Title: "Hazy Shade of Winter"
Series: 'Strange Glue' III
Author: Anna Rousseau
Fandom: The West Wing
Genre: Drama/Angst
Category: SS/Family/JL/MOB/TZ
Rating: PG-13
Set: The months from 'The Midterms' and through past 'The Portland Trip'
Spoilers: S1 through mid-S2
Archive: Yes please, just tell me where
Summary: "This is a Sam I have met on rare occasions in the middle of winter."

:~: the steam pipe trunk distribution venue :~: www.angelfire.com/indie/anna_rousseau

Notes: Okay, so this series has three different writing styles: 3rd person, 1st person written and this is 1st person POV - I'm sorry if this is disorientating for you (I'm sure it'd do my head in!), I just find writing in different styles is interesting!

Series Notes: This is directly linked to 'Strange Glue' & 'Return to Sender' (fics which were responses to a challenge for a fic that explained Sam's pill-popping in '20 Hours in LA'), so read them first. Medical notes are included in that story, but please remember, just e-mail me if you need any more information.

Songs: 'Dear Diary' & 'Indefinitely' from Travis' excellent 'The Invisible Band'.

Disclaimer: I don't own Sam... I don't own Josh. Dammit. However, I do own Alex - gotcha!


Dear Diary, what is wrong with me?
'Cos I'm fine between the lines
Be not afraid
Help is on its way
A sentence suspended is air, way over there
Dear Diary, What else could it be?
As nightshade descends like a veil, under the sail of my heart
Be still, don't stop until the end
Dear Dairy, what is wrong with me?
'Cos I'm fine between the lines
- 'Dear Diary' Travis

27th September 2000
22:28 EST
Boston, MA




"He's here," I reply, unlocking the front door and waiting for my wife to join me in the hall. She's been working on a closing statement for a court case, you see, and when comes in from the study her glasses are pushed on top of her head, their arms tangled amongst her mahogany curls.

"Well, let him in," she prompts, nudging me in the ribs expectantly.

I guess I am kind of anxious: I haven't seen Sam for weeks. We've talked constantly, e-mailed each other every single hour, but still I feel as apprehensive about what I will see behind the door as I did that day in August when I went to the White House.

I have no idea what state he will be in. The winter's approaching quickly. The afternoons are duller, save the fiery leaves on the autumnal trees that seem to line every street in the state. I know what Sam's beginning to feel: the fear of not quite being in control of himself, the fear of not quite being himself for the duration of the winter.

I push these thoughts to a place in my mind where I can return to them on another day, and I open the door, a smile on my face.

My older brother is there, standing rubbing his hands and complaining about how I have a death wish for him, for leaving him outside in the cold. But someone else is with him.

I can almost sense Carol's surprise, and I can tell I'm pleasantly shocked by the wide smile with takes my mouth hostage.

"Mallory McGarry, am I right?" I venture as Carol ushers them into the house and takes Sam's coat. I make a move to help the auburn haired woman from her camel hair coat.

She smiles at me brightly, "Half right, it's Mallory O'Brien."

Sam rushes out of the door, muttering something about having to get their bags from the taxi, and Mallory looks embarrassed.

"I'm sorry, I know you weren't expecting me, I just couldn't pass up an opportunity to meet you," Mallory says with a heartfelt smile. "I hope this isn't awkward for you..."

Carol shakes her head as if what Mallory is saying is completely uncalled for. "Forget it, Mallory. Come have some coffee and Alex will make up the couch for Sam."

"Oh," Mallory replies, going slightly red. "Don't go to the trouble."

Carol is one of the most intuitive people I know, so she deals with what could have been an uncomfortable situation with a quiet 'ah' and a large grin.

I grin as well and Carol leads Mallory by the elbow into the den. I catch Sam's eye as he comes through the door, a suitcase in each hand and his laptop under one arm, and he comes over towards me, placing the cases by the stairs.

"Alex," he says, clapping me on the back in a brotherly hug. "I hope you don't mind, Mallory came up with Leo and... well... I wanted you to meet her."

