Notes and disclaimers in previous parts.

I'm sorry for the delay in getting out the final part. Thanks to all of you who have been so kind with feedback.

Special shout outs for my new friends in Argentina!

Part 8

Sam never made it out of his hallway, much less home that night. The story of the stolen Anthrax broke on CNN moments after Leo left his office.

His former 'friend' sent the press a detailed account of the situation. The NSA and CDC officially joined the fray. Several other agencies joined quietly. They called in favors to the news breakers to stop the release of classified information. When those attempts failed, they squelched key parts of the released information under national security statutes.

But the damage was done. The public heard the gist of the story. They knew that a group of people had breached supposedly airtight security to steal the virus. Thus far, they'd held back Sam's tangential involvement and the security transcripts detailing the President's involvement.

Sam doubted the press would need long to put those associations together on their own. Everyone wanted to blame someone for the threat they felt aimed at their families.

Thus far, they didn't know the actual location of the 'Terrorists.' Sam called them that. Like everyone else, he called them that. In brief moments of solitude during the next few whirlwind hours, he wondered what had made the smiling college girl in the picture do something like this.

Josh called Donna in as soon as he knew the severity of the situation. She heard his irritated voice shouting into the phone before she rounded the last corner of the Bullpen. She planned to yell at him and demand to know who the hell he thought he was to summon her without any explanation. But when she stormed into his office and looked at the pain in his eyes, she dropped quietly in the chair and waited until he finished his call.

He smashed the receiver down a moment later. "Donna, I'm sorry. I couldn't talk about this on the phone."

She nodded, both forgiving him and beginning to worry about him. He looked shockingly tired. She looked briefly around the office and took in the mountains of empty coffee cups. He'd probably forgotten to eat, but he'd had enough coffee to stoke an army. It made him even more irritable. And he wondered why she never brought him any. She leaned back in the chair as he began explaining the situation.

Toby sat in his office and launched the balls at the wall in rapid succession. It wasn't helping him think this time.

Sam sat at his desk in the office next door, idly twirling his pen in his hand. He found the repetitive thumping on the wall somewhat comforting. His hands still shook, so he dropped the pen a few times.

The aides from Legal dropped off five boxes of briefs and memos for his review. In another stoke of ill luck, most of the Counsel's office was gone to Alaska to negotiate the pipeline rights. No one left behind had the security clearance to review the data. At least no one the President was willing to trust. So it fell upon Sam.

His only consolation was that the usual daily chaos in the West Wing escalated to a level so far above normal that everyone left him alone to work. He locked himself in his office and attacked the paper mountains like a reckless but skilled climber. He found that concentrating on the task diverted him from the pain of considering the larger problem.

CJ cast a few apprehensive glances at Sam's closed door during the day, but didn't have time to disturb him. Late in the day, she tracked Josh down in his office. He'd been on the Hill all day.

"Josh, you need to do something about Sam."

"Well hello to you as well. What about him?"

Josh flopped into his chair and watched carefully as CJ closed the door behind her.

CJ let out a long-suppressed sigh. "You haven't seen him today, have you? Or you wouldn't need to ask."

"Um, no. I've been on the Hill. I'm sure he just needs some sleep. We've all done this before, CJ. If you hover over him, it'll just make it worse."

"Tell me that again after you see him." She stood again and was gone as quickly as she'd come.

Josh rose to go find Sam, but was stopped by Donna's yell to pick up the phone. "It's Leo," she announced. Josh shrugged and dropped back into his chair.

The West Wing was dark when Josh found Sam. Coffee cups filled the trash can, along with several take out boxes. Josh viewed this as a good sign. Sam was eating. Sam was consuming coffee. And Sam was buried in paper. It didn't strike him as a situation he should worry about.

Not bothering to knock, Josh navigated around the paper on the floor and leaned on the desk in front of Sam. "Hey, Sam."

Sam's head snapped up, and Josh saw tired and haunted eyes. "Go away, Josh"

"How's it going?"

"It was going fine, till you showed up to bother me."

"It's what I do." Josh shrugged. He tried to bait Sam. That's what he really did well.

"Josh, unless you have some new information for me, just leave. I have to get through these...things."

Josh listened closely. Sam was tired enough to resort to saying 'things' not for fashion but because he couldn't think of a better descriptor. That meant he was truly exhausted.

"Leo and the President are still locked in the Situation Room. As far as I know, the Press doesn't have anything about your association with the girl. There have been some communications, but they've all been from the group. So you've been pretty lucky so far."

"I really don't think I'd say that."

"Yeah. Hey. What's her name?"

"What?" Sam was ignoring Josh as much as possible, and continuing to make notes on a thick legal pad in a scant clear space on his desk.

"What's your little college friend's name?"


"Another Lisa? Sam, I'm telling you right now, you gotta stay the hell away from the Lisas in the world. It's bad karma or mojo or something for you."


"I'm bothering you?"


"CJ was worried." Yes, blame the girl, thought Josh. It's working so far.

"That's understandable. The Press is going to spin this like crazy."

"She was worried about you."


"Sam, you've slipped a bit from GQ poster boy status in the past few days. Quite frankly you look like you're gonna drop from exhaustion any minute."

