(Please see part one for notes and disclaimers.)

Thursday morning comes entirely too early for my tastes. I beat the
alarm clock against the bedside table to make it cease its infernal
racket. Glaring at it murderously, it only makes me madder to realize
that it's 4:30 already. How the hell did that happen?

I collapse back against the pillows, savoring the prospect of
allowing myself to drift off again, when I remember why I set the
clock so early.

"Breakfast," I groan to myself. "Must make breakfast." On the bright
side, breakfast means coffee, and that's always a good thing.

Continuing to curse the impending dawn under my breath, I stumble
downstairs and hold my hand over my eyes as I flip on the kitchen
light. I think I must know how vampires feel at dawn.

By the time I hear Sam move around upstairs a few minutes later, I've
got coffee brewing and bagels toasting in the oven. I look around the
kitchen, and decide that homemade fruit juice is just what the doctor
ordered for us both.

I hear Sam thump down the stairs about 5:15. He's showered and shaved
and looking considerably better than he did last night, but still
tired. I've just started my first cup of coffee and likely still
resemble death warmed over, but breakfast is ready and the "Post" is
waiting for him on the table. Thank God there weren't any
photographers outside this early in the morning to see me retrieve
the paper.

"Good morning, Sunshine," I say, greeting him with more enthusiasm
than I really feel yet; but hey—I'm trying. "Did you sleep well?"

Suddenly it occurs to me that Sam is staring at me— really staring.
He is frozen in the kitchen doorway, suit jacket in hand, as if
abruptly turned to stone. He looks utterly horrified.

"Sam," I start blithely. "I know I'm not normally a morning person,
but I just thought—"

"Oh my god," he says slowly under his breath. His expression is
shattered as he continues to stare at me.

"What?" I demand, looking around the room to see what has upset him
so much.

"Your arms."

I look down at my arms, and my breath catches in my throat as I see
the large purple and blue bruises covering my upper arms. Taken
together, they have the distinctive look of a painful handprint just
above each elbow.

I can't believe I didn't notice these before. Sam definitely grabbed
me hard last night when I woke him up, but I didn't realize he'd left
a mark on me. Reflexively my hands go to my bare arms to try to cover
the bruises. I look back up at the horrified expression on my
brother's face.

The unfortunate coincidence between the timing of this and Lisa's
accusations is not lost on me, and surely not lost on Sam. I rush to
reassure him. "It's nothing, Sam. You were having a nightmare and I
woke you up. I startled you."

"Nothing!" he explodes. "You stand there and tell me it's *nothing*?
Look at what I did to you! How *dare* you tell me it's nothing?"

"Sam, you were having a nightmare!"

His tone becomes increasingly shrill. "And I hurt you. My wife just
went on national television to accuse me of physical abuse, and now
I've actually abused my baby sister. And she stands there in front of
me with all hero-worship in the world in her eyes and tells me it's
*nothing*. I can't believe this."

"Sam, listen to me. It's—"

"I swear to God, Sabrina, if you try to tell me it's nothing again,
I'm going to lose it! It's not nothing."

It's not the bruises or the nightmare or the paparazzi that scare me.
It's the self-doubt and self-loathing on my brother's face that scare
me. Terrify me, in fact. I could smack myself for being so foggy in
the morning I didn't notice the marks on my arms and cover them up.
Stupid, stupid girl!

"Sammy—" I begin, my tone pleading.

"Don't, Sabrina. Just *don't*. I want you to leave. I can't be around
people right now, and I want you gone by the time I get home tonight.
Do you understand?"

I can't believe he's saying these things to me. He almost doesn't
even look like the brother I know and love. "Sam—"

"I mean it, Sabrina! Don't argue with me this time! Just go!" With
that he wheels around and storms toward the front door. He snatches
up his briefcase and slams the door behind him with a great deal of
finality.

After several minutes the shock begins to wear off, and as it leaves
me, my strength leaves me too. I slump against the counter and let my
head fall into my hands and my tears fall to the floor.

<><><>

At 5:45 p.m. I dial Josh's direct number. I cross my fingers that
he'll be the one to pick up, and am relieved to hear his voice on the
other end.

"Josh Lyman."

"Josh, hi, it's Sabrina."

He picks right up on the tension in my voice. "Hi. Are you okay,
kiddo?"

