He didn't remember calling Josh, but there Josh was, framed in the doorway with his coat on over his sweats and his ratty sneakers unlaced. "Sam," he said, pushing his way into the apartment, "where is he?"

Sam closed the door and turned to face him, wondering if Josh could see the trembling or if it was only on the inside, like a heart murmur. Moving like an old man, he made his way to the couch and sat while Josh checked the rest of the rooms. Josh came back, running a hand through his unruly hair. "Where is he?"

"He went for a walk. To cool down." Sam marveled at his own calm voice. The planes of Josh's face were cast in shadow, like a camp counselor holding a flashlight under his chin. With mild surprise he realized that the floor lamp was lying on its side. Next to it, an overturned beer bottle lay in a puddle of dissolving foam.

Josh disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a towel full of ice. "Here," he said, applying it to the swelling red spot under Sam's eye. Sam took it from him and held it in place while Josh righted the lamp and otherwise cleaned up. Finally, the couch dipped with Josh's weight. "Tell me what happened."

"I shouldn't have said it," he muttered, shaking his head. "My fault. Never should have said it." God, it had seemed like such a good sign, his father flying clear across the country so they could talk. The physical distance between them had been a manifestation of the emotional distance they'd yet to overcome, and Sam had felt hopeful that a face-to-face talk was a step in the right direction.

It had started off well, but it quickly became apparent that Dad was tired of playing the penitent. "What do you want from me, an apology? I've tried, and it wasn't enough. You want me to make the last twenty-eight years not have happened? I can't do that. You know, I'm sick of being the villain here. This is between your mother and me, it has nothing to do with you! The truth is, you grew up with every advantage, including two parents who loved you. If you want to rewrite your life story as some corny Harry Chapin song, go ahead. I can't stop you."

Things went rapidly downhill from there.

"I shouldn't have said it," Sam repeated, dropping the icepack on the couch. "It's just, we were both so mad, and he said things, and I said things..."

"What did you say?" Josh asked quietly.

"I called his girlfriend a whore," Sam choked, remembering between one heartbeat and the next the livid face, the flash of a fist as his father struck him for the first time in his life. His own shock, the warring impulses to fight back, run away, beg forgiveness...his father's horrified expression, stammered apologies and hasty retreat.

Josh's hand was on his shoulder, rubbing soothing circles. "What do you want to do?" Sam knew that anything he said, Josh would make happen, up to and including sending the police out to arrest the elder Seaborn for assault. Sam was too numb to make a decision, so Josh took over.

"Okay," he soothed. "Go to bed. I'll handle it."

Sam nodded, rising obediently. "What are you gonna do?"

Josh sighed. "Send him home. You'll need to talk about this eventually, but right now I think stalling is in order. Does your head hurt?"

"A little." Josh brought him two Tylenol and a glass of water, then ushered him into the bedroom. He undressed in the dark and crawled under the covers, lying on his side with one hand under his throbbing cheek. He could hear Josh puttering in the kitchen, emptying the dishwasher as he waited. Sam started to cry, but it was okay. Josh was a good friend and would pretend not to hear.