Part 2

 

 

 

The next morning

 

The more Toby thought about it, the more surreal it seemed. Had he really found Sam, frighteningly close of an OD, just a few hours before? And had the same Sam thrown a book at his head, screaming at him to get out?

He couldn't help but feeling like he should have seen it coming. The way Sam had behaved since he had learned about his father - withdrawn when he wasn't mad at someone. And the nightmares. The ones he'd noticed on the first campaign, when they shared a room, and that Sam always tried to laugh out. "I was just dreaming about you, Toby. You're scary, believe me."

And back then of course he hadn't insisted. He was Toby Ziegler, and he had a reputation to think about. No way was he going to let this spoiled * young * overachieving lawyer get under his skin. He was too busy grumbling, and Sam was a grown man (albeit a * young * one). If he had problems, he would deal with them on his own, or he would talk to Josh.

Josh. He had to ask him if he knew something.

Maybe Josh would know where the story Sam had written had come from? Remembering some of the details almost made him sick. The story had been written in the first person, but that wasn't what disturbed him the most.

What really disturbed him was the fact that there was no way that Sam could have come up with some of that on his own. Some descriptions of what the abuser had done were just too real for Sam to have imagined them.

He was getting on his way to Josh's office when Bonnie poked her head in his office. "Staff in five."

 

<> <> <>

 

Sam stared longingly at his Tylenol, reluctant to take one after last night despite the headache that had been torturing him since he'd opened his eyes this morning.

He drank a little of his coffee, not even tasting it, while gathering his notes on the next speech he was supposed to work on. Maybe working would help him to concentrate on something else.

The voice startled him.

"You're the one who makes me do it."

He looked around before recognizing it.

He had once thought that he would forget about it, that he would stop hearing it. No such luck.

"It's your fault."

Trying to ignore it, he went to work and began typing. He hadn't made it to the end of a sentence when he heard the voice again.

"You should be happy that I'm interested in you."

"Oh God," he muttered.

 

<> <> <>

 

They were all looking at him, damn it! He knew he didn't look like his usual neat self, but he had still assumed that he didn't look like someone who had almost...

Come on, you can say it, Sam. Who had almost OD'd.

Unless Toby had told them – no, he wouldn't have. He shot a look at his boss while trying not to have a panic attack. That wouldn't score him any points and he'd have to answer questions. Many of them. Because even if the staff had grown apart in the last few months, they still tended to close ranks when one of them was in a bad place.

He got his breathing back under control and tried to focus on what Leo was saying. He was getting started on the bill again, and... great, they were all studiously looking everywhere but in his direction.

Truth was, he could have lived with it. He understood all the political reasons not to do it. He understood that it was election year and they had to act very carefully. He knew that as soon as Bartlet was re-elected, he would try to pass another one. He knew all that.

He believed Leo when he told him that they had honestly forgotten to keep him informed. But to him, it seemed like a symptom of what his place was in the senior staff.

He felt like they were putting him aside for no good reason, except perhaps that he'd become less adept at hiding his disappointments.

"Your fault. All your fault," the voice whispered to him.

He shivered and waited for the meeting to be over so he could get back to his office.

 

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Toby sighed in frustration, suddenly aware that he'd been reading the same line of the draft Sam had put on his desk for the last five minutes without paying any attention to it.

He couldn't help but wonder – still that haunting question. Was it for real?

He wouldn't have believed it – wouldn't even have wondered about it – the night before. But Sam's reaction when he'd seen Toby reading the story still sent chills down his spine. The fact that Sam had gone from depression to anger in the blink of an eye was also a dead give away that something was very wrong. Sam was never that volatile. He always made a point of hiding his feeling, of looking in control of himself.

Plus... how could Sam, of all people, have thought about all those details?

He had to go see Josh.

 

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Josh was busy on the phone, so Toby hovered near the door, waiting for him to finish before he entered.

He hesitated before going straight to the point. "Did you notice anything... off, with Sam?" he asked, unable to find a better way to phrase his question.

"You mean, since he was been told about the bill?"

"Yes. He..."

"He's not making eye contact with me," he wanted to say, but somehow it seemed ridiculous now, in Josh's presence, away from all the brooding thoughts that had been on his mind all day. "He seems to be taking it personally," he finally settled on.

