four o' clock couldn't reschedule and said he'd come here at great personal risk of death and other, worse things."

"My four—" Josh can't remember his middle name without thinking about it hard right now, let alone his schedule, which he never really knows. Walsh, his assistant, handles those things. He probably should have called Walsh last night. That, of course, would have required remembering he existed. "Um."

"Mike Kaspar. He said it was something about—"

Oh, fuck, super confidential, right. He prevaricates. "Special team financing for intelligence outfits. Yeah, okay, I just have to promise him a committee."

Charlie snorts. "Sure. I'm gonna have Donna or CJ come by for that meeting, yeah? Either of them'll be thrilled to see Mike."

Everything feels fuzzy and CJ is somehow to blame, he remembers, but having her there still sounds nicer than being alone. "You do that."

"Yeah, I will."

*


Mike is there right on time, which surprises absolutely nobody, since Josh is pretty sure Mike probably timed his birth so it happened promptly. Josh holds out a hand and says, "You really didn't have to do this."

"I wouldn't have done this if this weren't the only time the two of us could meet for the next three months, but it is and I need to get Spokewheel cleaned up so everyone can move on. Then you can get back tobeing deathly ill without further interruption."

Josh makes a face. Spokewheelhas been dead for almost two years but is still stuck in administrative hell. "Interruptions are all a man has when deathly ill."

Mike leans over Josh's bed to shake CJ's hand. She gives him a smile. "You've been hard to reach lately."

"New York was more than just a White House nightmare," Mike says evenly, not a hint of reproach in his tone. Josh sees echoes of tiredness in his eyes and as bad as it had been, still is, for them, Josh doesn't doubt the intelligence world is also gettingsome of the worst of it.

CJ's look is a little wry. "I'll let you have him for a bit. No taking advantage."

Mike holds his hands up in a gesture of harmlessness. CJ rolls her eyes, but leaves them. Josh says, "You look kind of like I feel."

"I could use a nap," Mike says casually.

"How's the violinist? No, cellist. Cello, right?"

The corner of Mike's mouth quirks upward. "Doing well, thanks for asking."

"Spokewheel, huh?" Josh sighs.

"I need you to sign off on a few more things, then I can delegate it to one of the junior agents down in red-tape land."

"I'm not certain I'm competent to sign anything right now."

"And I'm not taking the chance. I'm leaving everything with CJ. She'll get them to you when you are, you can sign them and send them on to me."

Josh tilts his head. "You could have written all that in a cover letter."

"Mm," Mike agrees. "Call it a need to see an old friend."

Josh gets the feeling there's something he's missing, which is usually a feeling he hates, but the low-level buzz he's got going is keeping him calm about it. He smiles, and means it when he says, "I'm glad you did."

*


He's only able to stay awake long enough after that to remind CJ—for the eighth or so time—that this is all her fault. She remains unbothered.

He wakes up at some point and a nurse comes in, checks on him and he falls asleep before she comes back. The third or so time he wakes up, CJ is back and Josh actually feels vaguely humanoid. He asks, "Can I go home now?" and she rolls her eyes.

"Yes. We're going to get you checked out and you'll call the Vice President of the United States and reassure him that his best friend has not died, unattended to."

"Couldn't you just send him a picture?" Josh grumbles. Now that the pure misery is over he feels grody and restless, if still too tired to do much of anything about it.

CJ's smile is sharp. "Normally I'd be completely up for a good round of metaphysical keep-away from Sam, but you woke him up at three in the morning asking for Leo, so I'm going to let him win a round, here."

Josh blinks. "I asked for Leo?"

"According to Donna you reverted to somewhere around 2002 in totem."

Josh tries to remember, but all that comes is a vague sense of panic. "That was probably a little disconcerting."

"Joshua," CJ says.

"Yeah," Josh says, scrubbing a hand over his face. "I'll get him those cookies from that place he likes."

"I think he'd prefer if you could just find both of you an hour to talk about something other than the state of the country."

