Fifteen Minutes after Midnight
Rating: PG (minor swearing)
Category: Episode Related. General
Summary: Sam gets a phone call and a late night visit from a friend
Disclaimer: Aaron Sorkin created these characters. I don't own them.
Spoilers: Season 1 - Take this Sabbath Day.
The phone ringing jolted Sam Seaborn out of the light sleep he had just drifted into. In his darkened apartment, Sam reached out blindly for the phone that sat on the table beside the sofa. He hadn't been able to force himself into the bedroom to go to sleep there. Too drained to think clearly, he had flopped down on his sofa as soon as he walked in the door. He hadn't had the energy to make it to the bedroom and change, it would have taken to much effort. He had six hours till he was supposed to be back in the West Wing ready for work on a bright Monday morning. But after the weekend he'd just had, Sam didn't really want to go back to work. He was weary of it. He was fed-up with all the work that led them nowhere. Most of all, he was just tired.
Sam yanked the phone towards him and, with his eyes still closed, answered it. "Sam Seaborn."
"You son of a bitch."
Sam's eyes snapped open. "Who is this?" He sat up, trying to find the light switch so that he could read his caller ID. He fumbled with the lamp on the side table and nearly had it crashing to the ground.
"You know who it is, Sam, and don't try and tell me you did your best."
Sam knew that voice and he let out a deep breath. Shaking his head, he stood up, moving into the kitchen to grab a beer from the fridge. "Listen to me, Bobby, the President considered it to the best of his ability and it was ultimately his decision and not mine."
"Like I believe that!"
Wincing at the yell in his ear, Sam cracked open the beer bottle and took a sip. The liquid was cool and served to ground him in the moment. He should've known that Bobby Zane would call him after the execution of his client. "You have to believe that, Bobby. We searched all weekend for a way for Cruz to get indemnity--"
"It wasn't enough." Bobby sounded like he was trying to be menacing.
It was the last straw to Sam's already raw emotions. "It was never going to be enough!" he snapped, looking around his darkened kitchen angrily. He was still pissed that the President had refused to see him. On some level, he understood why Bartlet refused the appeal, but it still didn't mean that it rested any easier with him, although there was no way he was going to be telling Bobby Zane that. "You're the ones who failed, Bobby. It should never have gotten this far and you know it."
"Listen, Sam..." Bobby was back-peddling now.
"No, you listen! We worked our asses off over this! We did our best and, in the end, it wasn't enough. Now it's..." Sam glanced at his microwave so he could see the time. "12:20 in the morning, and I would like to get some sleep before I head back to the office. Good luck at the PD's office." With that, Sam hung up. Staring at the hand piece in his hand, Sam took another long pull of the beer in his hands. "Damn it."
Sam moved out to the living area and flopped down on the couch. He placed the phone down on the coffee table and rubbed his brow tiredly. Fuck Bobby Zane. It just wasn't right that
An abrupt knocking on his front door pulled him from his musings. Sam let out a deep sigh, wondering absently if it was Bobby there to have it out with him in person. However, that couldn't be, he had a security entrance to his building and only four people that he knew of had a key to it. Despite knowing that, Sam still checked the peep hole to see who it was. Sam shook his head and opened the door. "Josh? What in the sam hell are you doing here?"
Josh grinned faintly. "Now there's a greeting." He brushed past Sam and looked about the apartment. It was still dark as Sam had only chosen to turn on one light and it did a pitiful job of lighting the apartment. "So, trying to save money on the electricity bill this month?"
Sam shut the door, locked it and flipped on the overhead lights. "You know, there is a strong probability that I could have been asleep."
"Then it would've taken you a lot longer to answer, besides if you hadn't answer straight away I would've left." Josh explained smirking.
Sam tried not to roll his eyes. "What are you doing here?"
Josh shrugged, helping himself to the beer that Sam had left on the table.
"Feel free to make yourself at home," Sam said dryly.
Josh raised the beer in a silent toast towards him. "Thanks, I will."
Sam sighed. "What are you doing here?"
Giving an expansive shrug, Josh tried to look innocent. "What? A guy just can't stop by and see his friend?"
"At 12:20 on a Monday morning?" Sam said sarcastically, "No, a guy can't just come over. I repeat, what are you doing here?"