"Yeah, well... who isn't? I mean, it's kids. Everyone feels involved in these kind of projects."

"Yes, I'm just saying... he seems to be taking it... * personally, * " he emphasised.

Realisation finally seemed to dawn on Josh. "What, you mean, like there's something in his life that..." He stopped and shot a hard look at Toby. "You've got to be kidding," he said disgustedly, before beginning to talk in clipped sentences, his tone rising with each word. "Toby, how could... There's no way... Sam wouldn't..." The younger man stopped and took in a few breaths, obviously trying to compose himself. "No way," he said at last, looking straight at Toby. "I'd know it, for starters. And... No way."

"You haven't been that kind of close for a while now, Josh," Toby pointed out. "No one has been that kind of close around here for a while."

"Yes, but..." Josh looked slightly hurt. "Look, for a few years there, Sam and I were best friends. There's little we didn't tell each other about our lives. I would know."

Toby suddenly wondered if Josh would tell him if he did indeed know something, but the younger man seemed honest enough.

Still... Josh didn't know everything about Sam, nobody did. Mostly because Sam was good at concealing what he wanted to. And also because there's no way to know anyone completely.

"Look, he's just been... It's probably the last few months that are catching up with him," Josh tried to rationalize. "He'll be himself again soon enough. I'd have thought that you'd be happy he was a little less... you know... him."

Toby bit back an angry retort. Sam would be fine, and so would Josh. CJ was great, of course, and he himself was at the top of his game, thank you for asking, nothing to see here.

The senior staff looked like the survivors from a train wreck, but everything was just dandy.

He was suddenly very aware of the fact that they weren't dealing with things so much as they were waiting for them to pass. Like they had after Rosslyn, and they all knew the consequences of that.

Only... were they in any shape to handle more than the professional troubles thrown their way? Did they have anything left in them to fight personal battles as well?

Did he have the right to let Sam deal on his own with whatever was eating him ?

Making his decision, he left Josh with a grumbled thanks and headed back to the communication bullpen.

<> <> <>

 

He'd noticed the way Toby kept showing up on his doorstep every half hour, never really looking him in the eyes, never daring to ask the question he knew he wanted to. Well, the two questions, actually.

He was counting on the fact that the fences the senior staff had erected between them and everyone else would once again work their magic and he would be able to avoid the issue.

He had almost taken his phone to call his brother five times that day. He'd recoiled at the last moment, but he couldn't get rid of the urge to talk to someone about this. Someone who already knew, preferably, so he wouldn't have to explain himself in detail. He had almost called his therapist, too – a retired psychologist who still did a few of her clients a favour by letting them vent on her. He'd met her when he was working on the Hill, a few centuries ago, it seemed.

He'd tried to bury himself into his work too, but that hadn't worked in the least.

And he knew that drinking was out of the question for a while. Toby would have his head if he caught him hung over. He still wondered why his boss hadn't called 911 the last night, or at least dragged him to the ER. But he could guess that it had a lot to do with the "Senior staff member tries to kill himself" headlines that would undoubtedly have followed.

"All your fault," muttered the voice – the voice of his godfather, who had died twenty-two years ago.

The one who'd created this mess.

It had been years since he had heard that voice taunting him. It was well before the campaign, in his early days at Gage Whitney, before he even knew Lisa.

It usually took a couple of therapy sessions to make it go away, but it always did, eventually. Back in college, he was sure that this voice was going to drive him insane, but now he was confident he would be able to brush it away again.

Until the next time.

There was always a next time.

Sighing, he took the card Joyce had left him – his favourite therapist, even if once upon a time, he ended every session screaming obscenities at her. And when he'd ran short in English, he switched to Spanish and then French. Thinking back about it made him blush. She'd once teased him that for such a clean-cut man, he sure had quite an interesting vocabulary. He'd told her that he had picked it up on boats, when he was working during the summer, and she'd laughed a lot at that. "I didn't think you had learn that in Princeton," she'd said.

She was great, she was probably the reason he was still alive, and he was going to call her first thing tomorrow morning.

Having reached a decision, he went back to work.

 

Part 3

 

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