Title: 'Strange Glue'
Author: Anna Rousseau annadelamico@yahoo.co.uk
Fandom: The West Wing
Genre: Drama/Angst
Category: SS/Family
Rating: PG
Set: Missing scene from 'ITSOTG II'
Spoilers: Through S1 to 'In the Shadow of Two Gunmen - Part Two'
Summary: As Sam tries to figure out the events of the night before, a familiar face turns up in the West Wing after hearing about the shooting.

Notes: Response to challenge set on The Sam Seaborn Fanfic Archive to explain why Sam was popping pills at the Al Keifer lunch in '20 Hours in LA'. Hope it's a satisfactory explanation, I have knowledge of this illness and I thought it might be an interesting direction to take Sam. Oh, and I think I had Chad Lowe in mind when I wrote Sam's brother, I saw him on ER and he was just so Sam-ish that I thought he'd be perfect... well he is Rob Lowe's brother, so it works out!

Medical Notes: Included at the end of this story. I advise you read them after this fic otherwise it may spoil the plot.

Disclaimer: If you don't recognise the characters, they're mine; if you do, they belong to TPTB. I don't take credit for The West Wing, though I like to think I could in another realm :o).


"STRANGE GLUE"
==============

Breathing a sigh of relief after many of frustration, the man in late twenties gave the woman he knew simply as Ginger a weak smile for rescuing him.

The midday summer sun shone though the high windows of the West Wing, highlighting the gold in Ginger's hair as she led the way through the foyer. Though the heat outside was probably unbearable, it did nothing to thaw the iciness that had enveloped the White House and its occupants. It had been a shock to them; who had expected Josh Lyman to be lying in an operating room, his chest ripped open by bullets and surgical steel alike, when only yesterday he had been rushing through these very corridors giving congressional aides and senators grief.

"Security's pretty tight today," he commented as a way of pushing aside the eerie silence between them. They turned into a corridor and walked past the Roosevelt room, dodging other staffers as they went about the business of keeping the country running whilst the President was recovering from being shot.

Tall men in dark suits were stationed every five yards. He was sure that if the strawberry-blonde communications assistant hadn't have come past the reception desk at the moment she had, two Secret Service Agents would have kicked him out of the West Wing's lobby. They were taking every precaution today.

"Yeah," came her monosyllabic reply.

Ginger, like all of the White House staff, was looking tense and tired. Her usually perfectly coifed hair was tousled and slightly dry, as if she had come into work in a rush that morning; he had been in a rush this morning too. After spending an hour trying to find a seat on a plane to Washington DC he then had to endure numerous security checks and wait half an hour for a taxi to take him to the White House. All that on top of an 18-hour shift had left him looking worse for wear. He was bleary-eyed, his sandy hair was slightly messy, but at least he had found time to shave so he didn't quite look like someone out to assassinate the President.

Mentally, he kicked himself. That wasn't a very tactful thing to think at this moment. He just thanked his lucky stars that he hadn't vocalised his thoughts.

Ginger and he made small talk until they entered the Communications Office where she excused herself and went over to discuss something with Bonnie. In the office adjacent to the one he was heading towards, Toby Ziegler sat with a yellow legal pad, his pen dancing across the paper, busy crafting a statement for the press to be delivered by CJ Cregg.

Approaching the Deputy Communication Director's office he could see his older brother leaning back in his swivel chair, something metallic dripping from his fingers. With a small smile, Alex Seaborn realised that Sam was obviously so immersed in his own thoughts that just hanging around the door hoping he would look up wasn't going to work.

Alex cleared his throat. "Hey."

Sam looked up and leapt out of his chair in surprise letting out a small shriek. Tripping over his own feet Sam fell to the ground behind his desk.

Taking a few steps towards the desk, Alex peered over the top and jumped back as Sam leapt up from the floor at that moment.

"Alex!" Sam exclaimed with a small smile, moving around his desk with a little more care and enveloping his younger brother in a firm hug.

Alex reciprocated the gesture with equal enthusiasm; he couldn't remember the last time he had seen his brother. After a moment or two they pulled apart and Alex was granted his first proper look at Sam.

