Broken Wings: Epilogue
By Red

Disclaimer: Located in part one. Now leave me alone about it.
Author's Note: Well finally it ends. You can thank my speech-writing/giving
professor for inspiring this part, and Ali Cherry for guilting me into it. This
is also dedicated to her because job shopping can really suck.

It was with sluggard reluctance that Sam blinked open his eyes and came back
to reality. His half-lidded gaze traveled around the sterile hospital room
aimlessly, taking in the slumped forms of his friends. A small furrow marred
his smooth brow. What were they all doing here?
"It's about time you woke up again," grumbled a sleepy voice to his left.
Turning his head slowly, he found CJ watching him intently. "I've been waiting
hours to thank you."
Sam licked his lips, frowning again. Every movement, every change in
expression seemed a slow and painful struggle. "For what?" he croaked, meeting
her gaze tiredly.
A warm, affectionate smile spread over CJ's face as she rose from her chair
and came to perch at his bedside. "You saved my life for starters," she
murmured, reaching up and stroking a hand through his hair. "And you didn't die
in the process."
Rolling his eyes, Sam sighed a little, wincing in pain. "CJ-" he started.
"Don't," the Press Secretary commanded emphatically. She lay one long finger
over his lips, shushing him. "Don't you dare try and tell me I don't need to
thank you. Because I *do*." She glared at him, daring him to fight her over it.
"You're welcome," Sam answered softly, surprising her by giving in so quickly.
She began to realize how tired he must be. He smiled at her taken aback
expression. "Why are you all here? Don't you have a lot of -"
CJ frowned again. As much as she adored her young friend, he could certainly
be impossible at times. "Sam," she sighed, "I'm sure Toby told you that we all
thought you were... dead," she struggled over the word. "None of us were getting
any work done anyway. We all needed to see you for ourselves."
Sam's blue eyes left hers and roamed the room once more, lingering on each of
his friends. Toby, Josh, Leo, Mallory... he blinked. In the corner, Ron
Butterfield at his side, the President slept in an uncomfortable plastic guest
chair. Sam's eyes flew wide.
Noticing his shock, CJ followed his gaze to the source and smiled wryly. Leave
it to Sam to be surprised that Bartlet cared enough to visit him in the
hospital after taking a bullet for his daughter.
She chuckled to herself and quieted when Toby stirred in the seat across the
bed. She figured it was selfish of her to not wake the others, but she needed
this moment with Sam to herself.
"Sam-" she began softly, nervously. She looked back at him, gazing into his
faraway blue eyes, wondering at the pureness in his stare, even though it
lacked its usual twinkle. "Sam, when they told us you had died... we... I felt so
lost. I hadn't realized until then that you-"
The young man shook his head weakly, his hand free from an IV moving to clutch
at hers. "CJ, you don't need to," he whispered, looking pained. She knew it was
hard for him to deal with others feeling pain because of him, even if it was
because they loved him. It was just that horrible for Sam to imagine his
friends hurting.
CJ smiled again, suddenly not so nervous. Even after being shot, lying in a
hospital bed, in pain and exhausted, there were some constants with Sam.
"Samuel Norman, you are my colleague, my friend, and my family. I love you Sam,
we all do, and it nearly killed me to believe that you were gone. I couldn't
imagine you not being there. I sat in your office with the others and we shared
our memories of you and even then I couldn't quite grasp that you were really
never coming back."
They stared at each other in silence for several moments, CJ's eyes misting
over, Sam's confused and somewhat frightened. He wasn't used to this kind of
confession. He had always known that the Senior Staff was like family to him,
but he'd never really hoped that the feeling had been so mutual. A slow light
came to life in his eyes and he squeezed CJ's hand.
"I already promised Toby I wouldn't leave you guys," he assured her. "And I'll
promise you too. Working in this administration, with these people is too good
to be true for me, CJ. I'm living a dream every day and I won't let a bunch of
kids, nor anyone else, take that away from me."
A tear fell down CJ's cheek, splashing onto Sam's blanket. She sniffled and
jumped when another sniffle sounded from behind her and someone cleared his
throat. Turning, she met the gazes of the rest of their little family. Mallory
and Josh scooted their chairs closer to Sam's sides, Toby taking the bedside
opposite CJ as his new seat. Leo and Jed came to stand at the foot of the bed.
"That was very well-put Sam," the President murmured, his eyes as wet as
everyone else's. "It's no wonder you're my speech-writer."
Sam rolled his eyes, smiling, as the others laughed. He wasn't quite up to
laughing yet. "Thank you, sir," he whispered back, his eyes closing half-way as
his weariness began to get the best of him once more. Surrounded by his friends
he felt warm and safe. He wasn't so frightened of falling asleep to the
nightmares he'd been suffering from, not with his family here to protect him.
Toby noticed Sam's renewed exhaustion and smiled, squeezing his shoulder
gently. "Don't fight sleep on our account, Sam. You promised to stay here with
us, and we're not going anywhere either."
Josh sighed, running his hand over his face to hide his red eyes. "And the
other speech-writer speaks," he grumbled good-naturedly. They all laughed
again, even Sam, causing him to flinch and try to curl up to hide from the
pain. Toby and CJ's restraining hands kept him lying flat on the bed.
"So help me, Samuel Norman Seaborn, if you hurt yourself again laughing at
Josh's stupid jokes, I will make your life hell," Mallory threatened,
completely serious. "And remember that I'm my father's daughter so I've taken
lessons from the best."
Leo grinned proudly, nodding as he lay a hand on his daughter's shoulder.
Sighing, Sam subsided, feeling completely drained. Through half-lidded eyes he
scanned each of their faces. "I'm sorry for frightening all of you," he
whispered, still bashful despite his talk with CJ.
Josh shook his head. "Sam, you always frighten us, whether it's because you're
sleeping with a call girl, memorizing the members of Congress alphabetically,
or getting yourself shot. We long ago got used to it, so you can relax."
Smiling again, Sam nodded sleepily. "Sleep Sam," CJ urged. "Someone will be
here again when you wake up," she assured him. They couldn't all stay forever,
but she knew one of them would always be present. A nuclear threat couldn't
drag them away.
Secure in the knowledge that he was being watched over, Sam drifted off into a
more peaceful slumber of healing as his family smiled at each other. They
hadn't lost their baby and they could pull back together to get through the
rest of the shooting's aftermath. And soon enough, Sam would be back in the
West Wing annoying the cynics and making everyone else laugh when he tripped
over boxes and potted plants.



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