Title: Second Shot
Author: Anna-Maria Jennings
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Second Shot by Anna-Maria Jenkins
There were thoughts, oh yes, the thoughts he hadn't spoken of to anyone. Thoughts that popped up in the middle of meetings and important lunches and very often during the delivery of position papers. The thoughts weren't that distracting any more - just like random running story lines in his brain, things that made him tilt his head a little, give a laugh and a shake when he was alone, but nothing serious. Just brief, strange thoughts about Sam Seaborn. They weren't overtly lustful thoughts even - just very calm, very clear images: Josh touching the back of Sam's neck; Josh's breath falling on Sam's skin as he whispered something; Josh's hand on the small of Sam's back as they walked through a door. Simple, strange thoughts, thoughts he didn't, well, want to think about, really.
Strange thoughts he was having as they walked out of the auditorium that night.
The crowd was pretty energetic, as they always were when the president was near. His daughter's proximity increased their interest - Zoey humanized Josiah Bartlett in ways Josh understood but couldn’t quantify.
He saw a smile pass between the girl and Charlie as they walked outside - a quick, only-meant-for-you look that said a million things only they understood. It was that look that started Josh's thoughts, again, as they stepped outside. Josh paused at the door, falling behind. He watched Sam up ahead, his mind dizzied by the crowd and the sudden idea that, maybe, there was more to the glances Sam cast him in meetings. Wondered what it would feel like to have this code between them, this secret desire…
Then, suddenly, things exploded. Shots rang out from above him, and he was falling, roughly, someone smashing him to the concrete, his face slamming into the pavement. He heard the crack of gun fire again - it was rapid, it could have only been a few seconds - saw that everyone in front of him was down, falling like he had under heavy bodies, armed men. His protector had rolled off and away, dragging Josh a few feet, first, before charging ahead to the president. Josh watched the car rush away without any relief - people leaving, guns still firing, what was happening, God, what…
A Secret Service agent fell next to him. "Sir, are you o-"
"I'm fine," Josh said, unsurprised to hear the quake in his voice. "What's - where's -" he didn't have time to finish his thought before the agent was up and away, chattering into his wrist that Josh was okay.
Am I okay? he wondered briefly. Maybe a full minute had passed since the shots rang out - maybe it was only a few seconds. His heart was pounding and his face was bleeding, he realized, but he was okay. Intact. For the moment.
Josh looked up, then peeled himself from the concrete with effort. CJ was straight ahead of him, just sitting up from the curb herself. Leo was to his right, God bless capable, terrifying Leo, already talking to the agents, the staff, already in charge. Josh stumbled forward a bit and saw Toby, sitting next to a man in the crowd who had apparently been hit in the arm. He drew a deep breath at the sight of the man's blood and his terrified face. Toby looked up at Josh for a moment, assessing him with a horrible, bone-wrenching fear in his eyes. Josh looked away quickly, walking toward CJ. CJ was standing, now, CJ was screaming, and oh, God, her blouse was - there was blood on her blouse…
"CJ!" Josh cried, running toward her, grabbing her shoulders. "My God, sit down, you're -"
"Sam!" she yelled, looking at Josh for one wild moment. "Jesus, Sam! Get help, Josh, get Sam help! Now!"
Josh staggered a step backwards and looked down. There, behind where CJ had stood from, was Sam. Sam's pressed white shirt was turning maroon. His eyes were closed, Josh saw, falling to his knees next to him. Sam's face was pale and clammy to Josh's touch. "Sam!" he yelled, staring in horror at his friend's growing wound. "Sam, no!" He cried his name again and again, the words choking out of him in a litany of terror and anguish until a paramedic pulled him up and away, and the world swam from him into a fuzzy darkness.
He was only out for a minute, caught by Toby as he fell. He remembered that - remembered Toby shouting "Josh!" and lurching over toward him. He remembered looking up at Toby and CJ and a paramedic. "I'm fine," he gasped, "I'm fine, go help him, I'm fine."
Toby and CJ just sort of stared at him for a moment, because it was easier to look at Josh than to turn and face the medics behind them. "Josh, are you sure you shouldn't lay -"
"CJ, I'm fine," he said again, more firmly. Almost angry, CJ noted, which made her believe Josh _was_ fine. He pushed Toby aside and sat up just in time to see the medics raising a stretcher off the ground. A stretcher with Sam on it.
"Oh God." Josh was on his feet in a second, propelled by the same adrenaline that had left him to fall a second before. He squeezed between two medics and grabbed his friend's limp hand. "Sam? Sam, I'm right here."
"Sir, you'll have -"
"No!" A female paramedic pushed him against the side of the ambulance, letting Josh's tirade roll quickly over her without a blink. "I am the deputy chief of staff for the White House, okay? And that man in there is the deputy director for Communications and…"
"Sir, we are doing everything we can for him right now, but if you insist on continuing this you're going to delay us, and we won't be able to get him care as quickly."