Josh flopped down on the couch, taking another swig of the beer and looked up at Sam. "That's a lot of questions there. You sure you weren't a lawyer because that sounded like you"
"Josh, I am a lawyer and you, counsellor, are avoiding the question." Sam cut in, crossing his arms and staring down at Josh, wishing that his friend would get to the point.
"Now wait a minute, I never worked as a lawyer, so you can't refer to me as counsellor," Josh said, gesturing with the beer.
Sam scrubbed a hand over his face tiredly. "Josh, that's something I am very much aware of."
"Really?" Josh sat up, raising his eyebrows. "Is that a compliment or an insult, 'cause you know I'm not-"
"Josh," Sam interrupted, "It was neither."
"Hmm," Josh took another sip of the beer, "You sure? Because it really sounded like you were leaning a particular way."
Sam shook his head, giving a mental count to ten. What on earth was Josh doing here so late? "So how'd the other meeting with Joey Lucas go?"
Josh gave him a slight shrug. "I think it went pretty well. I gave her some food for thought that's for sure."
Sam frowned. "Don't you mean you gave her the President's food for thought?"
Josh gave him a wry smile. "Yeah, but I gave it to her. I left her speechless."
"Well-" Sam was cut off by the phone ringing again. Distracted by Josh's presence, Sam just reached for the phone and answered it. "Sam Seaborn."
There was no talking for a moment and Sam turned his back to Josh to hide his disquiet. "Hello?"
"Do you know how he died?"
Sam closed his eyes and ran a hand through his hair. Bobby Zane again, who knew the man would be so persistent? "Yes, actually, I do," Sam replied flatly. He could almost sense Josh coming to attention behind him. Sam knew his tone was a dead give away to what he was feeling. "It's not the first time I've had to deal with something like this."
"Listen to me, Seaborn, we did not fuck up."
"Yes, you did, damn it! Why can't you see that?" Beginning to pace, Sam ignored Josh's look of concern. "It should've never gotten to us in the first place. You tried to use me, and it didn't work. And now you're blaming me!" Sam laughed bitterly. "If you can't face your own inadequacies as a lawyer, fine! But let me tell you something, if had been me in your position..."
"You're not me, Seaborn!" Bobby growled.
"And you know what? I thank god for that every day, Bobby. I thank god that I'm not some half assed lawyer who doesn't know how to get his job done right. And let me tell you something this isn't high school any more, buddy. Think about this, you've just about used up your favours, think how your PD's office would like to hear that."
Josh was leaning forward now, watching him intently, the beer bottle placed before him on the coffee table, forgotten.
"Sam, this wasn't personal was it? You treated it like any other..." Bobby said half a threat, half a plea.
Sam sat down heavily on a chair. "Of course it wasn't personal. I'm not some naive school kid anymore, Bobby. I did everything I could and then some. It didn't work."
"He didn't deserve this."
"No one does," Sam sighed.
"You think you're better than me, don't you? I was trying to save a man's life."
Sam hunched over, resting his head on his free hand. "Listen to me very carefully, Bobby. You call me again, you better have a good reason. Don't call me again at home, you clear on that?"
There was a long silence on the line and Sam knew Bobby was weighing up the shift in the balance of power between them. It must've been a surprise, Sam mused, Bobby had all the power in high school. They weren't in high school any more, not by a long shot, now they were on a different playing field altogether. They were in the White House. Since high school Sam had changed a lot, although perhaps the same couldn't be said of Bobby. Sam knew how to handle men like Bobby and he was not going to be bullied.
"Yeah, I'm clear on that...."Bobby was silent for another moment and then it came out a rush. "Sorry for..."
"Yeah," Sam cut him off, not really wanting to hear Bobby's platitudes right now. "Sorry you lost this one."
"Remember what I said, Bobby." Sam waited a moment to hear the confirmation and then hung up. He stared at the phone in his hand for a another minute and then stood, placing it very carefully on it's receiver.
"Who was that?" Josh asked in the ensuing silence.
Sam looked up from the phone and met Josh's gaze for a moment. "Hmmm?"
Josh's eyes narrowed. Sam had the distinct impression that he was being evaluated and not measuring up.
"It was no one important." Sam moved into the kitchen, desperate for something to do to distract him from his thoughts.
