TITLE: Fire and Rain
RATING: G, G, G.
SUMMARY: Sam has a late-night emergency.
NOTE: We only own Sam's neighbor. We're not making any money. Aaron Sorkin is supreme. We don't want no scrubs. This story was spun off from a paragraph in a much longer, sadder story that's forthcoming; we wrote it just for fun. Enjoy.
_Fire and Rain_
*I'm going to have to go to work,* Sam thought. *This must be bad.*
Before he got out of bed or even opened his eyes, Sam started preparing himself. *Something terrible or embarrassing has happened. I'll have to come up with a statement. Toby will be yelling at everybody within hearing distance.*
Thunder rumbled loudly as Sam jumped from the bed, turned on the bedroom light, and realized that the shrill noise he heard wasn't his beeper at all. He glanced at the smoke detector and touched his doorknob, then pulled his hand back. It was hot, and he smelled smoke.
*I liked it better when I had to go to work.*
Mentally, he ran quickly over his escape plan. *Open the window, climb down the tree, go across the street, call 911.*
Opening the window was the easiest part, although he had a little difficulty yanking the screen out of the way. The rain pelted him as he edged out onto the sill and gingerly crawled onto the sturdy nearby branch. He paused there and wondered how exactly he was going to climb down in the dark.
*I really should have worked harder on this escape plan,* he thought, as he made his way down, feeling with one foot at a time for the next branch. About five feet off the ground, he guessed wrong, slipped, and plummeted to the ground with a wet thud.
"Ow!" he yelped. As he got to his feet, lightning flashed and he saw smoke starting to seep from his open window. He wiped his face on the bottom of his undershirt, and dashed recklessly across the street.
He must have looked beyond ridiculous, standing on Mrs. Lefkowitz's doorstep, covered in mud and rain and panting. It was to her credit that she didn't scream when she opened the door. She put on her glasses and looked at him quizzically. "Sammy? Child, what happened to you?"
"My house is on fire!" he blurted. "Can I use your phone?"
She gasped. "Come in, come in! Of course! Good Lord, you're a sight, Sam. Here, come into the kitchen." He followed her, trying not to drip too much on her clean floor. Mrs. Lefkowitz brought him a towel as he called 911.
"Sam, you're bleeding!" she exclaimed, as he hung up the phone.
"I am?" She pointed. His leg was scraped. "Oh, it must have happened when I fell out of the tree."
She gave him a strange look. "You fell out of a tree?"
"It's my escape plan. I was trying to climb down from the window, and I slipped and landed in the mud."
"My house is burning, I'm in my underwear, and I have mud in my eye," Sam said pathetically.
Mrs. Lefkowitz was silent for a moment, and then burst into helpless laughter.
"I'm sorry, Sammy," she said, when it subsided. "It's not funny, but it just struck me. I'll go find you a Band-Aid."
Sam sat at the kitchen table and surveyed the room. Mrs. Lefkowitz's kitchen was sparsely decorated, with simple pale yellow shades on the windows and cracking green linoleum on the floor. He was suddenly hungry and wondered what she had to eat.
Mrs. Lefkowitz returned with a Band-Aid and Neosporin. "Here, baby. I'm going to fix you some tea," She licked her thumb and used it to wipe another smear of mud from Sam's face.
"Thanks, Mrs. L. Could, um, could I maybe have a sandwich?"
"You like pimento loaf?"
Sam didn't, but told her that pimento loaf would be great.
"Do you mind if I use your phone again?"
Mrs. Lefkowitz placed the sandwich on the table in front of Sam. "You go on ahead, darlin'."
Sam wiped his bloody shin and applied the Band-Aid as he waited for Josh to answer. The scrape on his leg was giving way to a goose egg the size of a quarter. The phone picked up, but it was Josh's answering machine.
"Hey. Josh Lyman. I'm not here, so -- you know how to leave a message, right? Yeah. I'll call you back." Josh's machine had one of those beeps that lasted for days. Sam sniffed the sandwich and took a small bite. Chewing, he realized the sandwich wasn't half bad and took a larger bite. Finally, the beeping stopped.
"Josh?" Sam shifted the food in his mouth. "Josh, Sam. Could you maybe pick up? My apart--"
"Josh? Can you come down here?"