"Thanks for reminding me, Josh."

"How much more do you have to do?" Josh paced and idly began tossing a stapler in his hands.

"Actually, I'm almost done. I just worked up a short brief of the legal ramifications for the President. Leo can have Counsel's office do something more when they get back."

"Is it bad?"

"No. The President didn't do anything wrong."

"So who did?" Josh's voice was uncharacteristically quiet. Biologically warfare and its ramifications scared him more than real bullets.

Sam looked up and caught the change in his friend's voice. He understood that Josh had issues over this situation which were totally unrelated to the current circumstances.

Sam took a deep breath and started to speak, but was interrupted when Toby appeared and dropped unceremoniously into a chair. When he spoke, both Josh and Sam could tell he was exhausted and shaken. But Toby was Toby, and unless you knew him well, he just sounded grumpy.

"Did you finish it?"

Sam leaned over to print a copy of his draft of comments. "I'm printing you a copy now. Don't snark at the punctuation, Toby. It's a legal brief. I'm quite proficient at them. The punctuation is not the important part."

Toby leaned back farther in the chair. "The last thing I give a flying flit about right now is your punctuation, Sam. Do you have any bourbon in those drawers?"

Josh smirked, "Is 'flit' a real word?"

"Shut up, Josh." Toby delivered his command with a brief glower at Josh.

Sam smiled and leaned down to extract a package from a drawer. "Actually, Toby, I can give you your birthday present early. This is a specially bottled Kentucky Bourbon which is supposed to be famous for its smooth--"

--"Shut up and open the damn bottle," Toby grumbled as he grabbed three glasses from a nearby shelf. He handed one to each of them and waited expectantly while Sam opened the bottle.

Sam complied. "You know, in order to be called Bourbon, it has to be made in Kentucky. Otherwise it has to be called 'sour mash'--"

--"Sam, shut the hell up. I hate that trivia from the President and I don't want to hear it rehashed by anybody else. This is one of those days when you just wish you had another job. Any job." Toby downed his drink and grabbed the bottle from Sam.

Sam and Josh sipped their drinks and waited for more of Toby uncharacteristic revelations.

Toby didn't disappoint them, and continued almost immediately. "When I was in law school, my roommate and I kept job postings on our bulletin boards to remind us that there were other things we could do besides study for 26 hours a day and eat cold pizza. My favorite was for Joe's Truck Driving Academy. They had a great program. Six weeks of training and then you were free on the open road."

Josh smiled and jumped in to the subject. "We kept a copy of the Postal Service applications on the refrigerator. This was before the phrase 'going postal' was a thing, so it's really more funny in retrospect. If it weren't for a few really fantastic friends who kept my head on then, I could be your Mail Carrier today."

He paused to take a long sip of his drink. "Maybe I should have done it. Delivering the mail seems like it could be fun. Sunshine, outdoors. A little exercise if a dog chases you. But wait, I did have my own meltdown, so perhaps it was prophetic after all."

Sam looked at him carefully, concerned that Josh was taking the topic a bit too seriously given his recent bout of PTSD. But then Josh gave him that patented sarcastic grin and he knew it was fine.

Toby jumped back in. "Sam, what did you keep on your bulletin board?"

Sam leaned back in his chair and ran a tired hand over his eyes before answering. "Copies of the professional surfing championship schedule."

Josh grinned again. "Sam, you suck as a surfer."

"That's the point of it. Give me back the bottle Toby." Sam held out his hand. He refilled his glass and Josh's.

"Leo's gonna kill you if you get drunk." CJ's voice filtered in from the door.

Toby didn't answer, but held out a glass. She took the glass and held it while Sam poured her a shot. She glanced at the amber liquid and smiled. "You know that in order to be called Bourbon--"

CJ was silenced immediately by groans from the three men. Toby spoke, "Do you think the President realizes how much spiraling torture his anecdotes and trivia actually cause?"

Before anyone in the room could answer, Leo responded from the doorway. "Yeah, he does. That's most of his fun. I hope you guys aren't drunk yet."

Josh struggled to an upright position. "What's the latest news, Leo?"

Leo paused to look at the faces in the room. They all looked tired, and unfortunately not as drunk as they had a right to. "It's over. They caught them. They were holed up in some backwater town in Montana. I turns out that they'd incinerated the virus right after they stole it. They really didn't want to put anyone at risk, according to the comments in documents left at their headquarters. But it ended badly. The Agency guys took them by surprise, and both sides started shooting. Old fashioned firearms turned out to be twice as deadly."

Leo paused a moment to take in the stunned looks on their faces. "Sam, I'm sorry, but your friend Lisa was killed."

Sam's voice was steady. "She hasn't been my friend for a very long time. But she did keep me off the pro surfing circuit."

Leo stared back at him in confusion. The others in the room smiled softly into their drinks. Leo turned and left, shaking his head softly.

Toby paused a moment, then held up his glass. "To Sam's first Lisa, whatever stupid things she may have done, she was there to keep him in school so could be here now to surf the big tsunami."

Sam hesitated just a moment, then raised his glass with the others and downed the rest of his drink.




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