"Say no more," I reply jovially. "I'm glad you're getting some, really I am. I think you've waited long enough."

Sam's slightly red in the face from standing outside in the cold, and what I said made his face glow a deeper shade of crimson. "Alex, honestly I'm shocked," he feigns the shock he speaks of and I grin back at him.

"You look well," I comment, noticing a lack of the dark circles which nearly always halo his bright blue eyes.

"Well, I try my best," Sam smiles back, silence surrounding us for a few seconds. His head drops for a seconds and the smile disappears.

I look at him intently. "How's it going?"

Sam's head snaps back up and he smiles weakly, the bravado gone for the moment. "Fine. Not the best, but fine. Things threw me last month, and I guess it's gonna take some time to get over it."


"He's getting better," Sam nods, loosening his tie and undoing the top button of his shirt. "Causing Donna hell, that's gotta be a good sign, right?"

"Right," I reply as I follow Sam into the den. Mallory's sitting on our leather couch next to Carol, their legs drawn up into the cushions and heads together conspiratorially in a mix of russet coloured tendrils. I nudge my older brother. "Sam, is she... do you love each other?"

Sam looks at Mallory, and that clich├ęd, misty-eyed look threatens to fog up his spectacles. He nods, and that's all I need to know.

I walk over to the tray on which mugs and a coffeepot sit, expectantly, on top of the oak table. "How do you take yours, Mallory?"

"Cream, two sugars, please."

I smile at her and pour out the coffee, feeling positive about Sam's new romantic interest. Feeling ultimately pessimistic about what lies in the dark months ahead.

28th September 2000
02:41 EST
Boston, MA


Sam's brother and sister-in-law are really great people. Witty, intelligent, compassionate and kind. Sounds rather sappy and unbelievable, but it really is true. It wasn't the embarrassing visit I thought it would be, after all.

I'm lying on my side, pressed up against Sam's chest, the fine cotton sheets lying tangled around our legs. His arm lays curled around my waist, his other resting on the pillow above my head. His eyes shut minutes ago, but mine rest half-open, half-closed in that gentle state of relaxation which you can neither define as sleep or consciousness.

The warmth that leaves his skin and settles into mine should have lulled me to sleep instantaneously, but still I'm awake, and I don't know why.

"You're still awake," Sam murmurs gently, echoing my thoughts, and I start in his arms, certain that he was asleep.

"Yeah," I reply as he opens his eyes and casts a sweeping gaze over my face.

"What's wrong?" he asks, wrapping his other arm around my neck and pulling me closer to his body, our torsos meeting and melting together as if we were magnetically attracted.

I forget my train of thought for a second, and then I reply truthfully after a moment. Truthfully, because that is what we had promised each other. "Y'know, I'm not quite sure."

I smile at him and decide that doubts can wait another day, because they are surely nothing to do with what is going on between us. I pull his head down to my lips and capture his mouth in a slow kiss.

His hands skim my back slowly and push my body closer to his still. I wrap my leg around his and let him move to plant trailing kisses down my neck.

Then I realise what was bothering me earlier, when I couldn't sleep. I run my fingers through his dark hair and tip his head upwards, kissing him lightly on his lips.

After a moment we draw apart, and Sam makes a move to kiss me again, but then my mind can no longer contain those thoughts and a question I didn't know I wanted to ask escapes the lips he was seeking.

"Sam, why are you taking medication?"

28th September 2000
03:39 EST
Boston, MA


Mallory's head is leaning on my chest as I lay flat on my back, my throat hoarse from talking for over an hour continuously. Normally I have no problem talking for hours on end, but when the topic's extremely hard to explain, these things don't come as easily as they should.

I've told her everything. Every depressive episode I've had, every pill I've put into my mouth, every bed I've fallen into with the wrong woman at the wrong time to try and attach some meaningless interest to life.