"What time is it?"
"Are you listening to me?"
"I mean, I can tell it's some kind of unholy hour, but what time is it?"
"Josh, there's a fire in my apartment."
"It must be after three -- what did you just say?"
Sam tried to speak calmly, but his voice sounded wavery. "There's a fire in my apartment. I'm calling from my neighbor's house."
"Jesus. I'll be there in five minutes."
"You can't get here that fast, even when it's not raining."
"Yeah. I'll be there in ten."
Mrs. Lefkowitz handed him a dry towel and smiled ruefully. "I'd offer you some clothes, dear, but I'm afraid all I have are some old things my son left here, and he's definitely not your size."
"Oh, it's okay," Sam said. "My friend Josh is going to come by and pick me up."
"I'll put on water for more tea," she offered cheerfully.
"You really don't have to; you've done so much already," Sam said, feeling intensely guilty for waking her up, messing up her kitchen and eating her food.
"Sammy, you're having an emergency," Mrs. Lefkowitz said, gently. He blushed, and she patted him on the shoulder. "I'd feel worse if there was nothing I could do to help. And I think there's some cold chicken in the fridge."
"Mrs. Lefkowitz, you're an angel," Sam said, and believed it.
By the time Josh arrived, the fire truck had pulled up across the street with sirens blazing. Sam was on the sidewalk, watching the firemen, and Josh leapt out of the car and hugged him.
"You okay?" Josh asked, anxiously. Sam could tell he was worried.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Really. My apartment isn't fine, but I am," Sam reassured him.
"I have no idea. One of the firemen said he thinks it was electrical."
"You didn't get hurt?"
"Just a little banged up when I fell out of the tree."
Josh was confused. "You fell out of -- what were you doing in a tree?"
"It was part of my escape plan. I went out the window, and I slipped on one of the branches. A mud puddle cushioned my landing, though. It's no big deal."
He had to smile. "Sam, that's a really stupid escape plan."
"I know -- but it worked!" He smiled back. "Hey, come on, you have to meet my neighbor. She's this amazing nice old lady. She's gonna love you."
Josh took a duffel bag of clothes out from the back of his car. "Yeah, and you're about to freeze to death in that wife-beater there, pal."
They walked across the street together. Josh paused abruptly and looked at Sam seriously. "You're sure you're all right?"
Sam looked at the ground. "I was pretty scared there for a few minutes," he admitted.
"You scared the hell out of me too," Josh said, honestly.
Sam nodded. They stood still for a little while, quietly understanding each other, and then walked toward the little house.
Mrs. Lefkowitz met them at the door. "Mrs. Lefkowitz," Sam said, "This is my friend Josh Lyman. Josh, this is Mrs. Lefkowitz."
Josh gave her a little wave. "Hi."
"We'll be out of your hair in just a minute," Sam promised.
"Nonsense," she said. "Come in out of the rain! You should at least stay until the firemen are through up there."
"We don't want to be any trouble," Josh said.
"What trouble?" She led them into the kitchen as Josh handed Sam the bag of clothes. "Sam, you can change in the bathroom down the hall. I'll tell you, Joshua, I almost died when I opened the door and saw Sammy here in his skivvies...."
Sam glanced over his shoulder as he walked on, and grinned when he saw the look of wonder already forming on Josh's face.
"Are you hungry, Joshua? I've got some cold chicken, or I could make you a sandwich." Mrs. Lefkowitz rummaged through her refrigerator. "Do you like pimento loaf?"
Josh stood awkwardly by the kitchen door. "You don't need to go to any trouble, ma'am."
Mrs. Lefkowitz placed a plate of chicken on the table and set two places. "You sound just like Sammy. And I'll tell you the same thing I told him: it's no trouble. Now, child, sit down. You're making me nervous standing in the corner like that."
Josh smiled and took a seat. "It was really nice of you to take Sam in tonight."
"The poor dear, " she handed Josh a cup of tea. "I hope he'll be all right. Fire can be a dreadful thing."
Josh looked at his hands and said nothing.
Sam emerged from the bathroom, looking a bit goofy in Josh's clothes, which didn't fit quite right. "You brought me a 'Hoynes for President' sweatshirt," he said, bemused.
