(Please see section 1 for ratings, warnings, etc.)

"I just want to stress," she says at last, "that Sam never did any
permanent damage. The most he ever gave me was a black eye. And I
truly believe that he was sorry, that he –"

But the rest of her words are drowned out by another roar from those
of us in the bullpen. I desperately want everyone to be quiet, but
they're too caught up in their own rage. CJ and Josh are suddenly
shouting at one another – not in anger, but out of desperation for
the situation they've suddenly found themselves in.

I can't hear over everyone talking, but the camera is on Mitch again.
He's in the studio now, sitting behind a desk with his co-anchor.
There is a box superimposed on the screen behind him, and a picture
of my brother and Lisa on their wedding day on display.

I move closer to the television and strain my ears.

"...truth behind the charming fašade of the White House Deputy Director
of Communications. Did his high-stress job working for the President
lead to his emotional downfall?" Mitch is gazing intently into the
camera; eyebrows drawn together in what is obviously a look intended
to convey the full seriousness of the matter. "Did he feel pressured
by his influential friends to both join the Bartlet campaign and
afterward work for the Bartlet Administration? When we return we'll
delve deeper into the marriage of a powerful political operator and
the wife who has since filed for divorce; we'll learn more about the
disintegration of a marriage everyone was certain would succeed; and
we'll ask the question why? Why would a man who has everything feel
the need for more?" Mitch pauses and then smiles. "Please stay tuned
for this exclusive interview."

The screen cuts immediately to a commercial. I sit back down, stunned
and feeling drained, like I've just run the Boston Marathon.

A hand touches my shoulder and I look up to see that the room has
cleared, except for CJ, Donna, Sam, and myself. I see Josh in the
hallway, gesticulating wildly with his arms as he talks with Toby and
Leo. I didn't see Leo arrive, but from the look on his face, he
didn't come down to pay a social call.

The hand belongs to Donna. She leans down slightly and
whispers, "Sabrina. You might want to check on Sam."

I realize that in all the mayhem, the one person I didn't pay
attention to was Sam himself. I've been so busy gauging the reactions
of his friends that I've overlooked my brother. My brother, who must
be hurting so badly.

He's at the back of the room, leaning against a file cabinet so
weakly it seems to be the only thing keeping him upright.

And he's crying.

Tears are absolutely streaming down his face. They pour out of his
eyes at an alarming rate, cascading down his cheeks, wetting the
shoulders of his sky blue shirt. He stares at the TV, at the
commercials rambling across the screen. An expression of utter
disbelief is stamped across his face.

His heart is breaking, and I think mine and CJ's and Donna's are
breaking right along with him as we all watch.

"Sam?" I whisper hesitantly.

He whips his head around sharply, as if my words have brought him
back to reality.

"Sam, do you need anything?" I don't know what else to say.

He doesn't reply. He just stares at me, and the blue of his eyes is
muted by the tears swimming there. He swallows hard.

I draw closer, and then I touch my hand tentatively to his
sleeve. "Sammy? Do you need anything?"

Then he shakes his head, swallowing again. His Adam's apple bobs up
and down in his throat. He still stares at me.

I look helplessly at CJ, who is standing at the door gnawing on her
lower lip. Donna just shakes her head at me and urges me to go on.

I slide an arm around my brother. Usually when we sit like this, I
rest my head on his shoulder, but this time I have to be the strong
one. I can't be the one to lean on him.

Sam clears his throat. "Why?" he rasps.

"Oh, Sam..." exhales CJ.

But Sam is still looking at me. "Why would she do that to me?" he
asks me. He's not even wiping away the tears. It's as if he doesn't
care. "Why, Sabrina? Why would she do that to me?"

Donna moves forward. "Oh, Sam, don't..."

"What did I do to her? What made her say those things? Why would she
say I did that?"

"I don't know, Sam."

"I never did those things," he says softly, insistently. "I would
never have hurt her."

"I know, Sam."

"Why, Sabrina? Why?"

For the first time in my life, my big brother is looking to me for
answers. He's looking to me to tell him why. And I don't know what to
say.

<><><>

After several more minutes I manage to coax Sam out of the bullpen. I
can't bear to watch anymore or to let him put himself through the
torture. We leave it to everyone else and sit in the darkened
confines of his office. The only light in the room comes in through
the open doorway.

