Guilt-Ridden, For All The Good It'll Do
by Oro

They celebrate; the renewal of the inauguration, the return of Zoey, "a new, better chapter in this great nation's history" -- the end of everything that led to this (it hasn't been mentioned but it's on everyone's minds anyway). The presidential staff does celebrate the end -- of all those long, worried nights, the constant search for clues, the entire country being up on its feet and the feeling of betrayal and guilt whenever following an order from a strange President whom no one elected to preside -- there's just public relief now, and those smiles they constantly wear with their daily attire.

Josh just stands there, watching the red, blue and white flags, balloons, streamers, posters; this celebration of an American victory over foreign terrorism. The crowd, himself included, is beaming at the newly appointed First Couple on the stage, united again with their daughter who shyly smiles at the flashing cameras, her hand gripping that of the president's personal aide. Charlie smiles uncertainly at the attention, and lovingly at Zoey; tomorrow's newspaper will call them "a wall of unity."

Josh will sarcastically refer to that caption as unfortunately corny.

He will hate all the press coverage, and the pictures, the inappropriate questions during routine press briefings, the Nightline interviews. He'll hate knowing that he was a nice replacement when Charlie was lonely, maybe, but those days are gone now. He'll hate himself for thinking such selfish thoughts. Not being able to tell anyone these things.

At a point, Donna will tell him something and he'll snap; he'll feel burns in every point of his body Charlie's hands, lips, teeth, tongue ever touched. Snapshots of grief-induced lovemaking in the dark and sirens as the background music to hushed moans will pass in his mind, and the million secrets he'll never tell his therapist. Donna's concerned expression and the awareness that every eye in the bullpen is looking at him will draw him back to reality.

But for now, he returns CJ's affectionate grin and agrees that "yes, it is about time Charlie and Zoey got back together." Glasses clink together in a toast for Zoey's return; camera flashes go off once more.


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