SPOILERS: This story is somewhat AU and takes place between "The
Leadership Breakfast" and "Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's
Going to Jail." Anything up to that point in season 2 is fair game.
Though we have taken artistic license with certain details of Sam's
life, we're sticking as close to canon as possible.

DISCLAIMER: We don't own the characters or storylines you've seen on
your TV, of course, we're just borrowing them for a while. We promise
to return them in good condition.

RATED: R for mature themes (specifically abuse) and language. Despite
the fact that the character in question is making false accusations,
this story is in no way meant to trivialize the true experiences of
people who have suffered domestic violence. This is meant only as a
work of fiction and we intend to treat the subject with all due
respect.

SUMMARY: Sam finally gets to tell his side of the story.

ARCHIVE and FEEDBACK: If you would like to have this story, it's
yours. Please let us know. Also, this series is a work in progress
and we would love to hear any comments you'd care to share. Please
send to leicestersq@h... and lizisita@h...

THANKS: To Sid, who has made this project so much fun. And to Jess,
whose story "Silence" is simply amazing (so if you haven't read it,
you should <hint hint>).

Stories preceding this:
1: The Strong, Silent Type
2: Tonight in America
3: When the Vow Breaks
4: It's a Long, Long Way to Fall
5. A Fool for a Client
6. Seaborn vs. Seaborn
7. Thicker than Water
8. Victims of Circumstance
9. Say Hello and Wave Goodbye

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MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES
by, Liz & Sid

Chapter 10: On the Verge

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I'm just about to head for Sam's when the doorbell rings. The goofy
expression on the face outside makes me laugh out loud as I peer
through the peephole. His head is tilted at a ridiculous angle, his
eyes are crossed, and if he stuck his tongue out any further, he
might trip over it.

"Hi," I exclaim as I throw open the door. "I'm glad to see your
mature, cerebral sense of humor hasn't deserted us in this, our time
of desperation."

He abruptly drops the clowning and assumes an air of moderately
offended dignity. This from the man who was just aping outside my
front door. "Moi?" he asks, sauntering in and heading straight for
the kitchen.

"Tu," I say as I follow him. "*Do*make yourself at home, Joshua."

"Thanks," he says as he pulls a clean glass out of the dish drain and
begins to rummage through the fridge. "I will. What do you have in
here? Anything good?"

"Depends on what you mean by good," I cross my arms over my chest and
lean against the table, curious about the cause of his lately
uncharacteristic burst of energy. The long hours we've put in on
Sam's case, combined with an already overloaded schedule, have left
Josh dragging over the last weeks. Okay, so we've all been dragging
for one reason or another.

Josh seems determined to touch every item in the refrigerator, and
then moves on to the kitchen cabinets.

"Ah ha," he crows as he emerges from our tiny pantry with a dusty
Canada Dry. "You *do* have something here that doesn't have `Diet' on
the label."

"So, what's up, my friend?"

I know Josh well enough to know that he's up to something. He does
that thing—taking in a breath and pausing just a fraction of a
second, jaw open, before answering.

"What do you mean?" he asks, feigning innocence.

"Joshua. Don't mess with me."

He pauses again, and then drops the fašade. I marvel that his
expression changes so dramatically from the forced lightheartedness
of a few seconds ago to serious intent.

But apparently he changes his mind yet again, because just when I
think he's about to let me in on his little secret, Josh surprises me
by picking up his clown face once more and heading for a stack of
photos I left sitting on the table. "What are these? Hey, these are
really good. Who took these?"

I chuckle at his rapid-fire queries. "Thanks. I did."

"Seriously?"

"Yeah. Sam and I have always been interested in photography. We're
usually the one with cameras at holidays and family reunions, that
kind of thing. I had to work hard to get some of those; it's always
been tough to get Sam to sit for me. He usually wants to be the one
behind the camera. I have to sneak up on him. It's sort of our little
game."

"When did you take all these?"

"Well, I think I first picked up a camera when I was about twelve.
Some of those are years old, as you can tell. The most recent one is
one I took of Sam about a year ago. I spiked up his hair and razzed
him the whole time, hence the snarky expression," I smile,
remembering how much I had to plead with him to get him to sit still
for ten minutes. "I'm proud of the way it turned out. The light was
just right."

He shuffles through the stack of photographs, flashing through
Seaborn family history. "You and your brother look so much alike it's
spooky."

"That's what people say. Especially since I cut my hair."

He holds up one of me that Sam took nearly ten years ago. We'd been
playing basketball, and long wisps of black hair had escaped from my
ponytail to drift around my face. I was wearing the Princeton t-shirt
Sam brought home for me. It was the last game we played before the
day I blew out my knee, the last game before my dreams of becoming a
professional dancer ended with one misstep and a loud popping noise
from my right leg. In the corner of the shot, Dad is lounging in his
favorite lawn chair, arms crossed over his broad chest as he snickers
at the fiercely competitive nature of our pick-up game.

