Title: Fight the Break of Dawn
Author: Peta Collins
Spoilers: One huge glaring one for ‘Somebody’s Going to Emergency, Somebody’s Going to Jail.’
Disclaimer: Don’t own them never did, make no money from it whatsoever.
Author’s Notes: One huge big thanks to Emerald for being my beta on this baby. The boys for inspiring it, yadda, yadda to everyone who helped me you know who you are. <G>
Summary: I think the story pretty much speaks for itself.
Rating: PG-13. (Okay so I like to be safe. <G> But I don’t think this story is bad… but I’m not sure, so I think it’s better to be safe than sorry.)
Archive: Ask and I’ll let you know if it’s yay or nay. (Remember, doesn’t it hurt to ask… <G>)
Fight the Break of Dawn by Peta Collins
'When the ground breaks beneath you, whose gonna break your fall?' ___________________________________________________________________
Sam looked into the bar. He could see through the frosted windowpane, Josh, Toby, and Donna together, laughing. There were several beers in front of them on the table. By all appearances, they looked like they were having a good time. Sam sighed. If he went in there right now, he would bring them down.
“Hey excuse me, man.” A man brushed past him and entered the bar. Sam shifted back to allow him access. As the door opened and dinged, the sound of people talking, music, the stale smell of beer and cigarettes wafted out. Sam sighed again, unsure. He wanted to go in there and be with people he knew cared about him.
He watched as Donna said something to Josh and Josh frowned and shook his head, glancing at his watch. They were wondering where he was. He should go in there, but for some reason, he just couldn’t. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, he hadn’t smoked in years. Well, except for the occasional cigar here and there.
It was a lifetime.
A lifetime of lies.
He reached into his pocket for a lighter and looked down at the unopened packet of cigarettes. He opened the packet, pulled one out and lit it.
Sucking in a deep breath, he felt the familiar burn of the nicotine and blew out the smoke into the evening air.
He shoved the lighter and packet back in his pocket and looked at his hand. People always said he had his father’s hands. Sam clenched his hand into a fist. He had made an overture of forgiveness to his dad tonight… he had listened to what his father had to say. He really wasn’t impressed.
Sam sucked in another puff, blowing the smoke out slowly, as if it would somehow rid him of the hurt he felt. He felt betrayed and he had told his father so. His father had sounded so…
Sam shook his head and looked in through the window at his friends. Josh was playing with his beer, Toby was gesturing madly, Donna was smiling at Toby and laughing.
Sam frowned, he had thought she’d been having dinner with Stephanie Gault. It hurt that she would think he was so easily manipulated, was he such an egotist? He hadn’t thought so - but maybe… maybe that was the impression that he gave…
She had apologised to him and Sam understood her reasoning. He just didn’t know if he… Sam sighed; everything was coloured by his father.
Gault was a spy.
Sam scratched at his chin, realising that he needed a shave. He smiled politely as a couple walked past him and entered the bar. Music wafted out again and Sam recognised the tune. It was some old song by the Dooby Brothers. Josh would be pleased, Sam looked at his friend. Josh’s hand was tapping along to the music, but he looked distracted. Sam took another puff and blew the smoke out. He should go in there.
Gault was a spy.
Nancy had showed him the file. Everything he had thought about Gault was a lie. Hardly surprising, really. It was easy to lie to him, apparently.
Sam threw the cigarette to the ground and turned to walk away. He couldn’t go in there, not yet.
He heard the door of the bar open behind and the Dooby brothers floated out again. “Sam?”
Sam stopped, but didn’t turn around. It didn’t matter. Josh came to him.
He reached into his pocket for another cigarette.
“I thought you quit?” Josh was standing in front of him now. Sam couldn’t quite meet his eyes for longer than a second.
Sam shrugged at the question and lit up. He felt like he was going to break… he didn’t want to be around anyone that could…
Josh touched his shoulder, grasping onto it as if he was trying to stop Sam from leaving. Sam drew in a deep breath, his eyes stinging from the combination of emotion and the acrid cigarette smoke. “Sam?”
‘It had been high treason and it had mattered a great deal…’ He had said that to Donna. “This country is an idea.”
Josh frowned, his eyes full of sympathy. “Yes, it is.”
They were silent, Sam holding a cigarette he wasn’t smoking and Josh holding him to the moment.
He threw the cigarette away and he looked away from Josh, trying to breathe through the sudden tightening in his chest. If Josh could just let go, he wouldn’t break… But Josh didn’t let go. Sam ducked his head, trying to hide his expression.
“Donna told me about Gault.” Josh voice was soft, soothing. “I’m sorry.”
Sam shrugged. “Yeah… I’m a sucker.”
“Hey, come on.” Josh chided gently, shaking his shoulder. Sam looked up then and met Josh’s anxious worried gaze. Sam bit his lip, trying to control the flare of emotion. He tried to back away, but Josh’s grip was firm.
“Let go.” It was a plea.
“No.” It was a firm negative.
“God.” Sam muttered, fumbling for a cigarette and realising belatedly that his hands were shaking. Josh took it from him and lit it up and then handed it to him.
