Shades of Grey
Part 23

"Toby?"
"Hey, kiddo." Toby looked down into dark-ringed blue eyes.

When he had been told that Sam was alive, he'd been afraid to believe it. According to Dr. Powell, the most serious of Sam's injuries were a mild concussion, and a dislocated shoulder with torn ligaments. The latter would subject his deputy to a shoulder immobilizer for a month. Sam was battered and bruised, but he was alive.

He had grieved for this man. He had allowed himself to cry. How Sam had wormed his way through the barriers he had spent most of his life erecting, he had no idea. He just knew that the bond between them was strong. Stronger even than the one he shared with his own brother.

His first impression of Sam had not been a good one. How could a young hotshot possibly fulfill the duties of Deputy Communications Director? Now....How could anyone possibly take his place?

None of that mattered. Sam was here. And he was alive. Toby didn't know whether to laugh or to cry again. The overwhelming grief had come to a crashing halt, but was replaced with so many other feelings—relief, worry, happiness, fear—all vying to be at the forefront. It made it hard to keep his expression schooled into its normal scowl.

Oh, the hell with it. He knew which one needed take dominance now.

He smiled. "You scared the hell out of me, you know that?"

Sam swallowed, and then licked his lips. "Toby...? What...happened?"

Toby paused, his smile fading into pursed lips. Another of those emotions was pushing forward. The doctor said there could be some temporary memory loss due to the concussion. How much should he say? "You don't remember?"

Sam shook his head, fixing his gaze on the ceiling. Toby couldn't help but notice the ugly purple bruise on Sam's right cheekbone. Toby's eyes narrowed.

God, Sam, what did they do to you?

"You took a tumble down some stairs." That was only a small part of it, but at least it was the truth.

"I don't....Toby?" His eyes narrowed in concentration. "Does any of...what happened...have to do with Josh?"

"Yeah, he was there. Do you want to talk to him? He's right outside-" "No!"

Toby was startled by the abrupt answer, but even more surprised by the terrified look on his deputy's face.

Sam recovered quickly, looking abashed. "I mean...I'm just...tired." He looked up again. "Can I go home?"

Toby sighed. Why did he have to be the one to break the news? "Sorry, Sam. You're going to have to stay."

"No," Sam whispered, his head rocking slowly side to side.

"It's okay. It's only for one night. They just want to make sure everything's okay. The doctor said your room will be ready soon."

Sam's eyes slid closed, but his forehead bunched up and his brows drew together.

Toby laid a hand on Sam's good shoulder and gave a gentle squeeze, offering as much support as he could. "I'll go see what's taking them so long." He took one step away from the gurney, but stopped when his suit jacket caught on something. He turned back and saw Sam's fingers curled into the material. It had to hurt; the IV was in the back of his hand. "Hey, hey, watch the suit." He smiled again to soften the reprimand, but it faded when he saw how quickly Sam's chest was rising and falling. "Sam?"

"Please...Toby...don't go. I can't...I don't...."

He stepped up beside the gurney again and gently pried Sam's fingers open. He guided the cold hand back to the sheets and covered it with his own, being careful not to disturb the IV line. "I'm not going anywhere, Sam."

As he watched, Sam's breathing slowed, and the worry lines on his face faded into a frown. Toby sighed, his body and mind more weary than he wanted to admit. But it didn't matter. To hell with everything else. He wasn't leaving.

"Get some sleep, Sam. I'll be here when you wake up."

 

 

Toby started, sitting up in the chair with a gasp. He blinked in the dimness, not sure where he was. Something had jarred him from sleep; he was certain. But what?

A soft whimper reached his ears, and suddenly it all came flooding back to him. He pushed himself from the chair and made it to the bedside in one stride.

Sam flinched in his sleep. Sweat matted his hair, plastering it to his forehead even as his head jerked from one side to the other. His eyes moved wildly behind his eyelids, and he whimpered again, louder this time.

"Sam?" he called softly, laying a hand on the younger man's arm.

Sam's lips parted in a silent cry. His eyes flew open and he stared straight ahead, terrified by something only he could see.

"Wake up!" Toby carefully took his deputy's face in his hands and turned it towards him. "Look at me, Sam. You're okay. Come on. Wake up."

Sam's right hand grabbed his wrist and held on tight. Toby held his breath as the younger man squinted in confusion, readjusting his grip on Toby's arm as if making sure it was really there.

"That's it," Toby urged, letting go of Sam's face. "You're all right."

Sam's gaze traveled about the room.

