Five Shattered Wine Glasses and a Beer Bottle
By Peta Collins
The glass shattered. It's splintering sound echoing through the quiet of the apartment. It was followed by the sound of two more crashes. Sam Seaborn reached for another long fluted glass. Hefting it slightly in his palm, he pulled back and threw it hard into the fireplace in his living room, stepping back when a glass shattered for the fourth time. Sam reached for the fifth glass. He was furious and upset. Sam actually couldn't decide which one he was more of at the moment. But he was definitely finding this smashing of glass cathartic. The elegant wine glasses that had been a gift to him several years ago were being systematically destroyed one by one. Holding the fifth glass he began to pace in his apartment, past the long sofa that sat facing the fireplace, around the kitchen table, and back around the sofa again.
He stopped in front of the fireplace staring at the glass. Sinking down on the blue sofa Sam contemplated why he was so angry and why did he feel so useless. It's not like he had known the man personally, but somehow he had felt responsible. They could've done something to stop it. A simple phone call would have stopped it from happening. Without conscious thought he rose and threw the glass. The sounds of glass breaking once more resounded loudly in his ears. Sam ran a hand through his hair, before massaging the back of his neck tiredly. It was hopeless. The president hadn't even wanted to see him. Stooping down he reached for another glass and pulled back to throw it hard against the wall of the fireplace. Sam noted with absent amusement that he was building up quite a pile of broken glass.
"Sam!" Josh's voice called through the front door of the apartment. "Sam open this door now."
Sam sighed heavily and then threw the glass at the fireplace glass shattering with a loud tinkling sound.
"Sam! What's going on!" Josh was panicked now. A run in with Sam's next door neighbour as he was coming up the stairs to see Sam had caused him to run up the next two flights in his haste to get to his best friend's apartment. Why Sam had to live on the third floor, Josh would never know. But right now that didn't matter, pounding the door with his fist. Josh didn't care that he was making a scene in the corridor of Sam's usually quiet apartment building. "Sam! Come on Buddy! Talk to me."
Sam pulled open the door. "Josh." Sam saw that his friend was still wearing the suit that he had worn today at the White House. Sam waved him in, giving a brief smile at his curious neighbour who was peering out through a crack in her front door. "Just cleaning." He said, with a quick self-deprecating nod. Shutting the door, he turned and glared at Josh. "What can I do for you."
Josh's eyes swooped around the apartment, then darted back to the pile of broken glass in the fireplace and the four remaining glasses on the table. Josh shook his head in dismay. "Sam-"
Sam moved past him into the small kitchen and grabbing a dustpan and brush. "Don't start Josh. I haven't had a great day."
Josh nodded sagely. "I can see that." Throwing down his over-coat on the back of one of Sam's dining table chairs. Leaning against the edge of the table he folded his arms and just watched Sam silently for a moment as Sam began to clean up the mess he had created. In all the years that he had known Sam, he had never seen him quite like this, and it scared him. "Do you want to talk?" He said finally, when he realised that Sam wasn't going to make the first move.
Sam didn't answer depositing a pile of glass into his waste bin. "What's to talk about? Can I get you a drink or something?"
"Got any glasses left." Josh shot back gesturing to the fireplace.
Sam paused mid movement then sat down on his coffee table staring up at Josh. He rested his head in his hands. To Josh he looked so young at that moment, so much like the young idealistic university student he met so long ago. Sam pulled at the sleeves of the black knit pull-over he was wearing.
Josh pursed his lips watching Sam thoughtfully. "You realise you scared the crap out of me, the sounding of breaking glass coming from your best friend's apartment is not a good thing." Josh smiled, although his eyes were serious.
Sam's face tugged into a smile. "Sorry. I just...." He shook his head, standing and beginning to pace. "I was going to go sailing you know..." Josh nodded encouragingly. "First weekend off in god knows how long, and then I get that call from that stupid shit, Bobby Zane... Who thinks he can call me up and tell me what to do..." Sam stopped pacing to stare at Josh, his face tight with emotion. "Well he can't. But it was like..."
"Like what?" Josh prodded gently, wondering where Sam was leading.
Sam laughed a twisted sound. "I worked hard on this capital punishment thing all weekend, Josh. It's not the first case I've ever worked. But we could have granted Cruz indemnity, but with six hours to go the President decides that he has made his choice.... Leo." Sam stopped, walking back and picking up another glass. Josh moved quickly grabbing Sam as he prepared to throw another glass.
"That's not going to help." Josh said quietly, his grip tightening when he felt Sam attempt to move away. "Stop hiding from the problem and talk to me."
"I'm not hiding!" Sam bit out tersely, avoiding looking at Josh.
"Throwing glass around your apartment, and that rambling statement does wonders for my confidence right now." Josh's sarcasm caused Sam to relax a little his shoulders slouched in defeat. Josh pried the glass from Sam's hand and pulled him to sit down on the sofa, while he sat on the coffee table in front of him. "Talk to me."
