Josh was well asleep when Sam stopped by. He pulled out his spare key and opened the door, knowing Josh was home, knowing he was most likely asleep, and perfectly willing to scare the living shit out of him. He grabbed a drink and sat on the sofa, sipped, and waited.
He didn't wait long. There was a loud groan followed by a louder curse and shuffling. Josh entered, oblivious, his hair on end as well as his boxers. . .Sam smirked. His original intent was to just let Josh find him, but he couldn't resist a dig. "Good dream?"
Josh nearly peed.
Sam stood, brows furrowed, and looked to the floor where his friend had landed. "You okay?"
"JESUS!!! Do you mind????" Josh was frantically trying to arrange his boxers, gasping from the fright.
"Don't worry about that, looks like the scare did the trick." Sam gestured at Josh's limp boxers with his glass.
"What the hell. . .what are you doing here?"
"I decided to talk after all."
Josh stood, bracing his hand against the wall. His heart was still racing, and he was a long way from forgiving Sam for anything. "Christ, couldn't you just call? What time is it?"
" 'Bout noon."
"You're kidding." Josh leaned against the wall and closed his eyes.
"Toby says you didn't sleep well last night. Neither did I really, so I brought some coffee." He pulled a canister from a paper bag as he walked to the kitchen. "Got sandwiches too. Cheese curls." He laid the items on the kitchen table as Josh watched. "Actually I thought you'd be up by now, but I took a chance. I went back to the office last night. Sat there and didn't do a damn thing, just shuffled papers from one corner of the desk to the other. Tried to read but something was wrong with my glasses, so I cleaned them for about half an hour. Moved my papers some more, then organized my desk." Sam poured water into the coffee machine. "You know how the sun comes in through the blinds? I sat and watched it. It makes these little lines on the desk, and these lines move as the sun comes up, and I was trying to think what it reminded me of. Then I ran to Toby's office and took an hour or so on his sofa."
Josh hadn't moved. He stared at Sam as he slowly set up lunch, talking more to himself than anything. "What did it remind you of?" he asked quietly.
Sam jumped and blinked. "The shack," he said simply.
Josh slowly edged along the wall. "What about it?" His voice remained low.
"The sun. It made lines in the dirt between the slats of the wall. I followed it. All I did was watch as they crept along. Eventually they left that shack, disappeared. Seemed to go right through the wood." He opened a pre-made sandwich and looked at it. "Figures. All this food and suddenly I'm not hungry." He slapped the bread onto the table and turned away. "I felt like the world was turning without me. Watching those lines, it was like time went on and no one cared. I was outside of it, somewhere time was moving but not where I was. I just watched it go by. And it struck me," he looked down at the table and ran a finger along the edge, not meeting Josh's eyes, "I mean, I suddenly realized how much time we really do have to do things. You realize what you can cram into one hour if you try? How productive you can be? I timed it in my head. The projects I do, the little daily mundane things, I should be able to do it all in two hour tops and then devote the rest of the time to bigger things. Things that matter. I was planning all this in my head while watching those damn lines." He turned to Josh. "Do you realize how much time there is in one day? We talk about not having enough time, maybe we're trying to do too much."
"You never can do too much," Josh said. He was in the kitchen now. He watched Sam's hands shake as they gripped the sides on the table. There was a butter knife nearby and he had a sudden odd inclination to jerk it away from Sam's view.
"Of course you can. You do too much, then when you take a break your brain is so numb you can't think straight. Things happen."
"Sam. . .you're not making sense."
"See?" Sam laughed and gestured at Josh. "That's what I'm talking about."
"No, I mean, why talk now? Sam. . ." Josh stood beside him. He saw the wrinkles in Sam's shirt, smelled the. . .beer ? "Did you, you didn't go by a bar. . ."
"I stopped by my place on the way here, and all I had in the fridge was a beer. I was thirsty."
"You couldn't have bought a coke?"
"At the time I wasn't planning on coming here."
"Just what were you planning?"
"I was planning on sleeping, Josh. Okay?" Sam's eyes caught sight of the digital clock on the counter. He pushed away from the table and shoved a sandwich towards Josh. "Look, I really do have to get back to the office, I just thought I'd stop by."
"Wait and I'll come with you."
"Jesus, Josh. . ."
"I need a ride, okay? I've got work too, I mean what's the big deal? Or do you want to start that again?"
"Fine! Ride with me. I don't care."
"No. NO! You sit there," Josh pointed, "and you listen once and for all. I'm tired of this. I think, no, SIT!" he pushed Sam into a chair, "I think this is all a cover. You don't have a problem with me hovering, as you put it, you have a problem with dealing with this whole thing! What's your beef, huh?" Josh bent down and looked right at Sam. "You don't want to admit that you can't handle this. Do you? Well?"
Sam stood and shoved Josh away. "I can handle this just fine! The problem is you won't let me cope with it! Dammit Josh, maybe my way of coping is different from yours! I'm not fucking china, okay? I'm not going to break!"