"Do you remember where you are?" When he received only a nod in answer, he asked, "Where are we, Sam?"

"Hospital." It was barely a whisper, but at least it as the right answer.

Toby smoothed the dark hair back, being careful to avoid the bandage taped over the stitches. He laid a hand across Sam's forehead. The younger man was warm, but not terribly so.

"You want to talk about it?"

Sam licked his lips and stared at the white blanket. "I don't...remember...."

Toby could see the frustration as Sam worked it through, and he rubbed the hand that still clutched his wrist.

"Guns," Sam said. "They had guns."

"Yes."

Sam looked at him then, eyes wide and full of fear. Toby could only imagine what his friend was going through. What was worse? Not remembering what happened or the horrible memories that were locked away somewhere in Sam's mind? No, he couldn't even begin to imagine.

"Just relax, Sam. It'll come. Don't force it."

Sam heaved a sigh. "I'm not sure I want to remember."

Toby swallowed, unsure of what to say. There was a tightness in his chest that wouldn't go away. He needed to change the subject. "You really should try to get some sleep."

Sam's expression asked if he was crazy.

Toby couldn't stop the hint of a smile that quirked his lips. "You know the nurse is going to be here in a couple of hours to wake you." He took a step away from the bed, but could make it no farther. "Sam? Can I get my chair?"

"Hmm? Oh. Sorry."

As soon as Sam released him, he retrieved the padded armchair and pulled it up beside the bed. He sat down and reached through the bedrail, taking Sam's hand in his own. "She'll ask you questions again, Sam. Just remember: It's Sunday now. I can't remember what day it is on a daily basis. How do they expect you to know that?"

He kept up a steady dialogue, his voice soft and even. He talked about anything that came to mind until his voice cracked from dryness. He paused to swallow, glancing over at his deputy. Sam's eyes were closed, his breathing steady. Toby waited to see if Sam reacted to the silence.

Nothing.

Toby sat back in his chair with a relieved sigh and rubbed his eyes with his free hand. Sam was asleep, but the grip he maintained on Toby's hand was a strong one.

Toby looked around the private room, his gaze settling on the huge flower arrangement that occupied most of the bedside table. CJ, Cathy, Ginger, and Bonnie had delivered it, all of them anxious to know Sam was okay. Even Leo had stopped by, delivering a handwritten note from the President, who was unable to get away from the White House.

Toby stretched out in the chair, crossing his ankles. His spine crackled and he glanced over at the bed. The noise sounded loud in the quiet of the room, but Sam didn't move. With any luck, he would sleep until the nurse woke him.

And hopefully there would be no more nightmares.

Hopefully.

* * * * *

 

Tap, tap...tap...tap.

Toby stopped at the edge of the darkened Bullpen and listened. He was sure he'd heard...

...tap...tap, tap.

What the hell?

He glanced at his watch. It was nearly seven o'clock in the evening.

Sam had been discharged from the hospital around five. Toby had driven him home, gotten him settled, then headed for the office. There was a hell of a lot to catch up on.

And he'd spent the last hour updating Leo and the President on Sam's condition.

The President was fully prepared to offer both Sam and Josh the entire week off. Not that either of the deputies would take him up on his offer. Toby expected they would take a few days at most.

He hadn't expected this.

Toby stormed down the hall. He could see that faint glow of the desk lamp from Sam's office spilling out into the hallway.

The idiot.

He stopped in the open doorway. "What the hell are you doing?"

Sam looked up from his laptop, his face the picture of innocence. He wasn't even startled. "Writing."

"Did you drive?

"I took a cab."

Toby folded his arms. "Is this what you call inactivity?"

"I'm sitting," Sam argued in his own defense. "I'm only moving one hand. See?"

...tap...tap...tap.

"Sam, typing is an activity. Writing is an activity. Thinking is an activity." His voice became steadily louder with each accusation. He saw Sam wince, so he softened his tone. "The doctor said no activity for a couple of days. You should be home. In bed."

Sam lowered his gaze to the screen. "I think at home too, Toby" he said softly. "I prefer the thinking I do here to the thinking I do there."

Toby let his arms drop to his sides. "Why don't you come in my office and lay on the couch?"

"I have work to do."

Tap, tap, tap.

"Sam—"

"Toby, please."

Damn it. Of all the arguments for Sam to win.

"Okay," he relented.

Sam had the grace to look surprised. "That's it? Just okay?"

"What do you want me to say?"

"I don't know. I just...I expected more of an argument."

"Sam, what the hell do you want from me?" Toby bellowed, his patience gone.

