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
women who have dealt with domestic violence. This is meant only as a
work of fiction and we intend to treat the subject with all due
respect.

SUMMARY: Have you ever thought you were the only one who suffered
when you were going through a rough time? Well, think again.

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 such a fun project to work on!

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

<><><>

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES
by, Liz & Sid

Chapter 6: Seaborn vs. Seaborn
by, Liz

<><><>

I can't believe it! This is great! Sam just may pull through this
after all. He's rounded the bend now, I'm sure of it. I'm grinning
from ear to ear with relief, and see similar expressions on Josh and
CJ's faces.

Toby is the only person in the room who isn't wearing an idiotic grin
at the moment. He's trying hard to share our enthusiasm, but his
fathomless dark eyes are still troubled. No matter. Sammy's smiling—
actually smiling—for the first time in days. Having reached this
decision seems to have lifted some of the weight from my brother's
shoulders.

"This is great, Sam. I really think you're doing the right thing," I
tell him.

"Yeah, well, *you* would," he says with a roll of his eyes and a
lopsided smirk. I just couldn't be happier right now. I might
actually get my brother back after all.

Josh grins at us and CJ chuckles. Oh no. Toby's giving me that look
he always gives me just before he calls me `Mini Sam.'

"Sabrina and I had actually already started planning tentative
strategies, just in case you, you know, came to your senses," Josh
says with a sly smile. At that, I burst out laughing and Sam scowls.
Josh has the good sense to duck.

Sam laughs then, but there's something else in his eyes as he looks
from Josh to me – something sad I haven't seen there before. What is
it? "I'm not completely sure you two can be trusted together."

Toby grunts. "I can't think of two people who will pursue your
interests or go after Lisa more aggressively than Josh and Mini Sam
here."

Sometimes I really hate Toby; but at this moment, I'm just so
thrilled that Sam has decided to fight back that I don't mind the
nickname quite as much.

CJ has that satisfied look that says that the world is finally
starting to play by her rules. "Okay, troops, it's almost 11 o'clock
and our legal eagles have their work cut out for them, so I want
everyone to get some rest. You're not going to win the case tonight,
so please don't try to do it all in one go. All right?"

The party breaks up and we get ready to leave. Toby says goodnight as
Josh and I take everyone's glasses back to the kitchen. As I start
back toward the living room, I see Sam touch CJ on the elbow as she
wraps her scarf around her neck. His cheeks are slightly flushed and
she gives him a look of quiet expectation.

"CJ—" he stops, contrition stamped all over his features.

"Yes?"

"Thank you. And I'm sorry."

CJ gives Sam a smile and says, "You're welcome. Just don't let it
happen again." She winks at him and calls out, "Good night, guys," to
Josh and me as she turns on her heel and follows Toby out the door.

Josh has his coat hanging off one shoulder and mine in his hand as he
comes out of the kitchen. "Yeah. See you tomorrow," he calls to CJ's
retreating back as he joins us in Sam's tiny foyer. "Ready?"

I take my coat and Sam and I exchange a look. "Give me just a minute,
okay?"

He raises his eyebrows and makes a face at me. "Okay, but hurry it
up, will you? In case you haven't noticed, it's still January and
it's really *cold* in D.C. in *January.*"

I roll my eyes. "Oh, quit whining. I'll be right there."

He growls at me and playfully punches Sam on the shoulder as he
breezes out the door. "See you later, buddy. And hurry up, girl. This
train's not gonna wait on your ass all night."

Once Josh's bright presence leaves the house, I feel a little nervous
standing before my big brother. We haven't been alone since the
disastrous events of yesterday morning and we didn't mention them in
front of Josh last night. I was shocked when he called me earlier
this evening and asked if I could be at his house by 10 p.m. Because
of the way Sam blew up at my yesterday, I was tremendously relieved
when Josh called soon after and offered to give me a ride.