He was looking dishevelled, not at all the smart and efficient presidential advisor whom Alex had seen on the morning talk shows when he was waiting at the airport in Boston. There were dark shadows under his eyes, his black hair was unkempt and without the healthy glow of television make-up his skin had a grey pallor. The strain of the night before was taking its toll on Sam; Alex knew that his brother's concern for Josh would drive him to distraction until he knew that the Deputy Chief of Staff was out of danger.

Sam gave Alex a half-smile and pulled out the guest chair which was tucked in the corner of the room. "So, what brings you here?"

There was a quiet click as Sam closed the door; the noises of the Communications Office became dull and distant. Sitting down, Alex looked into Sam's less than vibrant blue eyes and heaved a sigh. "I heard about the shooting."

"Yeah," Sam breathed, perching on his desk. He looked at his hands, obviously overwhelmed by the preceding events that had brought Alex to Washington DC.

"How's Josh doing?"

"He..." Sam shook his head and took a breath. "He should be out of surgery in a few hours." He was still studying his hands. Sam then became very still and quiet.

Alex leant forwards in his chair and placed a hand on his brother's knee. "The docs at GW are great, Sam."

His reply was barely audible. "I know."

Alex then realised that he had rushed into this topic of conversation too quickly. "I've got some good news," he said, his words cutting through the subliminal tension that hung so thick in the air it was almost choking.

Sam looked up with a small smile. "Let's hear it, then."

"Firstly, I was on the phone with Mom and Dad the other day-"

He stopped when he heard Sam groan and bury his face his lap. "Oh no!"

"-They wanted me to fly down the day your photo was splashed over the front pages and admonish you for going around with a prostitute."

"Call-girl," Sam interjected.

Alex grinned. "They've been having a lot of fun explaining to Aunt Susan that you really don't solicit call-girls. But she's so adamant, I actually think you're getting cut out of her will-"

"You're enjoying this, aren't you," Sam wailed, shooting Alex a look of exasperation.

"Well, it gives people something other to talk about than Grandpa's gout, so-"

Sam gave Alex a serious look. "Okay, let's not discuss this, Alex; people are still pretty jumpy around here when you say the words 'call' and 'girl'. How're Mom and Dad, anyway."

"They're fine," Alex replied, loosening his tie slightly. "Dad's been off on business a lot recently, he's got a big deal down in Santa... Santa," he racked his brains, "oh, well, one of the Santa Somethings. He's fine. Mom's fine. They want to know why you haven't been seeing any nice women recently."

"Laurie was a nice woman!" Sam retorted with a slight chuckle.

Alex bit back a laugh, glad to get Sam's thoughts away from the here-and-now temporarily. "I don't think that's the sort of nice woman they were referring to; Mom doesn't believe that hookers can be nice women. Somehow I'm thinking they meant 'prospective wives' when they said 'nice women'."

Sam deadpanned. "They want me to have more than one wife?"

Giving his older brother a look, Alex picked up a picture frame from the table and studied the smiling faces of President Bartlet's Senior Staff. He pointed to a face in the photograph. "I thought you had something going with her."

Sam looked at the picture and shook his head vehemently. "CJ? No-"

"No, this one here, next to Leo McGarry," Alex replied pointing to a woman with striking auburn hair.

"That would be Mallory," Sam replied, his words short and laden with a twinge of guilt.

Alex leant forward and put the photo back. "What's her story?"

"She's Leo's only child-"

"Ouch! Dating the boss's daughter, it's a no-no, Sam."

Sam shrugged. "Well we never actually got to go on a date. The first time Leo and the President drove a wedge between us, the second time Leo drove the wedge himself, and the third time it was only lunch. Then the thing with Laurie happened and-"

"You apologised, right?" Alex prompted.

"Well, not exactly," Sam replied in a quiet voice.

"Sam!" Alex exclaimed. "You at least called her, didn't you? It's been over a week."

Sam didn't reply but left the question hanging in the air, regret crossing his face for a moment. "I saw her at the hospital last night."