Josh shrugged. "I just pulled a bunch of things out of my dresser. I guess it's a little outdated."
"More than a little."
"It's a perfectly good shirt!" Josh turned to Mrs. Lefkowitz with a pleading look. "Mrs. Lefkowitz, back me up."
"I don't know, Sam," she said with a smile. "It does look nice and warm."
"Yeah," Sam admitted. "Thanks, Josh."
"No problem. Hey, what's that noise?"
A tiny, ferociously barking ball of fur spun into the doorway, skittered through Sam's legs and across the floor, and ran madly back and forth around the room.
"Oh, poor thing, all the noise outside scares her," Mrs. Lefkowitz said, petting the creature as it pawed at her feet. "Silly Mindy-dog."
Mindy dashed over to Sam, looking up at him for attention. "Hey, girl," Sam said, reaching down. The dog licked his hand, and then launched itself up into Josh's lap, alternately yapping at him and licking his hands.
Josh wasn't crazy about small, noisy dogs, but he wanted to be nice to this one. "Hello, puppy," he said, trying to keep her wildly wagging tail out of his face. She yipped at him, sniffing, but seemed more interested in the chicken on his plate. He stroked her fur. "What did you say her name was? Mandy?"
Sam stared at Josh for a second and cracked up. "Mindy," he corrected between bursts of laughter. Josh caught on and started to chuckle, too. Mindy jumped down and Mrs. Lefkowitz scooped the puppy up in her arms. Even though the shades were drawn, lights from the fire trucks and police cars illuminated Mrs. Lefkowitz's kitchen. Sam watched the red and blue beams dance around the room and sighed.
"Do they know where the fire started, Sammy?"
Sam shrugged. "Either the kitchen or the den -- aww, damn it! I had the final draft of the air travel remarks in there! I had it nailed!"
Josh shook his head. "Don't worry about it. I'll call Toby; he can finish it."
"You're not calling Toby."
"Why can't I call Toby?"
"You know what I think?" Mrs. Lefkowitz placed Mindy on the floor. "I think you boys work too hard."
"I just can't believe... all of my stuff...." Sam rubbed his eyes.
"Don't look so sad, dear." She reached out and squeezed Sam's hand. "You've got insurance. And you didn't lose everything."
Josh patted Sam on the back. "Yeah, buddy, you've still got your muddy skivvies."
"And your wallet," Mrs. Lefkowitz added helpfully, gesturing at the counter.
"My -- huh. How did that get here?"
"You must have grabbed it when you left the house, without noticing," Josh said. "People do that. In fires. The first thing they think of that's important to them."
"You had it tucked under your arm when you came in, dear," Mrs. Lefkowitz told him. "Along with this little... figurine."
She handed a small, odd-looking china cat to him. Sam brightened. "This is great! I feel so much better knowing she's safe."
"She?" Josh scoffed, frowning at the knick-knack. "What exactly is that thing?"
"It was going to be my engagement present for Lisa, except I kept it."
"Sam, it's the most hideous thing I have ever seen!"
Sam looked defensive. "She happens to be De Porceleyne Fles."
"Come again?" Mrs. Lefkowitz inquired.
"Royal Delft," Sam explained proudly.
Josh stared at him in disbelief. "Did you hit your head when you feel out of the tree? Should I take you to the hospital?"
"You've never heard of Delft?"
"That should be pretty clear by now."
"It's Dutch pottery, Josh. The colored, or polychrome, pieces are especially reminiscent of the early Chinese influence, but most Delft is easily recognizable in the blue and white pattern, like Felicity here."
"You named this thing Felicity?" Josh's eyes were twinkling with growing amusement.
"She is not a thing!" Sam said haughtily. "She's a very lovely little cat. And she was very expensive."
Josh picked up the figurine and examined it. "I find that very hard to believe."
"De Porceleyne Fles, Josh. Look into it."
Josh looked as if he was going to say something nasty, but he glanced at Mrs. Lefkowitz and thought better of it.
Sam drained his cup of tea and stood. "We should really go. We've kept you up so late."
Mrs. Lefkowitz smiled. "I'm just glad I could be helpful. Call me tomorrow and let me know if you need anything, won't you?"
