Title: Life is in the Details
Series: Wild Ride
Disclaimer: Josh and Sam aren’t mine. Carrie, Kelly, Sarah and Jake are. I wonder if I could stage a kidnapping – I have Sorkin/Warner Brothers outnumbered at this point.
Spoilers: Only so slightly for “20 Hours in LA”
Archive: westwingslash. Anyone else, please ask. Oh and always at my site: www.angelfire.com/ok5/eal/index2.html
Summary: Things are discussed; decisions are made; and, the future is planned.
Notes: Massive thanks to Nomi who stuck with this story even when I almost dumped it. Equally massive thanks to Gail who did a really fast read of an early version to see if it was worth saving or not. Hope you like what I’ve done with it. In the final analysis, Stanley, I hope you like it ‘cause it’s for you.
Life is in the Details by Beth
Josh had waited patiently for the explanation that never came. He was tired of being patient. God damned tired of it. He liked Carrie. Strike that – he loved Carrie. He loved her as if she were his own. At some point, however, he thought an explanation would be forthcoming, but, to date, Sam hadn’t offered.
Josh had decided that tonight was the night. Why he picked this one, he didn’t know, it just felt right. It felt like time. Okay, truth? It felt like past time, but it was now or – well, not never. Eventually Sam would tell him, or he would tell Carrie and Josh would find out. But there were some rather humiliating prospects in waiting for their daughter to grow up enough to be prompted to ask Sam about how he and Kelly had decided to have her in the first place. Josh assumed it had to do with love – and that would probably be the answer Sam gave Carrie – and that answer would satisfy a young girl, but it wouldn’t satisfy the grown-up man who didn’t always feel so grown up. Right now, waiting for Sam to finish telling Carrie a bedtime story -- why bother reading them when you can create better ones on the spot -- Josh was not feeling grown up at all. He was half-afraid that Sam would take one look at him and realize that he’d regressed to the kid stage himself. A needy, demanding kid who wanted to know why he’d been left out of the loop on this decision. Although a small part -- a very, very small part -- acknowledged that he didn’t necessarily have the right to have been in the loop on it.
When Sam walked in the room, Josh pounced. “I need to ask you something.”
“Yeah?” Sam was still reviewing the story he’d told Carrie, figuring where he could take it tomorrow night.
“Why didn’t you tell me that you and Kel were talking about kids?”
“Carrie’s biologically yours, right?”
“And she’s also biologically Kel’s, right?”
“And this is something you think I wouldn’t want to know?”
“I, uh, didn’t know you when we first discussed it, so it wouldn’t have seemed relevant to talk to you about it since I didn’t know you.”
“Funny, Sam. Really funny. See me, laughing – right here.” Josh composed his face in his most fearsome scowl.
“I’m not trying to be funny. We did discuss it – long before you, or Lisa, or even Sarah. It came back up a few years ago.”
“Don’t be crude.” Sam ran a frustrated hand through his hair, and then flopped into a chair with a sigh. “What do you want to know?”
“When did you decide?”
“You remember when you met Sarah?”
“Yeah. About ten years later than I should have.”
“No shit. Carrie is what Kel and I were talking about while you were negotiating health care with S.”
“You didn’t have enough time to do anything about it on that trip.”
“True. I went back.”
Sam didn’t even bother to knock, he just used his key. He’d arrived much earlier than he’d indicated he would, wanting to surprise Kelly for a change of pace. After punching in the alarm code, he jogged up the stairs and threw his bag in his room. He’d have to remember later to thank Sarah for getting his room ready. She always tried to be patient with Sam and his sudden arrivals and departures – at least this time she’d had two weeks warning that he was coming.
He knew better than to sneak up on Kelly when she was working, but he didn’t hear music so he assumed that he could safely enter the studio. He slipped into the room and found her cleaning brushes. He moved quietly to get behind her and quickly engulfed her in a bear hug. “Surprise – I’m early.”
Kelly gasped and then spun around, forgetting about the brushes in her hand. “Sammy – you scared me. I’m so glad you’re here.”
Sam let her go and glanced down at his now paint- and water-covered shirt. He turned his gaze to Kelly and waited for her to notice what she had done. Of course, she had already turned back to the sink to finish washing out the brushes. Sam moved back a few paces and waited for her to finish.
When Kelly turned back to Sam, she quickly put a hand up to her mouth to hide her grin. “So Sammy – what are you going to do with that one?”