"Then what do you call that little scene you just played out? All that talk about time and that shack?"
"WELL IT DOESN'T SOUND LIKE IT TO ME!"
"What the FUCK do you want, then?" Sam stormed into the living area as Josh followed, then spun on him. "You want me to crack? You want me to break down? You need for me to go NUTS so you don't feel so bad about goings nuts after Rosslyn? Is that it?"
"You. . SON OF A BITCH!" Josh ran at Sam and pushed him against the wall. "You have no idea what I went through! No clue!"
"POOR YOU!" Sam pushed Josh away, then found himself on the floor. He looked up with venom in his eyes. "One minute you make this about me, then it's about you and what you went through and how no one understands. What do you want from me?"
"I want to know that you were as scared as I was!" Josh's voice caught in air that was suddenly still. "I want to know that if I died, you would have cared! I want to know that the fear I felt was something you could relate to! I'm mean hell, Sam! I was terrified for you, and all you can do is blow it off and say you don't want to talk about it! Like it doesn't matter. It-It makes me wonder if. . ." Josh bent down, then collapsed to his knees. "I – I want to know that. . .I matter. That if I died in a shack, someone would be sad for me. That you would be sad for me."
Sam's face fell. "Jesus," he said softly, "is that it? You think you don't matter?"
"I don't know." Josh leaned back against the wall and propped his elbows on his knees. He ran his hand through his hair. "I don't know. I think I was just so scared. I was scared for you, and I hate that they were able to hold you over my head like that. I resented it, and for moment I resented you. God. . .I resented you! I was almost jealous, because. . .I knew how scared I was for you, and. . .I can't make sense of this. It was a feeling, how do you make sense of a feeling? It was the most intense, raw thing I'd ever felt, and I felt it alone."
"You think no one was scared for you?"
"I don't know."
"Josh, and I'm going to try and say this without sounding like I'm blowing my own trumpet here, but you do remember that I wouldn't leave without you. You – you do remember that bit, right?" He pulled himself onto his knees to face Josh. "That wasn't because I wanted to be a hero. It wasn't because I was scared of the consequences if I didn't try. Dammit, you're my friend, and I was just as scared for you as you were for me. I did tell you, I said I thought they were going to kill you."
"I remember that. And you, I don't know, you had this look. Freaked me out."
Sam smiled. "I think I know the look. It was on your face too." He leaned in. "And I know the fear. Why do you think I don't talk about it? I can't, I don't know how. I work with words for a living, but words can't describe this. It's frustrating. So I don't even try. I just, I don't know, I cope with it."
Josh's face softened into a semblance of a smile. He force out a laugh. "God, I've been such an idiot."
"Yep. But it's okay, I forgive you."
"You ass. You still need to talk about it, you know."
"I know." Sam's expression grew serious. "And one day I'll tell you how truly scared I was. But not today."
Josh studied him. There were lines of fatigue around his eyes. The corners of his mouth were pinched, and he still looked worn. But his eyes held a small spark that comforted Josh. "Just don't wait too long, okay? I hate thinking I'm the only one coping with this."
"You're not. And. . . just because I'm not talking, doesn't mean you can't." Sam sighed and leaned back. "I've had my fits, believe me. My nightmares. Maybe I just need more time."
Josh pushed his hands flat against the cool floor. "I'll take your word for it. But one day you're going to explode."
"And I'm not letting you alone until you do. Because when you do, you'll need someone there."
"So stop trying to drive me away."
"I'm here, aren't I?" Sam smiled.
Josh nodded and stood, then gave Sam a hand up. He looked around. "How about our next vacation we just stay here. Or maybe go to New York or something."
"Maybe." Sam raised his eyebrows. "Now, you eat while I use your shower, and I need to borrow a shirt. And you definitely need to shower after me."
"Yeah, yeah." Josh unpacked his sandwich. "Corned beef on rye?"
"Oh, sorry, that's mine. You have the chicken salad."
"Since when do you eat corned beef?"
"Shut up, Josh."
"Damned freak of nature." Josh unwrapped his sandwich and poured a cup of coffee. He suddenly felt more relaxed than he had in a long time.
"So the trade deficit is up, the dollar is down, the Dow barely broke even, we have two countries that want to go to war and one that refuses embargo, and once again my wife is on the opposite part of the country from where she should be. No chance this is going to be a quick and easy day, is there?" Jed paced behind his desk, looking at Leo.
"No more so than usual, sir."
"Good, cause I hate surprises. Josh and Sam outside?"
"Ready at your word."
"Send Josh and Sam in here."
Sam and Josh entered, apparently in the middle of a conversation. "So I told him no, but I really had no idea what to think." Sam turned from Josh. "Good evening, Mr. President."
Jed nodded, his gaze as penetrating as always. "Anything I should know about?" His eyes fell to Sam.
"What? OH, no sir. I just left a meeting with Senator Howell."
"I take it the meeting went well?"
"Yes, it did."
Jed raised his chin in approval at Sam's self-assuredness. "Then what is this thing, where you said you 'had no idea what to think'?"