"Did you talk?"

"No," Sam said shortly, fiddling with a pen. "I guess I was too wrapped up with Josh and-" he changed the subject; "How's Carol?" Sam hopped up onto his blotter for fear of sliding off the edge of the desk.

"Oh well, this is the piece of good news," Alex grinned with a sparkle in his eyes, abandoning thoughts of Josh, the shooting and Mallory for a moment. "You're gonna be an uncle."

Sam beamed at him and leant forward to clap Alex on the back, carefully keeping his balance as he started to bend forwards a little too far. "Congratulations! When did you find out?"

"Yesterday, due date's mid-March. Carol's doing great," Alex smiled, then frowned as he saw his brother's forlorn expression. "What?"

"I'm just thinking of the million and one Uncle Sam jokes that are going to be told for the rest of my life," Sam moped. Indeed, a million and one jokes sprung into Alex's mind in that instant.

"Well, if you hadn't have pointed it out to me just then I wouldn't have noticed, so you've done the damage yourself, buddy!"

Clapping a hand to his forehead melodramatically, Sam moaned. "I should sue myself."

"Hmmm," Alex murmured, noticing that Sam's attempt at his usual brotherly antics was half-hearted and distracted.

A moment of silence passed between them, Sam staring intently at the floor and Alex's eyes focused on the top of his brother's head.

"I'm not keeping you from something am I?"

Sam looked up. "Hmm?"

Alex looked into Sam's dull and fatigued eyes. "You don't have to go make world peace or anything, do you?"

Sam gave a small shake of his head. "No, not that we could ever do that or anything."

"How's that?" Alex asked, leaning back into the chair, preparing himself for a little piece of oratory from one of America's best speechwriters.

Sam made little swift hand motions whilst he explained. "Conflict is caused when people have different ideas. To have world peace you'd need no conflict, therefore everyone would have to think the same things, therefore we would lose our individuality and life would be boring... Yadda yadda yadda." Sam's voice was as dull and uninterested as his glassy eyes; his mind was obviously elsewhere.

Alex raised his eyebrows. "Well that was both uplifting and inspiring."

"Well, y'know..." Sam trailed off into silence.

"What?"

Sam stared at his younger brother for a moment. "They shot Josh, Alex."

"Yeah."

Sighing, Sam's shoulders slumped as he rolled his head back. "It's all wrong."

Alex leant forwards. "What's all wrong?"

"Everything," Sam replied simply. "Everything feels wrong."

Taking a breath, Alex asked the question that had been preying on his mind since he had arrived at the White House. "How are you doing?"

There was a note of bitterness in Sam's voice. "Better than Josh."

"Sam!" Alex said in a warning tone. Sam looked down at his brother. Alex paused for a moment, then looked at Sam again. "You couldn't have done anything."

"Yes I could," Sam replied softly. His words hung in the air for a moment. "While I was at the hospital there were a million things that went through my head... Things I could have done that would mean that Josh isn't in an OR, his chest ripped open and... And." He looked at his brother. "I could have gone to look for him sooner than I did. He had some telephone calls to make, he wanted to stay behind and make them, but I said that he could do them in the car-"

"It's not your fault, Sam." Alex reminded his brother, knowing that Sam had hit the stage of self-blame hours ago.

Sam stared at the floor again. "Yeah, well that's a nice thing to tell yourself, isn't it."

Alex put a hand on Sam's knee and made eye contact with him. "Sam," he took a breath. "How are you coping?"

"Today, or in general?" Sam asked with a tight smile.

"Since you got the new medication," Alex replied. He caught sight of a small look that Sam threw him.

"So you're here to play psychiatrist?" said Sam, glaring at his brother. "I wasn't aware that you'd transferred specialities."

"Hey," Alex replied reproachfully, "I did do a rotation in med. school."

Sam nodded and leant over to the other side of the desk, pulling something out of the pocket of the black jacket that was slung over his chair. Sam breathed a sigh drenched in cynicism. "Paroxetine, my wonder drug." He tossed a foil packet at Alex with good aim, as it struck him squarely in the face. "Sorry," Sam apologised, settling back into a sitting position.