I hesitate, fighting the urge to tear up again at the concern in his
voice. When I trust myself to speak clearly again, I plunge in. "No,
actually I'm not. How is Sam today?"

Josh takes a deep breath and sighs before answering me. "Not that
great. He left early and he acted kind of weird all day today.
Something happened with Cathy. I don't know what yet but she seemed
pretty freaked out this afternoon. Are you still at Sam's house?"

"No. I'm at my apartment." I have to pause and take another deep
breath before continuing. "He threw me out, Josh."

"He did *what*?" he asks disbelievingly.

"He threw me out of his house this morning. He said he wanted me gone
before he got home from work. Look, it's a long story. Can I come see
you? I want your opinion on a couple of things, and I'm really
worried about Sam."

"Yeah, me too," he says. "Look, since he's gone, why don't you just
come down here? I'll be in the office for a while, and after another
hour or so people will start to clear out. I'll tell Manny you're
coming."

"Thanks. I'll see you in a bit."

His voice is warm with a reassuring smile when he answers me. "Sure
thing, kid."

<><><>

When I get to the West Wing, Manny clears me in as usual. He grins
and shakes his head at me as if to say `Back again so soon?'

"Hey there, Mini Sam," he says with a big smile. He and a few other
people picked up on Toby's nickname for me several months ago and I
don't mind saying that it annoys me tremendously. Sam and I can not
be the only siblings in America that bear a striking family
resemblance, yet to hear Toby and Manny tell it, you'd think so.

"Cute, Manny. Cute. And *so* original." I scowl at him as he returns
my bag after the usual inspection. He chuckles, clearly enjoying my
annoyance. His laughter continues to echo down the hallway after me
as I head toward the bullpen.

It's early enough that there are still quite a few people here, but
many have gone home already. Those that remain are working quietly,
enjoying the chance to catch up on paperwork in the diminished chaos
of early evening.

Josh's door is open, and as I approach his office, I can hear him
having an animated conversation with someone. At first I'm not sure
who it is, but the distinctive North Carolina drawl can only belong
to one person. I've never officially met Ainsley Hayes, but no one
else around here has quite the same annoying accent she does. I stop
abruptly in the hallway when I catch Sam's name being bandied about.

"Josh, all I'm saying is that it's a possibility and we should look
at it as such."

"'Look at it as such'?" Josh's voice rings with the condescending
incredulity he does so well. "Ainsley, don't you think we've already
been over this? Lisa's a liar and that's all there is to it."

"Well, that's just great, Josh. We'll just call up the networks and
say, `Well, we asked Sam about it and he says Lisa's a liar and Josh
says that's all there is to it.' I'm sure that'll go over *real* well
in the polls," she answers with her own special brand of sarcasm.

Josh is quick to jump to my brother's defense. "There is simply no
way that Sam—"

Ainsley cuts him off as if she hadn't even heard him. "Has anybody
considered, I mean, *seriously* considered the possibility that there
is some truth to what Lisa said? Has anybody considered the fact that
Sam's continued presence at the White House constitutes this
administration's tacit approval of spousal abuse?"

Okay, that's it. Before Josh has a chance to respond, I charge into
the office, ready to rip Ainsley's face off. Josh's mouth is open to
speak, but when he sees me he closes it again. His expression changes
to one of dread as he looks back and forth between Ainsley and me.

Ainsley and I are very much the same height, but she looks down her
long nose at me as if peering down at the peasantry from her throne.
She takes me in with a single haughty glance, from my casual slacks
to the fury on my face and says, "Who are you?"

Don't lose it, Sabrina. Don't lose it. Mocking her superior tone and
demeanor, I respond as Josh sinks a bit lower in his chair. "My name
is Sabrina Seaborn. I'm Sam's sister. Who are *you*?"

"I'm Ainsley Hayes and I work here. So why are *you* here?"

"She's here because I asked her to be here, Ainsley," Josh puts in
before I can respond.

I'm too furious to reply, and Ainsley and I stare at each other for a
minute before she speaks again. "Look, Sabrina, I'm sorry you
overheard that. I like Sam, I really do. But all the angles have to
be considered. This is still the White House and we wouldn't be doing
the President or Sam any favors if we did any less."