“Why don’t we go in?” Josh suggested, turning Sam around with a forceful, but gentle, pull on his shoulders. Sam sighed heavily, breathing in the cigarette smoke, he exhaled and looked into the bar. Toby and Donna were talking softly, Donna wasn’t laughing any more. Josh followed his gaze.
“She feels terrible.”
Sam bit his lip, as he met Josh’s gaze. “Am I like that?”
He was pleased when Josh shook his head empathically. “No. She was wrong and she knows it.”
“You told her off.” It wasn’t a question and Josh grimaced, as though he was uncomfortable that Sam could read him so well.
“Yeah.” Josh let go of Sam’s shoulders and blew at his hands to warm them.
Maybe there were some things you could be sure of after all. Maybe it wasn’t his family. But maybe it was his friends.
Sam closed his eyes. “Thanks.”
“No sweat.” Josh said quickly. “I look after my wingman.”
Sam opened his eyes and felt the slightest spark of amusement. “I thought Toby was your wingman?”
“You’re my wingman.” Josh flashed him a smile. Sam couldn’t help but smile back.
“Yeah.” Josh murmured.
Sam looked at Donna again and sighed. “I just never thought…”
“She was wrong. She knows that, now.” Josh said again.
“Yeah, okay.” Sam said quietly, unsure. “I just… I don’t know if I can trust her… I would’ve done it anyway…”
Josh nodded his eyes darting from Donna and back to him. “Yeah, I know.”
Sam sighed suddenly feeling bad. “I’m sorry... she’s your..”
Cutting him off, Josh shook his head. “She was wrong.”
“Yeah.” Sam agreed, he looked down at the ground, thinking. He should go in there and sit down with Donna, Toby and Josh. He should go in there and just forget. She had overstepped the mark, she knew. Sam wasn’t blind, he knew she felt badly. Donna…she had just been looking out for her friend… but still, Sam wasn’t sure that he could trust her again… everything was coloured by his father’s deception.
Sam inhaled another puff of his cigarette. The biting acrid smoke filling his lungs. Sam felt dizzy with fatigue and the spiralling hold he had on his emotions. He felt like he was going to cry. Men didn’t cry. Sam frowned, at least he didn’t think they were supposed to.
“How was your dad?”
The question startled him. Sam tried not to show that it did, but he could tell by the way Josh’s eyes tightened and his expression blanked out, that he hadn’t been very successful. “He’s aha…” He exhaled heavily.
He couldn’t figure out what to say. How do you explain that you listened to your father present his case for his forgiveness? Some things just weren’t meant to happen like this…
“You talked?” Josh prompted him, grabbing his arm again as if he sensed that Sam wanted to run. How did he do that, Sam wondered, how did he know?
“Yeah.” Sam looked at his hands again. He held them up to Josh, one still holding the burning stub of a cigarette. “People say I have my father’s hands…” He looked at his hands seriously, contemplating them. Studying their grooves, their scars, and their calluses. Josh frowned at him, concerned. “Do you think…”
“You’re the most honest guy I know.” Josh’s grip tightened on his arm.
Sam blinked back the sudden stinging of tears. He was not going to lose it here, outside some DC bar. Josh didn’t seem to have such concerns. He threw Sam’s cigarette stub away, and gave Sam a hug. Sam shuddered, Josh’s hold was firm.
Sam held on. Josh wasn’t going to let him fall. He looked after his wingman. Finally, Sam pulled back and Josh looked at him a seriously.
“You wanna grab that beer now?” he asked kindly.
Sam nodded, but felt obligated to tell his friend that he would drag the mood down. “I’m not much company.”
“That’s not why we’re here.” Josh shot him a look, then tugged him into the bar.
Sam felt the warmth of the bar wash over him. He entered the bar and sat down at the table with his friends. Josh squeezed his shoulder and sat down next to him on his right, Toby sat to his left, and Donna sat across from him. Donna gave him a small uncertain smile.
Sam reached out and took her hand. “It’s okay.”
Donna’s grip tightened and then she wiped at her eyes slightly. “I’m so sorry.”
Sam nodded, accepting the beer that Toby offered him. “Okay.”
He wasn’t his father.
He cracked open the bottle and took a sip. It warmed him, sliding down his throat. Josh patted his shoulder once more and then grabbed his beer.
“So, Samuel, how long were you going to stand outside?” Toby drawled, his tone was jesting, but his eyes were kind and serious.
Taking another sip, Sam shrugged. “Don’t know.” It was disconcerting to know that they had known he was there.
Josh frowned at him. “How long were you out there, before…” He left the sentence unfinished, but Sam understood the question, obviously they hadn’t known for very long.
“I’m not sure.” He took another sip of his beer. “Does it matter?” He asked, because it didn’t to him. He was inside now, with his friends.
Toby, Donna and Josh exchanged look. “Nah…” Josh drawled, grabbing some more peanuts from the dish in the middle of the table.
Sam allowed the conversation to flow around him.
