Shades of Grey
Monday, January 15, 2001, 1:00pm
This one was no exception. He felt like he hadn't slept at all.
Oh, wait, that's right. He hadn't.
Leo had told him not to come in until Tuesday, but he had work to do. The Secret Service wanted to talk to him. And the FBI. And the police. There was no sense in taking the whole day off. Time off meant time to think. He didn't want to think about anything that wasn't work.
"Glad you're okay, man."
He waved and gave the best smile he could manage as he passed through security and headed for his office.
A round of applause greeted him as he passed his Bullpen.
If they only knew...
He repeated his smile and wave and turned into his office.
There was a plant on his desk. A big, tropical one. The words 'Feed me' suddenly came to mind.
"Josh, as much as I disagree with your being here, I knew you would be, so I got together some information I thought you might need"
"Good morning, Donna," he mumbled, setting his briefcase on his desk. She didn't even pause for a breath.
"for your meeting on the Hill. I organized your phone messages, but those are only the ones you need to handle. I took care of the rest and"
"Who's the plant from?" he asked.
"Oh, it's from all of us," Donna said, gesturing back at the Bullpen.
Josh nodded. "You picked it out?"
"How'd you know?"
"Donna, if it starts asking for blood, you can oblige."
"I see your sense of humor is back." There was a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
"What sense of humor? That was a statement of fact."
"You don't like it."
He was about to make another comment, but he looked up and saw she was making the boo-boo face.
No, not the boo-boo face....He had no defense against the boo-boo face.
"It's great, Donna. Thanks."
She smiled. "I just thought you could use some cheering up."
"Did Sam come in?" he asked, attempting to peruse his phone messages.
"I haven't seen him. Oh, and Leo wants to see you as soon as you get settled."
Josh looked up from the papers. "Why didn't you tell me?" He rounded the desk and headed for the door.
"I just did," he heard as he walked out the door.
"Dad, I really think you should let him stay."
Leo sighed. He could tell by the tone of his daughter's voice that there was no arguing with her. He was going to anyway. "Mallory, the doctor said he needed rest."
"He's not going to get it at home by himself." Mallory stepped closer to his desk. "You didn't see him last night, Dad. He was terrified of being left alone. When I was getting ready to leave this morning"
"You spent the night?!"
"That wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I called you."
Mallory planted her fists on his hips and tilted her head to one side. "I'm not sixteen anymore, Dad. Try to remember that, okay?"
Leo waved in surrender. "Just fulfilling my fatherly duties."
Mallory relaxed. "I know. Thanks for calling me." She walked around to his side of the desk, leaned over and kissed his head. "I have to get back to work. Let him stay. He needs to be here. He needs to be with his friends."
"I'll think about it."
"That didn't mean yes." Of course it did.
"I know." And she did.
"Hey, Mal." Josh strode into the office. "I'm sorry." He hitched a thumb over his shoulder. "I can come back."
Leo stood and walked to him. "No, Josh, come in."
"I was just leaving." Mallory gave Josh a quick peck on the cheek. "Glad you're okay."
"Thanks," he said as she waved and left the room.
"Welcome back," Leo said, extending a hand.
Leo clapped his deputy on the arm as they shook hands. "Talked to the Secret Service yet?" he asked.
"No, I just got in. What's up?"
"I figured you wouldn't take the day off. You okay?"
"Don't bullshit me, Josh, or I'll kick your ass all the way back to Connecticut."
"Leo, I'm fine."
Leo studied him a moment, then nodded, satisfied. "All right." He held out an arm toward the couch. "Have a seat. I'll fill you in on what you've missed..."
This time Toby knew exactly what it was that had yanked him from sleep: the anguished scream that had been torn from Sam's throat by whatever visions were assaulting his dreams.
He darted into the living room but stopped short at the sight that greeted him.
Sam was huddled in the corner of the sofa, his knees drawn up, his right arm wrapped around his legs. His feet were moving, pushing, as if he was trying to get away from something.
Toby approached him carefully. "Sam?" He sat on the other end of the couch, wincing when Sam tried to push himself farther into the corner.
The younger man's eyes were fixed on a spot in the middle of the floor. So intense was the gaze that Toby had to look for himself to make sure there really wasn't something there.
"Sam?" he said again, louder this time.
"There's no blood, Sam."
"So much blood."
"Sam, listen to me." Toby moved closer, trying to block the view of the floor. Tear-filled eyes finally met his. "There's no blood. You're staying at my place, remember? We watched the game?"
Sam's shoulders hitched with a breath and he grimaced. Finally, he nodded.
Toby gave Sam's knee a reassuring pat. "I'll get you some water." He stood, but didn't make it two steps before Sam's voice stopped him. He turned back.
"When I was a kid, I used to go with my dad to the butcher shop every Sunday for steaks. I still remember the smell in that place. I never knew what it was...until now." Tears spilled over his cheeks. "It was blood."
"I watched him die."
Toby took a step towards him. "Who?"
Toby sat down again.
"I watched him die, and I" Sam swallowed. "I didn't feel anything. My God, Toby, I saw a man die and I didn't feel anything."
"Sam, you were in shock."
"What's wrong with me?" Sam lifted his good hand to cover his eyes. "I don't understand."
Toby moved closer, resting his hand on Sam's knee again. "You have to give yourself time. Don't try so hard to remember. It'll come." He could feel the younger man trembling.
"Oh, God," Sam said on a breath.
There was no way to rid Sam of the visions he was seeing in his mind's eye. There was no way to take away the pain. All Toby could offer was his friendship, and a shoulder to lean on.
He hoped it was enough.
