Shades of Grey
Part 29

He shouldn't be driving. He really shouldn't be driving.
The more he thought about the way he'd been acting over the last week, the more anxious and nauseous he became. How could he have been so callous?

Josh was right.

Oh, God. I'm sorry.

It occurred to him that if circumstances had been different, if Josh hadn't known Rashid, they would probably both be dead right now.

Josh was stubborn. He never gave up. Never. Once he set his mind to something, he fought until it was done. That was how Josiah Bartlet got into the White House. It was how Sam got into the White House.

Josh Lyman, champion of...whatever cause needed a champion. He never seemed to be prejudiced against anyone, or anything. He was very much the 'I'm okay, you're okay' kind of guy.

He was a damn good friend. There was no way in hell Josh would do anything purposely to endanger Sam. He just lacked serious control when it came to speaking his mind.

Seaborn, you're an ass.

He swallowed convulsively, trying desperately not to be sick. He had to get control.

What did I do? Josh, I didn't mean—

I have to make this right.

I have to.

 

Josh shuffled toward the door, his head in a fog. What the hell time was it anyway? The hardwood floor was cold under his bare feet. As he unlocked the deadbolt, it occurred to him that he probably should know who was at the door first. Especially at...what time was it again?

He opened the door.

A blur blew past him into the apartment. A talking blur. He was sure he recognized the blur; it was just taking his brain a few extra moments to catch up with his senses. It was pretty weird actually. Kinda gave that deja vu feeling...

"Josh!"

That's me.

He closed the door, then shuffled back into the living room in search of the couch.

It's here somewhere...ow. There it is.

There was a click behind him and an instant later light stabbed through his eyes and banged around inside his head. With a sound that was somewhere between a growl and moan, he fell back onto the couch and covered his eyes.

"Josh."

I know that voice. Wait a minute...wait...

He lowered his hands and opened his eyes. The blur was kneeling in front of him. "Sam." He blinked. "Sam?"

"Yeah."

"You're blurry."

"You're drunk."

"No, actually, I'm way past the drunk stage. But I haven't gotten to the hangover stage yet. I'm kinda just floating in-between."

"That...still constitutes as drunk, Josh."

"Really?...Okay. Yeah, I'm drunk."

"Maybe I should make you some coffee," Sam offered.

"No...'cause I think I would like to get back to sleep at some point tonight."

"We need to talk."

"I've been trying to talk to you all week."

Sam averted his gaze, then stood and began to pace in front of the couch. "I know. Josh—"

"Where's your coat?"

Sam paused. "I left it over Toby's. Josh—"

"It's like...two degrees out, Sam."

"I know—"

"You're gonna get sick."

"Josh, will you shut up and let me talk?"

Josh licked his lips and held up his index finger. "I think...that's the second time today you've told me to shut up."

"I'm sorry," Sam said quickly. "I didn't...I mean....I'm sorry." He hung his head. "You were right, Josh."

"What?"

Sam looked at him again. "You were right...about Rashid." He sank down to the cushions.

I was...right? "I...I don't..."

"I think he was going to let me go."

Josh stood and headed for the kitchen.

"Where are you going?" Sam asked.

Josh turned back, pointing over his shoulder at the kitchen doorway. "I'm gonna need some coffee for the rest of this conversation."

*******

The fog was lifting more and more as time passed. Josh glanced at the kitchen clock. Three-fifteen. Sam had been talking for an hour and a half. He really didn't understand everything that was being said, but he understood enough, enough to throw his emotions into turmoil.

There was an overwhelming sense of relief that Sam had come to him, but an underlying feeling of dread gripped his stomach as he listened to Sam's words and discovered what had happened.

So he'd been right about Rashid. It didn't make him feel any better to know that. There was an empty place somewhere deep inside at the loss of his old friend. The way Sam described what he had witnessed—the pauses, how he searched for the words—told Josh more than the words themselves ever could.

"I'm sorry you had to see that, Sam." His voice sounded strange, distant.

He downed the last of his third cup of coffee and realized Sam was no longer talking. The younger man was sitting across the kitchen table from him, turning his nearly untouched cup of coffee by the handle, his eyes fixed on the liquid inside.

