Demons: Part Ten

By Red

Standard Boring Disclaimer: They're only mine in my wildest dreams. They actually belong to the mighty Sorkin, and The Powers that Be at NaBisCo.

Author's Notes: Once again, ladies and gentlemen, I must warn you that this piece of fiction is violent, angsty, and all-around very dark in theme and nature. If that doesn't float your boat, I suggest paddling back now.

The Hospital - Sam's room

Sunday, 1:32 PM

He was alone now, and for that he was thankful. The nurses had come and shooed Mallory away despite her protests around 1:00, giving him some solitude. It was hard maintaining the façade of light-heartedness. He didn't feel light-hearted and he didn't think he'd ever feel it again. All he wanted to do was curl into a little ball and die. But Mallory and the others wouldn't understand that, just as Toby hadn't. They couldn't understand what had been done to him in those basements so they would expect to come in and visit with the Sam they knew from a week ago.

But the joke was on them. Because even though he plastered a half-smile on his face as usual and made his normal witty remarks when he knew they listened for them, he was dying inside - if he wasn't dead already. He told himself not to wallow in self-pity because that *was* weak and that would mean letting Cruz win. But another part of him - the dominant voice in his head who used to sound like Toby, but was now Mathew Cruz - told him that Cruz had already won. He was broken beyond repair.

So he wore his mask when the others were around, afraid that if they discovered how he really was, they would leave him for useless and find a new Deputy Communications Director - someone else to banter with and play poker with. The Cruz-voice in his head assured him that men like him were a dime a dozen so it would be no big loss. They would find a new friend.

A tear trickled down his battered cheek as he lay alone in the deathly silent room, the only noise that of the monitors he was connected to. He hated the loneliness that had taken hold of his heart and refused to let go. And as much as he wanted to push everyone away so they wouldn't learn of his deception, he desperately wanted one person to confide in, who could give him comfort and safety.

It occurred to him that he had had someone like that and he had pushed him away. Toby had been there for him and he had felt so warm and protected. But the fear of abandonment had gotten the best of him in a moment of weakness and he had pushed him away. He had kicked him out and closed himself off from everyone else. God, what had he done?

More tears streamed down his flushed face and his chest began to feel tighter, constricting his already strained breathing. Sobs wracked his thin frame and he whimpered as the shaking brought the burning in his leg and belly back to life.

"Please Toby, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Come back, please. Don't leave me alone." The hoarsely spoken words struck to his heart and his sobs became stronger as he sank further into his grief. 'I'm weak. I'm broken. I'm alone,' he thought emptily. 'They've all left because I made them go. I've done this to myself - Cruz only started the job. I know what he meant when he said I was almost finished. I've finished his job for him.'

A restless sleep took hold of him then and he dreamt he was back in one of Cruz's basements. The large man was beating him again with the bat, and in the shadows of the fluorescent lights stood all his friends, watching silently. They didn't move or blink when he cried out to them.

The Hospital - ICU Sunday, 1:46 PM

Face grim and body rigid, Toby Ziegler strode through the ICU corridors towards his friend's room. CJ and Josh tried to keep up with his frenzied pace but he barely noticed them in his anxiety. Up ahead he spotted Doctor Woods and hurried towards her, even faster than before.

"Doctor?" he shouted before she could enter an elevator at the end of the hall. He sighed in relief and slowed down a little when she turned back towards him and stopped. He continued her way, CJ and Josh flanking him as she approached them.

Meeting in the middle, they stared hard at each other. "Mr. Ziegler, I'm glad you're here," the young brunette began, her ice blue eyes solemn. "I called you as soon as we realized what was happening. At first we thought it was just another one of the dreams he's been having but when he didn't wake up and his temperature began to rise… he's quickly submerging deeper into the danger zone and he can't be controlled."

Toby actually quirked a smile her way, steering her towards Sam's room. "We'll see if he can't be controlled. I've spent a year teaching him how follow orders and I'm pretty sure he hasn't forgotten all the lessons." The small group shared a nervous laugh and entered one by one into the hospital room.

Sam lay on his back, the sheets pushed off his body and they could notice how his sweat had plastered his hospital gown to his skin, which was a brilliant red where it wasn't bruised. His breathing was shallow and raspy and his wrists and ankles were bound to the bed railing.

Frowning at the tortured look on his friend's face, Toby immediately stepped to the bedside and sat on its edge, reaching out a hand to stroke Sam's hair away from his forehead. "I leave you for a few hours and you can't stay out of trouble?" he demanded mock-angrily.

Josh, CJ, and Dr. Woods watched nervously as Sam instantly responded to Toby's voice, arching up towards him, his head lolling on the pillow as his arms and legs pulled against his restraints. "Why is he restrained?" CJ demanded to know increasingly upset by the sight of her

friend bound to the bed like a mental patient.

"Like I told you, he couldn't be controlled. He became violent and was only doing harm to himself and his nurses. We couldn't risk him furthering his injuries so we were forced to use them." Dr. Woods' voice was firm, but sympathetic. It was clear she had been reluctant to do it.

