She finds him alone, staring at the stars. It is not a cold night, yet he shivers. His thin dress shirt is not a shield, the way it's meant to be.
Not wanting to scare him, she lets her heels click on the path leading to his bench. Like she was just passing by. "Sam?"
It works; he barely rouses from his trance. "Hi."
Without waiting, she sits. She too needs a little star time. "Are you cold, Sam?" she finally asks. "You're shivering."
He notices for the first time. "Oh." He smiles ruefully, but only for one fleeting moment; then it is swallowed again. "I guess, a bit."
She puts her small hand on his. She does not want to broach the question, but she fears for him if she does not.
She is saved the trouble. "C.J...." His eyes are blue as butane in the dimming daylight.
She does not say anything. She has the instincts, she's a presswoman. She knows when a subject is going to speak. But he is not a subject. He is a man.
So she speaks. "What are you doing out here?"
He shrugs; a violent, reproachful sound. "Just thinking."
She is about to ask for more, when the flood comes. "C.J., why don't they listen to me?" he says, sounding almost shy. Yet it's an intense onslaught; she is not prepared and at once falls wounded. "If no one cares, why should I speak at all?" He is silent, but his eyes speak volumes.
He is not like the rest of them. He has come so far for what he believes in, but now he is letting little hurdles foil the distance run. Bruno, and Connie, and Doug. And Toby.
Her voice is husky. "People care what you think."
At once his eyes suffuse with wounded pride. "How can you tell me that?" He stares at the stars as if his heart will tell him answers. "Right from the start, I said they'd hold an override vote. And I got shouted down without a person raising their voice."
He is in the right; she cannot deny him that. But only for a time. "Sam." Her voice holds the power she wished she felt. "For starters, you're not the only one."
"I know." He agrees and feels a twinge of heartache. How many times has this little tableau been reversed? And yet he indulges his feelings, mooning like a kid turned down for Sadie Hawkins?
She continues, unintentionally relentless. "I think you know your role. I think you're hurt, but I think you can handle it. You are so important here." Her hand strokes his cheek. It is not a lovers' touch, but more than a friend's. He is wise, beyond his years. How can he not know it?
"My role is to voice the thoughts no one wants to hear." His voice is dull, and now he searches the grass for answers, head down.
She agrees; that is her role. She really does feel for him; he just needs an extra push now and then to keep his head up. "No one wanted to hear about an override," she says. "But you had to say it. We needed to hear it."
Her tone is reassuring to him, though for the life of him he could not pinpoint why. "I just don't feel needed."
She merely nods. She has heard it all before, so many times, but coming from him it has a new poignancy. This is the wrong milieu for him, and yet so right. He is in his element making a difference, yet he is badly misplaced in this atmosphere of double-dealing and untruth. Natural yet unnatural.
His next words surprise her. "You've got confidence, C.J. I wish I had that."
She is more amused than anything, because so many have his misperception. "Sam, I don't have confidence."
"You don't." He is disbelieving. The entertainment reporter was a fluke, then?
"No, I don't." Her eyes come away from the sky, and turn to the dulled stars in his eyes. Despite his pain, he seems so at home out here. "I have luck, and I have love."
"Love?" His echo is bitterness itself.
"I have you guys." Her tone holds warmth that she wishes could float to him. "I have you and Josh and Toby and Leo. You keep me afloat."
"You call that love, C.J.?"
"Why, don't you?" Her smile is quiet and determined. "You miss me when I'm gone, you're sorry when I'm sad, you laugh with me when I laugh."
She makes sense, and in that instant he knows he will be fine. She is strong and comforting. Yet she looks deep and passionate, as well as tough. If she can do it, he can do it. Because he knows that he will have help. That they do care.
Yet there is a nagging doubt. If they can be each other's salvations, then what happens if something or someone is breached?
She does not move, though she knows what he is thinking. "You know what they say."
She rises, ready to leave. But she faces him and sings, in a low, husky tone, the last line of a noble old song. "The greatest thing you'll ever learn / Is just to love... and be loved in return..."
They walk inside with the answers they wished.