“Someday I’m going to put on a show of my original O’Neals. It’s a unique collection – all the shirts, jackets, pants, and sweaters that you’ve painted over the years. Once I get you to sign them, I’ll make a bloody fortune.”
Kelly had already crossed the studio to her desk and pulled out a checkbook. Pen poised, she looked up at Sam. “How much?”
“The collection is priceless. I don’t know how I could ever part with it,” Sam teased. At Kelly’s glare, he said, “Oh, you mean how much was this shirt. Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t remember where it came from or how much I spent on it.”
Kelly sighed glancing at the shirt again, then wrote out a check. “That should cover it, and I threw in your retainer for the next year while I was at it.”
Sam took the check and whistled at the sum. “Why do you bother to keep me on retainer? You always get the local guy to do everything.”
“But I send everything to you for approval before I sign it. That’s what I need you for. Actually, I need you for a great deal more than that, but you have enough to do right now.”
Sam took the pen from Kelly and scribbled on the back of the check for a few seconds and then handed it back to her. “My annual contribution to the camp.”
Kelly glared at him again. “Will you at least let me replace the shirt?”
Sam knew she was going to get frustrated if he didn’t let her do that, and a frustrated Kelly this early in a visit was something to be avoided at all costs. He normally wouldn’t take money from her. Every time she handed him a check, he would funnel the money back into her summer camp. “Fine. You can replace the shirt. Happy now?”
Kelly grimaced. “I have to go shopping. I can’t say *that* makes me happy, but if you’ll go with me it won’t be so bad.”
“I have two days – if you want to spend them shopping, that’s fine by me.” **If it gets me out of the Josh conversation, it’s more than fine.**
“Oh no, you aren’t getting out of this that easily. I’ll go after you leave.”
“Just remember, it was one shirt, not my whole wardrobe, okay?”
“But Sammy –“
“Don’t ‘but Sam’ me, Kel. I want to hear you say the words.”
Kelly frowned. “It was one shirt.”
“Thank you.” Sam was triumphant even though he knew it was token concession. She would do whatever it was that she wanted in the end, regardless of what she said right now.
“Sarah wants to be involved in both conversations, but she’s working until 4 today. What do you want to do until she gets home?”
“Do you have something in mind, or are you seriously asking for my opinion?” Sam had done this too many times before not to recognize a set-up. Kelly usually had a plan, and most of the time she was only asking so that he would say that he didn’t care.
“I thought we might go take the boat out for a couple of hours,” Kelly offered. “It doesn’t get much use with you clear across the country.”
“S still doesn’t like sailing?”
“Not with me,” Kelly grinned impishly. “She says I’m too bossy.”
“Yeah, but you’re good,” Sam said. “I’m going to go change – save my new original – and then I’ll be ready to go get bossed around.”
Kelly nodded in agreement and then linked arms with Sam as they headed down the hall to change.
“Who’s driving?” Sam called from his room while he was changing.
“What did you rent?”
“Doesn’t matter – I want to take the Mustang.”
“Then I’m driving, obviously.” Kelly crossed the hall and stood in the doorway of Sam’s room.
“Kel-ly,” Sam whined, “I want to drive it.”
“And like I’ve said every other time you’ve asked – no.”
“I don’t understand why – I’ve never had an accident; I don’t speed; nothing would happen to it,” Sam pleaded. Kelly shared everything with him *except* her car. He didn’t think he was being particularly outrageous asking to drive her car.
“I just don’t want anyone driving my car. I let you have free rein over every thing else, but only I drive that car.”
Sam just shook his head, trying to hide his amusement. Basically, Kelly didn’t care about the stuff she owned; she was as likely to break it as keep it, or give something away because someone asked for it. Oftentimes the only voices of reason she heard were his and Sarah’s. Her car was the only exception. No one touched it but her and the mechanic who helped her find it in the first place. Sam would never get to drive it, but he loved to needle her about it anyway. “You can’t blame a guy for trying.”
“No, I sure can’t.” Kelly grinned at him as she tossed him the keys. “Enjoy the moment. I’m taking them back when we get down to the garage.”
“Thanks, Kel.” Sam rolled his eyes at her as he fondled her keys. ****Several Hours Later****
As they walked back in the house, Kelly got a whiff of something coming from the kitchen. She looked at Sam apprehensively. “Uh-oh, we may be in trouble.”
Sam took his cue from Kelly and whispered, “What did we do?”
“It must be later than we thought – Sarah’s cooking. She expected us to be here when she got home,” Kelly responded. She quickly evaluated the potential for disaster. “Why don’t you go up, shower and change, while I go soothe some ruffled feathers?”