In other circumstances, Alex would have laughed at that little calamity, but he just took the packet of pills from where they had slid into his lap and examined it.

He looked at the name of the medication and nodded. "They've had good results so far, I read."

Sam smiled wryly. "Yeah, they work in so far as I can function."

"But?"

Hopping off the desk, Sam drew his swivel chair from behind the desk to next to where Alex was sitting. Sam had never had a single problem when he was a child, apart from the occasional beating-up at school for being too clever for his own good. This problem had only surfaced when he had moved away from the sunny climes of Southern California for the seasonal, snow-filled attractions of going to a prestigious Ivy League college. In his freshman year at Princeton, Sam would call home every day during the winter; they had dismissed it as Sam being homesick. Sam never complained or voiced his anxieties back then, and sometimes Alex wondered whether if Sam hadn't been so introverted he wouldn't have lost what are supposed to be the best days of your life. Looking back now, his fluctuating weight, the back pain and the head aches, the lack of energy and the poor grades in his first years at Princeton all made sense.

It had taken years before Sam had realised he had signs of depression and Alex had urged him to go see a doctor. He was on a variety of different anti-depressants, generally falling back on Prozac when the others didn't work. It was only when Sam had moved to Gage Whitney Pace that he had been diagnosed with 'Seasonal Affective Disorder', or what Sam liked to call his 'sun-deprivation complex'. Alex had always tried to keep in touch when Sam was living in Manhattan, to keep an eye on his older brother, but since he had moved to Washington, the drive was longer and a resident's budget didn't allow for frequent flights to the capital. He hadn't pushed his older brother to move back to California for the sun, as he might have done with his own patients. He knew how much Bartlet's presidency meant to Sam; he had given everything up for the man who worked in the Oval Office they sat only yards away from at this moment. Sam's partnership, his fiancée, his sanity had all been sacrificed for the sake of his ideals.

Minutes must have elapsed since Sam and Alex had last spoken, but there had been no interruption and for the moment that seemed like the right thing to do: to be silent.

"I'm not crazy, Alex." Sam said suddenly, staring straight into his brother's eyes. "I sometimes think I am. There are days when I just... I just don't know who I am anymore. Like things are different from what they were yesterday and it's unsettling and I... And I can't cope. But I am not crazy." Sam's voice became softer and softer and then broke.

"No, you're not."

Sam buried his head in his hands. "This is so hard."

Alex winced. Sam sounded so defeated, so broken inside as if everything he had known had changed and he had no way to make things right again. He sounded like a completely different person, the person who had broken down in front of the psychiatrist the first time Alex had taken Sam to a therapy session.

"You didn't really pick the right sort of job for someone with an anxiety problem, Sam." Alex said softly, shifting in his chair. "The hours, the deadlines, the stress... But you're great at it, and you need to do it. Believe me, you'd be worse without this in your life."

Sam bit his lip. "Yeah, well, sometimes I don't really feel like I belong here, Alex."

"What d'ya mean?"

Shaking his head, Sam leant back into his chair and stared at the ceiling. "I feel like I'm not being honest, Alex. All that time Leo was being grilled by the media about his alcoholism and drug addiction... And I'm here, with the same problem; no one's asking for my resignation. It seems all wrong."

Alex grasped the arm of Sam's chair and gave a heave, pulling his brother up next to his own seat. "Sam, you can't keep thinking of yourself like this."

"A few months back Peter Lillienfield went on TV and said one in three White House employees did drugs. I couldn't help thinking, even though he's this gasbag whom nobody takes seriously, that he had a point." Sam paused and looked into Alex's eyes. "I'm a drug addict, Alex," Sam whispered.

Shaking his head vehemently, Alex enunciated his words clearly. "You have a chemical imbalance in your brain, Sam. You're not crazy and you are *not* a drug addict."

Sam gazed past Alex's head, his eyes focusing on something in the distance, something that wasn't necessarily there. "I've tried to live without the medication... It's impossible. I can't begin to explain what it's like... I... I just-"

Alex nodded and put an arm around Sam's shoulders. "You can't function."