Shaking his head and grumbling, Toby leaned back from Sam and began to undo the restraints. Woods began to protest but he froze her with his most intense glare. "Keeping him locked up like he was before is not going to help him. It's only going to traumatize him further," he growled, turning his back on her. Once again he began petting Sam's head soothingly. "Come one little buddy. Don't do this to yourself," he murmured hoarsely.

Making low noises in the back of his throat, Sam trembled and reached out for Toby, his eyes still shut, locked in his dream. "Please Toby. Please, please, please make it stop. I'm sorry… I'm so sorry, just make him leave me alone. You promised…"

CJ's breath caught in her throat at the plaintive sound in his voice. She choked back tears and looked to Josh, who was standing stock-still, staring wide-eyed at their friends. She swallowed past the lump in her throat and slid a supporting arm around his back, which he gladly leaned into.

Slowly, his expression pained, Toby shifted so that he sat in the bed stretched out beside Sam. "I'm here kiddo. All right? And you're right. I did promise, so I'm not going to let Cruz hurt you again. You're only dreaming. If you wake up you'll see that you're safe."

Sam's body immediately relaxed but he still shivered continuously. He rolled onto his good side, closer to Toby. The older man moved a pillow into his lap so that when Sam cuddled closer still, he could rest his head there, and he drew up sheet and blanket, covering him with them.

"You won't leave me?" Sam asked in a whisper, his breathing deepening much to his doctor's relief. He sighed in his sleep as Toby's hand resumed its stroking of his hair.

"I promise I'll be here when you wake up." Toby smiled down at the younger man gently.

CJ turned to the doctor and raised an eyebrow. "Is it all right if Toby stays?" she asked quietly, hating to disturb the peace that had descended in the room.

Nodding, Dr. Woods jotted a few notes down on Sam's chart before replacing it at the end of the bed. "By all means, stay as long as you like." She smiled warmly at Toby and Sam. "You're almost as effective as a sedative," she joked, earning a smile from Toby in return. "He's calm now, but I doubt his fever will get any better just because you're here, so don't get your hopes up. The trick is to keep him warm and lying still, all right?"

Toby nodded back at her and the young woman left with a parting smile for Josh and CJ. "Are you guys going to head back?" he asked, his eyes on Sam as the younger man mumbled in his sleep.

Josh shrugged, looking around the room uncomfortably, practically shuffling his feet. "I'd better," he muttered. "Leo's there alone right now and he'll need some help to be sure." He pointedly avoided looking at CJ, knowing she was frowning at him in disappointment. With a sigh, he exited out into the hall.

"What's the matter with him?" Toby asked, frowning himself.

CJ just shook her head at him. "I'll be back when things calm down over there," she promised, following Josh out the door.

Looking back down at his charge, Toby laughed quietly to himself. "It looks like it's just you and me again, kid. I promise not to yell or call names if you promise not to drive me crazy," he offered, smiling wider when Sam snuggled closer to him. "I'll take that as agreeing with me."

The White House - Josh's Office Sunday, 2:01 PM

The Deputy Chief of Staff looked up and winced when he saw who had entered his office. "What can I do for you CJ?" He wasn't really in the mood for being chewed out, but he resigned himself to his fate, reflecting that no one was ever really in the mood to be chewed out, regardless of circumstances.

"You rushed outside of the hospital before I could catch you and you refused to talk during the ride back here. Why?" She crossed her arms over her chest imperiously. "I want you explain to me why you're turning your back on your best friend?" CJ demanded hotly as she strode forward to stand right at the front of his desk, looming over him like a vengeful goddess.

He met her angry eyes with a plaintive look. Couldn't she understand? "Please CJ," he whispered imploringly. "That's not Sam over there. The Sam I know is strong, and full of life, and… indestructible. My best friend would never a get a scraped knee let alone the injuries that man is suffering from. And he sure as hell would never be so… weak and vulnerable. Can you say that the Sam *you* know is any different?"

The Press Secretary's expression became pained and saddened. "Josh… that *is* Sam in there. No, none of us could ever imagine our Sam being made to suffer like he has been, and it is hard to see him so hurt. But he's still Sam and he needs us - don't you see that? He's vulnerable because he just spent a week in his very own hell care of Mathew Cruz. It wasn't just his body that was tortured. God knows what kind of games that monster played with him." Her eyes bored into his, insisting that he see her logic. Josh suddenly felt very sorry for the Press Corps. "And you're wrong about him being weak Josh. He's the strongest man I know. Any other man would have died had they been in the same situation."

Silence descended in the office and they spent the time staring mutely at each other in a battle of wills. Finally CJ gave up, backing away from his desk towards the door. "Forget it Josh. I can't make you be there for him and I can't force you to visit him at the hospital. But I'm warning you not to make a mistake you'll regret later when he can finally comes back to us here." With one last piercing look in his direction, CJ exited the office, leaving Josh to his guilt and confusion.

"This doesn't change anything," he told himself sourly, going back to the work he had left behind to rush to the hospital. "That's *not* my Sam."

END Part Ten


Demons - 11


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