The first thing Sam noticed was the dank smell of earth and rotten wood, and how his office never smelled that bad, no matter how many bath-less nights in a row he stayed in it. The second thing was that he ached all over, every centimeter of flesh and muscle blazing with pain, and that never happened even when he slept on Toby's sofa. The third was that he wasn't alone, which might or might not be a good thing. . . this realization squelched the fourth thing he would have noticed, because the person in the room with him was saying his name over and over in an annoying, relentless manner. Sam raised his head slowly, blinking into the near darkness, feeling dirt grind into the corner of his eye. Confused, he tried to push himself up, and discovered couldn't move his arms. His name sounded once more as he stirred; a desperate, irritating hiss. "Sam!"
He tried not to grunt as he lowered his head to the dirt, trying to remember if he had been to a party, accosted at a bar, or with any luck, laid. "Oh. . .god. What?"
There was a distinguishable sigh of relief. "Sam, you okay? You with me?"
Well, he was hurting, and he was somewhere, which was the best he could assess the situation. "Yeah."
There was a loud sigh from somewhere. "'Bout damn time! I thought you just slept like the dead. Knock you out and man, you're out." Sam heard a shuffling sound and strained to find the source.
"What're you talking about. . .ah!. . .sonofa. . ."
"Stop, don't move." Sam could sense the man near him, then right over him, crowding the space over his head. He cringed, wanting to back away, but this person knew him, even if he himself had no clue what was going on. The smell of sweat was overpowering and Sam flinched, but beneath it a familiar, lingering scent of aftershave, a smell he was accustomed to. . .
"Josh?" Sam coughed. "What the hell?"
"Hang on. Keep your head still." There were sounds of more shuffling. "Can't really see, but I think the bleeding's stopped."
"Blood?" Sam struggled with the grogginess he felt, trying to grasp hold of a situation that dangled just out of his reach. "What happened?"
"Oh, we got knocked around a bit. That's all I can say. I mean, that's all I know, I woke up and thought I was alone, then I saw you here." He sat clumsily beside Sam. "Don't remember a damn thing. Did you pay the tab?"
"So we were in a bar?"
"Hell if I know." There was a movement as Josh nodded lazily. "Good news though, think the sun's coming up."
It was indeed, and it cast a pale shaft of light into the small room though thin slats of wood. The lines it created sliced through the gloom and pointed back at his friend. Sam winced and watched as it grew in intensity until it blinded him, the beam drifting over his eyes. Again he tried to use his hands to push himself out of the way, but they were bound firmly behind his back. No bar, no back alley. He rolled slightly until he found his knees, and managed to raise himself to a seated position against the wooden wall, which seemed to bow sickeningly behind him. His arm bumped Josh's, and he glanced over.
It was his first look at his friend's haggard face. A glance told the story, and he shouldered himself from the wall and turned to face Josh, his mind clearing through shock. "My god, and you were asking about me?"
Josh shifted uncomfortably. "It's nothing."
"And I suppose you've had a chance to look in a mirror to make sure." Sam leaned in, squinting at the cuts and bruises.
"I got hit. Just like you. You don't look so great either, ya know."
Sam didn't want to think about that. He could feel it, a sudden reminder that not only were they no longer in Kansas, but apparently the wicked witch of the west was alive and well and set on vengeance. Hail Dorothy my ass. Sam's brows pulled tight as he regarded his friend, then he turned and sank against the wall beside him. His arms twitched as he fought the ropes on his wrists. "You stink."
"You're no garden yourself."
"Where's your shirt?"
"Same place yours is, I guess."
Sam glanced at Josh again and blinked slowly. "Never knew you wore wife beaters."
"What?" The absurdity of the pending conversation wasn't lost on Josh.
"Wife beaters. Your tee."
"It's an undershirt!"
"It doesn't have sleeves."
"It's a wife beater shirt."
Josh stared. "I can't believe those words are coming out of your mouth."