And she's stayed next to me. She didn't leave when she found the packet of Seroxat in my washbag when she was really looking for toothpaste. She hasn't shouted, she hasn't cried, she hasn't felt deceived... Mallory has just stayed there, lying in with bed with me and we've talked, and it has been the most wonderful hour I have ever spent with her, because now I don't feel as if I'm a lying bastard. I've done what we agreed to do: to tell the truth.

I've told her the truth about a lot of things. About the SAD, about the tablets and the psychiatrist, about Josh and Laurie, about Lisa and the Presidential campaign... and for the first time she hasn't turned on her heel, narrowed her eyes and tried to put as much distance between the two of us as she can. This must be a world first.

Five people, now: me, Dr. Perkins, Alex, Mallory and Josh. The five people who know the one thing that could destroy me in the end. And each time, it doesn't become any easier.

I let my finger run trace a line across her cheek as she wordlessly runs a hand underneath my T-shirt.

"Have you ever thought about-" Mallory starts but she doesn't finish. Her eyes are cast downwards: I can almost guess what she's about to ask, but somehow I can't vocalise it myself.


She looks up at me for a moment, her eyes wandering over my face, searching for some clue I'm not sure she will find emblazoned across my features. She finishes her sentence as if she never paused, "Suicide."

I know the answer; of course I do. I just don't know whether or not I want her to know. But I should, that is something I do know for sure.

She shifts slightly and props herself up on her elbow, her black camisole top as dark as the Boston night I can see out of the corner of my eye out of the window.


Her voice is quiet, barely even a whisper and for a moment I don't realise that she is waiting for the answer I am preparing to deliver.

My eyes met hers and my head nods and my voice is quiet and slightly rumbling. "Many, many times."

17th October 2000
22:12 EST
Washington DC
The White House


"Where the hell have you been?" I ask gruffly as Sam walks through the Communications Office and straight into his office without the usual cheery salutation which accompanies his arrival.

He either doesn't hear me or chooses to ignore my interrogation as he makes no attempt to reply to my question. I sigh heavily and follow my deputy into his office. I am, at the moment, in a profound state of disenchantment. Since the Portland trip and Sam's bout of writer's block I can find myself losing confidence in him with every mediocre line of rhetoric he presents me with. This is not the Sam I know. It's not the Sam who wrote Bartlet's inaugural address.

Sam's pulling off his overcoat, his eyes fixed on a point in the distance when I enter his office.

"Sam, did you hear me?"

He looks up at me and blinks his eyes, "Yeah?"

I shift my weight from foot to foot; I don't have the time for this. "I asked you where you'd been the past hour."

Sam responds after a moment, as if there is a time-delay in his office. "I had lunch with Mallory."

I raise my eyebrows, wondering what on earth was going on between the two of them. "That's strange, because Ginger says she called in here looking for you half an hour ago."

"Toby-" he makes a move to explain, but I don't want to hear it. I don't have time for the intricacies of Sam's love life. All I have time for is work. Work and sleep, but not necessarily in equal quantities.

"What about the speech for the dinner tomorrow?" I ask, anxious to know if Sam's writer's block has ceased to hinder his capacity as a speechwriter.

He looks at me and swallows. "Uh, Toby... I-"

"Don't tell me it happened again!"

Sam runs a hand over his head and rubs it frantically for a few seconds in a nervous little gesture I have only come to notice very recently. "I tried, Toby... I tried and tried-"

"Are you ill?" I ask, as that can only be the reasonable explanation for his lack of the talent and enthusiasm I have become so used to expecting with every project that I give him.

He looks at me for a second. "Am I ill?"

"Yeah!" I reply impatiently, any tone of concern I might have had fleeing from my voice as it rises in volume.

Sam pauses and we are apparently experiencing one of those time-delay problems again. "No, there's no excuse," he says quietly.

I look at the ground intensely and try not subject Sam to the torrent of abuse I fear will fly out of my mouth if I attempt to speak to him.

"Try harder, Sam. There're a lot of great writers out there-" I trail off as I see the mix of horror, surprise and betrayal on my deputy's face. I can't believe I said that, honestly I cannot.

