(For disclaimers, please see pt 1)
After a lunch with my sister that more closely resembled a Monty
And now it's time for Senior Staff, the twice-daily meeting wherein I
All that, and CJ is now sitting across from me in my office, long
Cathy pops her head in. "Senior Staff in five minutes," she reminds
"Oh, he knows," answers CJ.
Cathy looks from me to CJ and back again. "Oookay," she says.
I throw her a pleading glance, and God love her, she interprets it
"Oh, and Carol's looking for you, CJ," she adds smoothly. Cathy is an
CJ does not lift her gaze from me. "Carol knows right where I am,
The woman can be downright spooky. Cathy just shrugs and ignores my
It's a battle of wills, and I am an unarmed man.
I toss my pencil down on my desk. "Fine. I give up."
CJ immediately uncrosses her arms and looks smug. "Did you really
"I just thought it would be nice to try."
CJ grunts in what I'm assuming is mockery.
"I didn't really think I could *keep* it from everyone," I say, "but
For a moment I think she's contemplating slapping me. But then she
I follow her out into the hallway. We encounter Josh on the way. He's
"Ms Cregg. Mr Seaborn," he greets us with a nod.
"Why so chipper? Run over a Republican on your way back from lunch?"
Josh puts a hand to his chest and pretends to be offended. "CJ, I'm
She just grins at him. "So you didn't run over a Republican?"
He shakes his head. "Alas, no. But only because I didn't leave for
"Then why are you bouncing down the hallway?"
Josh frowns. "I am not bouncing. I do not bounce. I am merely walking
"Your heels are barely touching the ground," says CJ.
"Sam, was I bouncing?" Josh turns to me.
I have been silent during this little exchange, concentrating instead
"What's the deal with him?" Josh asks, nodding in my general
"Ignore him," CJ says. "He's having some quiet time."
"You really think a staff meeting is the best place for quiet time?"
CJ grins wickedly and sweeps past us both, into Leo's office. "Oh,
Toby and Leo are already seated and amiably discussing loopholes in
"The NRA is fighting it, Toby," Leo is saying tiredly. "They don't
"Of course they're fighting it, Leo! Gun-sellers don't want to wait
"Don't exaggerate, Toby." Leo rubs his forehead.
"I'm not exaggerating, Leo. I am sick to death of the NRA and the way
"Toby," Leo interrupts, noticing we have joined them, "you don't have
"Who cruise around in 4x4 redneck-mobiles with gun racks in the
"Spoken like a true bleeding-heart liberal," CJ grins, slapping her
Josh yawns in response. "Let's get this over with. I'm hoping to get
"Early as in normal people-early?" CJ asks. "Or early as in Josh
"Meaning somewhere around seven or eight, instead of midnight," I
"Glad you decided to join the conversation, Samuel," Josh says.
CJ slips her glasses on and throws me a pointed look. "He's been
"So you said," agrees Josh. He folds his hands together and grins at
"Sabrina was here?" Leo asks, lighting up. "Why didn't anyone tell
"Sorry, Leo," I murmur.
"Anyway, Leo, don't worry about it. I'm sure we'll be seeing her
Josh smirks. "Why? Did Lisa leave the country for a while?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" I ask, and I can't believe how
Josh holds up a hand in apology. "Sorry, sorry. Didn't mean anything
"Except that your sister calls her the Barracuda," he mutters under
"I heard that."
"Enough!" Leo scolds us, looking over the top of his glasses with
"Yes, sir," we all reply meekly.
Then we turn to actual business. First order of the afternoon: the
"Hewitt says it's not ready for use," Josh says, tapping a pencil
CJ snorts. "A brand new, experimental aircraft that's killed
"The Marines aren't laughing, CJ," says Toby.
She fixes him with an evil death-ray glare. "No one's laughing, Toby.
"CJ," cautions Leo.
"Leo, I'm just saying!"
"Fine, CJ, but let's keep our sarcasm to a minimum, okay?"
"I'm just saying, Leo, the press is gonna bring that up."
"Here's what you *just say*," continues Toby, as if CJ's retort had
CJ glares at him again. "Yes, Toby. I am the White House Scribe,
He ignores her. "You say that the V-48 Falcon was grounded after five
There's a reason we pay this man to write for the President.