Thursday, January 18, 2001, 9:00am
"Good morning, everyone," Bartlet greeted as he entered the Oval Office. He took the portfolio Leo was holding out to him and flipped it open. "What do have for today?"
"Toby?" Leo nodded for his Communications Director to start.
"Our main focus is still the State of the Union, but we're also working on your speech for the dedication in New Jersey."
"Dedication?" Bartlet asked.
"The statue of Washington in Ryker State Park, Mr. President," Leo reminded.
"CJ?" Toby passed the floor to her.
"Yes. Mr. President, I will need your comments on a few things for the briefing this afternoon. It seems there are some delays with the extradition of Mohammed Riaz. Due to the...recent events, I'm sure the Press will ask for your comments. There's also the increase in bomb threats in public schools, and Alaska is about to lift the ban on the killing of baby seals."
"Okay," Bartlet said. "CJ, let's do that right after the meeting. What's next?"
"Josh?" Leo asked.
"Yeah, ah..." Josh pulled his hands from his pockets. "Upstate New York got about sixteen feet of snow dumped on them, and it's not stopping. The governor has declared at state of emergency and they're looking for federal aide. Peterson's out there now. I should have a report by this afternoon."
Leo nodded. "Sam?"
"Anything to add?" Leo's eyes narrowed.
Sam looked startled, lost.
"Are you all right, Sam?" Bartlet asked.
"I'm fine, sir, thank you." He opened his portfolio and rifled through his papers. "Just...give me a sec..."
Toby glanced back and mumbled something to his deputy.
"Yes," Sam said, "Of course the...State of the Union is our focus right now, but I'm also working on responses to the...questions that are...bound to be asked following the address."
"Make sure one of them is for the NEC," Leo said. "They'll have plenty of questions."
"The NEC," Sam repeated, patting his pockets with his right hand and glancing around. Josh took a step toward him and held out his pen, but Sam countered forward and plucked the pen from Toby's grasp.
Leo watched the awkward dance in utter amazement. Josh looked hurt, Sam looked panicked, and CJ and Toby looked lost. He exchanged a glance with the baffled President, and then cleared his throat. "All right, people. Anything else?" he asked.
Four heads shook.
"Then let's get to work," said Bartlet.
"Thank you, Mr. President." Sam snapped closed his portfolio and left the room.
Josh echoed the thanks with a nod and left a moment later.
"Toby?" Leo called before the Communications Director took his leave.
Bartlet folded his arms and leaned back against his desk. "Anyone want to tell me what that was all about?"
Toby joined Leo and CJ before the President. "I apologize, sir. I had no idea Sam wasn't prepared. I thought"
Bartlet waved him to silence. "Toby, you don't need to apologize for Sam. We all know he's been through a lot. I'm not concerned that he seemed unprepared. I'm concerned about the little number he pulled with Josh."
"I noticed. What was that?" CJ shook her head, bewildered.
"Josh said everything was fine." Leo shrugged. "Toby, has Sam said anything to you?"
Toby blew out a breath. "I know he's been having nightmares. He's been staying at my place this week. He's not handling being alone very well. But he doesn't really talk about it. I get pieces here and there."
Bartlet nodded. "Ron said according to Josh, Sam was kept in a room by himself. Sam may not remember that, but it's there."
"You know, now that you mention it..." CJ waggled her pen as she spoke. "Sam's been really jumpy since he came back, but I just assumed it was because...you know."
"Toby..." Bartlet pushed upright and rounding his desk. "...would you get the door, please?"
Once Toby had rejoined them, Bartlet pulled a file folder from his desk. "Leo, I apologize. I haven't had a chance to review this with you. Ron dropped it off this morning. It's the final report on the kidnapping. I think our answer may be in here." He held up the folder. "I don't think I need to remind you that what we are about to discuss does not leave this room."
"Yes, Mr. President," Toby agreed.
"Of course, sir," CJ said.
"Josh seems to think he's responsible for nearly getting Sam killed."
"What?" Leo couldn't believe what he was hearing. Josh had given him no indication whatsoever. "That's ridiculous."
"Why would he think that?" Toby asked, his tone hushed.
"According to the report, Josh tried to talk Rashid out of the whole thing. The gunshot we heard was the result of his efforts."
"You think Sam blames Josh?" CJ asked.
"How could he?" Leo needed to move. He took a few steps away from the President's desk, and then paced back. "He says he doesn't remember."
"What if he does?" Toby asked. "What if he does remember, but doesn't want to say anything?" He looked at CJ. "And why shouldn't he blame Josh? Josh had no right to take matters into his own hands."
"Toby." Bartlet glared at his Communications Director. "I didn't tell you this so you could pass judgment. And can you stand there and honestly tell me that if it had been you instead of Josh, and Ahmad was an old friend of yours, that you wouldn't have done exactly the same thing?"
Toby's Adam's apple bobbed at he swallowed. "No, sir."
Leo wasn't sure he meant it, but at least it was the right answer. He'd have to talk to Toby later. Right now, he had bigger concerns. "I'll have to think this over." He looked at CJ and Toby. "Keep an eye on them, okay? If things get out of hand, we'll have to take the next step."
"Counseling?" Bartlet asked.
Leo nodded. "Let's see how the rest of the day goes first..."
"Can I have my pen back?"
Sam turned from the file cabinet to face Toby. "Oh, sure." He stepped over to his desk and picked up the pen from his blotter. "Here."
Toby claimed his property and tapped it against his palm. "Sam..." "Yeah?"
"If you need to talk, you know where I am."
Sam nodded. "Sure."
Toby stood there a moment longer, then tucked the pen in the inside pocket of his jacket and headed back to his office.