But it has been said, and I know that whatever else I say, I won't be able to erase what I have just implied.

I cough and mumble softly, my tone still edged with an element of spite I cannot seem to lose when I talk to Sam: "We've got a meeting with Leo in two seconds, and if you're cheating on Mallory I'd like you to consider your prospects in this administration once her father finds out."

There's a cold, disinterested note in my voice that I don't know the origin of. All I know is that it has been creeping in gradually, under the cover of darkness, and at the moment I don't have time for anything or anybody apart from work. Even the ultimatum I unconsciously gave Sam does not strike a chord of deep regret within me as it should.

I can feel my heart freezing over the days; I don't know how to explain it. I don't know if I want to make the effort to thaw it out.

I can hear Sam say something in explanation of this discontinuity, but I don't give him another moment's thoughts.

I've got the proverbial bigger fish to fry.

I don't even notice the abnormal paleness of his skin, nor the paper pharmacy bag he flings on his desk. The only thing I notice is that he's here, and we have a meeting with the Deputy Chief of Staff in twenty seconds.

10th October 2000
21:08 EST
Washington DC
The White House


"How's things?"

"What things, sir?"

"Mallory & Sam."

"Jenny's not too thrilled."

"I bet."

"Sir, what're you laughing about?"

"Just the look on your face when Mallory and Sam said they were seeing one another."

"You're not gonna let me live that one down, are you, Mr. President?"

"No way... Where is he anyway?"


"Yeah, he was supposed to be here at nine. It's not like him to be late."

"I don't know what's with him. Toby's having problems with his writing-"

"Creative temprement."

"I wish I could blame it on that, sir, but Toby talked to me today and he suggested that Sam should be given some leave-"

"Toby's lack of patience astounds me sometimes. Unbelievable... the kid'll get his swing back."

"I can't understand it, sir. Ever since the shooting... you know how far back Josh and Sam go."

"This'll pass. Tell Toby that... it did last year, remember."

"I forgot about that."

"Yeah, well don't let him take it out on Sam, he works hard, he's dedicated, it happens to all the best writers. Tell him that, would you."

"Yes, sir."

"Where the hell is he?"

23rd October 2000
13:12 EST
Washington DC
The White House


Fresca. I need Fresca.

It's hotter than a hellish South Carolina night in my office, my own steam pipe trunk distribution venue, and right now I would kill to plunge my burning face into an Eskimo's fishing... hole-thing... well I know what I mean, irrespective of if you do.

My phone rings, and for a moment I do not notice it for the reason that the dry heat in the room has reduced my efficiency to that of a siestal daze.

"Ainsley Hayes," I answer, my drawl more prominent in these southern temperatures, as if the environment moulds me in such a way.

"It's Sam Seaborn," the voice on the other side replies.

"Nice and cool where you are Sam?" I reply icily, still bearing a probably ridiculous grudge on the grounds of the fact that his office, as he is the Deputy Director of Communications, is cooler and more civilised than mine, an office of a lowly, serf-like associate counsel.

I have been around Sam enough to know when he isn't in the mood for banter, and this is one of those anti-repartee moments for him.

"Ainsley," he starts, his voice less self-assured than usual, "I need you to do the meeting with the 4th Democratic Caucus at four by yourself."

I'm speechless. Honestly, I'm a goddamn lawyer and Sam Seaborn has rendered me speechless. Me? In a room full of Democrats? Me, a Republican? Me, the one member of the Bartlet White House whom they would most like to murder given the opportunity to do so?

"Me?" I can only reply, sounding foolish the moment I say it.

"Yeah," he replies breathlessly. "I'll send Larry with you, he'll know the details. You okay with that?"

What am I supposed to say, I wonder. "No, Sam, I'm not okay with that. Where're you gonna be that's so much more important?"

There's a protracted pause, and I start to wonder if the line has gone dead. But, no -

"I've got to have emergency dental work, Ainsley. Handle this for me, would you?" Sam replies quickly.