Sam shook his head, and then leaned back on the soft service of the sofa closing his eyes. "I worked a case about six years ago. Capital crime, Gage Whitney thought.... they wanted me to broaden my horizons a little. I didn't object, I wanted to broaden my horizons a little too." A rueful smile crossed Sam's face. "We lost. We tried so hard to get him clemency... I watched him die Josh. I was one of the witnesses." Sam felt a tear streak down his cheek and swiped it away angrily.
"I'm sorry." Josh murmured quietly, feeling like the words were woefully inadequate in the circumstances. "How long?"
Sam rubbed his eyes with one hand. "I don't remember exactly... I worked it about three months. But some of the others... it consumed them, Josh." Sam opened his eyes meeting Josh's gaze. "We could've done something today Josh. We had a chance to grant a man his life and we didn't. What does that make us?"
Josh scratched his head and then let out heavy breath. "I don't know Sam. I honestly don't know."
Sam nodded sadly. "I got a call from the same guy who called me up Friday evening. He was ordering me to go into the Oval Office and tell the President how Cruz died." Sam's voice caught and he shook his head.
Sam shrugged. "I told him what was what, and gave him a piece of my mind.... He was trying to intimidate like he used to do when I was in high school." Sam chuckled, and Josh smiled in response although he was frowning at the content of the words. Josh's quick mind was already linking the threads of Sam's words and he didn't like the picture it was forming.
"Bad time for him to call?" Josh asked wryly.
"You could say that." Sam responded, running his hands down his thighs nervously.
"What did he do to you in high school?" Josh asked suddenly and Sam ducked his head and rose, moving to the kitchen. Josh followed a beat later. "Sam?"
Sam was bracing himself against the sink, his back toward the entrance of the kitchen. "You would say I'm smart, right?"
Josh let out a soft chuckle. "Of course."
"You would say I'm not exactly ugly."
Josh walked forward to lean against the sink beside Sam. Sam's head was bowed he wouldn't look at Josh. He was staring down at the sink like it was the most fascinating thing in the world. "Of course." Josh answered. "Where are we going with this?"
Sam still refused to look at Josh. "Did you skip any grades at High School?"
Josh shrugged, "I did a couple of advanced classes, like you I suspect, but I didn't jump any grades."
"I was beat up on a fairly regular basis in High School." Sam whispered, "I never thought about it for the longest time. Completely forgotten, it all changed when I went to college, I was one of the boys then, but in High School... Every Friday and Tuesday.. I had to stay late at school." Sam's voice trembled and Josh's grip tightened soothingly. Josh closed his eyes briefly at the image of his best friend bloody and bruised popped into his head.
"My god, Sam. I never knew."
"How could you?" Sam murmured, raising his head to meet the sad brown gaze of his best friend. "I never told anyone. Completely forgotten..."
"Till Friday." Josh finished quietly, his heart thumping sadly at the expression of distress in Sam's clear blue eyes.
"Till Friday." Sam agreed. Visibly pulling himself together Sam moved away from Josh and grabbed a beer from the fridge grabbing another he offered it to Josh who accepted it silently.
Sam twisted the cap off the beer and was about to take a sip when a sharp rap at the door interrupted him. Exchanging a look with Josh, Sam sighed. "What is this a college dorm? It's two am for god's sake."
The rap sounded again as Sam made his way over to the front door and Josh took a sip of his beer watching as his friend pulled open the door and made way for whoever it was that was.... Aha Toby, Josh thought in bemusement, what is he doing here?
"Toby." Sam greeted cautiously, shutting the door with a click and walking back to the kitchen to grab his beer. "Can I get you anything?"
Toby Zeigler, Director of Communications, stared at his subordinate in consternation. "Can I get you anything?" He repeated his voice coloured with anger.
Sam grabbed his beer and turned to look at Toby frowning. "Why are you here Toby?" His voice was even.
"Toby." Josh greeted interrupting the staring competition between Sam and Toby by walking between them to sit down on the back of Sam's sofa.
Toby glanced at Josh confused, before his gaze returned to Sam who was watching him warily. "Josh." Toby gave a nod of greeting to the deputy of Chief of Staff. "Can I get you anything." He mimicked again, stepping forward towards Sam who didn't move waiting for Toby to continue. "How about an explanation? How about a reason as to why that Public Defender looked me up? How about a reason to why we bungled this so badly." Toby's voice escalating as he spoke.
"Now wait a minute.." Josh began.
"You're blaming me." Sam said it wasn't a question. It was a statement and it made Toby pause for the briefest of instances.
"I want an explanation." Toby asked deliberately avoiding answering the question.
Sam shook his head moving round to stand in front of the fireplace. "What do you want to know, Toby? There was no way we could've been prepared for this! The Court sat. They sat, Toby!" Sam retorted. "A man's dead, we could've done something to stop it. And you know what the kick is, I worked my ass off this weekend to get that guy a life and all you cared about Toby is how that shit of a public defender found you at Temple...""