"Oh come on. You know every movie they show where the wife is abused," Sam tugged at his wrists ". . . nine times out of ten the man's in a sleeveless undershirt. . . just like that one."
"Okay, see, first off I don't have a wife, no thanks to your interference, and second. . .you're saying I'm a wife beater?"
"I'm saying your shirt is."
"I'll be sure to turn it in to the proper authorities." Josh shifted. "Your hands asleep?"
"Yeah." It was worse than that. The rope was rough and prickly and way too tight. His fingers were numb, and his shoulders were stiff.
Josh leaned his head back with a thump. "I was going on vacation, you know, on my own. I could be in Barbados. White beaches, umbrella drinks, things on sticks. . .but no, we just had to come here. . ."
"Josh. . ."
"You know I'm going to blame you for this. . ."
"Josh. . ."
". . .forever. Forever will I blame you."
"Josh, that's not helping." His mind was starting to focus, and he was starting to recall more than the fact that he was in a shitty room with a good, but annoying, friend. It brought to mind another good, annoying friend. . ."Where's Toby?"
"I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"Sam, I would think that with all of your vast experience working at the top law firms in the nation, then as a purveyor of golden words in the absolute ultimate government facility in the world, you'd understand what I mean by 'I DON'T KNOW'!" Josh's words echoed painfully in the room, making both men wince. He glanced at Sam. "Sorry. I'm a little tense."
"They didn't get him then?" Sam's voice was soft and forced. Josh turned an apologetic face to him.
"No. . .no, I don't think so."
"I don't. . .I don't suppose you know who 'they' would be?"
"Nope," Josh sighed. "God this sucks, look, if we turn back to back, you think. . .can you do that? Are you dizzy, what's – what's wrong?"
Sam was wincing and giving his head tiny shakes. "I. . .yeah. Dizzy." The numbness seemed to be spreading to his brain. "Lie down, then. But for god's sake keep your eyes open."
It was a subtle hint of concern that wasn't lost on Sam. "No, I'm okay. Turn around."
"Just. . .yeah, I'm sure. Just do it." This was a situation he wanted out of, the sooner the better.
Josh grunted and managed to twist with his back facing Sam, who twisted in turn until they were back to back. He allowed his shoulders to brace against Sam's, and tried not to knock against his head. "Well, this feels. . .freakish." He'd known Sam for a long time, they'd played sport together, worked together, just about seen each naked, scary as that was, but it was nothing compared to being back to back with him, their hands intertwined, each working the knots that bound them. "Way too freakish."
"Wanna stay like this?"
"Then shut up." Sam's voice was strained. It was getting harder to concentrate, and right when he'd found some clarity. . .his head slipped back and knocked into Josh's.
"Ow. . .sorry."
"Look, will you please. . .no, wait, I think it's getting looser. . ."
Their attempts were halted as the door was flung open. Each man turned away from light that burst like flame across the floor and filled the room with yellow. Before their vision focused they were aware of being pulled away from each other, which was all they needed to be thrown into a panic. Josh was pulled to his feet and flung against the wall, a thick arm pressing his neck to the boards, the rough woods scoring his arms. He could see Sam on the floor in the corner, and in the new light he saw that the head injury his friend sustained was as bad as he feared. Shit. He schooled his face into what he hoped was a semblance of calm, but jumped as the man who was leaning over Sam jerked his shoulder to the floor and held him there. Josh wanted to ask if they were going to be killed, what they wanted, and who they were, and precisely in that order. Instead he watched as the man standing over Sam slowly knelt down and pressed his knee against the man's chest, slowly crushing the air from his lungs, slowly causing him pain.
He hated pain. It wasn't a good thing.
The man that held Josh smiled, his teeth yellow against leathered skin. "Amelican Dip-lo-mat"
"Pardon?" Josh croaked, his eyes darting from his captor to Sam.
"You Amelican dip-lo-mats."
