Broken Wings: P.2

By Red

Disclaimer: In part one.

Walking in a daze, barely registering his movement, Toby found himself in Sam's office. For a minute he stood silently, his eyes not taking in his surroundings, focused as they were on something far away.

Sluggishly coming back to himself, his heart began to constrict when he realized where he was. As he looked at the jerseys and degrees, as he smiled at the collection of trophies and hats, and as he ran trembling fingers over a rough draft of some speech that lie out on Sam's desk, his own scribble marks marring its surface, he could almost pretend that Sam was alive.

He half expected the youngest senior staff member to come strolling through the door behind him any minute, smiling as he looked up from a stack of notes and discovered he had a visitor. Toby smiled at the vision, drowning in nostalgia.

Sam had never seemed to care that when Josh, or Leo, or Toby were waiting in his office, it usually meant something had gone bad that was either his fault, or was expected of him to fix. He had disregarded that obvious fact and was always ready with a welcome smile for all of them. Just like no matter how hard Toby rode him every day, he kept coming back for more hoping that just once, he might get a word of praise to replace the scorn. So gentle, so loving, so tenacious.

A whimper crawled from Toby's throat as he sank down in a chair, staring across the large desk at the leather chair that was Sam's. He didn't want to imagine someone else sitting there working, their decorations scattered around the office while Sam's sat in a box in his parents' attic.

Scrubbing hands over his face and fighting to control his rough breathing, Toby wondered hollowly how things would go on, if not for the entire West Wing, then for him at least. What was Batman without Robin? Shaggy without Scooby? The Skipper without Gilligan?

He choked back laughter mixed with bitter tears. Sam really had been his "little buddy" through it all. And could he go on with only Fred and Daphne? Would he still make it off the island with only the Professor and Ginger?

A knock at the door brought his red-rimmed gaze up to stare fuzzily at Josh, CJ, and Leo.

"Do you mind?" Josh asked softly, his voice cracking and his eyes fixed resolutely on the floor.

Toby shook his head and watched as the other three entered, Josh and CJ sharing the couch, Leo taking the chair next to him. A moment later a haggard-looking Charlie stumbled in, coming to lean against one wall, a sniffling Donna behind him.

The most composed of them all, Leo spoke up, his head hanging nearly to his chest. "It doesn't seem right that this will be someone else's office soon." His words echoed Toby's thoughts eerily.

Josh groaned, leaning towards CJ unconsciously. "Do we really need another Deputy Communications Director? Can't we just leave this place the way it is? I feel like I'm… writing him off."

Unable to formulate any kind of response that wouldn't leave him curled on the floor sobbing like a baby, Toby kept his mouth shut, not caring if Josh's question went unanswered. He remained mute, isolated from the rest of them, simply not caring anymore. A hollow void in his heart consumed his thoughts, one that no one but his deputy could fill.

And since when had Sam sneaked in under his radar to become a part of him? And why hadn't he noticed until now, when it was too late? Why did Sam have to die not knowing that Toby really did care about him, enjoy working with him, and consider him the best friend he had ever had?

"Josh…" Leo sighed finally, his shoulders hitching. "We'll never replace Sam, you know that. Hell, I don't think we could. No one could get under my skin like he did. But we have jobs to do, and an administration to run."

The younger man… now the youngest in Sam's absence, erupted from the couch in a rage, CJ's hand on his arm meaning nothing to his anger. "My best friend just died, Leo!" Josh exploded, and instead of being shocked at the outburst, Toby merely felt a stab of jealousy that Josh could honestly call him that when Toby couldn't. "He died lying all alone in a cold, loveless hospital room, never knowing… never knowing that he was even hurt. All he would have known was confusion… and fear. He died frightened as hell with no one to take care of him, so I don't really give a fuck about our jobs!"

And Donna began to sob because the shouted, angry words sounded so obscene and wrong in the quiet peacefulness of Sam's office. Or at least that was why the tears began to stream down Toby's face as he bent double in his chair.

CJ finally pulled Josh back down, wrapping her arms around his quaking body as he sobbed into her shoulder. Leo bit his lip, a stray tear escaping his eye. Charlie had an arm around Donna now, soothing her since Josh couldn't, and Toby sat alone, the man who was always there to comfort him, gone now, the reason for the pain.

"Remember when Senator Stanford's daughter was visiting and kept on hitting on Sam?" CJ whispered when the sobs had died down to slow and steady tears. "Poor Sam was so out of his element… and then Mallory showed up."

Josh chuckled wetly against her. "He came running into my office, chased by a lusting college student and a raging school teacher. He had this panicked look like he was being hounded by a lynch mob."

It was Leo's turn to smile at the memory. "In a way he was. Mallory is very territorial… and jealous."

"You're telling me!" Josh exclaimed. "You're not the one that had to spend three hours explaining to Mallory that Sam wasn't flirting with Stanford."

The Chief of Staff shrugged. "Lydia *was* hanging all over him whenever she got the chance." He smirked. "She had him cornered in his office and I swear she practically had his pants off before I came to rescue him."

Shaking her head, now stroking Josh's hair, CJ chimed in again. "Then why did you make him take her to the dinner? Your daughter had him in the dog house for nearly two weeks afterwards and he was emotionally scarred."

"It got the senator on our side, didn't it? And I left him a glazed bear claw on his desk that morning as a reward."

"Cathy ate it before he got in the next morning," Donna informed them.

They all shared a quiet chuckle, except for Toby. He was sitting silently staring at Sam's chair again, visualizing the memory. Tears misted his vision again as he listened to the others chatter and draw strength from each other. It wasn't his way to laugh and reminisce about times passed. He just wanted to curl up in Sam's chair and wish it all away.

"Remember when the Prime Minister was visiting in the Oval Office and Sam came barreling in late for the meeting, and tripped over that potted plant? Then plant went rolling across the floor and he flew back into the door. He sat there on the floor looking dazed as we all stared for a full five minutes." Charlie had let Donna go, but was still standing close to her.

This time even Toby had to laugh, remembering the chaotic scene vividly. The Prime Minister had stared awe-struck, and then had stood to help Sam up before anyone else could recover, murmuring lowly about knowing how dangerous and rabid potted plants could be.

When the laughter once again died own, more memories were shared, and the Senior Staff, minus one Deputy Communications Director, but accompanied by an assistant and the President's aide, filled the office with their love and affection for their lost friend.


Broken Wings - 3


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