We move on to a Naval officer who was charged with espionage and the
It's a good meeting. Shorter than most, but that's a good thing. I've
Then Leo turns to each of us and asks for what we laughingly
Toby has none, Josh has none, and when Leo comes to CJ, she just
I know what's coming next, but I still cringe.
"Samuel has something he'd like to share with the rest of the class,"
All eyes turn to me. Toby looks impatient, Leo faintly curious, and
"Well? What is it, Sam?" prods Leo.
"Remember, Sam? Something you've been keeping from the rest of us for
"Come on, buddy, it can't be that bad," Josh says encouragingly.
"Oh yes, it can," says Toby, the voice of doom.
Leo grows edgy. "Spit it out, Sam."
Suddenly CJ's demeanor changes, her delight in punishing me melting
"*What*?" exclaims Josh. Obviously my leaving Lisa would have been
Leo gives me a look full of sympathy. "I'm sorry to hear that, Sam."
"Thanks," I reply, somewhat inadequately.
"I'm sorry, Sam," Toby says, not looking at me. I can tell by the way
"Is there anything we can do for you?" asks Leo. Josh, I notice, is
I clear my throat. "No, I'm fine, Leo. Thanks."
Josh finally finds his voice. "Why didn't you *tell* us?"
"I've already dragged him down that path, Josh," CJ says soothingly.
"I thought...I thought it wasn't a big deal," I answer.
"You thought it wasn't a big deal?" Josh repeats, incredulity thick
"Josh," CJ says, "we know Sam's never been the brightest."
"Is this about me?" Josh asks suddenly.
"What?" I attempt a grin, fully expecting him to crack a joke about
Instead he doesn't smile back, and he says, "Are you being a martyr,
"What?" I am, of course, utterly stunned by his startling deductive
"Then why are you just now telling us?"
"Look...Josh..." I rub my hands over my eyes. "Can you chew me out
"Guys? Think you can take this outside?" Leo says tactfully,
Josh is already pulling me out the door. CJ exits out the opposite
Out in the hallway, Josh stops and glares at me. "Sam, are we
"What?" It seems to be my catchphrase of the day. "Of course we are.
"Okay. Then as your best friend, can I give you a piece of advice?"
"Um, by all means."
"Martyrdom went out in the Middle Ages."
"Dammit, Sam! Why do you insist on convincing yourself that your
"Because they *are*," I protest.
"Josh, you're trying to recover from a gunshot wound; you're in
"Don't hide behind the rest of us, Sam. Your problems deserve as much
I open my mouth to argue further, but then I shut it abruptly.
Josh rolls his eyes. "That's pretty decent of you. Considering we
"She found out from Danny Concannon."
"Okay, I *know* you didn't tell Danny first."
"He found out from a source at the courthouse when Lisa filed the
Josh visibly wilts, sighing deeply. "I'm sorry, Sam."
"It's okay. I'll survive."
"Hell yes, you'll survive! You're damn straight, Seaborn. You're ten
I grin softly. "Only ten times?"
"Don't push your luck."
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you."
"S'okay. I know you well enough to know your heart was in the right
"Even if your brain was noticeably absent."
"Gee, thanks again."
He chuckles. "No wonder Sabrina looked like she wanted to throttle
"Yeah, she read me fifty different kinds of riot acts when she got
Josh gives me a crooked grin. "She's a great kid."
"Take her. I won't even charge you."
"Aw, come on. You know you wouldn't give her up."
He's right. I wouldn't. But I still feel terrible about not telling
He raises a hand and shakes his head. "Don't say it. Just don't even
"But I - "
"Shut up, Seaborn. I could kick your ass right now, right here in
"I could take you."
Josh snorts. "Sure thing, pretty boy." He slaps a hand to my shoulder
I relax under the litany of his words and feel a genuine smile, a big
"If you so much as utter the words `delicate system' in my presence,
It feels good. Really good.
I don't feel like a trainwreck anymore. I don't feel quite so lost or
I think I'm all right. I think I'm ready to join the human race
I think I'm ready to give up being Strong, Silent Sam.
After all, the martyr act is *so* passť.
TBC IN CHAPTER 2 - TONIGHT IN AMERICA