"Sure, Sam, you keep telling yourself that, and maybe you'll believe it."
Sam grabbed a beer from the fridge and opened it with a quick twist. Not that distracting, but served as a good way to avoid looking at Josh. He decided to ignore Josh's comment and go on the offensive. "What brought you here, Josh?"
"Oh no," Josh shook his head. "You don't get out of this that easy. Who was on the phone? Bobby who?"
"So eavesdropping is your new career?" Sam said snidely, then groaned. That was clearly combative and Josh would take that as an indicator that he wasn't fine. Fuck. Now Josh wouldn't leave till he knew what was going on. What could he say? That he was disillusioned with his own government? That he was fed up with the way they never seemed to be getting anywhere? Or the way no one appeared to listen to his comments? What could he say that wouldn't be a lie?
"I wouldn't overlook it," Josh shot back not missing a beat, "you'd be surprised what you can learn."
Sam gazed at him trying to think of a response, but he was just so tired. So tired of it all. He settled for a grunt of agreement. "Yeah?"
"Yeah," Josh raised his hands is a familiar gesture of platitude. "You won't tell me who was on the phone then I'll just call the PD's office and get them to tell me how many Bobby's work there, who have a connection to the White House and, more importantly to you, Sam."
Placing the bottle down next to the other one on the coffee table, Sam crossed his arms and stared down at the table. "That was Bobby Zane," he said finally, "he worked on the Cruz case."
"You think he used you?" Josh queried.
"Oh he did, no question." Sam raised his head and gave a wry smile. "I would've done the same thing in his position."
The expression on Josh's face made it clear he didn't agree with that statement. "Wrong, Sam. You wouldn't have let it get that far."
"How do you know, Josh?" Sam challenged, "How do you know I wouldn't have let it get that far?"
Josh shrugged. "Because you're too good at what you do."
Sam let out a deep sigh, digging the heels of his palms into his eyes. "God, I wish I could believe that."
"So why don't you?"
"That's not an answer." Josh's voice was very dry.
Sam pulled his hands away from his face and gazed at Josh. "It wasn't meant to be."
Josh raised his eyebrows, one hand rubbing his temple. "And that was? Come on, Sam, it's late and you're avoiding answering the question."
"What was the question?" Sam asked, flopping down in the lounge chair. "Because you ask so many, it's hard to keep track." Oh damn, he was being snide again. Josh really wouldn't leave now.
"Funny, Sam." Josh sat down next to him on the lounge and nudged him with his shoulder. "What did you mean when you said it's not the first time you've dealt with this?"
"God, Josh." Sam rose feeling a little trapped. He wanted to tell Josh to leave, but Josh could be stubborn. Sam had a feeling that this was one of those times when Josh would be obstinate about leaving. "Don't you ever quit?"
"No, that's why I'm the deputy chief of staff," Josh quipped. "What is it?"
"Sure," Josh's sarcasm was cutting. "What did you mean, Sam?"
Sam puffed out his cheeks and gave a mental count to ten. What could it hurt to tell Josh about the last time he had waded into the capital punishment arena? "Gage Whitney..."
Josh jumped ahead of him. "My god, that's when you got weird a few years ago, wasn't it? You were working on a capital case!"
Sam grimaced, there was times Josh was just to quick for his own good. No wonder Hoynes had been pissed when he had lost Josh to Bartlet. "Yeah."
Sam frowned looking at Josh confused. "What?"
"How many capital cases have you worked?"
Two, Sam thought. He shrugged. "I don't know."
"You don't know?" Josh was clearly sceptical. "What? You've worked so many you lost count? Come on, six...that sounds like too many, four?"
Sam waved a hand in response. "Two."
"Geez Sam..." Josh looked at him sympathetically. "That must've been pretty tough."
"No more than other things that I've done," Sam said, trying to push those memories away. He really didn't want to think about those two cases. It had been a year of his life that had been harrowing at best. "Why are we talking about this?"
"Because." Josh shrugged as if that answered everything.
Sam glared at him. Josh was beginning to push his luck. Now was really not the time to be evasive about one's answers. "Because?" he repeated, fighting to keep his tone even.
"How did you know Zane again? He looked like he pissed you off."
"It's pretty late to be calling someone, Josh."
"It looked like it was more than that."