All of this and so much more flashes across my mind as I look at Sam,
and I find myself struggling for the right words to say to him now.
Does he have any idea how much he hurts me when he pushes me away
like he did yesterday? That only happened after Lisa came along and
caused him to distance himself from virtually everyone who cared
about him. I wonder if he'll ever really get over the damage the
Barracuda has done to him.

Sam looks like he's thinking some pretty heavy thoughts himself as he
stares at me. He stands in the doorway to the living room, head
tilted down, and glances up at me apologetically.

I try to give him a reassuring smile. "Are you okay?"

He nods. "Yeah. Are you?"

"Mm-hmm."

"Promise?"

"Promise."

We both start talking at once, an old game between us. "Bri—" he
begins.

"Sammy, I—"

"Bri," he says firmly. I close my mouth and wait. "Please don't
interrupt me. Just let me say what I need to say here."

He takes a deep breath before continuing. "I'm sorry." He holds up a
hand to stop me as I start to break in. "Don't interrupt me, I'm not
done. I know you said it was nothing, and I know you meant it; but it
was definitely *something* to me. Everything that's happened this
week is just—" one dark eyebrow jerks upward and he shakes his
head. "I can't even find the words. `Overwhelming' doesn't even
*begin* to cover it. But I think what hurt me most of all was the
thought that I'd actually hurt you. I *know* I never hurt Lisa, but I
did hurt *you*, and I don't care if it was an accident, it still
crushed me."

"Sam, it wasn't the bruises that hurt me, it was the way you pushed
me away that hurt. You're my *family*, Sam. I believe in you and I
just want to help."

He nods. "I know. But right now I need some space. Can you accept
that? I've got a lot to figure out, and I just agreed to sue my ex-
wife, for crying out loud."

"There really are a lot of people in your corner, so you really can
put the world down, Atlas. You don't have to do it all by yourself.
Josh and I both want to help. And we're just the tip of the iceberg.
So I promise you I won't crowd you, but will you please promise me
that you won't shut me out, and that you'll let us help?"

His expression softens, and he opens his arms out to me. "I promise."

I hug him tightly as Josh starts to pound on his horn. Laughter
bubbles in my throat, releasing the tension of what was potentially a
very difficult moment.

"Call me if you need me," I say, pulling out of his arms and
shrugging into my jacket.

"Okay," he says, following me to the door. I see another thought
cross his face just before he adds, "Are you studying at all? You are
going to graduate in May aren't you?"

If he can give me the concerned parent routine, he really is feeling
better. I fight back the tears that suddenly crowd behind my eyelids
and smile broadly at him. I make a show of rolling my eyes and
sighing dramatically. "Oh, please. I'm tied for second place in the
class, and the poor guy I'm tied with doesn't know it yet, but he's
going *down* after the next debate."

"Go get `em, Tiger," he says, giving my shoulder a squeeze as I walk
out the door. "Good night," he says, waving at Josh, who's making a
great show of shivering inside his car.

Josh and I wave at Sam as I climb in Josh's Audi, which is quite warm
inside I might add, and we wait until Sam shuts the door and turns
off the front light before turning to each other.

"Well? What do you think?" Josh asks.

"I think this is a great sign, Josh." My enthusiasm is running at an
all-time high at the moment. "I think he's going to be all right now."

Josh pulls into the street and heads toward my apartment building.
Thank Heaven the reporters have disbanded for the night by this late
hour. "I hope you're right, but it's definitely not over yet."

I know that, but I refuse to acknowledge his skepticism at the
moment. The Sam I saw tonight is the Sam I know and love, and that's
all that matters to me now.

<><><>

It's amazing that it's only been a week since Sam called with his big
news about Lisa. In one short week, I have gone from "Sam Seaborn's
New Mystery Woman" to "Loyal Sister Stands Beside Abusive Monster."
Even in the grocery store this morning, I had to walk through two
rows of tabloids with Sam's face smeared across the cover. The
headlines ranged from the ridiculous to the amazing to the utterly
repulsive. I found myself paying for a breakfast I took outside and
threw in the trash as I fought to quiet my queasy stomach.

