TITLE: Faint and failing tones
AUTHOR: Abigale
DISCLAIMER All characters are the creation and property of Aaron Sorkin. No copyright infringement is intended.
SUMMARY: What is real, and why?
ARCHIVE: Lists may take. Others, just please let me know where.
FEEDBACK: All welcome, all appreciated. abigalep@yahoo.com
THANKS TO: My ravenous beta reader, Dalia.
NOTES: This is *not* a sequel to 'What's This?' However, I am obviously susceptible to peer pressure, and a sequel will be up on my site, http://subtractions.homestead.com/ in the next few days. In spite of my better judgment... ;-)

Faint and failing tones by Abigale


It had to have been a good forty minutes. Is that possible? Being unconscious for forty minutes? Maybe he wasn't completely unconscious. He thinks he may have heard....

Which meant, he was drifting in and out of consciousness for forty minutes. Now that he had that straight, Sam could concentrate on the voices wafting around him like campfire smoke. Catching on a breeze, wafting away, slinking back to curl around him.

Toby's voice. And, Bonnie. Sure, steady, calming voices, telling him everything was alright now. So, it hadn't been alright before. Clearly, clearly that was the unspoken message they were sending. He felt fine now. So fine, he really wasn't all that anxious to get up off the floor.


"Behind his desk?"


"And no one thought that was...?"

"Well... They obviously didn't know he was there, sir."



Standing wasn't as bad as Sam thought it would be. Standing almost felt right. Until he sank to the floor again, and realized that really felt much better than standing.

"I think I need to go home," he ventured, even though no one was listening to him.

Their voices rose and fell like musical notes; a duet. Toby's hand still gripping his forearm, which was awkward; Toby on his feet, Sam sitting on the floor. Toby's hand holding on to him for some reason, as if he was afraid Sam would just... glide away. Holding on like his father had when Sam lay on his little blue blow-up raft out in the ocean. Rising up on the gentle swells.


"Not for some time now, as far as I can tell."

"I don't like the sound of that."

"No. No."


Now Josh was there. That wasn't going to help. Josh, plunging to the floor without hesitating, dislodging Toby. He didn't even speak, didn't even ask what happened. Josh knows everything.

"I don't have a fever," Sam assured him.

Josh's dry hand swiping Sam's dark hair out of the way again, resting on his face. Pushed away once more.

"Don't do that." "Stop doing that."

Josh looked cranky, like he was determined to smooth down that one lock of glossy hair that kept trying to make a break across Sam's forehead.

Voiceless, Josh was gone again. And Toby wasn't holding on anymore, so Sam slipped away.


"One more time..."

"I know, I know."

"I mean it. No more fooling around."

"You think anyone's fooling around?"


His chair. His desk. His office. Seen from the floor, it all took on a whole new perspective. Larger than life, tilted and ominous. His laptop. Someone was going to make that a joke, some day. About how even when he was unconscious he kept his laptop with him. But no one saw it there, under the desk.

Strong, determined arms under his, pulling him up, up, up. He felt higher than he had in years, floaty, like vapor. Then down, down, into the chair that just looked like his chair now.

A woman near him, he could smell her perfume; subtle and floral, like a memory. It was a good memory; he smiled, but no one noticed.


"I'm not comfortable with that."

"It's not about your comfort."

"What is it about?"


Toby is a god. Determining the course of human events, the course of Sam, leading him not out of the desert, but out of his office. Into the next, onto the sofa, soft and luscious. Hands him a glass with water that smells faintly of perfume. Offers salvation in the form of solitude.

Returning, like the resurrection. Toby, and the perfume, and Josh. Confident, familiar hands loosening his tie, pulling it away from his neck, and that feels so much better, he cries.

The voice he knows better than his own tells him it's okay, and he wonders why that makes him cry harder. Sam can make out other words now. Doctor. Exhaustion. Stress. Rest. And if they'd ask him, let him pick, he'd choose 'Josh'. No one asks him.


"I didn't think to ask."

"You didn't think it was important?"

"I didn't want to know."

"So, it's a good thing you never asked."


Sam's curled on his side, and this time it feels familiar. This is sleep, not sickness. He can't get his eyes to open properly, only manages to keep them at a lazy half mast. So he only sees half of everything, not the whole picture. And there's still room for just one voice, but that voice has left again, so he's swept away by the muffled mumbling around him.

Outside the sun is blazing, sucking the color out of everything. In here, it's dark and cloistered behind the heavy lids of Sam's eyes. He feels soggy and fetid and soft, like a mushroom. He hears his name being called gently, but doesn't know if it's coming from his future or his past. He wants to tell everyone to stop calling him. He disconnects the line.


"As long as it takes."

"That could be..."

"As long as it takes."

"Yes, sir."


He's trying to tell them, but they won't listen to him, they just won't. He tries to tell them to let him go.

The perfume is gone, there's another smell instead. It's not floral, or fruity, or human. It's Josh. And Sam feels something in his ear, a voice he can't hear anymore, but he feels it there, dripping into his ear, so he stays, he doesn't go. And abstractly, he thinks he made the right decision; because as soon as he does, the feeling turns into sound, and it's still Josh.

Fingers finally have their way with the errant strands of hair, methodically guiding them back into place over and over again.


"How does it look?"


"He. How does he look?"

"He's going home."

"Is... he coming back?"


The motion of the car is nothing like the motion of a boat, and the smell is all wrong. And he doesn't feel unleashed, or released, or any of the things he feels on the water. There are too many sounds, and only one of them is natural, only one.

Josh, telling him, scolding him about something, some *thing* that Sam has done, and Sam won't answer. He's afraid it will start the argument that ends it all, and he can't do that now. Or ever. He just wants to go back to the floor of his office where he heard things that weren't voices, and saw things from a new angle and felt close to everything.

He reaches for the handle to the door, and it is only Josh's swerving deeply that propels him away from the pavement and into Josh's lap, and Sam decides that's much better than the floor anyway.


"You've got to be kidding me."

"Even if I was, it wouldn't be very funny, now would it?"

"No. No it wouldn't."

"Of course, it's not funny this way, either."


He's in his underwear, he's in his bed, and he's back in his head, just a little bit. Enough to ask, "Are you staying?"

He keeps his eyes clamped shut, he doesn't want to watch the head shake back and forth, telling him he's on his own, he's all alone. So Sam keeps his eyes closed, daring the voice to say the words, swearing he won't listen to them even when they come racing after him like hounds with a scent.

Lips are on him. Gracing his brow, nuzzling the creases that have appeared around his eyes in the last year. They brush against his own, but he still won't open his eyes, even when the voice is begging him to, softly pleading, promising him it won't hurt.

But the lips keep up the litany entreatingly, and Sam feels himself waver and want. So he lifts his weighted lashes to reveal groggy blue eyes, like a stormy sky. And he sees his reflection, his Josh, and he whispers worshipfully, "You didn't leave, you... stayed, you stayed...."



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