Josh put his mug down and looked at the small bandage under the hair that fell across Sam's forehead, the yellow remnants of the bruise on his cheek, the red marks on the wrist he could see, and the sling immobilizing Sam's left arm. Sam could have died—

No.

In one of his sessions, Stanley had told him not to dwell on what might have been. Why worry about what didn't happen? Be thankful for what did.

Sam was alive. He was here. That was good. It was so much more than good...

A deep sigh caught his attention and he blinked back into focus.

"I'm so sorry, Josh."

"Sam—"

"I said some pretty horrible things to you."

Yeah, you did. "Don't worry about it—"

"I'm sorry I didn't—"

"Sam!" He hadn't meant it to be so loud, but it worked; Sam finally looked up at him. "It's okay. You don't have to apologize."

"But—"

Josh held up a hand to silence him. "It's six o'clock—"

Sam turned and glanced at the clock. "It's three-thirty," he corrected.

"It's six o'clock," Josh continued, "and we've been apologizing to each other for the last three and a half hours." He smiled at the lost look on Sam's face. "And we have finally come to the conclusion that neither one of us is at fault. So you know what? Let's just sweep it all under to rug." He had the feeling his smile had turned into an idiotic grin, but he didn't care. He hadn't felt this good in more than a week.

Sam still looked lost as his eyes searched Josh's face for some clue as to what was going on. Then finally his lips quirked, and a hint of a smile touched his face.

Come on. You can do it...

Sam sat there for a long time, still toying with his mug. But the semi-smile remained in place.

Josh wondered what he was thinking.

"Thanks, Josh."

"Hey, I should be thanking you. You came here. So we're even, okay?"

Sam smiled.

There it is. Knew you could do it.

"Okay." Sam stood up, stretched, then grabbed the two mugs and put them in the sink. "You should get to bed."

"Why? It's six o'clock, remember? I gotta get up for work."

"That means we have Staff in three hours," Sam said with a grin.

Josh moaned and let his head fall forward onto the table.

"I should be going."

Was he crazy? Josh lifted his head. "Sam, don't be such an idiot. I have a guest room. Crash."

Sam nodded. "Thanks."

Josh stifled a yawn as he leaned both hands on the kitchen table to push himself upright. He watched Sam unplug the coffee pot. It was no wonder they never got an apartment together. It would be like Felix and Oscar. "Don't worry about it, Sam. Go get some sleep."

He turned and headed for the hall, suddenly realized how exhausted he was. But it was a good exhausted. Maybe he would be able to sleep. As he passed the guest room, he flipped on the light. "Look, the bed is even made."

"That's because no one has slept in it for months," Sam muttered from behind him

Josh heard the smile in his voice. "Smart ass."

He stood there a moment, waiting for Sam to enter the room. He didn't. He looked like he wanted to say something, but for the first time in the last hour he was speechless.

Then finally he moved. Sam took a step forward and gave him a one-armed hug.

He hadn't lost his best friend after all.

 

Monday, January 22, 2001, 12:15pm

 

"Knock, knock," Josh said as he tapped his knuckle on the office door.

Sam looked up from the papers spread out across his desk. "Hey!"

Josh stepped up to the desk and placed a plastic supermarket bag on top of the papers. "Brought you something."

Sam put down his pen and eyed Josh suspiciously. "What?"

"Traditionally, you're supposed to open it," Josh teased.

Sam picked up the bag and set it in his lap. "It's cold," he noted, tugging open the crumpled edges with one hand. His brow furrowed as he caught a glimpse of what was inside. He glanced up at Josh as he reached in a pulled out the small container. His face lit up with a smile.

"I wasn't sure whether you like macadamia nuts, so I opted for raspberry," Josh said.

"White Chocolate Raspberry Swirl," Sam read from the black and gold container.

"It's Godiva."

"I see that."

"I got you a spoon."

"Thanks. There's only one problem."

Josh's face fell. "What?"

Sam tilted his head to one side. "My mom always told me never to eat dessert first."

"I haven't had lunch yet." The smile was creeping back.

"Me neither."

"The Mess?"

"Good idea."

Sam stood and picked up his ice cream, then followed Josh out the door. "So, I hear you almost forgot to pick up Toby this morning..."

"Shut up, Josh."

 

 

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