Sam finally placed the noise he was hearing – pans banging -- and realized that Sarah was probably ticked off. “Yeah, why don’t you do that? I’m not going in there right now.”
“Damn straight,” Sam said over his shoulder as he headed up the stairs.
Kelly peeked her head around the corner into the kitchen. “Hey.”
Sarah glared at her but didn’t say anything. She slammed the lid down on a saucepan and then started slicing tomatoes as if she held a personal grudge against them.
Kelly stayed in the doorway watching her lover. Sarah was normally the even tempered one of the two of them, and Kelly was never sure what she was supposed to do when Sarah did lose her temper. “Sar?”
“Did you have fun with your little playmate?”
Kelly was taken aback by the naked hostility in Sarah’s voice. “We went sailing. I told you that if he got here in time, we were going to. I don’t understand what the problem is.”
“I know you told me, but you also told me that you’d both be here when I got here, and you weren’t. I was --” Sarah mumbled the last word, and Kelly didn’t catch it.
“I’m sorry, what was that – you were what?”
“Worried. Okay? I was worried.”
“I was with Sam. I’m perfectly safe with him – you know that.” Sometimes Sarah went overboard with this protectiveness thing of hers, and so far as Kelly was concerned this was one of those times.
“No, I don’t know that. He’s accident prone, and he’s hurt you before. When you aren’t where you say you’re going to be, I worry that he’s done it again.”
“Accidents happen, Sar,” Kelly said, but then acknowledged, “Admittedly, they happen to Sam a bit more often than to the rest of us. And I’ll even admit that the major injuries in my life have occurred at his hands, but we have a lot to do in the next 48 hours, and you being mad at him or at me isn’t going to make any of it go more smoothly.”
“I know I just –“ Sarah stopped as Kelly slid her arms around Sarah’s waist and kissed her tenderly. “Call next time. Please?”
"I promise,” Kelly said solemnly. Sensing a change in Sarah’s mood, Kelly asked, “Is it safe for Sam to come in here now?”
“I won’t throw anything at him, if that’s what you’re asking.” Sarah grinned when Kelly laughed at that. Throwing things was more Kelly’s style than Sarah’s. Kelly moved away from Sarah, who was again wielding her knife.
“It’s all clear, Sammy,” Kelly shouted.
Sam ducked into the kitchen fully prepared to dive for cover. “Hey S – long time, no see.”
“Two weeks. It wasn’t that long, trust me,” Sarah said with a slight grimace. “Since you’re here, you can help with dinner. Kel, set the table if you would please.”
Sam pitched in with dinner and that went a long way toward soothing Sarah’s injured feelings. They settled in at the table and enjoyed a relaxing dinner. Sarah poured more wine in the glasses and shooed Kelly and Sam into the living room while she put things away.
Kelly settled into the couch and studied Sam. “Which one first?”
Kelly took another sip of wine, and waited patiently for Sam to get on the same page.
“What do you mean ‘which one’, Kel?”
Sarah walked into the room in time to hear Sam’s question. She glanced at Kelly, who nodded, before saying, “Do you want to talk about Josh or about babies?”
“You do know where babies come from, right, Sam?”
Sam rolled his eyes at Sarah. “Yeah, S. I passed bio and Anatomy and Physiology – as I’m sure you remember. I know the mechanics. I’m not the one who convened this little meeting, so why can’t one of you pick. But don’t treat me like the village idiot, okay?”
Kelly had been staring at her wine when this started, but at Sam’s last remark she was compelled to speak. “Sammy, Sar didn’t mean anything by it. Believe me, we both appreciate that you are even considering this plan of ours – more than we can say. Right, Sar?” She glared meaningfully at Sarah.
“Right. Sorry, Sam. It’s so hard to pass up opportunities to tease you – that’s all.”
“Okay. So tell me what we have to do -- what ground rules you want, all that sort of stuff.”
Sarah looked at Kelly and then at Sam. “Since I’m the medical professional in the room, I suppose that’s my cue. I’m thinking that artificial insemination is the best plan – we have the best opportunity to control the variables that way. In vitro would be another viable option – could be better actually -- but it’s more invasive for Kel and I want as few risks as possible in that area.”
Sam nodded thoughtfully. He hadn’t needed to be told why Sarah had been angry when they were late. She was extremely protective of Kelly – always had been. And Sam would be the first to admit that he had, mostly unintentionally, caused harm to come to Kelly. But those things happen when you’ve known someone since you were three, and there really hadn’t been a serious accident in at least five years.
