TITLE: "I Loved You, God, How I Loved You" (1/2)
CATEGORY: General (rated G, even)
ARCHIVE: Yes, but please tell us first.
SUMMARY: Personal problems don't wait for when it's convenient.
NOTES: Talia, Deirdre, and Barry belong to us. Everyone else comes from Aaron Sorkin's mind. Huge props to John Wells, whose working title and concepts we kidnapped and adapted shamelessly, and who definitely outclasses our humble efforts. Feedback is strongly encouraged.
I Loved You, God, How I Loved You
"Radical changes." Sam squinted against the early morning sunlight that was filtering through Josh's office window. "I think we need to make some radical changes to the--"
Josh scoffed. "I can't believe they're not pitching Martinez tonight."
"Are you listening to me?"
"No." Josh's coffee cup disappeared behind the sports page.
"This is important, Josh."
"So is this! The Sox are making a playoff run and they're not--"
Sam took his glasses off and placed them on the desk. "Josh."
Josh looked up, scanned Sam's expression, and folded his newspaper reluctantly. "Radical changes?"
Sam nodded and put his glasses back on. "Yeah, I think we should--"
He was interrupted by a soft rapping on the door. Turning around, he saw Donna standing in the doorway. "Sam, you've got a phone call."
"I'm not taking calls right now, Donna."
"I know, but Cathy wanted me to tell you--"
"Donna, what part of 'I'm not taking calls right now' do you find difficult to understand?"
Donna sighed. "Look, Sam, don't shoot the messenger. Cathy wanted me to tell you that Talia's on the phone for you."
Sam's posture changed, and he locked eyes with Josh for a moment before he stood, nearly knocking over his chair in the process, and hurried past Donna toward his office.
Josh sighed deeply and leaned back in his chair, lacing his fingers behind his head.
"Josh?" Donna watched Josh looking at the desk. "Josh?"
He looked up. "Yeah?"
Josh sighed again. "Sam's sister."
"I don't know, Donna."
Josh picked up the newspaper and tried to read, but he couldn't make sense of the words. He rose from his desk and paced impatiently until he saw Sam's figure in the doorway.
"Sam? Is it--"
Sam nodded slowly and ran a shaky hand over his face. "I need to go."
"Go, go, I'll explain it to Leo."
"Are you sure?"
Josh quickly gathered up Sam's papers, briefcase and jacket. "Sam, I'm sure. Just go, okay?"
Sam looked dazed. "Yeah." He took his things from Josh and haltingly made his way to the door.
After Sam was gone, Donna poked her head back in.
"Do you need anything?"
"Find out when Leo's free." Josh sat at his desk again and studied the report. "Radical changes. Hmm."
* * *
They looked up as Toby strode in. "I need all the notes on the victims' rights bill," he proclaimed. "Let's get this thing done today."
"I thought that was for Thursday," Ginger protested.
"We're getting it done today," he repeated. "We're going to get everything together, and we're going to have this policy figured out by the end of the day, just because we can. I'm not going to waste my time, and therefore, you don't get to waste your time." Bonnie rolled her eyes. Toby frowned at her, and then shrugged. "I need coffee," he muttered, and walked away.
Ginger and Bonnie looked after him. "Was that a good mood or a bad mood?" Ginger wondered.
"Beats the hell out of me."
Toby cut across the bullpen to the beverage cart, and poured himself a cup of coffee. He took a sip, then regarded the cup with dismay. "Who made this?" he demanded of the room.
A few staffers exchanged apprehensive looks, then turned back to their work. Toby continued, "Someone should suffer for this. This -- this is criminally weak coffee."
No one answered him, so he cast one last dire look around the room and added a dollop of cream to the offensive drink. As he turned around, he nearly walked into C.J.
She stepped back quickly. "Sorry."
He nodded, checking to make sure he hadn't sloshed coffee on himself.
"I was just going to get some coffee," she added, awkwardly.
"Yeah, don't bother," he said, in a distant tone. "It's practically water."
Toby turned and headed down the hall. C.J. followed him. "I'm giving the standard answer on the budget meetings. Progress is being made, we're working out the details."
"We're confident that compromises will be reached."
"Good. I'm doing victims' rights."
"It's Tuesday," C.J. pointed out. "I thought that was--"
He cut her off, walking faster. "I'm doing it today."
"Your tie's crooked," she told him. Toby turned back to glare at her, then stepped into his office and closed the door hard behind him. She stood still, confused, for a few seconds, then turned and left.
* * *
Josh entered Leo's office quietly, sat down, and waited for Leo to acknowledge him. After a few moments, Leo spoke, without taking his eyes off his reading. "These numbers are ridiculous. Have you looked at this?"
"Stauber's budget report? Yeah."
"Ridiculous. And what's this he keeps repeating about putting social security in a lockbox?"
"I don't know. Listen --"
"That's just silly."
"Yeah. Listen, Sam's not going to be here today."
Leo raised his head. "I already saw him in the hall."
"He was here, but he had to leave." Josh sighed. "He got a phone call from his sister in Los Angeles."
Leo took his glasses off and leaned forward. "Something's wrong?"
"His mother." Josh waved a hand in the air, looking for words. "She has these phases where she's slightly, um, where she has a hard time with...."
"Out with it, Josh," Leo interrupted mildly.
Josh looked at the floor. "She's mentally ill. Sam's sister takes care of her."
Leo frowned with concern. "I didn't know."
"Yeah. So something happened. He's flying out. He felt bad about just leaving, but I told him he should."
"It's not a problem," Leo assured him.
"Okay." Josh stood up and started toward the door. "I just wanted to let you know."
"Thanks." Leo put his glasses back on. "Hey, is Sam all right?"
