TITLE: Fire

AUTHOR: Kasey

SERIES: Elements #3

RATING: PG-13, ESF, EMF, EJF, S/M, JoshPoV

SUMMARY: Sometimes new challenges confront us...sometimes we confront them.

DISCLAIMERS: I don't own them, please don't sue me.

Sam wanted me to go with him to his appointment with the oncologist. When he asked me, my immediate reaction was "Why me?"

"You know more what they're talking about...There's been a lot more developments since I was little that were around when your Dad was...And back then I didn't pay much attention to the names of things, that was Mom's job anyway 'cause I was ten and I cared more about what it'd do to me..." Sam looked down at that point. "Plus I don't wanna go by myself, and I don't wanna throw Mallory in yet, she's...She's not, y'know, my wife or anything."

"Neither am I, Sam. Maybe if you'd bought a ring..."

"Yeah, but you...You're my best friend, Josh, I..."

"Okay," I agreed at the point when he started stumbling.

Which is how I found myself sitting in the brightly and artificially lit office of Doctor Robert Carroll. I swear he thought Sam and I were...uh..."special friends" (though no like Laurie), so from time to time he gave us funny looks.

But I was simply there as the best friend...the brother figure. The Bobby Kennedy factor.

So as I was thinking about that...and about the fact that it doesn't work anyway 'cause that'd mean I would be the younger one and I'm...y'know...not...I started thinking about the Kennedys.

They were cursed, y'know, some say. 'Cause it seemed so many of 'em died tragic deaths, all before their time. Joe in the war...Jack and Bobby...Only Joe Sr. even lived a full life span. There was the sister who ended up in the mental institution for most of her life 'cause they had her labotomized, a sister who died when she was young...

And the more I thought about that, the more I thought 'how is that different than my family?'

I mean, my sister who was killed in the fire when she was 13...I had an uncle who died in Korea...my grandfather's entire family died at various death-camps around Europe in the Holocaust...my father died of lymphoma when he was a couple months shy of his 60th birthday....I almost died at the thing...and now Sam very well might.

All of this was goin' through my head as I was, y'know, sitting in the office with Sam and the oncologist.

Dr. Carroll spoke for what seemed like quite some time as I was...pondering the Kennedys...and it wasn't until Sam spoke that I was back among the world of the living, so to speak.

"So what now?"

"At this point, I'd like to proceed with chemotherapy on an out-patient basis – you live close enough to the hospital that you would be able to come in more easily than someone who lived, say, out in the sticks in Maryland. That way you'd be able to be at home and do what you felt you were able to do on any particular day instead of being cooped up here."

"O-Okay," Sam said, nodding a little, but all I could think was //Chemotherapy...embolisms...//

"Good. In which case I'd like to start you on treatment end of this week. You'll come in twice a week for a couple hours at a time. When would you prefer?"

Sam looked at me, a little helplessly. "What time?"

"After like, 4, maybe? So Mallory could take you or be here or whatever?"

"Plus I'd be able to-" he turned to the doctor. "Can I still work?"

"If you feel up to it, though I'd recommend not working long hours."

"Then, um...evenings. One of them Friday and the other, uh..."

"Tuesday?" Dr. Carroll suggested.

"Yeah, that...that works," Sam replied, looking so overwhelmed by it all.

"Does 7:30 work or is that too late?"

"Perfect," he said immediately, and I knew the first thing on his mind was 'that way I can work most of the day'. Leo and Mallory would probably put an end to that philosophy. "Thank you, Doctor." He stood and shook hands with Dr. Carroll, and I did the same, then we left the office.

At the entrance to the hospital, there was a sort of...it's one of those things to keep the rain off your head as you get out of the car when it's in the no-parking zone and you go from the car to the door.

I offered to go get the car 'cause Sam was looking...pretty drained. I was actually a little surprised that he didn't object 'cause it was his very nice, very expensive SUV, but he just surrendered the keys. I pulled up a few minutes later and he was leaning against the cement thingie I talked about before, his head back, eyes closed, as he felt the coolness of the cement. He looked a little pale.

He didn't notice I was there until I honked the horn – I'm sure that was appreciated by the people in the lobby just inside the door. Then he snapped back to reality and crawled into the car, sinking into the leather. "You okay?" I asked, master of the state-the-obvious game.

"Yeah," he said quietly. "Just...let's go back to work, okay?"

"Maybe you should go home."

"Don't be ridiculous, Josh, I'm gonna have to take off more than enough time in the future, I don't need to start now."

"Ah-kay..." I said uncertainly, shrugging and putting the SUV into drive.

Mallory was already in Sam's office when we got back. "How come you didn't tell me it was today?" she demanded.