"Nothing. I'm fine. Okay."

It was a good thing Sam knew when to quit. Toby took a few breaths, and then nodded. "You need anything, you let me know."

"Okay."

"Just call me."

"Okay. Can I use the bell?"

"I got rid of the bell, Sam."

"You did? Wow."

"I'll be right next door."

"I know. Toby?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks."

 

 

"What are you still doing up?" Donna folded her arms across her chest and raised her eyebrows.

Josh looked rightfully startled. Dressed in old sweatpants and a tee-shirt, he was standing in front of the open refrigerator, a bottle of beer in his hand.

"Donna!" he said. "Wait." His eyes shifted from left to right. "What time is it?"

"Almost midnight."

He closed the refrigerator and attempted to twist off the cap on the bottle. "Why are you here?"

Donna's stomach clenched. "What?" She took a step closer. "I told you I would stay."

"You know, I gotta get up in about five hours for work." He looked down at the bottle in his hands. "This is not a good idea." He stopped trying to twist off the cap and waved a hand through the air in a 'forget it' gesture.

Donna gasped; she could see it shaking. "Josh..."

"I just can't sleep." He began to rummage through a drawer with his free hand. "I keep having nightmares."

Something was wrong. Josh was...was he awake? If he was sleepwalking, she wasn't supposed to wake him, was she? What if he hurt himself? She could hear the rattle of metal, and prayed there were no knives in that drawer.

"Josh?"

"I might as well just stay up now." He paused and looked up at her. "Wasn't I supposed to have a meeting with Senator Collins yesterday?" He shrugged and went back to his search. "I tell you, some of these senators. You give them some power and they act like they own you. Hello? I work at the White House." He slammed the drawer shut. "Where the hell is the bottle opener?!"

Donna could feel tears pooling in the corners of her eyes. "Josh, what day is it?"

He turned to her, his back to the kitchen counter. "What do you mean 'what day is it'? It's Friday."

The tears broke free and slid down her cheeks. She lifted her hand to her mouth, trying to stay in control. Josh needed her. She lowered her hand a bit and made a fist, digging her nails into the palm of her hand. "No, Josh," she said softly. "It's Saturday."

He stared at her a moment, then slowly shook his head. "No," he whispered.

"Oh, Josh," she said, crossing to him. "You're okay, and Sam's okay."

Josh reached his hand back to set the unopened bottle of beer on the counter. He misjudged the edge; the bottle hit the floor and shattered. He didn't seem to notice.

Donna hopped back, beer spraying her legs. "Josh, don't move!" she ordered, dashing to the sink and grabbing the dishtowel. She stooped down to mop up the mess, starting with the area around Josh's bare feet. She gathered it up under the towel and lifted it.

"Ow!" She gasped as a sharp edge poked through the towel and stabbed her middle finger. She dropped the towel where it was and watched a tiny pool of blood swell up, then drip over the side.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." Josh was staring at her finger, horrified.

She stood, and went to the sink to rinse off the cut. "Josh, it was an accident. It wasn't your fault."

"It is my fault. It's all my fault."

"What?" Donna wrapped a paper towel around her finger and turned back to him.

Josh's head was bowed, his chin nearly on his chest. "Sam almost died because of me."

Donna opened her mouth, but no sound came out. She closed the distance between them and took his arms gently in her hands. She could feel him trembling.

"I thought I had control," he continued. "I thought I could get us out. I was wrong."

He raised his head to look at her, and her breath caught at the sadness in his eyes.

"Rashid put a gun to his head, Donna. He put a gun to Sam's head and—" His voice hitched. "Honest to God, I thought he was going to kill him."

His eyes glazed with unshed tears, Josh stared through her, trapped in the past. "When I heard that gunshot...I thought he was dead. You know how they say that time slows down? It does. It really does. And in that moment, I saw my life without Sam, and I—"

The first tears fell.

"But he's fine, Josh. We didn't lose him."

"No, Donna. He's alive, but I've lost him. I've lost my best friend."

Donna shook her head. What was that supposed to mean?

Josh lifted a hand to cover his eyes, his chest heaving as he let go the emotions he'd somehow managed to keep at bay. "Oh, God."

Donna felt him move, his body slipping to the floor. She held on to him, moving with him until they were both sitting on the cold tile. She pulled him close, her hand guided his head to her shoulder. Rocking him gently as he sobbed, she thanked God she had decided to stay.

Shades of Grey - 24

 

Home        What's New        Author Listings        Title Listings