“Sar, I’m not going to break. I wish you wouldn’t worry so much.”
“If I could do this instead of you, I would.”
“Sar.” Kelly’s tone held a note of warning. There were areas of her life that Sarah had wanted kept from Sam. This was one of them. As much as Kelly didn’t see a point to it, it was Sarah’s business and yet Sarah was close to divulging the information she had guarded so closely.
Sam watched Kelly slump further into the couch – a posture of defeat. It was the first time he had gotten the feeling that their arguments had been about more than who the father was. He knew there was a story here, but he knew better than to pry – at least until he got Kelly alone again.
“Okay, so it seems simple enough. When and where do I need to be?”
“You could come to the hospital with me tomorrow, and we could get your part taken care of then.”
“Okay, I can do that. Now what about ground rules?”
“I don’t understand what you mean, Sammy.”
“Are there any conditions that I need to know about?”
“Conditions?” Kelly echoed and then the light came on. “My only condition is that you have to be a participant in as much of this as you feasibly can.”
Sarah felt Sam’s eyes on her, and she took a sip of her wine before she spoke. “You’re thinking too loudly, Sam. You’re worrying about whether I really want you to be part of this, and I admit that I have had some doubts.”
“Let me finish, Kel. I have had doubts about how much of a bond could be created between Sam and the baby.” Sarah held up a hand when she saw that Kelly was about to interrupt again. “I wondered whether it would be better to wait until the child is older, and Sam is more accessible.”
Kelly slammed her wine glass down hard enough on the coffee table to shatter the glass and stormed out of the room. Sam heard the front door slam and debated for a second about what he should do. If Sarah wanted to take care of the situation, he would defer to her.
“You’ll have to go after her, Sam. She won’t listen to me right now.”
Sam nodded his agreement but paused to ask, “What was the punch line, S?”
“The punch – oh, that I realized that any access to you was better than none, and that I wasn’t considering what Kelly went through with her parents – how much she needs you. She’s also right about me needing you too. Tell her that when you find her. Please?”
“You knew this had absolutely no chance of turning out well with that set up, right?”
“I know. You’re right. You’d think I’d know that by now.” Sarah was irritated with herself. She knew better than to play games like this with Kelly, but when Sam was involved it was often hard for her to resist the impulse. “Go find her, Sam.”
“I’m going.” Sam hadn’t heard a car start and doubted that Kelly had her keys with her anyway. He figured that she had either gone to the guest house to cool off, or she was just walking around.
Sam found her after ten minutes of searching. She had walked across the length of the property and was sitting on a stump staring into the night. He approached cautiously.
“What are you doing out here, Sammy?” Kelly hadn’t turned, but Sam wasn’t as quiet as he thought he was.
Sam continued moving until he was in front of her and then crouched down so that he could see her more clearly in the dim light. He reached out to smooth her hair and his hand grazed her cheek. His fingers came away wet. “Whoa, tears? It wasn’t that bad, Kel.”
“You were in the living room, Sam. Didn’t you hear her?”
Sam pulled Kelly off the stump and shifted around so that he was leaning against the stump with Kelly resting against his chest. “I heard her, but I don’t think you did.”
“She was speaking in the past tense, Kel. She felt that way – she doesn’t now.”
“But how do you know she won’t change her mind again.”
“I don’t know, but we don’t know lots of things and we still make it through life okay. What we have going for us is that she loves you, I love you, and you love both of us. We *can* make this work, I promise.”
“I just –“ Kelly started, but stopped to collect her thoughts. “I can’t make a mistake with this, Sammy. I just can’t.”
“Trust me, Kel. I won’t let you fail – I promise.” Sam ran his hands along her back trying to soothe her.
“But you won’t be here. What if I am like them?”
Sam sighed. He had known that was buried under all of this – he’d just known. Sarah had accidentally led them into this minefield, and now he’d have to get them out. “You aren’t. I’ve known you my whole life, Kel. You’re nothing like them.”
“I could be – how do you *know*?”
“I just do. If S has doubts, they’re about me – not about you.”
“But you – you’re Sam. How could she doubt you?”
Sam chuckled. “You know not everyone has faith in me just because I am.” **Not even you, most of the time.**
“I can’t do this without you.”
“You can – you don’t have to, but you can. You have to trust yourself. No one can make that happen but you.” Sam hesitated and then asked, “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”
Kelly emitted a short, harsh laugh, and then buried her head in her hands. “I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready, but –“
“But what? Everyone else is, so you’ll try to be?”