"Of course I will." Sam walked over and kissed her on the cheek. "Goodnight. Thank you so much." She flushed and gave him a quick hug. Sam patted the dog and headed toward the door.
Josh took Mrs. Lefkowitz's hand. "I'm glad to have met you. Thanks for the tea and the chicken, and everything."
She nodded. "You're welcome, dear. Look after Sammy, would you? He reminds me of my son, sometimes."
"I'll take care of him," Josh promised, and followed Sam out.
Stepping outside, Josh and Sam realized it was still raining.
As they darted across the street to the car, Josh asked, "Is it just me or does Mrs. Lefkowitz remind you of--"
"She always has. Last year for Christmas, she baked me a loaf of cranberry bread and gave me a card with five dollars inside." Sam climbed into Josh's car. "I should go talk to the firemen."
"Go ahead. Felicity and I will wait here."
As Josh watched Sam walk towards the apartment building, he took a very deep breath, glanced at the sky, and thanked no one in particular that his friend was all right.
He was fiddling with the radio when Sam returned. "What'd they say?"
"They said that the--" Sam stopped. "What's this?"
"What, on the radio?"
"It's 'No Scrubs.'" Josh looked at Sam. "You don't like it?"
"Josh, my house caught on fire. Everything that didn't burn has smoke or water damage. It's a total loss. I have to move. And you're going to make me listen to 'No Scrubs'?"
"They told you it's a total loss?"
Sam shrugged. "I have to come back tomorrow and go through my stuff, but from what the firemen told me, there's not much left."
Josh didn't say anything for a moment. "You know you can stay with me for as long as you need to."
"Thanks, Josh, that means a lot." Sam rested his head against the window. "You still haven't changed the station."
"It's a good song!" Josh exclaimed. "And, come on, can't you see CJ singing this?"
They looked at each other, imagining, and simultaneously went into a fit of laughter. When they recovered, they drove in silence for a few minutes.
"Yeah?" Josh looked sideways at Sam.
"When you tell this story tomorrow, and I know you will, can you just leave out the part about me falling out of a tree in my underwear?"
Josh grinned. "Well, without that, there's really not much of a story."
_Two Weeks Later_
Breathing heavily, Josh turned the oversized box in three different directions before he gave up, shoved it hard, and forced it through the door. He plopped down on the comfortable-looking new couch and caught his breath.
"Out of all the possible places in the world you could have lived," he said, as Sam came through the door, "you couldn't have picked one with an elevator?"
Sam carefully set down the box he was carrying. "Are you kidding? This place is perfect. I have more room, I'm closer to work...."
"There's no tree outside the bedroom window," Josh added slyly.
Sam groaned. "You're never going to let me live that down, are you?"
"Nope. And neither is Toby, or CJ, or --"
"Or anyone else in the free world."
"Hey, I was taking up a collection for you! "They deserved the full story in return for their generous donations."
"Josh," Sam teased, "You came up with seventeen dollars and thirty cents."
"Thirty-two cents. It's the thought that counts, right?"
"It is," Sam agreed. "And thank you for everything you've done."
Josh looked bashful. "Seriously, Sam, you don't have to keep saying that. How long have we been friends?"
"Let's see. Eleven years? Twelve?"
"Approximately forever," Josh said. "You'd do the same for me."
Sam nodded. "Yeah. You know what the biggest drawback to this place is?"
"No Mrs. Lefkowitz living next door."
"Like you could stop her from coming over to visit you and make sure you're eating properly? I'm just sorry she won't have a reason to come to my place anymore. I'm going to miss her rhubarb pie."
"Oh, I have a feeling she'll drop by," Sam told him. "I think she's adopted you, too."
Josh stood up and stretched. "Did we get everything?"
"Yeah, that was the last of it."
"Awesome. So, hey, look around. This is it."
"Hang on," Sam said. "Something's not right."
He picked up the small box he'd just brought up and started to dig through layers of Styrofoam and wadded paper.
"Is that what I think it is?" Josh asked. Sam held the porcelain cat up gleefully. Josh grimaced. "That thing really does look grotesque, Sam."
"I know." He placed Felicity carefully on the mantelpiece and beamed. "I'm home."