"Oh, that." Sam glanced sidelong at Josh and tucked his hands into his pockets, thumbing a tiny lint ball. "It, uh, it had to do with his daughter." He removed his hand and scratched behind his ear self-consciously.
"Enough said. Sorry I asked." Jed walked to his desk and leaned back against it, then waved the men to the sofa before him. "I understand from Toby that you two have spent the week here. Are your homes being fumigated?"
Josh gave a puzzled smile. "No. . .sir, we've been busy."
"So Leo says. And CJ. And everyone else around here that's been trying to keep up with your pace."
"Actually sir, I think we're all trying to keep up with Sam's pace. And, I might note, I've been home twice this week, which is more than I can say for writer-boy."
"Really? Twice? That many times?" Jed leaned back slightly. "I'm impressed! You can hear the sarcasm in my voice, of course."
"And what about you, Sam? Should we move Toby's sofa to your office, or your things to Toby's sofa? Mouthwash, favorite pillow, I'm sure you're not using these things at home." Sam opened his mouth to respond, and closed it again at the President's raised hand. "I'm not finished. I appreciate the work. I really do. But you're too young to work yourself to death, as much as this place tries to put it on you. Plus it won't make the memories any less frightening." He took note of Sam's sudden rigid posture and sat across from him. "Josh spoke to me."
"You mean you're both ganging up on me."
"Sam. . ."
Jed exhaled deeply and laced his fingers together as he leaned forward. "Sam, I can't imagine what the two of you went through. I'm not even sure I have the balls to try. To tell the truth it amazes me that you are both here in my office. Now I'm not saying your way of dealing with things is wrong, because I'm no expert, and I'm not saying you are in denial, because again, I'm no expert. But you need a break."
"Sir. . ."
"You need a break, Sam. Both of you do. God knows the last one didn't do you any good." He nodded at Josh. "We've been talking."
"Really." Sam was studying the leg of Jed's desk.
"Yes, really. Take two days. Find something to do that you enjoy."
"I enjoy my work." Sam's voice was quite, his gaze riveted on the worn wood.
"Right now your work is your escape, Sam."
Sam looked up. "Escape? Everyday I hear about the trial. Every day I hear something about that– that man. And while I don't blame him in the slightest, I can't help but wonder if these kids weren't trying to do the right thing after all by bringing him down."
"We don't know that."
"And he's not talking. He was a drug-lord, a war-lord, he did things to people that were unspeakable even by Nazi standards. And he has the audacity to ask for immunity, to try and escape the events he should be tried for!"
"In their country. By their standards. He had nothing to do with the US, other than occasional contact with the military. What are you saying, Sam? Are you saying you're glad they kidnaped the two of you? Are you saying you wish they had succeeded?"
"Yes! No!" Sam shook his head. Josh watched in confusion. "I want him brought to justice. I want those kids brought to justice. I thought they were going to kill us. But I can understand why they did it. I keep thinking. . .maybe there was another way. Maybe if we had the chance. . ."
"To do what, Sam?" Josh was incredulous. "Sit down and have tea?"
"They were kids."
"The leader wasn't a kid. Their actions weren't that of kids, or have you forgotten that?"
"No," Sam said calmly, "I remember it every minute of every day. Every time I step foot into this place. Every time I turn on the news, or see trees, or I sweat. Every time I close my eyes."
"You need a break, Sam," Jed said quietly, "and that's an order. Either that or I'll proclaim you unfit."
Sam's eyes widened. "My work hasn't been good enough?"
"Your work is fine. The pending breakdown isn't."
"Why are you all so convinced I'm going to break? Why is it that because I haven't, you think I'm bad off, or not coping, or unfit?"
"I'm just saying you need a break, Sam. Whether you break down or up your decision."
Sam stared, then gave a small laugh. The tension eased. "Okay, okay. Better to give in on this one than fight. What did you have in mind?"
"Well, I'd thought," Josh said mildly, "that we'd go sailing."
"Sailing? Since when do you go sailing?"
"Since you invited me, which you are about to do," he looked at his watch and cued Sam, "now."
"Wanna go sailing?"
"Sure, why the hell not, the world's problems can wait," Josh hurriedly said and smacked the sofa with his hand.
Sam's mouth opened again and Jed stopped him. "Everything's taken care of. Go. Get wet. Not too wet, though, you're due back in two days."
"This gives taking a vacation from your vacation new meaning, doesn't it?" Sam's blue eyes were already dancing at the thought of the open seas. Jed smiled. Hell, it was in his name. Seaborn. Why the young man was in politics and not on stationed on some vessel baffled him.
Then again, maybe it didn't.
Sam turned to Josh. "Sure you want to do this?"
Josh watched the eagerness on his friend's face grow and spread like a child's. "Absolutely! What's a little salt water between friends?"
"Not quite your version of paradise."
Josh pictured Sam on the seas; confident, healthy, the wind in his hair, taking control of the craft and, once again, of his life. "No," he smiled, "but it's good enough."