Reporters hound me almost as much as they hound Sam. There are
reporters staked out on campus. There are reporters outside my
apartment building. My roommate Claire spends most of her waking
minutes in the house fending off phone calls from newspapers,
magazines and TV shows. Boy, is she peeved about it too. There
doesn't seem to be any way of getting rid of them. Sam and his
colleagues may be used to dealing with this kind of harassment, but I
certainly am not. Heck, Sam's been dealing with the mass media for
several years now, and this is still driving him slowly out of his
mind as he sits cooped up in that townhouse. All I know to do is run
and keep running. It's all rather like being the fox at the hunt.
Poor fox. I'll never look at that sport the same way again.

I shake my head and try to push my annoyance away so I can focus on
the brief in front of me.

The D.A.'s office consists of too many people cramped into the very
tight quarters of an old federal office building. Plaster hangs in
strips off the walls and ceiling and the whole place smells like old
paper, kind of like a library. But I love it. I love the atmosphere
and the sense we all have of working on the side of the angels. I
love the hard-working cops I see every day, who struggle so hard to
make ends meet as they put their lives on the line and deal with the
ever-present sense of being overworked, underpaid and unappreciated.
These people have more integrity and more honor than any other group
of people I've ever met.

I love the tremendous sense of euphoria that seizes us when a guilty
verdict is returned against someone we know will not be able to harm
anyone else for a very long time. I love the gallows humor that
overtakes the entire office when one of the attorneys is wrapped up
in a tense case and nervously awaiting the verdict. Don't get me
wrong, locking people away is not the answer, but if it keeps someone
from hurting anyone else for a while, I admit I can sleep a little
easier at night.

Right now, though, this job I love so much is the last thing on my
mind. I'd really rather be working on Sam's case, or calling to check
up on him. It's funny actually: Sam and I talked to each other every
day on the phone after he went away to college and law school—even
after he started working in New York—until the Barracuda came along.
Then it would be weeks or months between the times I got to talk to
him. Now that Lisa's gone and doing her best to make Sam's life a
living hell, he must call my cell phone twenty times a day. He's
bored and lonely and restless and caged in his house, and I'm
terribly worried about him. I'm beginning to wonder if a leave of
absence was really the best thing for Sam after all. For the White
House, sure, but for *Sam*?

As I sit hunched over in my cubicle, I become aware of the excited
whispers of two women coming from the other side of the partition. It
seems that Rose and Jeanine, the office gossips, are at it again.
They make quite a pair. Rose is a small dark-haired woman who makes
Erin Brokovich look like a fashion maven. Jeanine is a big, brassy
Earth Mother-type who wears potato-sack dresses and chain smokes like
it's going out of style. Someone forgot to tell her that the 60's
were over decades ago. These two love to gossip—live for it, in fact.
It's an old cliché, but it's true: A day without gossip is like a day
without sunshine for them. Occasionally they actually have useful
information and occasionally they're rather entertaining, but mostly
they're disruptive and mean.

I bite my lip and try to focus on the huge pile of depositions in
front of me, and then look up and stare at the wall again when I hear
Jeanine's voice say something about "Seaborn." I sit very quietly and
strain my ears to hear them.

"...he probably beat her up too," Rose says with an unmistakably
vicious tone in her voice. "That's probably why she's so *nice* all
the time, she's overcompensating. Don't you just love it when people
who seem to have it all get exposed for the trash they really are?"

Oh my God. I don't believe I'm hearing this. How could they? I mean
how *could* they? I have purposely avoided any contact with either of
these women that might provoke their ire, but obviously that was not
enough. I raise my hand in front of my face. I'm shaking. I don't
know if I want to cry out of hurt, exhaustion, frustration, wounded
pride, or maybe a combination of all the above.