"Yeah," I manage finally. "Well, the way I got the story is that Sam
was a friend to you when you didn't have any here. He defended you
even after you trumped him on `Capitol Beat.' I'd think you'd be able
to find it in yourself to return the favor," I say, crossing my arms
over my chest. "But I guess that's more than you can manage."

She blinks at me, clearly thinking back to her first days in the
White House when Sam was the only one who stepped up to protect her
from Steve Joyce and Mark Brookline. Josh watches us keenly from
behind the relative safety offered by his large desk.

Ainsley's voice is full of determination when she addresses me
again. "I know you don't want to consider the possibility that Lisa's
accusations are true, but you have that luxury because you're his
family. It's part of my job to consider the possibility and how to
best protect the administration in the event that they are true."

She pauses, props one hand on her hip and rolls her eyes toward the
ceiling before continuing. "And as a woman, I frankly know that it's
often the guys you'd think were the least likely suspects who turn
out to have the darkest and dirtiest demons. Surely you don't like
the idea of another woman getting beaten up in her own home any more
than I do."

I look at her like she's suddenly sprung another head. Josh's focus
shifts back and forth between us like a spectator at a tennis match.

"He *raised* me, Ainsley," I say, struggling to control the
increasing shrillness in my voice. "If Sam were even remotely capable
of deliberately hurting another person, I'd *know* it. I know him
better than anybody—including Lisa. They were barely married two
years. He didn't do it. He *didn't* hurt her. He couldn't have!"

My eyes have narrowed to slits in my outrage. "He's got photographers
outside his front door, the media has impaneled itself as a grand
jury, Lisa keeps giving TV interviews, and he doesn't feel like he's
got any friends at all right now. Can't he come to work without
feeling like he's got to dodge the daggers being thrown by his
coworkers?"

"That's a pretty na´ve view of the world you've got there, Sabrina,
if you think it's really possible that Sam can come to the *White
House* and not have to deal with this issue. It's more important here
than it is anywhere else. I admire you're devotion to your brother,
and I hope you turn out to be right, I really do, but there are a lot
of people who don't think Sam belongs here anymore, and frankly, I'm
inclined to agree with them."

"Now wait just a minute—" I begin before Josh cuts me off.

He stands abruptly and addresses my blonde adversary. "Alright,
Ainsley, that's enough. Would you excuse us, please?"

Ainsley looks from Josh to me and back again before nodding her
head. "I'll be back later, Josh," she says quietly, and then turns
and sweeps out of the room, leaving a very pissed-off sister and a
somewhat bemused Deputy Chief of Staff in her wake. Josh moves from
behind his desk to close his office door.

I turn and look at him, arms still crossed over my chest in protest.
Josh starts to grin, flashing those dimples—his secret weapons. He
must know that smile is disarming, and I look down at the floor for a
beat to keep from grinning in return.

"You're a real bulldog, you know that?" he asks me. "You'll just
stand up to anybody. I had to get her out of here before you actually
hurt her. Although it might have been kind of fun to watch." He's
still grinning, and I can't help smiling back, despite my best
efforts to hold on to my anger.

"It depends on how important the issue is. When it comes to Sam, yes,
I'll absolutely stand up to anybody. And he'd do the same for me.
That's how we are, Josh."

His expression grows more serious, and he motions for me to sit in
the visitor's chair across from him as he resumes his position behind
his desk. "I hate this as much as you do, Sabrina, I really do, but
Ainsley does have a point."

"Josh! Come on!" I explode. "Not you too! You don't really think that
he—"

He holds up a hand to stop me. "I didn't mean about Lisa. I mean
every situation has to have a Devil's advocate, and Ainsley's it
right now. There is talk about placing Sam on leave during the
impending investigation."

"You've *got* to be kidding me!"

"I'm afraid not, and you know it, don't you? You know it has to be
done like this. He's a public figure. Slander cases are harder for
public figures than for private citizens. You know that."

Okay. At least he's talking about it in terms of slander rather than
treating it like Lisa's allegations are true. I sigh and slump
sullenly against the back of the chair, rubbing my hands over my
eyes. I peer back at him between my fingers. "The sun is over the
yard arm, isn't it? I could really use a beer."

He sighs and smiles and rolls his eyes, giving me that big brother
look he gives me sometimes. "Tell me what happened at Sam's."

"It was awful, Josh. He had a nightmare last night. He was reliving
Rosslyn." I watch him closely as we talk, carefully looking for any
sign of pain or discomfort the topic might bring him.