"It wasn't." Sam tried not to roll his eyes, he was going to lose it soon if Josh didn't quit. But Josh wouldn't quit, he was going to keep bugging him till he got his answers. Sam tried very hard not to sigh.
Josh gazed at him steadily. "So this weekend must've been pretty tough."
"Damn it, Josh. It was nothing I can't handle, okay?" Sam snapped. "I was handling it just fine."
"Oh sure," Josh agreed sardonically. "I really believe you now."
Sam turned to look at him and for a moment they simply stared at each other.
Sam broke first, looking over Josh's head and around his living area. "Bobby Zane and I used to go to high school together. He was above me and..." Sam's eyebrow twitched as he recalled the exact relationship he had with Bobby. "He was a bully, Josh. He beat me up, nearly every day for two years."
"Sam-" Josh's voice was a horrified whisper.
"It was a long time ago." Sam gave a half-hearted shrug. "I'd forgotten it pretty much."
"Pretty much?" Josh asked gently.
Sam gave a small smile that didn't ease the lines of tension he could see on Josh's face. "Till Friday, and this Cruz thing, I was going sailing, Josh."
Josh nodded. "I know."
Sam crossed his arms and rolled his neck to get the tension out. "I just hate this, we achieved nothing this weekend. Zero, zip, nada, squat, zilch"
He broke off as Josh surged to his feet and strode towards him. "Sam, stop it."
Sam stepped back involuntarily, then forced himself to remain where he was. This was Josh. Josh wouldn't hurt him. "Why? It's the truth, isn't it?"
Josh's gaze was unreadable. "So, you meant it when you said that sometimes you think that we are exactly nowhere?"
Sam frowned, where had Josh heard that?
Josh obviously caught the confusion on his face. "I overheard you and Leo."
Sam hung his head, unwilling to look at Josh. Two strong hands were placed on his shoulder. "Sam, it's okay. I understand." The hands began massaging his shoulders slightly and Sam raised his head.
"Really?" Sam asked.
Josh nodded the slightest of smiles crossing his face. "Yeah, really. Besides, I think you put Bobby in his place. He won't be calling you again. You won, Sam."
Sam felt some of the tension ease. Josh was right. He hadn't realised that he'd felt like that boy: the boy who had been beaten up by Bobby again, and again. But this time, this time he had won. A smile crossed his face. "Yeah I did, didn't I?"
Josh nodded, letting Sam go, he moved back and picked up his beer. "Now, tell me what's got you thinking you don't contribute to this Administration?"
Sam's grin widened, he reached for his beer and took a long pull. Swallowing the warm liquid, he raised it in a gesture of thanks to Josh.
Josh grinned in understanding. "Anytime, my friend."
"So, what did bring you here?" Sam asked.
"You." Josh stood going to get another beer, he returned a beat later. "I heard you and Leo in the corridor and I...." Josh appeared to be uncomfortable and Sam leaned forward, waiting. "I got worried. You can't leave, Sam. You're needed..."
Sam felt his heart lighten. It was his turn to cut Josh off. "Okay, I get it. I'm not leaving. I may get frustrated and I may get annoyed. But I'm not leaving."
Josh seemed to be satisfied with that. "Good."
"I thought so." Sam returned. "I thought so," he repeated, more to himself than Josh. He didn't feel quite so weary any more. Sam let out a light chuckle, you couldn't go wrong when one had friends like Josh around. Sam waved away the querying look that Josh threw at him, putting the beer down he looked at Josh shrewdly. "So, you've got a thing for Joey Lucas, don't you?"
Josh nearly spat out his beer. "How on earth did you know that?!" he asked once he had stopped coughing.
Sam grinned. "You just told me."
"But." Josh's look of confusion, made Sam laugh. "You sneaky bastard, Seaborn."
"That's what you pay me for." Sam grinned. "Now spill."
They spent the rest of the night talking, neither man caring that they had to be at work in a few hours. Josh had declared the fact that he had a delicate system was a myth, Sam had verbally agreed with his friend, even though he knew it was a lie and he had replaced the beer with coffee. Josh didn't seem to care what they drank so long as he had Sam talking. Sam mused that Josh must've been very worried about him if he had come by so late. So six hours after midnight, Sam headed into work still weary. But it was a weariness of the body not of the heart.