Sam's wordless nod was the only affirmation that Alex needed as he drew his brother towards him in an affectionate embrace. Even though they hadn't seen each other in over a year, there was still this fraternal glue that bound them together making them closer than they were when they were children, making them something of a strange phenomena in a world where siblings drift apart when they grow up. There were phone calls every other day, though they sometimes couldn't get through to the other person, it really was the fact that they'd tried to make contact that counted.

Alex ran a hand over Sam's hair. "What are you thinking?"

"'Bout how hard it is to get up in the mornings," Sam murmured as he leant his head on Alex's shoulder. "About how I wish I had a sofa in my office so I could just fall asleep until spring comes. About how sometimes I can't work, how I can't begin to think about writing, about how it's just too exhausting and I just want to eat... About how I just have to let Toby think I've got writer's block, because I just freeze up and I can't tell him the reason why."

"Why not?" Alex mumbled into Sam's shoulder.

"What?"

"Why can't you tell people?"

Sam sighed. "There are a lot of talented speechwriters out there, Alex. If I told everyone... I dunno." He paused and took a breath, his next sentence coming out so quickly it was as if he was afraid that if he didn't say it at that precise moment, it would never be spoken. "If they don't think I'm capable, then there's really no reason to keep me here, Alex. I've always just been the one who's around because their best friend got them a job. CJ, Toby and Josh, they were all chosen on their own merits, I'm here because Josh brought me along. If they knew about this, I'd be out of the door quicker than you could say... Quicker than you could say some monosyllabic word!"

"What the hell..." Alex stopped himself and rephrased. "You know that's not true!"

Sam suddenly withdrew from his brother's embrace and looked at him coolly. "You know how Dad treats me, Alex. Don't tell me that it isn't anything to do with the SAD."

"Dad has a hard time understanding these things-"

He held his hands up and looked at Alex wide-eyed. "He thinks I'm nuts, Alex!"

"Sam, I'm just saying, if you told someone then maybe they'd ease off your workload," Alex replied, staring at his brother's open-mouthed expression.

"Alex, I work for the President. I'm the White House Deputy Communications Director. The only time my workload will ease off is when I go get another job," Sam said, his voice raised slightly.

Alex looked Sam hard in the eyes. "You need to do something, Sam. Look at yourself, you work from half-five to past eleven every day of the week. You spend your free time writing speeches and statements. Your lifestyle is the complete opposite of what it should-"

"Alex!" Sam interrupted, his face growing red and his eyes flashing angrily.

"You love your job, I know," Alex replied, slowly, his tone calming Sam momentarily. "But you're gonna have to think about yourself for once in your life."

Sam opened his mouth, but nothing came out. This repeated itself until he was doing a fairly good impression of a fish. Finally he was able to vocalise what he was thinking. "How can I think about myself when people are getting shot at because of the colour of their skin?"

"Sam," Alex said, a weary look in his tired eyes. "You're gonna burn out."

With a slow head movement that Alex couldn't quite classify as a nod, Sam walked over to his desk, the look on his face was one that Alex had seen many a time, it was the 'my-problems-aren't-as-big-as-other-people's-problems' look. Sam opened his desk drawer and picked out a business card, looking at it briefly he placed it on top of his blotter.

"I think you should go see your doctor today," Alex said softly, standing and moving towards the desk. "Figure stuff out, y'know." He took a breath and placed his hand on Sam's arm. "The next few days are going to be hard, Sam. If you want, I can take a few days off work and I'll stay in DC for a while."

"You don't have to do that," Sam replied quietly.

Alex looked down at the blotter and saw that the white business card was that of a Dr. C. S. Perkins, Sam's psychiatrist. "I can't leave you acting like a nervous hooleilia, can I, bro."

Sam pocketed the card and looked up at Alex with a small smile. "That's not actually a word, y'know."

"Hooleilia?"

Sam shook his head. "Nope."

Alex looked perplexed. "Must just be something Mom used to say."

