Breaking Point
By Piper

Part 5

When Toby woke, the room was completely dark with the exception of the light emitting from the television set. His sleep-muddled mind slowly registered that the late news was on, so it must be close to midnight. He hauled himself into a sitting position, realizing that he had slept the entire afternoon away. He rubbed at his eyes, and then looked around in the dim light projected from the screen. What he found made him smile affectionately.

On the recliner next to the couch his deputy still slept. He had certainly been right about Sam being tired; if the poor kid had slept this long he probably hadn't slept at all the past few nights. Sam had curled up on his side and was nestled comfortably against the back of the chair. He looked so young and innocent. No wonder he brings out everyone's protective streaks, Toby thought. Of course, no one is worse than I am.

He could have sat there all night trying to figure out exactly when he had started to care for Sam like a little brother, but he realized that he was fairly hungry. Not wanting to disturb the younger man, he opted not to turn on the lamp. He pushed himself to his feet, waited a moment to regain his equilibrium, and then started to make his way towards the kitchen.

Now, this was his apartment, he had lived there for a few years, and he really ought to know it well enough to navigate in the dark. But since he still wasn't up to par, that didn't hold true. He misjudged the distance needed to round the cook-island safely. Realizing his mistake too late, he slammed into it, resulting in a loud clang from a falling pot and a strangled gasp from him.

Behind him, Sam awoke with a start and, confused by the unfamiliar surroundings, promptly tumbled off the chair and slammed his shoulder into the coffee table. He sat there for a moment, stunned, then said simply, "Ow."

Toby, meanwhile, had braced his hands on the counter and was struggling to breathe normally as his body complained from the harsh treatment. He heard, rather than saw, Sam climb painfully to his feet and gasp as he realized what was going on. The lights came on and then Sam was beside him, gripping his arms to support him. "Are you okay? What were you doing?! Are you in pain?" he asked frantically, eyes filled with worry.

Toby took a few breaths before responding, "I'm alright, Sam," though he felt himself leaning into the offered support.

Sam shot him a look of disbelief. "Yeah, you look just fine," he said sarcastically, fear still evident in his voice. He then reached behind Toby and pulled out the nearby chair to help him settle into it.

Toby took some more breaths and relaxed. He really was all right; he just needed a minute to recover. When he was feeling better, he looked up to his deputy, expecting to still see the concerned blue eyes. Instead, Sam had apparently figured out that he wasn't in immediate danger of death, and now looked...upset. And rather mad.

"Are you really okay?" Sam asked quietly, his voice trembling slightly. Toby nodded slowly, unsure of what to make of Sam's expression. "Oh, well, that's good," the younger man said. He paced a few steps away, then came back quickly, his voice rising with, "You scared the hell out of me! I'm here to help you, not sleep while you find a way to put yourself back in the hospital! You just had surgery, you idiot!" Sam finished his tirade, breathing hard, and then seemed to suddenly realize he had been yelling. The look in his eyes changed from anger to shock, and then remorse. "I'm sorry...I'm sorry," he said softly, almost meekly.

Toby, for his part, was staring at him in shock. Sam had been so helpful and cautious about upsetting him that afternoon, the last thing he had expected was an explosion like this. It really wasn't that big a deal, but Sam was reacting as if he had stepped outside to run a marathon instead of stepping into a piece of furniture.

Something was eating at his deputy, something more than being overworked. He thought about what Sam had said. Then it dawned on him.

"I really scared you, didn't I?" he asked softly, more compassion and gentleness slipping into his voice than he would have been capable of with anyone except Sam. They both knew he wasn't just talking about his collision with a counter.

Sam abruptly looked away, studiously avoiding his gaze. He also avoided the question completely and said instead, "Just...please, let me help you. That's why I'm here, I want to help. Please Toby," he turned pleading eyes back to his boss, "tell me what you need."

Toby watched him for a moment, trying to ignore the puppy-dog eyes. He decided to let the matter drop. For now. He and Sam obviously had some non-physical healing to do, but he wasn't yet up to the emotional ringer that conversation would put them both through. He needed to get his strength back first, and before that could happen, he needed to eat.

"There's some soup in the cabinet," he relented. "Even I can't screw up soup, so I figure you'll be safe with it too." He paused for a moment. "Right? I mean, you've never set fire to a kitchen heating soup, have you?" he teased in an obvious attempt to make them both comfortable again by returning to their typical friendly bantering.

Sam took the bait, rewarding him with a small smile that clearly said he knew what Toby was doing and appreciated it. As he went to pull a can from the specified cabinet, he shot back; "Do you really think I would tell you if I had?"

Toby growled, "Sam..." then tried to keep the stern face as he relished the answering laughter that had been too long absent.