Josh looks down at his hands folded on top of his desk and nods,
waiting for me to continue.

"He said he's been having these nightmares several times a week for
several months. I asked him if he needed to talk to somebody about
them and he wouldn't even hear of it. He can't even sleep in peace,
Josh." I look up at the ceiling and throw my hands in the air. "I
don't know what to do for him."

Josh looks up and studies me closely. "There's more though, isn't
there? You said he threw you out of his house."

I can feel my chin start to tremble and push a hand through my hair.
I'm not sure I can tell Josh about this after all.

"Sabrina," he prods gently, "tell me."

"Well, he—he kept calling out for CJ to get down. I tried to reassure
him, and he seemed to calm down for a minute. When I tried to leave
the room, he started calling out again and I put my hands on his
shoulders as I tried to tell him that everything was okay."

I stop and look down again, gathering my courage. "When I touched
him, I startled him, and he woke up and grabbed me by the arms. It
wasn't until this morning when he came down to breakfast that we
noticed these," I say, pushing the sleeve of my oxford up past my
elbow.

I hear Josh's sharp intake of breath and when I look back up at him
his gaze shoots from my arm to my face.

"Does your other arm look like that too?" His expression has hardened
tremendously in the blink of an eye.

I nod, unable to meet his penetrating and angry gaze.

"Oh, no, Sabrina—"

"Josh, don't look at me like that. It was an *accident*. He was
having a nightmare and I scared him when I woke him up. He thought I
was CJ and he was trying to protect me from the gunfire."

He studies my face for a tense minute before nodding and taking a
deep breath. "Still, I can imagine it didn't look very good this
morning."

"No, not exactly," I say wryly. "He lost it. I mean really lost it.
He started screaming about how he'd abused me and I know he wonders
if something like that happened with Lisa and he just doesn't
remember it. He's got no confidence in himself right now. He told me
he couldn't be around people and ordered me to leave."

"Do you think there's any chance something like that might have
happened?"

"I doubt it. He remembers it this time, doesn't he?"

"Yeah. He was really agitated today. I still haven't been able to
find out what happened with Cathy. All I know is he yelled at her
about something in front of the whole bullpen. She left not long
after Sam did."

"I'm really starting to think he's in serious trouble—and I don't
mean Lisa's B.S. I think the nightmares are a symptom that he was in
trouble *before* the Barracuda left him. Now, with all of this—" I
say, my voice trailing off.

"I know," Josh nods solemnly.

"Josh, you've been talking to somebody occasionally, haven't you?"

He takes a deep breath before answering. "Yeah. A guy in Alexandria."

"Do you think it would be possible for Sam to talk to him too?"

"Do you think he would?"

"Not without some coaxing. He was extremely uncomfortable with the
thought of discussing it with anybody, even me. Sam and I have always
confided in each other. He's never kept things from me—not important
things—until Lisa left. I was shocked that he didn't tell either you
or me for two *weeks*. That in itself is a red flag to me."

"Yeah, me too. I razzed him pretty hard about the martyr act he
pulled. He told me you did too."

We grin at each other. If anybody can pull Sam out of his funk, it's
going to be the two of us, and we both know it. "There is one other
thing, Josh."

He lowers his head toward his desk and looks back up at me, cocking
one eyebrow and scowling. "Do you think we really have room on our
plates for one other thing?"

"No, and yet here it is."

He pushes a hand through his hair, rolls his eyes and says, "Okay,
tell me."

"He's taking a pretty defeatist attitude about the whole defamation
of character/slander issue, don't you think?"

"Sabrina Seaborn, Queen of Understatement."

"You know, I'm surprised you don't just chuck this whole political
thing and take off on the road as a stand-up comic," I quip back at
him.

He chuckles before asking, "So you want to know what we're going to
do about it?"

"Yeah. I want to know what *we're* going to do about it. Don't think
for a minute that I'm not going to be involved in this."

"Sabrina, wait a minute," he says, bracing his hands on his desk and
giving me a surprisingly patronizing expression. "You've got classes,
you've got graduation, not to mention the fact that you don't operate
in this world everyday like Toby, Leo and I do. I really think you
should focus your attention on perking Sam up at home and try not to
worry about the rest of it. We'll take care of it."