"That's not true!" Toby yelled. "I just want to know why, my rabbi began preaching about capital punishment. It's not so unreasonable."
"No it's not." Sam snapped, "You want to know why Toby?"
"Yes. I think I'm entitled." Toby threw back, his face colouring with his anger.
Josh rose from the couch trying to think of way to stop the argument between these two men. "Toby-"
"Shut up Josh." Toby barked, gesturing with his hands as he ranted. "I want to know why you took this so personally... We bungled this Sam, you have got to admit that... All we needed to do was -"
"Keep the President out of the country for a few more days." Sam finished, his tone resigned. Toby's silence was answer enough. Sam shook his head, feeling so helpless. Pivoting on his heel he hurled the beer bottle into the fireplace, the foaming liquid muffling the sound of breaking glass slightly. Toby dropped his hands stunned at the display of fury, he opened his mouth to speak, then he caught Josh shaking his head at him.
Sam crossed his arms and lowered his head to his chest. "Sometimes I wonder exactly what we're trying to achieve in this Presidency because it feels like we're absolutely no where."
Josh strode around the couch trying to think of something to say that would bring his best friend some comfort. "Sam... This isn't..."
"I know Josh." Sam cut in quietly. "I know it's not my fault." Josh nodded. And reaching out he wrapped an arm around Sam's shoulder in affectionate gesture of support.
"We're doing the best we can." Toby said in the ensuing silence, making both men turn to face him. "Sam we're doing the best we can in this job. We're not perfect. We made mistakes like we did today. That's not to say we won't make more, but we're in this together."
"And you need to know you can count on me." Sam asked quietly.
"Toby it's okay." Sam reassured quietly.
Toby blinked at the interruption then he smiled. Josh chuckled quietly. "How about that beer?" Josh asked. Sam looked at Toby expectantly and the older man sighed heavily.
"I would love a beer."
"I'm sorry Toby that I sent that guy to find you." Sam reached out to pat Toby on the back as he walked past him to the kitchen. Toby nodded once then grinned.
Josh out a silent sigh of relief that everything was slowly getting back to normal. "So Sam, want to tell me when you started throwing things around when you were angry."
Sam coloured sheepishly. "Uh.."
"Sam." Toby began warningly, looking at Sam's waste bin and then the fireplace. "Is this something you need to talk to somebody about."
"This is only the second time I've done this." Sam protested, holding out the beer for Toby and grabbing another one for himself.
"The second?" Josh inquired in disbelief.
"When?" Toby asked bluntly.
Sam glanced away from the two of them then shrugged slightly. He appeared to be weighing up telling them and then finally he sighed. "When my brother died."
Toby spluttered out his beer. "Sam! You never said."
Josh sighed. "So that's what had happened when I came to see you after the funeral."
Sam had the grace to look slightly guilty at Josh's remark, and then he took a long pull of his beer. "Sorry Josh, at the time..."
"Sam, it doesn't matter." Josh squeezed Sam's shoulder sympathetically. Sam shot Josh a grateful look then shook his head trying to push aside the bittersweet ache that always accompanied his thoughts of his parents.
"I'm so sorry, Sam." Toby said genuinely.
Sam smiled at the condolences - patting Toby on the arm. "Thank you. It was a while ago now..."He rubbed his eyes wearily.
Josh ruffled Sam's hair and deciding to change the subject to ease Sam's mind. "Joey Lucas is quite the woman." He said conversationally.
Sam raised his eyebrows sceptically exchanging a smirk with Toby who still wore a sad expression at Sam's confession. "I thought Donna said she hated you."
Josh looked at Sam aghast. "Okay..." He amended, "I didn't make that great an impression in your wet weather gear."
Sam let out a laugh, which had both Toby and Josh both grin in response. "Oh really?"
Sam reached out and pinched the beer from Josh, knowing about Josh's delicate system. "I don't think you should be having that, buddy."
"Hey!" Josh groped for the bottle but Sam kept it out of reach. Josh reached for it again and Sam leant back even further. "I'll only have one promise."
"You promise." Toby said innocently, glad to see that Sam was laughing again and some of the lines of pain had eased around his eyes.
Josh nodded solemnly. "Yes."
"Okay then." Sam passed the bottle back. "So anyone know what time we have to be in..." He glanced at his watch, "Today?"
Josh shrugged. "I think 7:30, Leo felt bad this weekend was a write off."
"Yeah." Sam agreed. "I was going to go sailing." He muttered playing the label on his bottle.
Toby frowned. "You never did explain what happened last time when you came in with the bandage."
Sam's eyes twinkled. "I fell overboard."
"Seriously?" Josh asked.
"Seriously." Sam answered, with a shake of his head. "Never ever take a woman you are trying to impress sailing. It doesn't end well."
"Oh no.." Josh laughed. "You're kidding right."
They talked for another half-hour both Toby and Josh distracting Sam from his thoughts and Sam distracting the other two men from theirs. It hadn't been an easy weekend, but it was moments like this that each of them appreciated the campaign that had brought them together and bonded them into a family.