"I -" The argument slipped from him. He sagged against the vehicle, and the shaking started. "He's my best friend. Is he okay?"
"I don't know, sir." The doors slammed at the back and the woman said shortly, "You can follow us to the hospital, okay?"
Toby pulled him from the ambulance a second before it flew away, screeching and blinking. Josh watched it for a long moment, then looked over at his friend. "I -"
"Come on, Josh, let's get to the car," Toby said smoothly, steering Josh toward the curb with one hand on his shoulder. <TOBY'S me, touchingJosh thought dully, distantly.
It was the same car they'd ridden in on the way, he noted as CJ opened the door. The ride over… Josh sitting next to Sam, wondering what he was thinking, trying not to think about… and now… "Oh, shit," Josh whispered as his stomach shivered.
"Josh, you okay?" CJ asked.
"Yeah - uh - yeah, I'm, uh," Josh mumbled, stopping suddenly to take a deep breath.
"Whoa, okay, take it easy," Toby said. "Put your head down."
Josh felt ridiculous, but the nausea was real and striking. He put his hands on his knees, leaning over, willing the ground to stop swirling. CJ was rubbing his shoulder, making gentle, comforting circles. "Come on," she said softly as he looked up. "Let's go to the hospital."
"A-kay." Josh felt his head move of its own accord, and he stumbled toward the car. He realized, a few steps later, that he hadn't asked about the President. "CJ? The President?"
"On his way home."
"Leo? Everybody else?"
"Everyone's fine, Josh."
"Not everyone," he sighed.
CJ kept glancing out the windows, shrinking into her seat for the whole ride. Toby kept up a running dialogue about something - something about the exits being covered, the guards being prepared - that Josh couldn't listen to. He was staring blankly at his hands. They were covered in Sam's blood.
Toby was the first to realize it. "Josh, here," he said suddenly. He handed him a handkerchief or something, but Josh continued to stare.
"It's his blood, Toby," he said, his voice sounding a little light in his own ears. "Sam's blood."
"Josh, hey, stay with us, okay, buddy?" Toby shared a worried glance with CJ over his head. Josh felt her hands on his shoulders, shaking him, but he continued to stare at his hands… Sam's blood… Sam's hands and blood and…
"Ow!" CJ looked at him hard, shaking her hand after the impact. "Fuck, CJ…!"
"Look, enough has happened tonight already, okay? We don't need anyone else cracking up on us."
Josh rubbed his cheek where CJ had slapped him and looked up to make another snide remark when he realized CJ was crying. "Aw, CJ…"
"What's gonna happen?" she asked in a trembly voice he barely knew.
"I don't know."
"You've - you've got, oh, hell." She reached up and wiped his slapped cheek with Toby's handkerchief, pulling away the cloth with a small smear of blood.
Josh took the cloth, finally, and wiped his hands. He steeled his voice. "They're going to be okay."
"Okay, okay." She gave a jerky, false smile and straightened her blouse. "What were you saying about the exits,
The security agent in the front seat jerked, suddenly, and clutched his earpiece. "What?" Josh said, leaning forward, brushing the agent's arm. The man tried to shake him off - a sign that it was truly serious - but Josh wouldn't be pushed away. "What is it? Is it Sam?"
The man held up a hand, and CJ put a restraining hand on Josh’s shoulder. Josh glanced over and saw that even Toby was sitting up straighter, focussing on the men. Slowly - it took centuries, God, it took _days_ - the man turned. "The President is on his way to the hospital, sir," he said.
"He was shot, ma'am. A hidden wound."
"Oh my God." Josh wasn't certain who'd said it. He fell back against the seats, felt CJ clutching his arm. He pulled her in a little closer while Toby pumped the man for news. "We don't know, sir. He's apparently conscious, talking."
"Jesus," Toby sighed, sitting back. CJ wasn't crying - just staring blankly at Josh, the two of them tense and shaking. Toby laid his hand on Josh's shoulder, and they rode in tense silence for the few remaining blocks.
The minute they hit GW, Toby was out of the car, Josh less than a step behind him. The limo was parked askew in the driveway. Josh felt a momentary flash of anger that it was blocking Sam's ambulance, but he choked it down, tagging after Toby through the sliding doors. They burst through into a scene of strange chaos, catching Sam's stretcher as it was flying down the hall. "Sam, I'm here!" Josh yelled.
Sam was thrashing on the stretcher and muttering around the oxygen mask. "I shouldn't be in this meeting, uh, I - let's go, go to New Hampshire, I need to get to New Hampshire!"
"You went to New Hampshire. We both did," Josh said, grabbing Sam's hand for a brief second in the ER. "I came and got you."
Josh wasn't sure, though, if he'd heard him; he saw Sam's beautiful eyes flutter closed a second before the doctors shoved him out of the way.
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