By the time he finishes this little speech, all traces of humor have
left my face. "Joshua Lyman, how dare you take that tone with me?
You're not my older brother, and I'll tell you something, Sam doesn't
get to talk to me like that either."

He gives me a startled look as I continue to tear into him. I am
deadly serious and he knows it. "I am pretty damn tired of you guys
treating me like I'm 14-years-old. I am not 14. I am 24. In three
months, I'll have a law degree of my very own. I've worked in the
District Attorney's office for two years now, and they just made me a
full-time offer. I know a hell of a lot more about litigation than
*you* do, not to mention how to talk to the public without sticking
my foot in my mouth. I can't imagine anybody else besides the two of
us who will really be interested in helping Sam out of this mess
without looking for fame or fortune. So I'd suggest you get over the
pig-tailed image you seem to have of me, because those days are over.
I may be a little younger than you, and I may be a little shorter on
life experience, but I am not stupid. And I'd appreciate it if you'd
quit treating me like an innocent kid. Understood?"

Josh looks at me for a minute, wearing an expression that is part
disbelief and part careful consideration. He sizes me up as if
judging my commitment before deciding that I really am serious. He
nods slightly, and his sharp brown eyes are pinned on my face.

This is our silent agreement. We're in it together now. "Okay.
Understood."

"Thank you," I say quietly, and mean it.

"I think the first thing we've got to work on is getting Sam to press
a libel suit against Lisa," Josh continues.

"Do we know what her motives are?" I ask.

"No, and I was actually hoping you could help me with that. I know
the two of you were never close; but you've spent more time around
her than anyone else has. What do you think?"

"Honestly, I really think it will come down to money. Sam took a huge
pay cut when he got back into politics. Lisa was furious and never
missed an opportunity to be snide about how he was `following his
bleeding heart straight to the poor house.'"

He nods. "Yeah, I think I remember hearing something like that. She
used to work for Merrill Lynch, though, right? Did she just not want
to work after they got married?"

"Josh, how many large investment banking firms have high-yield bond
desks in D.C.? Last time I checked, not any. In that business you've
got to be in the thick of it. You can't be in D.C.; you've got to be
in New York, or even Charlotte, but not D.C. Lisa really held it
against Sam that he wanted to move back here. She blamed him for
ruining her career."

"Ouch. You may have hit on something there."

"I don't know, maybe," I say, shrugging my shoulders. "I still think
it'll all come down to the almighty dollar. I've wondered if somebody
might be paying her to trump up these allegations."

"That's an interesting question. I can quietly make some phone calls
and might be able to find out if there's anything political behind
it. I can't say it would surprise me too much."

"Yeah," I nod.

"What do you know about slander and libel?"

"Glad you asked," I say, giving him a cheeky smile. "I'm preparing
some briefs for you. I started with the Supreme Court. The cases I've
looked at so far dealt specifically with members of Congress, but I
think the broader themes will apply. Basically, we need proof. We
need solid, physical, irrefutable proof that Lisa deliberately lied
about Sam with the express purpose of hurting his reputation and
career. The really interesting part will be figuring out where the
smoking gun is and how we're going to get our hands on it."

"Okay. It's a place to start. I'm glad you've decided to go into
prosecution. We may need somebody who knows how to talk to a jury, if
it gets that far."

"That's my favorite part, man. As soon as I take the bar exam this
summer, I'll be ready to go." I pause, chewing on my lower lip before
speculating, "Of course, if it does get that far, we might have to
bring in someone else; but there just aren't many people I'd trust
with Sam's case. Know what I mean?"

Josh raises his eyebrows again and nods. "Yeah."

"Do you ever feel like David, standing up to Goliath with nothing
more than a slingshot and faith?"

He laughs. "Almost everyday, kid...uh...buddy...pal?" He looks at me
helplessly, and I laugh.

"It's fine, Josh. Really."

"Listen, let me finish up here and then I'll come by your place and
we'll head over to Sam's together. We can do the Josh and Sabrina
Comedy Hour, make sure he eats something—maybe even find out what
happened with Cathy today."

"If all else fails, I'll call Cathy at home," I say. "Seriously,
though, I'd be really grateful for the back up after this morning." I
stand up and cross to the door, feeling much better than I have all
day. "Thanks, Josh."

"No problem. See ya'."

<><><>

 

 

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