"Well, you sound okay to m-"

I'm greeted with the unforgiving sound of the dial tone and my words trail off into mid-air.

25th October 2000
21:58 EST
Washington DC
The White House


I lean back into the moderately comfortable sofa which sits on the right hand side of the foyer, my eyes closed against the soft lighting that comes on at nine o'clock every night in the West Wing.

It's been a hellish day. Goddamn awful in fact.

First there had been an accusation by the Chicago Sun-Times that the Bartlet Administration had put an excessive amount of spin on the announcement of a policy for sex education in schools. Then there had been no less that five press briefings where the press hand nearly eaten me alive, and I'm sure they would done so if I hadn't had ran out of there with the promise of more details at the next briefing. Then, to top off a perfect day there had been Danny. Oh, God... Danny.

I start to contemplate the dreary life of being a White House Press Secretary when I open my eyes and am met with the sight of Sam rushing towards the East Entrance.

"Hey, mi amgio," I call wearily, and get to my feet, reminded of something I probably need to clear through either him or Toby for the next day.

Sam stops in mid step and turns around, looking frantically for the person who just addressed him.

His behaviour is stranger than usual; his fist is clenched tightly around something and he is breathing heavily as he bounces impatiently on one foot.

As I approach him I see that his eyes are blood shot, his skin is blotchy and pale and his hair is tousled and unkempt.

I've only ever seen him like this once. Only one time. There was a night, one February when we were on the campaign trail and he had locked himself in his room for hours on end, and had only let Josh in. Josh told me that nothing was wrong, he just wasn't feeling well. I could tell it was something else, I just knew, and Josh knew the reason behind Sam's behaviour. I was told that Sam had migraines and they caused him terrible pain, and I had linked them to the pills he seemed to take with every lunch he ate.

But migraines couldn't really explain his panicky state as he stands here before me, his eyes wild and expectant.

"Are you feeling alright Sam?"

His clenched hand is unfurling and balling into a fist sporadically and with increasing velocity. I stare him straight in the eyes and he just mutters a quiet 'I'm fine' then turns away and rushes out of the foyer.

I am left standing, the air still and tomb-like around me, not quite sure what has just happened.

25th October 2000
22:03 EST
Washington DC
The White House


The end of another marvellous day. A day of fun and games with the Republicans on the Hill and another sparring session with my old buddy Al Kiefer.

As you can tell, the spring in my step is coincidental with the fact that my work for today is done; I have dismissed Donna so she can go for dinner with one of her gomers and I can now go home.

Home. Well, for the moment, that means going to Sam's place and sleeping in his spare room surrounded by at least a million and one legal text books he has seemed to accumulate over the years. It's just for the next few days, until the decorators are done in my new place. I love DIY, don't get me wrong, I just don't have the time.

I've only been at Sam's place for one night so far, and I didn't see too much of him then as he went out with Mallory for dinner and they came back extremely late and went straight to bed. If I were Sam, I would have skipped dinner completely and would have got that woman straight into the nearest vacant room. I don't mean to say I harbour any more-than-friendly feelings for Mallory, I just wish I got some occasionally.

Anyway, I'm nearly out of the door when I see CJ rushing towards me.

"No, CJ. Shop's closed, come back tomorrow-" I stop when I see the panicked expression on her face. "What's wrong?"

"I think Sam's ill. He looked dreadful. He just went home... you're staying with him, right?" I nod slowly, phased by CJ's clipped sentences and rushed tone.

"Yeah," I reply, slightly suspicious of her: she's pulled a lot of pranks in her time, has CJ.

"Get him to a doctors, Josh," she insists, her eyes wide. "He's looks worse than that time in Des Moines."

Then everything seems to click into place; pieces in a puzzle, images from the past few days.

What I've heard from Toby, what I've heard from Ainsley, Donna, Charlie, Leo and CJ. The missed meetings and unexplainable absences, the lack of inspiration and increasing amount of unfinished speeches. The appointments, the inconsistencies in his explanation of his absences. The dazed and sombre mood Sam's been in.