Jeanine picks up the torch delightedly. "Yes! Exactly! She's so smug—
with the guys always stopping by her desk to talk to her. But have
you noticed that now they're stopping to talk to *me* instead? She
thinks she and her brother are so much better than everybody else—
well now everybody knows the truth. I hope they hang him, and that
skinny little bitch of a sister of his right along side him."

"Wouldn't that be hysterical?" Rose asks with a giggle. "Oh, how far
the mighty have fallen!"

They continue with glee and gusto, but the blood pounding inside my
head has erased my awareness of everything but the tears running
unchecked down my face. How could they say that? I run for the
bathroom, hoping my trembling legs will carry me there before I lose
my lunch all over the floor.

As I stumble out into the corridor, Rose and Jeanine lean out the
doorway of Jeanine's cubicle. Their mouths drop open in shock to see
me so obviously within earshot. Unable to say anything that will not
result in my immediate termination, I brush past them and continue to
stumble down the hallway as fast as my quaking limbs will carry me
without dumping me flat on my face.

<><><>

Twenty minutes later I have finally managed to quiet my rebellious
stomach, stop crying, splash some cold water on my face, and return
my clothing and hair to a reasonable facsimile of normality. It was
no small feat.

I try hard to ignore the dull lump that has settled in my chest and
head back toward my cubbyhole. How could those awful women say those
things about us? What have I ever done other than say hello and smile
and do my job and try to be helpful? I think hard, searching my
memory desperately for something—anything—that would justify their
cruelty in some small way. I've never even had cross words with
either Rose or Jeanine. I go weeks without even seeing Rose—she works
for another division. And Jeanine? We sit next to each other, but
have only collaborated on one case—which we won.

And Sam? What the hell right do they think they have talking about
him like that? To my knowledge neither of them has ever even seen him
in person. They don't know anything about either of us. Where the
hell do they get off? I can wallow in self-pity when it comes to
their comments about me, but trashing my main man is an entirely
different ballgame. Now I'm pissed.

I round the corner busily thinking up ways to boil them both in oil—
slowly—when I spot our division head, a beefy little man with brown
hair and glasses, sitting at my desk. Greg Parker is the heir
apparent around here and he's practically swaggering he's so drunk on
the power of it. He's one of those people who can be either snake
charmer, or snake in the grass, at any given moment. The young
associates walk on eggshells around him. Staying on Greg's good side
is tantamount to getting a promotion these days.

"Greg," I say, fighting to sound cool and confident, "how are you
today?"

"Fine, Sabrina. Listen," he says, pushing his glasses up his nose
with an imperious little flip of his hand. "I just came by to tell
you that the Maxwell case has been reassigned. You're done."

It takes me a beat to be able to say anything at all. "Excuse me? We
just started, and I'm going over the depositions now." Greg looks
unimpressed. "Besides," I say, fighting to control the panic rising
in my voice, "I've got three weeks left under the terms of my
internship. I have to have the credit to graduate."

"Don't worry about that," Greg says smugly. "I spoke to someone at
Georgetown. You're covered. You'll still get the grade and you'll
still graduate; but right now what this office needs is to be able to
work without all the negative publicity you're bringing down."

"What?!" I demand, well aware that I'm giving Rose and Jeanine quite
the show. Now I know why they were hanging out in Jeanine's cubicle
instead of Rose's—they must have known there would be fireworks at my
desk today. "What this office *needs* is for the people it pays to
get some work done rather than spend their days spreading rumor and
innuendo."

"That's enough, Sabrina." Greg's face is beginning to flush the way
it only does when he's really angry. He crosses his arms firmly over
his chest as he stands. "I said you're done. Now get your things and
go."

Stubborn pride is the only thing that keeps me on my feet and
tearless as I gather my coat and purse and walk out the door. Screw
him. Screw Rose and Jeanine. Screw them all.

I fight my trembling hands to turn the key in the ignition. My
fingers grip the steering wheel tightly as I head as fast as my old
Chevy will take me for the comforts of home.

<><><>

 

 

 

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