"I guess," Sam shrugged, his lips turning upwards for a moment. He looked at the floor, then into his brother's eyes and made a snap decision. "I was thinking of going to visit Josh, he's gonna be out of surgery pretty soon and Donna's there, I'm sure she'll appreciate it if you came with me... And I know I would."

He gave a nod and a small smile. "Sure, I'd like that."

"You've got to promise me, though that you won't go pushing the doctors around, I'm sure the First Lady's been doing enough of that already," Sam warned.

"You have my word," Alex replied solemnly. He paused and reflected on his last statement, then retracted it, "Well, I'll try my utmost not to interfere, but I can't promise anything."

Sam smiled and opened his office door, giving his younger brother a gentle shove in the direction of the bullpen. "You go say 'hi' to Toby, I know he loves you just as much as he loves me... which, I know isn't saying much, but I think he'd like to see you."

"I think he's still bitter about the forty bucks he lost to me in that poker game in Manchester," Alex chuckled. He noticed that Sam was not making a move to leave. "You've got something to do?"

Walking back to his desk, Sam put on his glasses and sat down. "I've just got a few statements to finish for CJ's next briefing. I'll be ready in ten. Go talk to Toby, and if he gets antsy just run... run as fast as you're legs can carry you."

"Get the idea," Alex replied, tapping on the doorjamb. "I'll meet with you in the foyer."

"In ten?"

Alex nodded. "In ten."

He was about to turn the corner and knock on Toby's door when he heard Sam's voice call out from the back of his office. "Alex?"

Spinning on his heel, Alex returned to Sam's doorway. "Yeah?"

Sam gave him a heartfelt smile. "Thanks for coming," he said sincerely. Though the light bounced off the lenses of Sam's glasses in a way in which Alex couldn't see his brother's eyes, he knew that the visit was appreciated.

"Sure," Alex replied with equal honesty. He gave Sam a small wave, "See you in ten."

"'Kay, then."

Walking out into the bright light of the bullpen, Alex hung his head knowing that their conversation was one that would repeat itself time and time again until Sam didn't work for the President of the United States of America. Alex gave a small sigh as he lifted his hand to knock on Toby Ziegler's door, realising that one day Sam would have to take the plunge and tell his colleagues, or they would find out in a far more disastrous way.

Serving at the pleasure of the President does not mean putting your life on the line when it is not necessary, and one day Sam Seaborn would have to come to terms with this, or else it would be too late.

***
The End
***

~~~
Medical Notes:

Seasonal Affective Disorder is an internationally recognised medical condition, the symptoms of which occur mainly in the winter when light intensity is below a certain level though in areas nearer the equator some SAD sufferers find themselves negatively influenced by the weather in the summer months. SAD is a result of different levels of the hormones melatonin and seratonin being produced by the body. Sufferers of SAD may feel lethargic, void of creativity, too exhausted to perform simple tasks, depressed and they may have eating problems. Many people are not influenced by SAD until later in life, or due to a change in latitude, so this is a disorder that affects a large number of freshmen that move north to college.

Medicines used to treat this disorder include Paroxetine, Prozac and the herb St John's Wort. SAD sufferers also may find light therapy beneficial.

If you would like more information on SAD, Dr. Norman E Rosenthal's 'Winter Blues' is an excellent guide for those who find themselves affected by seasonal changes. Information on SAD is available from his web site www.normanrosenthal.com and these are some recommended societies and help groups that may be of interest.

Society for Light Therapy and Biological Rhythms
10200 West 44th Ave.
Wheatridge, CO 80033
(303) 422-7905
sltbr@resourcenter.com

Depression and Related Affective Disorders Association (DRADA)
John Hopkins University School of Medicine
Meyer 3-181
600 N. Wolfe St.
Baltimore, MD 21287-7381
(410) 955-4647

SAD Association (SADA)
PS Box 989
Steyning
BN44 3HG
England
(01903) 814942

Also, feel free to e-mail me with any queries, or just to talk... annadelamico@yahoo.co.uk.

Feedback, as always, is appreciated.
~~~