Josh looks from the photo to me and back again. "*This* is the
Sabrina I remember. Sam's pesky kid sister. So what's with the family
scrapbook?"

I sigh. "Well, I've had to reorganize my day since I got, you know,
fired without just cause, and most of these have been sitting in
boxes for years. I thought it would be a good project. I guess Mom's
visit left me feeling a little sentimental."

"Sabrina Seaborn, you miss your mommy, don't you?" he taunts, both
eyebrows pulled all the way up to his hairline.

"Don't get carried away, Josh. I was ready to throw a party when she
left, but she is my mother and..." I pause, but as always am unable to
put my complex feelings about our mother into words, "...well, it's
just complicated. I was the one who told Daddy where to find her, and
the next thing I know, he's ordered her home, she dissolved into
tears, and Sam has one more thing to worry about."

"Yeah, well, I wouldn't worry about that one. He was as glad to see
her go as you were, and I promptly made an ass of myself in front of
that reporter, so I don't think he's had much opportunity to dwell on
your mom."

I give him a `You know, you're right' look before he continues.

"So, uh, Bri, I notice that Lisa's not anywhere in here."

I scoff. "Yeah, well, just because she was lucky enough to be Sam's
wife for a couple of years doesn't mean the Barracuda was ever part
of our family. She made that perfectly clear."

"I gotta tell you—I know we've talked about it before, but—I still
don't understand what Sam saw in that woman," he shakes his head in
disgust.

"She's strong and outspoken and different from Mom in all the right
ways," I tell him. "She has opinions and actually voices them, rather
than pulling the passive-aggressive crap our mother always uses
against us."

I can see that whatever it is he's been putting off telling me is
still very much on his mind. "Okay, out with it," I tell him
firmly. "What is it you came over to tell me that you don't want to
tell me?"

"Okay, I wanted you to be the first to know. I haven't even told
CJ `First Call' Cregg yet."

This causes genuine alarm. One hand flies to my mouth. "Oh, God,
Josh. What is it? He's okay, isn't he? What has that bitch done now?"

"Which bitch? Lisa or your mom?" Josh chuckles, continuing before I
have a chance to say anything else. "Seriously, Sam's fine, just sit
down and don't jump to any conclusions."

I draw a steadying breath, willing my heart to stop its furious
beating. "Fine. Spill it!"

Josh does his take-a-deep-breath-and-hold-it-before-speaking thing
again. "Sam and I had lunch today, and were joined at the table by
Leslie Roth of `Washington Week in Review.'"

The mere fact that they had lunch with a reporter is enough to make
me protest. As Sam's attorney, hell, as *attorneys*—both of them—they
should know better under the circumstances.

Josh holds up a hand. "I know what you're going to say, so don't. We
didn't *plan* to have lunch with her. We were having lunch and she
joined us. I promise. Here's the thing, though, she wants to
interview Sam, either in print or on camera."

I'm too stunned to be sure I've heard him properly. "What?"

"She offered his choice of print or TV, but what she really wants is
for Sam to come on `Washington Week in Review.' Just the two of them,
there won't be anyone else involved and there won't be any questions
from callers. She says she wants to give him a chance to tell his
side of the story."

"What!? Are you both completely crazy? You let this woman talk to him
about doing an interview of any kind, as we're getting ready to go to
court?! He's not going to do it, is he?"

Josh can obviously tell how close I am to panic. The only one on
record so far is Lisa, and we've done a good job of keeping Sam, if
not Josh, from opening his mouth in public and saying anything that
might damage our case. And now Josh his telling me that my wayward
brother might be going on the air after all. This can *not* be
happening.

Josh reaches up to squeeze my shoulder reassuringly, but I duck away
from him, every fiber of my being brittle with tension. "Josh, tell
me you're kidding. Please. Sam's got a brilliant legal mind, and the
mere fact that he's even talking to this woman right now tells me
that he's lost his senses. As if I needed any more proof. Please, oh
please, tell me you're not going to let him do this. We've got to
stop him."

Josh pushes both hands through his thick hair and sighs deeply. "Bri,
he's a grown man. He can make his own choices. And no, I really don't
think it's a good idea, but there's not much we can do if he decides
to go through with it. He hasn't accepted the offer yet, but I could
tell he was sorely tempted. Leslie pitched it just the right way—a
chance to set the record straight, to tell his side of things—and the
more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea."

"Josh, you don't understand," I tell him, begging him to take this as
seriously as I do. "He's not himself right now. I've seen him on TV
countless times, and he's almost always been brilliant. But now—Sam's
an amazing attorney, and normally he would know exactly what to say
and what not to say, but he's so emotional and," speaking of emotion,
I have to choke back sudden tears at the thought of the damage my
brother could do to his case and his future with a few poorly chosen
words, "and so close to the edge right now. We've got to talk him out
of this."

Josh points toward the phone. "I agree. And I can think of one person
he should listen more than anybody."

I nod in agreement. "CJ." I grab the phone and furiously dial her
number.

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