It has all clicked into place and I wish I hadn't heard what CJ just told me.

He couldn't do this to me, to Mallory. He couldn't pull another one of those episodes like in New York after Lisa, Dallas, Maine, Washington and Des Moines.

I can't hope to keep him and me together at the same time.

25th October 2000
22:49 EST
Washington DC




"Thank God! I've been waiting out here for over twenty minutes. I tried the phone, it was engaged... I tried his cell, I tried the White House," her nose is red and her breath accentuates itself in mists of vapour as she tries to contain her frustration and panic.

"Is he in?"

"The lights are on," she says in way of explanation.

I dig into my pocket and get my key, prodding it into the lock and dropping it in my haste to get inside, to get to Sam before something happens. I'm not sure just what that something is, but I have known long enough about Sam's volatile mental state to suspect the worst in such a case.

I finally get the door open and Mallory rushes in, almost tripping over Sam's overcoat that lays, strewn carelessly across the floor. I glance around the living room, the phone is lying on the floor, off its hook, the dial tone sounding loudly in the unearthly stillness of the house.

Pills are scattered across the floor, pink and white. A crystal vase lays smashed on the carpet.

This is worse than I had initially thought. This was worse than Des Moines because I hadn't been with him. He hadn't told me how bad it had become because I was recovering from my own injuries whilst his mental wounds were left unchecked and ready to fester and induce invisible pain.

Mallory has run upstairs to check the bedroom, and for some reason I cannot bring myself to move. I don't want to see something that will change everything. If ignorance is bliss, let me have it and get me away from the hell of suspense I am immobilised by at the moment.

I rub my hands, slick with clammy perspiration, across the rough wool of my coat and I step forwards, reaching out for the kitchen door as my eyes remained fixed on the suit jacket with lies at the entrance.

And all in a moment I have crossed the place. From the heaven of not knowing into the purgatory of stark realisation as I see what I could not bring myself to contemplate.

His body is lying there, on the white marble tiles of his clinical kitchen, the appearance of the room made more surgical by the crimson pool of blood he lays in, the red soaking into the fibres of his dress shirt. His watch lies in the red as if like a solitary desert island, its sand not soaking the water around it as the fabric of his clothes drinks it insatiably.

And for a moment I cannot bear to even look. I suppress the uncontrollable and atavistic urge to vomit and turn away from this scene of violence, to have no part of this horrific scene.

This is not my best friend.

Things have not become so bad that he has been reduced to slitting his wrists over the sink like a angst-ridden teenager.

He's not one of those rock stars who are so far gone they want nothing more to do with life.

This is not the everyday Sam I know.

This is a Sam I have met on rare occasions in the middle of winter. This is the Sam that takes bottles of sleeping pills and then vomits them up again to release himself from the pain of simply being. This is the Sam who will sleep days on end, panic and cry for hours then attempt to jump from a hotel room window in Dallas.

This is the Sam who in this hazy shade of winter has used his Swiss Army knife from his Boy Scout days to score a deep line down the vein that runs close to the skin at his wrist.

I peer into the sink as an arctic explorer peers into a deep cravas and I see the stains of blood initially drawn from the cuts. I look down to the other Sam, the other Sam who is slumped against a cabinet and the floor, more dead than alive.

If this is what happens to people in their darkest hours, God let me die now before I experience such desperation.

Everyday in every way I'm falling.
Shine a light on me, so that everyone can see that I wanna stay here indefinitely.
Time exists but just on your wrist
So don't panic
Moments and lifetimes are lost in a day
So wind your watches down please, 'cos there is no time to lose
And I'm gonna stay here indefinitely
And I wanna stay here so just let me be
Now I can see the light circling round you reflection
And I'm gonna stay here indefinitely
And I'm gonna stay here, so just let me be
-'Indefinitely' Travis

The End

So, the end, or a sequel. E-mail me at annadelamico@yahoo.co.uk

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

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
BN44 3HG
(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.