"Oh, so, just perform a miracle?"

CJ wordlessly acknowledges the sentiment, but says, "If I can get him to your place tonight, will you take the time?"

"I was gonna go to the office and—"

"No."

"I've been out for—"

CJ stands. "This isn't a discussion, Josh. You had a fever that almost fried your brain and were totally delirious less than 36 hours ago. You're not allowed back for another twelve hours, and then only if your boss says so."

Josh opens his mouth to argue, only to find he's really too tired to come up with an adequate response. As much as he hates to admit it, that might be a sign that she and Sam are right. CJ clearly senses his acceptance, because she helps him get out of the hospital bed and takes him home in a cab. He's mostly asleep when they get there, but she rouses him and gets him inside.

She says, "Sleep more. Sam'll bring dinner."

Josh mumbles, "Soup. I want all the soup."

"I'm sure we can arrange something."

*


Josh wakes up to the sound of a key turning in the door and calls, "Sam?"

"Yeah, figured I'd let myself in. I've got soup."

Josh debates the merits of soup versus staying horizontal. Sam yells, "I'm pulling rank, get your ass out here."

Josh decides that Sam is technically, yes, his boss. He drags himself upright and into his kitchen. Sam has already set a large steaming bowl of matzo ball and kreplach soup at the spot at the table where Josh sits when he eats at home. He can't remember when that last happened.

Sam sits down with a sandwich and takes a bite. Josh starts in on his soup, getting a couple of spoonfuls in before he says, "Just so we're on the same page, I didn't purposely contract the flu."

Sam looks up with his "seriously?" expression. "If you had, you probably wouldn't have chosen this week."

Sam has a point, although Josh isn't entirely sure what week would have been better. "I'm kinda groggy and neither of us is exactly sensitive-talk-about-our-feelings-guy, but you seem pissed."

Sam does a very good butter-wouldn't-melt-in-his-mouth, but Josh knows all the tricks. Half the time he's the one inventing them. Josh just waits and eats some more soup. Sam will always break first. Or, well, so long as it's not about public schools or women's rights. After a moment, Sam shrugs. "I am, but it's irrational, so I'm not going to make it your thing."

"Pretend for a minute that it's just us, just Josh and Sam."

Sam twists a little in his chair, which makes Josh smile into his soup. Sam says, "You scared the shit out of me."

"Yeah," Josh says. "Sorry?"

"It's not your fault," Sam tells him earnestly.

"You are the first memory button on my phone."

"I'm your—" Sam takes a breath. "Friend. I'm your oldest friend."

"You're also second in line for one of the most powerful positions in the world, and maybe that has to come first some of the time."

Sam shakes his head. "I think that's the problem. I think it's starting to come first all the time."

"It did for Leo," Josh says.

"Yes, and I admired him and loved him, as much as I do President Bartlet, but we are not, actually, the same exact people and what worked for them might not be the best model for our relationship. Don't get me wrong, if it really is a choice between you and, I don’t know, saving countless children, I'm going to make the hard decision, but it usually isn't and I'm tired of feeling like it is." Sam looks angrily at his sandwich, as though it is somehow at fault. "I got that call from you, and all I could think was that you were delirious and possibly dangerously ill and the last time I'd talked to you about anything other than work was, um, eight months ago? When we were drinkingon the roof of the Hilton."

Josh remembers. They'd both been a little tipsy and it had been brisk, the air sharp and sweet and they'd laughed about…about something. He couldn't remember what, but it had nothing to do with work. He can't say he doesn't miss that friendship. "All right, but you're asking me tobreak a thirty-year-old habit."

"As your friend, yes, I am."

Josh thinks about CJ talking to him earlier in the day. "Would it help if we punched out once a week? Mandatory one hour Josh-and-Sam only."

Some of the tension unwinds from Sam's shoulders. "Yes. Yeah, it would."

"I'll have Ginger figure out the scheduling, we'll get it done." Josh tilts his head to the side and gives Sam a bittersweet smile. "What's next?"


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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile