Ainsley took a step closer to Sam and studied his nose. "Have you, at some point during this day eaten a doughnut?"
"I, despite the guilt and regret that will no doubt ensue, have enjoyed a slice of apple pie."
"And, I may, at some point this afternoon, go to the Mess to procure a second slice."
"Assuming you can rise above the guilt and regret?"
"Yes, and it is at this point that I would like, very much, to examine your nose as I think I saw some sugar upon it."
"Ainsley, what the…" Ignoring Sam's protests, Ainsley stood on her tip-toes and started her study. She peered at and then sniffed Sam's nose. She then leaned even closer and started to lick it. Sam tried to push her away but she seemed determined in her task. Sam shouted her name out as she took her first bite. His eyes flew open, breathing fast he slowly became aware of his surroundings. He was no longer on the set of capital Beat but on his sofa. Nickleby was sitting on his chest. His attempt to wake Sam by licking his nose having succeeded he jumped down and led the way to his bowl. Sam stayed on the sofa until the images of Ainsley had melted away; glad at least that he was able to make sense of why she had been purring. At some point during the night, Toby had fetched two comforters for them. Toby's lay neatly folded on the chair.
Sam rose slowly, the remnants of last night's headache causing him to moan. In the kitchen he found a note from Toby telling him he had gone to find food. Sam sighed and rubbed at his neck. A shower. A shower, coffee and two of whatever pills he was allowed when he had taken the blue ones less than nine hours ago.
By the time Toby returned, Sam had accomplished all of these tasks and was sitting in the living room reading the paper. He stood when Toby arrived, letting himself in with Sam's keys. "I found food," he announced as if he had gone into the woods and snared a rabbit. Sam nodded and followed him to the kitchen, watching as he poured orange juice and started to unpack.
"You know it's just us for breakfast, right?" Sam asked watching as a range of breakfast items were laid out on the table.
"I didn't know what you'd like." Toby shrugged self-consciously.
Sam got some plates and cutlery and they sat down to eat, a task made more difficult than usual due to the great choice of items. Sam settled on a slice of melon and a muffin. Toby made a mini selection from most of the items. Sam gave Toby the sports section of his paper and they read and ate in silence. Neither could face the thought of more coffee after last night's binge so Sam made some tea and they took it onto the balcony. "Thanks, Toby. That was like a hotel buffet, only better because there wasn't any elbow barging."
"What sort of hotels do you stay in?" Toby asked.
A police siren wailed in the distance. A jogger ran by, stopped to tie a lace and then continued. An open-top tour bus passed below, the guide's lively chatter drifting up to them. Toby asked another question. "What do you remember, last night I mean, what do you remember?"
For a moment Sam was tempted to tell him that he couldn't remember any of it. "We talked, we listened, I screamed, there was definite lapel shaking going on." He looked sideways at Toby waiting for confirmation of his behaviour. If he could dream Ainsley had bitten his nose he could dream he had been shaking Toby.
Toby fingered the edge of his jacket and nodded. "Do you remember what I said to you?"
Sam nodded but realised from the look on Toby's face the gesture wasn't enough. "You explained how you were feeling before…and after. You made a lot of things make sense."
"Do you remember what you said to me, I mean specifically when you were trying to remove the lapels from my jacket?"
Sam looked away from Toby. The jogger was now passing on the other side of the street. Sam tried to think where he would have turned, what his circuit might be. "It's your fault." He quickly turned to Toby. "That's what I said last night I mean. Not now, I'm not saying that now."
"Aren't you?" Toby tried to hide it but his tone was anxious.
"No. Not now, not then really. Well, I suppose then, yes." He turned to Toby and rolled his eyes, "You know for two of the President's speech writers we're doing a pretty lame ass job of verbalising our thoughts."
Toby smiled and agreed they were.
"What I'm trying to say is that I don't think the accident was your fault. I can't blame you for me not using my seatbelt, I can't blame you for me being where I was that night and I certainly can't blame you for Kelly smashing his car into mine."
Toby nodded slowly, thoughtfully. "What about the other stuff, how I treated you, what I said."
"Oh I still blame you for that," Sam stated. "We can work on that though. You could start being nicer to me."
"You could reward my insightful ideas and youthful approach."
"I mean the odd cigar or bottle of something wouldn't go amiss."
"We could work out some sort of points system. When you write something that sucks I get ten points, when I write something that doesn't suck I get ten points."
"When I write something that doesn't suck?"
"I get five points."
"That system seems skewed in your favour."
"Already you've forgotten about the you being nicer part."
"Yeah, that's one of my many reservations about this system."
Sam nodded, his gaze fixed on a squirrel that was thinking about the transition from fence to tree. "I can see it has flaws," he agreed. They sat and finished their tea then returned indoors. Neither man knew what to do or say. They had covered a lot of ground but there seemed to still be things to say. "Let's go to Ford's Theatre," Sam suddenly announced.
Toby was too taken aback by the request to do anything but agree. He agreed when Sam walked down the street and suggested they get on a tour bus and agreed when Sam paid for two all day tickets. "Are we sightseeing?" Toby asked.
"Yeah, have you ever done the tourist thing? I mean we live here and we work here but have you ever actually done the tourist thing?" Toby said he hadn't and Sam told him how Mallory had impressed on him the importance of it.
"Is that because you demonstrated your complete lack of knowledge about anything to do with the history of White House?"
"That and the fact that she believes you can't say you live somewhere until you have seen it through a tourist's eyes. Also there remains a possibility that one day she may sleep with me so, you know…"
"It's a lot smaller than you'd think," was Sam's assessment of Ford's Theatre as he tucked into a hamburger. Toby agreed. He also agreed that being a tourist wasn't as much fun as you'd think, especially when you're stuck on a bus with an overzealous tour guide. Their tour had started and ended with the theatre and it was decided they'd get a cab back to Sam's place. "We should probably buy something."
"What you mean dessert or something?"
"No, I mean if we're being tourists we should probably buy something, a t-shirt or…something."
"I thought we weren't being tourists anymore."
"True." They had started eating inside but the music was loud, there was a light flickering above their table and next to them a mother sat trying to quieten a howling baby. Sam had stood, picked up his burger and left. Toby grabbed his, left a generous tip on the table and followed. Sam was sitting on a bench outside. Toby didn't need to ask what had happened. Sam was fine now and Toby was heartened that he had been able to get himself away from the situation and calm down so quickly.
"I'm beginning to regret leaving those fries behind," Sam said as Toby wiped his fingers on a napkin.
"Yeah," he balled the napkin and threw it into the trash can. "I think there might be some food back at yours."
Sam smiled at Toby's reference to his breakfast banquet. "We better head back there then. You know, you should call Josh and tell him to stop hyperventilating."
"I did. He didn't believe me when I told him everything's okay."
Sam laughed and Toby glanced at him. He wanted to see if the laughter was as real as it sounded. It was. Toby sighed deeply. "Come on, let's get a cab."
Josh, frustrated with not knowing what was happening and convinced Toby was lying to him, had gone into work. He had phoned Donna and very reluctantly she had agreed to come in so long as he bought her lunch and she left by two.
"Okay, tell me again what Toby said."
"He said everything was fine, there was no need to worry, he and Sam were good."
"There you go."
"Anything could have happened! Sam could have had one of his things and Toby wouldn't know how to cope. Maybe Sam had one of his things and in his unresolved rage killed Toby!"
"Your call from Toby came via John Edward?"
"Good point. Well, maybe Sam had one of his things and Toby in his unresolved guilt and rage killed Sam! Sam hasn't called me!"
"Buy me lunch. You promised me lunch. You told me you had work to do and you would buy me lunch."
"Okay. But, you know who else I haven't heard from? CJ. She could be in on it."
"She's in her office."
"Is there a body shaped bundle wrapped in a blanket on her sofa?"
"We can probably go for lunch then."
Sam and Toby had settled at the kitchen table, picking at the breakfast items. "Do you need to lie down or something?" Toby asked having not spent a whole day with Sam for some time.
"I don't need to be put down for a nap!" Sam replied indignantly. Sections of the paper were swapped. Toby sat tutting and muttering until Sam could take it no more and took the politics section from him and gave him back the sports pages.
Toby reached for his bottle of beer and on finding it empty, rose to get another. He leaned against the counter and looked at Sam. He was sitting back in his chair, his feet resting on the chair next to him. One hand held his beer and the other idly flicked the corner of the page he was reading. Toby coughed lightly and waited until he had his attention. "Those other things you blame me for, I was thinking, apart from the ridiculous points system that isn't going to happen, is there anything I can do?"
Sam took a swig of his beer then placed the paper on the table. "It's not rocket science, Toby. I mean all of our issues, every problem we have can be resolved by our ability to do one thing. It's ironic really because you're the one who came up with the soundbite for it."
Toby's eyebrows furrowed and he shook his head in confusion. "I don't get what you…what soundbite?" But then it came to him, suddenly, his own words hauntingly replayed to him. "Friends are honest with each other."
"Yeah," Sam replied, almost in a whisper and with the same sense of betrayal those words always made him feel.
"Huh." Toby pulled the chair from the table with his foot and sat down heavily. "Yeah." He rubbed at his face. Sam thought he was the one who looked like he could use a nap. "Yeah, they are and we weren't."
"No, we haven't been for a long time."
We're going to be okay though?"
"I think we are."
A more demonstrative man would have stood and given Sam a hug, at the very least shook his hand in both if his and held the gesture. Toby reached over the table, knocking a box of pop tarts over and clumsily patted Sam's arm. The gesture was as warm and embracing as any hug the older man could have offered. As were the expressions the two men exchanged.
Toby removed his hand and looked at the table. "I should clear this up. You should go lie down. I don't care if you don't need a naptime; you look like you could use one."
Sam had to agree he was exhausted, his glance in the hallway mirror earlier had confirmed he looked as washed-out as he felt. His head, mercifully pain free for most of the day had started to thump. Toby's order to rest gave him the permission he needed to admit he was feeling the effects of the outlet of emotions he had experienced in the past few hours. He stood unsteadily and gratefully took the glass of water that was offered to him.
Apart from the ticking of a clock there had been only silence in his apartment for the last few moments. If the sudden, resounding banging on the door made Toby jump it made Sam sky-rocket upwards. The contents of his glass flew up and over the edge. He tried to move away from the table to lessen the damage but stumbled. Loosing what little coordination and balance he had, he landed with a thud on the floor, catching the corner of the oven as he landed. The banging grew even more loud and impatient. "I'm using my key, Sam!" Josh called as he gave up on the door being opened and let himself in.
Calling Sam's name he made his way to the kitchen. In the doorway he paled at the sight before him. Toby was crouching over Sam who was looking dazed and was bleeding profusely from his nose. There was broken glass on the floor and the table was covered with water, running down from soggy cereal boxes and working its way around pieces of fruit. "I knew it! I knew there was something wrong. I should have come sooner. Get away from him, Toby!"
It was at this point that Sam raised his head and peered over Toby to look at Josh. There were no words of thanks for being saved, no softly spoken plea to get him to the hospital. Sam looked dead at Josh, his gaze clear and steady. "You fucking maniac! What the hell? You could have buzzed like anyone else. Jesus, it's like something from the Shining."
"I thought…I thought…"
Sam stood with Toby's help and glared at Josh. "Would you like an axe for the next time you call?"
Josh jogged along beside Sam as he was led to the bathroom by Toby. "Okay, I may have been a little overzealous but you have to admit that as a concerned friend I rank right up there." The bathroom door was shut in his face. "I'm going to be right out here. I'm going to wait because I'm a concerned friend, Sam, and that's what concerned friends do."
When Sam and Toby emerged from the bathroom Josh was in the kitchen clearing up the mess. Toby walked past him and grabbed some ice, wrapped it in a cloth and passed it to Sam. "Lunatic," Sam said to Josh as he leant against the worktop and placed the ice on his nose.
"I told you everything was fine, on more than one occasion I assured you everything was fine." Toby's exasperation was clear.
"I thought it might have a double meaning."
Sam rolled his eyes, mumbled lunatic again and shook his head. Toby handed Josh a beer and took two more out before gesturing to the living room. They watched an old black and white cowboy film whilst they drank their beer. Josh looked across at Sam who was clearly finding it difficult to stay awake.
"You should go lie down," Josh suggested.
"That was where I was going when my concerned friend started trying to bash the door down."
"Oh. I'm sorry about your nose…and the glass…and the soggy breakfast stuff."
Sam nodded, handed his empty bottle to Josh and then curled up on the sofa. He fell asleep moments later. Toby nodded towards the kitchen and there told Josh all about his conversation with Sam and, with a huge sense of relieve and thankfulness, he told Josh that he and Sam were going to be okay.