After a time, he felt Toby pat his shoulder. “You okay?”
He met Toby’s concerned gaze and was aware that conversation had ceased, and that they were all looking at him. He frowned, trying to remember when they all had stopped talking. He offered Toby a small reassuring smile. “Just tired.”
Toby nodded then rose, pulling on his coat. “Let’s take you home, then.”
Josh helped Sam stand. “I’m okay,” he insisted to Josh, but he was lying and Josh knew it. Sam had only had two beers, but felt loaded. Josh wrapped his arm around his waist and steered him out into the street. “Josh, you reall-“
He didn’t get a chance to finish his statement. “You’re my wingman.”
It was said so seriously, Sam suddenly knew that Josh hadn’t been drinking at all. He wondered at that, then decided he didn’t care. Donna and Toby were behind them. Toby hailed a cab and they piled into it. They dropped Donna off first. Then Toby and Josh took him home.
Together, they took him up into his home. “I’m not drunk,” he declared, “why are you treating me like I am?”
Toby answered. “Because you’re so tired you can’t see straight, and you’ve had two beers on top of that, and I’m guessing no food. So, you’re not really working all cylinders here.”
Josh opened the front door and held it open for Toby and him. Sam was beyond caring, until he saw the message light, on his answering machine flashing. He hadn’t been home in two days. He could hazard a pretty good guess whose messages were there. He moved away from Josh and Toby and pressed play.
He listened to all of the messages and then turned and walked into his kitchen.
“Sam?” Josh worried.
“Princeton?” Toby concerned.
“Fine.” Sam murmured, reaching into his pocket for that packet of cigarettes. He couldn’t find them. What had he done with them? The packet suddenly floated in front of his face and Sam turned, realising that Josh was holding it and a lighter. Josh must’ve taken possession of them outside the bar. He nodded and Josh lit one up and handed it to him. Josh didn’t say anything and neither did Toby.
Sam walked past them and pressed delete on the answering machine. He could erase the messages, but he couldn’t erase the past. Deception was a sinister friend, and it had found his father… and him. He sat down on the coach, and rested his head on his free hand. He looked past the hovering Josh and Toby and out the window. “He said he would always…” he couldn’t finish the sentence. His father had said he’d always love him… it had sounded like a hollow promise. But it wasn’t. Sam knew what it would’ve cost his father to say that, he was a demonstrative man, but he had never used the ‘L’ word when talking to him. It had always been implied, until his father wasn’t so sure that his son would know that any more. It was sad that his father wasn’t as sure of him, any more than he was sure of his father.
“He’s your father.” Toby agreed.
“You’re nothing like him.” Josh said quietly.
“I have his hands.”
“Sure. But you’re honest.” Josh answered.
“I lied to Stephanie Gault about her grandfather.”
“For a greater purpose.” Toby said.
Sam couldn’t look at either of them. He was so god damn tired. “Yeah…”
“It was high treason and it mattered.” Josh’s voice was soft. “You did the right thing not telling Stephanie.”
“Yes.” Josh sat down beside him. Sam stubbed out the cigarette on a plant he had on his coffee table. Donna must’ve told Josh about his speech on the staircase… the fact that she had, pleased him. Maybe he could trust her… Maybe
“This country is an idea.” Josh said echoing his words from earlier that evening. “It’s people like you and me and Toby here that shape it.” He nudged Sam gently with his shoulder. “You’re the most honest guy I know.”
“Indeed,” Toby agreed.
Sam sighed leaning back into the soft cushions of the couch and closed his eyes.
“Let’s get you to bed.” Josh pulled him up and, with Toby’s help, he put Sam to bed. Sam could hear soft murmuring between them and opened his eyes to glare at them, vaguely amused at their reluctance to leave.
“Spare blankets in the hall closet, couch is a fold out bed.”
“Thanks.” Josh ruffled his hair and Sam smiled. Josh turned to Toby. “I’ll call you in the morning.”
Toby nodded and gruffly wished them both a goodnight. Josh saw him out and then came back and flopped down beside Sam on the bed.
Sam looked at him, quirking an eyebrow tiredly. “You could go home, you know.”
Josh shook his head. “I’m not leaving my wingman.”
Sam gulped and wordlessly thanked Josh by patting his arm. Josh seemed to understand. “Go to sleep, Sam. Everything will look a little better in the morning.”
“Okay,” Sam said, for the first time allowing himself to relax since he had found out about his dad.
Maybe some things in life weren’t such a sure thing… Maybe the things you were sure of fell and broke. Maybe the things you overlooked, like your friends, your job, were the only things that you could count on after all. He had a wingman and Sam knew that he was going to be allowed to fall.
“Go to sleep, Sam.” Josh ordered, interrupting his thoughts.
Josh placed a blanket over them both and turned off the light. “Good night.”
“Go to sleep.”
“Yeah, I would, but you keep talking to me.” Sam was so tired, he was slurring his words together. He felt Josh shift on the bed and Josh ruffled his hair again.
“Go to sleep.” A gentle order.
“ ‘Kay..” And he did.