Broken Wings: P.4

By Red

Standard Boring Disclaimer: The cast of the West Wing doesn't belong to me, and neither does the show. So please don't sue. The nice men in white coats parked outside my house say it would be bad for my "condition."

Author's Note: There's more Toby angst in here, but things start to get better. And believe it or not, this story *won't* go on forever, so it's almost done.

His heart had stopped beating and he wasn't sure it could ever be restarted after this shock. This was too much. Casting his wild gaze around the sterile hallway, Toby sought to assure himself that it wasn't a dream, and that he really was in the hospital. He blinked hard.

"C… can you repeat that?" he asked hoarsely, choking on the words. This couldn't be true, his mind screamed. It was some sick joke, his heart insisted. He had a feeling they were right. How could they not be?

The kindly old man's grin faded a little, replaced by confusion. "I said that Mr. Seaborn's regained consciousness." He paused, frowning now. "It *is* a good thing, Mr. Ziegler. I mean, for a minute there we weren't sure he would make it. This is truly encouraging."

Toby shook his head lamely. "I… don't understand. The President received a phone call earlier today from this hospital. He was told that Sam had died… that he *didn't* make it. We've been notifying friends and family… a briefing is about to be made…" His dark eyes bore into the doctor's, praying and hoping that Sam really could be alive, and better yet - awake.

The Chief Resident of the ICU stared back, brow furrowed, perplexed as ever. "I'm not sure how that could have happened. But I assure you; my patient is very much alive. I spoke with him briefly not five minutes ago." Checking his watch, the surgeon nodded. "I was about to call the White House myself with the good news. I was concerned with the lack of visitors, but I figured you were all busy with the shooting…"

Mouth opening and closing like a suffocating fish on land, Toby fought to remain conscious himself. "Sam's alive? He's really alive?" For the first time since the shooting a week ago, he allowed hope to creep into his heart and chase away the despair. Sam might not be gone. It might have been some horrible mistake.

"Yes, very much so." The doctor was nodding more vigorously now. "He's in room number 515, why don’t you go see for yourself while I track down this problem with the misinformation." The words were scarcely out of the older man's mouth before Toby was tearing down the hallway towards where the doctor had indicated.

Breathless when he arrived outside 515, he paused to fight off light-headedness. If Sam were really was in there, he wasn't about to let a fainting spell keep him from seeing with his own eyes. Gulping, he placed his hand on the handle and with a tortuous slowness opened the door.

If his heart had stopped before, it was bursting out of his chest now. Haltingly he came a few steps into the room before launching himself to the bedside of his deputy. He stared down at the pale, deathly still form of his friend, blinking away tears and ignoring the frightening amount of wires and machines surrounding and connecting to him.

"Oh God," he croaked. Reverently he reached out and took Sam's cold, lifeless hand in his. He stared hard at the stubble-covered face, willing Sam to give him some sign that there was still some of his former spark left in the limp, think body lying before him.

Like a miracle, Sam's eyes fluttered open to half-mast; the slits of jeweled blue blinding Toby to everything else. They stared hard at each other for what seemed like an eternity, Toby shell-shocked and overwhelmed with elation, Sam confused and weary.

"Toby?" Sam whispered, the feebleness of his voice appalling but nonetheless music to the older man's ears.

It finally hit him that Sam hadn't left him that he was still there, fighting life's battles with all the bull-headed stubbornness that annoyed Toby most. A sob rose in his throat and he couldn't suppress it. Sam gave him an odd look as he reached out to brush away the hair from his forehead.

"We thought we'd lost you," Toby uttered brokenly, his face crumpling like paper in a child's fist. "They told us you were gone. God Sam, we've been grieving all day… thinking you were never coming back, that you were dead." He bit his lip, hanging his head for a moment. "The West Wing, not to mention the President, is falling apart right now because they think you're dead."

Sam managed to quirk a small, pitiful smile at him, amazing Toby at his resilience. "You thought you could get rid of me that easy?" he murmured roughly. "You should know by now that I'm like a bad cold… I just keep coming back."

Grinning back, giving up his battle with his tears and letting them stream down his face, Toby huffed. "If you ever try to leave me again, I swear not even being dead will save you from me. I *will* come after you." Sam must have sensed his inner turmoil and squeezed his hand reassuringly.

"I'm not going anywhere Tobe, honest." The older man heaved a great sigh, letting it out slowly. After a moment's hesitation, he lowered himself to sit on the edge of Sam's bed and leaned down to embrace him tenderly, careful of the bullet wounds in his shoulder and chest.

Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly considering who it was, Sam draped an arm around Toby's back, too weak to do much of anything else. Toby buried his face in Sam's uninjured shoulder, letting his tears soak through the thin material of the hospital gown.

"Thank you for sticking around," he whispered softly, not moving, unwilling to let go of what he had thought he had lost. "You saved me the trouble of hiring another deputy and training him to obey as well as you do." He had returned to joking as he and Sam always did, for they could never express their deep emotions for long.

Sam rested his cheek against Toby's head and smiled. "You know you would have missed me. Unpunctuated speeches and all."

They laughed weakly, Toby straightening a little but not letting go. "Yeah, no one else can get my orders right when we do take-out." He smirked when Sam stuck his tongue out at him. He still couldn't believe that he was sitting there next to a living, breathing Sam Seaborn. Less than an hour ago he had been dead to him. "You promise you're real?" he asked hesitantly, not at all joking.

Blinking, Sam nodded a little. "Scout's honor," he swore solemnly, a twinkle in his eye. "And I was really a scout too. Got every single merit badge possible before most of the other scouts even had five."

Toby smiled affectionately, his cheeks dry now, but tears still ready to fall. He watched as Sam's eyelids began to droop. "Rest Sam. I'll still be here when you wake up, I promise."

The young man stopped fighting his own body and allowed himself to slowly slide back into sleep with the help of the number of drugs being pumped into his system. Toby waited until he was sure Sam was completely immersed in his dreams before he leaned forward, leaving a gently kiss on his deputy's scrunched up forehead, which relaxed instantly under his touch.

Grinning to himself Toby slowly rose and left the room, ready to make the calls he had been dreading before. This time he wasn’t calling with details of a friend's death. This time he was calling with news of a friend's survival. Pulling out his cell phone and dialing quickly, Toby couldn't seem to wipe the uncharacteristic smile from his face.

"Hello, CJ?" he greeted when the woman answered. "I have some unbelievable news…"

Broken Wings - 5

 

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