Josh paused. "It seemed like he was in shock, when he left. I think it's bad, Leo."
"Keep in touch with him."
Josh nodded and left, his normally jaunty stride weighed down by gloom. Leo sat for a moment, then exhaled slowly and turned back to the budget report, letting the dry facts and figures pull his attention away from his worry.
* * *
"Sir?" Sam felt the flight attendant softly rubbing his shoulder. It took him a moment to realize where he was, and as he did, the horrible reality of what he was about to face thundered through him. He looked up at the flight attendant. "I'm sorry to wake you, but we're about to land."
How in the hell could he have fallen asleep?
From his seat, Sam watched the California land slowly rise up and felt the wheels of the plane meeting the pavement. Disembarking the plane, he repeatedly tried to shake himself awake and wondered what was more disturbing: his mother's actions, or his own.
In the distance, Sam saw his sister's familiar dark hair. He quickly straightened his tie and made his way to her.
She turned around and folded Sam into a tight embrace. After a moment, she pulled back and studied him. "What's this new thing you're doing with your hair?"
"You don't like my hair?"
Talia shrugged. "I don't know yet."
"What do you mean, you don't know yet?"
She shrugged again, this time with a small smile. "It's just... longer than I expected."
"So is yours." Sam took a breath. "How is she?"
"She's at Cedars-Sinai."
"How bad is she, Tails?"
"Tails," she repeated softly. "You haven't called me that--" Talia cleared her throat. "It wasn't pretty, Sam. But Dr. Glass says that she's resting comfortably."
"That means she's sedated." Sam's voice wavered slightly.
Talia expelled an exasperated sigh. "What was I supposed to do, Sam? They were about to strap her to the bed." She noticed her brother's stricken expression and softened her tone. "Do you want to go back to the house first, drop off your bag?"
Sam shook his head. "Let's go to the hospital."
"Are you sure?
They navigated the airport in silence until Sam caught Talia looking at him.
"You really don't like my hair?"
"I just can't get over how much you look like Dad."
* * *
C.J. paced back and forth across Josh's office, lost in thought. Puzzled, Josh studied her through the window before he walked in.
"What do you need?"
She was startled out of her reverie. "Hmm?"
He closed the door and circled around to his desk. "You're in my office, I assume there's a reason. So?"
"Oh. Yeah. So, I need to know if anything's new with Altman and Aiache."
"They're supposed to send their report over by noon. I'll set up a meeting with them." He could tell she was barely listening. "Are you okay?"
"Of course," she replied, defensively. "Why wouldn't I be okay?"
"You're practically in a trance."
She shook her head, resuming her aimless path around the room. "No, I'm.... It's nothing."
"Come on," he persisted. "Something's obviously bothering you. And stop going around like that! You're making me dizzy. Just sit down and spill it."
She perched on the edge of his desk weakly. "I really don't want to talk about this. I mean, I shouldn't be talking about this to you."
Josh raised his eyebrows and said nothing. C.J. continued, thinking out loud. "This is the kind of thing you talk about with, you know, a girlfriend, or a sister. I don't have any sisters. I don't have any girlfriends, either, since I spend about three hundred percent of my time at work. The only people I talk with anymore are you guys, and I need to talk about it, but I really shouldn't...." She trailed off.
"'Course you should," Josh said encouragingly.
She looked at him, distressed. "If you repeat this to anyone, Joshua... I swear to God, I'll rip off your arms and beat you to death with them."
"Now, why would I--"
"I'll tell the press about what you did after the victory party."
He looked solemn. "I won't tell."
"Last night...." C.J. took a deep breath, then closed her eyes and blurted it out in a rush. "I went to bed with Toby."
Josh stared at her, dumbfounded. To cover the silence, she gushed, "It wasn't like we planned it or anything. We were just having a couple of beers and talking about work, and I'm not even sure how it started--"
She broke off as Josh began to laugh uproariously. C.J. groaned. "I knew I shouldn't have told you."
"No, no," Josh managed, between outbursts. "You had sex with Toby?"
She nodded wretchedly. "It's not funny."
"It's not," he agreed, then spluttered, "You had sex with Toby!" He lapsed back into laughter, pounding lightly on the desk.
She buried her face in her hands, blushing furiously. "Remind me to share with you again. It makes me feel so warm inside."
"I'm sorry." Josh tried to compose himself. "So you had" -- he giggled helplessly -- "Sex. You and Toby."
"You don't have to keep saying that!"
"Oh, yes, I do." He couldn't stop chuckling. "So is this sex thing going to become a big issue?"
C.J. rolled her eyes in disbelief as she jumped to her feet. "We've known each other for ten years. We *work* together, for God's sake. What are you smoking, Josh? *Naturally* it's an issue! I passed him in the hall this morning and we could hardly even look at each other. I don't know what I'm supposed to say to him, let alone how I'm going to work alongside him. What's going to happen the next time we're in a meeting together?"
Josh realized how upset she was, and made an effort to get his amusement under control. "Well, what do you want to have happen?"
She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it again, pondering. Finally, she collapsed into one of his chairs. "I don't know," she admitted, forlornly.
"You're both adults," Josh said, reassuringly. "You're smart people; you'll figure something out and it'll be fine."
She looked doubtful. "You really think so?"
"Maybe awkward for a while, but yeah, it'll be fine."
"I hope so." She stood up and started to leave.
"Hold on." C.J. turned back. Josh's eyes twinkled as he battled to keep a straight face. "Can I tell Donna you had sex with Toby?"
"Victory party," she said, ominously.
"Okay," he relented. She shot him a suspicious look and trudged out. He waited until she was out of earshot, then leaned back in his chair and laughed heartily. When Donna appeared in the doorway, watching him with incredulity, he offered no explanation.
* * *