TITLE: Earth


SERIES: Elements #4


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

Everything was precisely as bad as I remembered. The hovering and worrying
right on down to all the blood samples and needles.

The drugs were worse than I'd remembered. I guess 23 years had numbed the
pain in my memories.

Mallory had insisted on coming along for support and she sat a little
nervously in a hard plastic chair beside me as the nurse hooked up the IV.

Now, most people would say I've got a fairly strong stomach. I go sailing
when I've got time and I've never gotten seasick; I can see needles and blood
and things without feeling sick - which I've been told most people can, but,
like, Josh is a woman about those things.

I was emptying my stomach into a plastic tub by 7:45.

By the time I was done at a little after 9, I was shaking and exhausted.
Mallory had one hell of a time trying to get me to the car because my legs
were jelly. I remembered distinctly one time my father literally had to
carry me out of the hospital because I fell over when I tried to walk - that
was when I was almost 10, I think. We finally reached the promised land -
Mallory's compact car - and she helped me inside before getting in herself.
She looked at me and gave me a sympathetic smile and thumbed my cheek. I
smiled wanly. She started the car and took me home.

I had to give the girl credit - she was handling all the shit without
flinching, really...A little edgy and nervous and sure as hell scared, for
which I didn't blame her one bit, but considering she'd been sorta thrown
into the worst of it she was...If my parents would've handled it that well the
first time it would've been amazing. I know that, at the time, it was their
baby who was sick...but still.

Mallory helped me to my bed. "Do you want anything?"

"There's, uh...a box of crackers by the fridge..."


"And some Ginger Ale on the counter..." I'd stocked up the previous day,
figuring I might need it.

"Be right back," she said and returned a few minutes later with the crackers
and a cup of Ginger Ale. She placed it on the bedside table and was about to
say something when the phone rang. "Want me to get that?"

"If ya don't mind," I said in my best (which, at that moment, wasn't very
good) impression of Benson from "Soap". Mallory looked at me a little funny
before going to the phone.

"Hello?...Hey, Josh," I heard her say. "Yeah...a little bit ago, he's lying
down if you want to talk to him-...Not very well, no...Yeah." S he was starting
to get quiet. Then she called in, "Sam, are you up to talking to Josh?"

"Sure," I said, picking up the extension on the bed table. "Hey," I said in
my strongest voice.

"How ya doin'?"

"I'm okay."



"You lyin'?"


"I thought you might be. You should sleep."

"It's not even 10 yet, Josh, I don't need to sleep."

"You should anyway."

"I'm too nauseous to sleep," I muttered.


"I'll be fine. By tomorrow night, probably. That's always how it was when I
was a kid."

"Is Mal staying there tonight?"

"Probably not, I was gonna send her home."

"Someone should be there."

I sighed. "I don't need a baby sitter."

"Would you rather I come over?"

"No, Josh, I'll...I'll be fine."


"So what's going on at work?"

"Don't worry about it."

"How's 482?"

"You were here 3 hours ago."

"Fine." I sighed. "Go back to what you were doing."

"Get some sleep."

"Yeah, yeah, you too," I said with a grin, knowing fully well he wouldn't.

"G'night, Sam."

"G'night." I hung up the phone and Mallory entered the room. "Hey," I said

"Feeling better?"

"A little," I said, even though I still felt like at any second, my stomach
might turn a little too much.

"Do you need anything else?"

"No...Thank you, Mallory, I'm fine. You can go home..."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah - go home and sleep."

"Okay," she said quietly. She came to my side of the bed and helped me lie
down, then kissed my forehead. "I'll call you tomorrow, okay?"


The next morning I was feeling better...a little bit, at least. I managed to
keep down the few crackers I nibbled on, and considering the number of times
I'd bowed to the porcelain gods the previous night, that was quite an

The west wing was quiet, as it usually is on Saturday mornings. I hadn't
really missed anything in my night of not-working, so I simply settled in to
work. It was nice to do something...productive. I was on the sixth paragraph
of the Detroit draft when my fell phone rang. "Sam Seaborn," I answered, a
little distracted as I read over what I had written so far.

"You're at work, aren't you!"


"You went to work!"


"You were supposed to take the weekends off!"

"I feel a lot better, Mallory, I'm fine to work."

"You're not supposed to."

"But I'm gonna anyway."

"Why?" she demanded.

That was a good question. Why did I want so badly to keep working? Why,
when I felt still pretty lousy and when I should have been doing nothing more
than sleeping or maybe watching television, did I insist on coming to work?

Because it was what I was supposed to do the rest of the time.

Because it was what I did when I wasn't sick.

Being sick - I mean very sick, not like a flu or something you get over in a
day or a week or so - has all these effects on you that have nothing to do
with the physical. Especially when you're a kid but any time. You don't get
to go anywhere or do anything, people are afraid of you...and you spend so much
time staring at the same damn walls and doing absolutely NOTHING that you
start to wonder if you'll ever be normal again.

That's why I kept going to work. For normalcy. Because I wanted to be able
to pretend that I was still essentially the same person I was before I found
out I was sick again.

Because I WAS essentially the same person I was before I found out I was sick
again...just a little more nauseous.

It's just there are certain things you know to be establishments in your life
- like the air you breathe or the earth under your feet...or, in my case, the
White House.

I just wasn't sure how to explain that to Mallory.




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