I can hear enough from the TV and the group's reaction to know that
the rest of the interview further describes my brother as a
physically- and emotionally-abusive misogynist with possible bi-polar
disorder.

We sit together in the dark and I reach over and take his hand in
both of mine, trying desperately to find some way to reassure him. He
squeezes my hand hard, like he's trying to hold onto reality through
me. Other than the desperate grip he has on my hand, he looks like
he's in another world. I can't tell whether or not he really sees or
hears anything right now, other than his shock at what we just saw.

"Sammy, I promise you, if it's the last thing I do, I'll find out
what's going on here and I'll fix it," I swear to him quietly. He
continues to stare at the floor with a stunned expression on his face.

Sam and I are not quiet people. We are rarely at a loss for words,
yet somehow, sitting here in the darkness, the only sound that seems
to be appropriate is the sound of our breathing. There aren't any
words I can think of that will fit the situation or do justice to his
feelings. And so we sit, and I hold his hand, until Leo's shadow
darkens the doorway, and we turn to see him look down at both of us.

His expression is firm, but kind. "Sam, can you step into my office
with the rest of the staff?" he asks quietly, almost as if he regrets
having to do it.

Sam looks at me briefly, with an expression that says, `Here we go,'
and starts to stand up. I squeeze his hand once more for moral
support and watch him go before I notice that Leo is still in the
room. He gives me a sympathetic smile.

"Hey, kiddo."

"Hey, Leo."

He sits down beside me as he asks, "how you doin'?" I give him a
doubtful look and he nods. "Yeah, I know." He's quiet for a moment
and then he says, "You're almost finished at Georgetown aren't you?"

I nod, wondering why he chose this moment to make small talk with
me. "I get my J.D. in May."

"Are you going to send me an invitation to graduation?" he asks with
a hint of a twinkle in his eye.

"Are you saying that you'd come to my graduation?" I return with a
half-hearted attempt at a smile. It's the best I can do right now.

"I wouldn't miss it." He pauses, looking down at his hands folded
together. "And I wanted to tell you that so that you know not to
worry about Sam. Don't let this interfere with getting your law
degree. We'll take care of this."

Of course I'm going to worry, and Leo's consideration is more
kindness than I can take right now. I refuse to cry in front of Sam,
but I feel so bad for him and so mad at Lisa and so worried about the
whole thing that here in front of Leo I feel the tears gathering
behind my eyelids.

"I can't believe this is happening, Leo. Pretty much everybody knows
that Lisa and I aren't fond of each other, but in spite of whatever I
think she has going against her, Sam loves her so much. He always
treated her like gold."

"Sabrina," he says quietly, and I can tell from the regretful look on
his face what he's about to ask me. "Is there any chance that there
is any basis of truth for Lisa's accusations?"

"Leo!" I practically scream. "How could you ask me that? The only
thing he's guilty of is having a job he loves and working long hours.
Last time I checked that didn't constitute grounds for slander!" I
fix him with a withering glare. "No, he is absolutely not capable of
ever hurting anyone like that. You don't really think Sam did any of
those things, do you?"

Bless him, he takes my ranting in stride and continues to address me
kindly. "I didn't say I thought it was true, Sabrina, I just wanted
to hear it from somebody who knows Sam better than we do. We're going
to do everything we can for him, but the next few weeks aren't going
to be easy. You know that, don't you?"

I nod, staring at my feet. "Of course."

"I've got to go talk to my staff right now, but will you hang around
and make sure Sam gets home okay?"

I have to smile at that one. "Oh, I'm going to be really hard to get
rid of in the near future. I had to go grocery shopping for Sam
today. Would you believe that all he had in his refrigerator was a
jar of mustard and an old loaf of bread?"

He nods, "I thought he'd been looking a little thin lately." Leo
stands to leave and gives me a wink and an encouraging smile as he
pats my shoulder. "I'm glad you're in charge. He's in good hands.
I'll have Margaret give you all my contact info, and I want you to
call me—day or night—if you guys need anything, okay?"

I'm just crazy about this man.

"Thank you, Leo," I smile at him as I try not to sniffle. Then he
leaves and the office suddenly feels a lot bigger and a lot colder.
And I wait.

THE END

COMING SOON: Chapter 3 – When the Vow Breaks.

 

 

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