"Mallory, could you just not shout right now?" he said quietly.

"And now you're at work? You go and now you come back to work? Are you insane? Do you have a death wish or-"

"MALLORY!" Sam and I both exclaimed at the same time and she fell silent, realizing that was a stupid thing to say.

"I...God, Sam, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"It's okay."


"So how'd it go?" she asked, closing the door which had been open for the previous part of the exhibition.

"I start treatment Friday."

"What kind of treatment?"

"Chemo." He tried his best to refrain from making a face but it was...I mean, hell, *I*'d make a face at mention of that. But it was this weird sort of...little kid moment. "Every Tuesday and Friday nights at 7:30."

"I'll take you if you want," she volunteered immediately.

Sam nodded a little. "Yeah – I've gotta go talk to Leo about getting the time off..."

"It won't be a problem-"

"I know that, I just...I should tell him probably nothing after 7:30 on those days and I may not be on 'til later on Wednesdays, and I may start coming in Sundays instead of Saturdays-"

"Samuel Norman Seaborn!"

//Uh oh,// I thought. //Mal's usin' the middle name...//

"Mallory, I'm not gonna stop working because of this, I need something to DO so I'm not sitting around the damn apartment all the time – so I don't feel like I'm rotting away!" He struggled with words for a second before he spoke again, and all the while I felt like a third wheel. "I wanna stay as normal as I can through this. When I was a kid, there WAS no normal for me, it was a lot of sitting in my bedroom and listening to my sister talk about all the great things she was doing in school while I sat at home and heard Mom cleaning out in the living room, I-...I wanna keep doing things. And trust me – I'll make all these plans about how I won't have to miss so much time and then I'll start being nauseous every ten seconds and I'll cut back...I know I will. But for now, I just...I don't wanna become valueless. I wanna be doing something with meaning."

It was a few moments before Mallory responded. "Okay," she said quietly. "I'm warning you now that I don't like it, but if...if it's what you want...and if you're still up to things..." She turned to me all of a sudden. "Your job's gonna be keeping his workload to a minimum and making sure he's not over-doing himself."

"Aye, aye, ma'am!" I said with a mock salute and she rolled her eyes.

"Well." A pause. "Let's go see my father."

The three of us trekked through the halls of the west wing to Leo's office, where Margaret let us in immediately. "Dad?"

"Hey, Baby!" Leo looked up at the sound of her voice and noticed us with her. "Josh...Sam, how ya doin'?"

"I'm okay, all things considered."

"You had the thing today?"

"Yeah, with the oncologist, I, ah...I start treatment Friday."

"So you're gonna need some time off."

"Yeah. Tuesdays and Fridays at 7:30 I need to be there, so..."

"Out of here by 7?"

"Or 7:15..."

"Sam, head out by 7, it'll be fine."

It didn't take long for Mal or I to notice that neither of us needed to be there.

"Okay. And, I, uh, I don't know how well I'll be on Saturdays so I was thinking I could come in Sundays instead?"

"For cryin' out loud, Sam, take the weekends off!"

"I've never taken weekends off before, there's no reason to start now."

"Actually there is, Sam, there's a very good reason to start now!"

"...Wednesday mornings I'll probably be a little late..."

"A little late isn't my concern."

"Then what's your concern?"

"You, Sam. If you're wearing yourself ragged you're not gonna be doing anyone, especially not yourself, any good. So take it easy for a little bit. And when you're better, come back on the same hours you've been doing. But in the meantime..."

"I'll be fine."

"Yeah. But not if you push yourself so hard, you do that and you'll be worse."

I coulda brought up the example of my father the workaholic at that point but decided against it.

"Okay," Sam said quietly, surrendering the battle.

"Ya look like hell, ya know that?" Sam smiled faintly. "Go home."

"I don't need to-"

"You don't need to but you should anyway. Go and take Mallory with ya." Sam looked mildly shocked. "Mind you that, so far as I'm concerned, same rules apply."

"I break her heart and you kill me?"

"Damn straight."

Leo looked uncomfortable for a minute, rubbing at the back of his neck as he came around to the front of his desk where we were, then he pulled Sam into a sort of awkward embrace.

I don't know who was more shocked – Sam or Mallory.

"So," Leo said as he pulled away, and I noted with a smile that closeness is not something he's good at, "Go relax for the day."

"Okay," Sam said with a faint smile. "Mal?" They held hands and walked out of the office.

Leo looked at me. "What are you smiling at?"

"Nothing just...nothin', Leo, really."

Leo smiled faintly himself as he looked out the door at the two walked toward Sam's office. "He's gonna be okay."

"Yeah," I responded quietly. "He will be."

 

TBC

 

 

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