~*~

Early Sunday afternoon, Josh was just hanging up after getting no answer at Sam's apartment when his cell phone rang before he could put it up. "Hello?"

"Josh, its Toby."

Josh sprang to attention. He had been trying to call Sam to see how things had gone and how Toby was doing. Toby calling him was probably not a good thing. "Hi Toby. Two questions: are you okay, and what did Sam do now?"

"I'm fine. Well, not fine, but...you know. I'm getting there."

"Okay, I'm glad. So what did Sam do?"

Toby sighed. "Nothing, really. I mean, he picked me up, took me home, I slept most of the afternoon...I even managed to get Sam to rest, too. He needed it, he slept even longer then I did. But I kind of woke him up when I ran into something."

Josh had a feeling he wasn't getting the whole story. "Ran into something?"

"Well, it was dark, and I ran into it kind of hard. It hurt a little; mostly just took my breath for a minute. But Sam freaked out on me. He yelled. Loudly. At his boss. He called me an idiot."

Josh stared at the phone incredulously, though he knew Toby couldn't see him. "Sam? The same Sam who's been worried about you all week? Our Sam?"

"It's fine, Josh. He was as surprised as I was. But I think I understand why he did it; probably even more than he does. I'm going to have a nice long talk with him, but it'll probably have to wait until I come back to work. Just keep an eye on him, will you? Make sure he's not in over his head at work."

Josh couldn't help but smile. "A little overprotective there, aren't we?"

Toby huffed, "Look who's talking!"

"Okay, okay," Josh surrendered. "Are you by yourself now? Do you need anything?"

"I'm all right, " he said, but Josh could tell he was still weak. If his voice was any indication, the short conversation had sucked a good amount of his strength.

"Just take it easy, huh? We want you to get well."
~*~

Sam got back to his own apartment building late Sunday afternoon after leaving Toby's and running some errands that he hadn't had time to even think about during the week.

After the one little episode, he and Toby had had a peaceful night. Toby had indulgently allowed him to do the cooking, clean up the kitchen, and even clean up the rest of the apartment. Not that he was the type of person who just loved to clean, but he felt an almost compulsive need to help however he could, and Toby seemed to get that.

As for Toby, he was doing well enough that he felt up to being alone. But Sam had promised to check in on him, though he didn't know when he would find the time. Toby wasn't scheduled to come back to work for another two weeks. Sam hoped he could survive the duties of the communications department that long without collapsing himself.

He still couldn't believe he had yelled at Toby like that. The man had just had a heart attack; the last thing he needed was his deputy screaming at him and calling him an idiot. But he refused to think about why he had done it, instead promising himself he would never do it again and trying to forget about it. He pressed the key in the lock and opened the door.

"About time you got home."

Sam jumped about a foot and barely avoided yelping. He swung around. "Josh! Are you trying to give me a heart attack?" He realized what he had said and closed his eyes, shaking his head. "Never mind, forget I said that. How did you get in here?"

Josh raised his eyebrows. "Your landlady's very...nice."

"Josh!" His landlady was a very sweet eighty-year-old woman.

Josh shook his head at him, an amused smile on his face. "She recognized me, Sam. I have been here before. I told her a few stories about the President and promised not to steal anything."

Sam locked the door behind him and crossed the room to sit on the chair across from Josh. "And you went to all this trouble because..."

Josh was studying him with those concerned eyes he had been seeing so often lately. "I just wondered how it went with Toby."

Sam looked at him suspiciously. Josh could have called for that. "You talked to him, didn't you?" he accused.

Josh held up his hands in mock surrender. "Hey, he's my friend too. I was worried about him. Turns out, we're both a little worried about you."

Sam couldn't explain why, but that made him feel a little guilty. "Toby shouldn't be worried about me," he mumbled. "He should just worry about himself right now."

"Fine," Josh said, annoyingly cheerful. "I'll worry about you for both of us."

Sam glared at him, though there was no real force behind it.

Josh continued, "He just said you seemed exhausted. I wanted to make sure you're feeling okay."

"That's all he said?"

Josh didn't answer, and Sam assumed he knew more but wasn't going to push it. He was extremely grateful for that. "I'll be okay, Josh. I caught up on a lot of sleep last night."

Josh studied him for another moment, then nodded. "Okay. Make sure you get even more tonight, alright?"

Sam grinned at him. "Yes, Mom."

Josh returned the grin. "Oh, so that's how it's gonna be, huh?" He reached behind him for the couch's pillow and slammed Sam lightly in the head before pulling it back out of reach, preventing retaliation. He then stood, stepped forward, and pulled Sam to his feet. "Come on. I'll buy you an early dinner."

"It's not going to be soup, is it? 'Cause if it is, I can fix that here without even setting off a fire alarm."

 

TBC

 

 

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