"Why?" The question was hesitant.
"We need dip-lo-mats."
"What. . .for?"
"We need dip-lo-mats."
"This is going to take a while," Josh muttered. He grunted as his head was whipped back against the wall by an unseen hand.
"Your friend is dip-lo-mat," Yellow Teeth insisted.
"He's - he's a writer," Josh forced out, his eyes falling to the figure on the floor. Sam was watching the scene intently, and winced at Josh's words. "What do you want from us?"
"We need dip-lo-mats."
"So you've said. . ."
"You will help us."
"I'm not helping you do a damn thing," Josh muttered through clenched teeth. The room spun and he found himself face down on the floor, his arms wrenched painfully upwards behind him. He could see Sam's expression, his anger, and held that gaze as a voice stale with liquor met his ear.
"You will." The dark head tilted towards Sam. "Or he dies."
Josh snarled his helplessness as he was yanked back to his feet and found himself face to face with the wall and a rough hand bracing back of his neck. The ropes were removed from his wrists and he spun and glared, rubbing the pain away, watching in growing anger as the man hovering over Sam stood and braced his friend to the floor with one heavy boot on his shoulder. The man smiled, pressed down enough to hear a pop, then pulled back. Sam's face went rigid with pain and his eyes clenched shut, but he didn't allow a sound to creep from his tight lips.
Josh didn't even think. His body moved on its own, launching forward with a yell, seizing the man by the shirt and throwing him aside as other hands caught him and flung him across the floor. He hit the ground hard, looking up just in time to see the men rush out. He sprang to his feet and ran to the door, grabbing it by the edge and cursing as his fingers were forced away and the door was pulled closed and latched right before his nose. "Assholes! ASSHOLES!" Josh pounded on the worn wood, hoping it would splinter under force, then peeked between the slats. "Guards. With guns." He cursed once more and pounded a few more times before heaving a sigh. Sam was still on the ground, but had rolled and was trying to sit up.
Josh watched for a moment before helping him, bracing his back, while avoiding the injured shoulder. "Easy! Move slow."
"Damn, it hurts."
"Lemme see." Josh carefully pulled the sleeve of Sam's t-shirt up and over the shoulder joint. There was a red imprint of boot tread, already fading. He squeezed the flesh carefully, then tighter, pressing his fingers into the joints and muscles. "Think it's okay. It'll bruise."
"It will now," Sam muttered as he jerked away.
Josh pulled the sleeve back down settled on the ground, starting on Sam's ropes. "What about your chest?" Josh reached around and made motions to lift Sam's shirt, but Sam blocked the motion.
"What the. . .look, it hurts, so does my head, can we not talk about that and instead talk about getting outta here?"
"Why, you got a plan?" Josh frowned over the knots. "You been pulling at this?"
"No and yes."
"Well, don't. I can't loosen it."
Sam's thoughts weren't on the ropes. "Was there anything we said in a meeting, anything the President said in a speech, anything I wrote in a speech. . ."
"I'd say your writing was as impeccable as always. . ."
"We aren't in any major conflicts. No military actions." He glanced back at Josh. "What's this about?"
"You're asking as if I have a clue."
"I was hoping you did."
"Yeah, well, sorry to disappoint you." Josh finally worked the knot loose and threaded the rope backwards. A few good tugs and Sam had both hands in front of him, rubbing away the rawness and cursing the pain in his shoulder. "I can't even be sure we're in the same country anymore." Josh leaned back with a sigh and watched Sam.
"We're over the border?"
"Beaches, Sam, pearl white beaches. . ."
"Oh, shut up." Sam squinted and turned away.
"Girls in bikinis, bathing in bikinis, running in bikinis. . . ."
"Josh?" Sam's voice was heavy.
Sam was leaning slightly, his hands reaching out, his brow furrowed then relaxing. "I'm gonna pass out now." His eyes fluttered. He didn't feel his friend ease him to the floor.