“Something like that.”
“We need to wait, then. I’m not letting you get rushed into this.”
“*This* is what Sar wants, though. I don’t want to deny her because I’m nervous.”
“I don’t give a damn what S wants. You’re not ready, and we aren’t going forward until *you* are.” Sam felt Kelly shivering against him. “Look, you’re getting cold – we should go back. Besides, I want S to get a look at your hand.”
“You shattered a glass; I want to make sure you didn’t hurt yourself.”
“I did? It doesn’t hurt, but you can look at it -- I don’t want to talk to her right now.”
“Okay, so let’s go hole up in the guest house for awhile, and I’ll check it out. And we still have stuff to sort out anyway. But when we get there, I’m calling up to the house to let her know where you are.”
“I do love her, you know.”
“I know you do. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have handled this the way you did.”
“When you get mad at me, you stand toe to toe with me and yell at me, or give me the silent treatment, or both. When you get mad at her, you walk away. You don’t yell. You wait until you’ve calmed down and then you talk to her. From you, I think that’s the purest expression of love.”
“But I love you, too.”
“Okay, so maybe there’s some fear mixed in there. You’re afraid that if you ever did your scream routine with her, she’d leave. I won’t, and you know it.” Sam eased himself out from behind Kelly, pushed up off the ground, and started walking away. Kelly had to move quickly to catch up.
They crossed the yard to the guest house, where Kelly punched in the security code to let them in. Jake had rigged this system for her when she begged for a way to get in to it without a key. As soon as they had crossed the threshold, Sam was on the phone calling up to the main house to assure Sarah that everything was okay – at least, as okay as it was likely to get for the time being.
“First things first, Kelly. Let me see your hands.” Kelly held out both hands – palms up – and Sam frowned at the cut on the palm of her right hand.
“There are band-aids in the bathroom, Seaborn.”
“I know. I put them there. But we’ve got to make sure it’s a clean cut – no glass shards or anything.”
“And how do you propose to do that, Sam?”
“Just give me a minute.” Sam turned on a bright light and studied the cut carefully. “Are you sure I can’t get S down here just to look at this, please?”
“It’s a cut. If there was glass in it, I think I’d know by now. I’m going to clean it and put a band-aid on it. I don’t want to hear another word about it.” Kelly stalked into the bathroom to take care of her hand.
While Kelly was in the bathroom, Sam went to the kitchen to fetch a couple of root beers. Kelly always had some stashed in the guest house because it was where they brokered most of their agreements.
Sam settled onto the couch and waited for Kelly to reappear. She came back in the room and showed her hand to Sam to prove she had bandaged it, and then she started pacing. Sam waited patiently for Kelly to stop pacing the room. It quickly became clear that she wasn’t going to settle down, so Sam decided to push the rest out of her. “Now, tell me what actually sparked this.”
Kelly stopped in her tracks and stared at him. “I don’t understand.”
“Yes, you do. Tell me the truth – you’ve heard from them again, haven’t you?”
“Which means yes. What did they want?”
“What do you *think* they wanted, Sam?” She started to give him a dark look that indicated she didn’t appreciate him playing dumb, but then she started to cry, which ruined the effect of the look.
Sam didn’t answer, just pushed up off the couch and held her close while she cried. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. God, I’m so sorry. S doesn’t know, does she?”
Kelly mopped up her tears with the tail of Sam’s shirt and then looked up at him. “That they called? No, she doesn’t know.”
“You weren’t planning to tell me either, were you?”
“What would be the point? You get upset; Sar gets upset. We end up giving them what they want. They’ll leave me alone – they always do.”
Sam saw something in Kelly’s expression that made him uneasy. “You didn’t let the restraining order lapse, did you?”
Kelly nodded, trying not to make eye contact with him.
“God damn it, Kel. You can’t do that – you know you can’t. How are we supposed to protect you if you do that?”
“I was busy and I forgot about it.” Kelly felt the restraining order was overkill, but she had agreed to obtain it because it put Sam’s mind at ease.
“We’ll go to the courthouse tomorrow and get it reinstated, but don’t let this happen again. What if they’d come here?”
“You’re playing with fire – you know they’re dangerous. You, of all people, know it. You aren’t a stupid woman Kel; I just don’t get why you can’t see the problem here.”
“I’m not a kid anymore –“
“No, but you’re thinking about having one, and you can’t let them anywhere near our child – do you understand me?”
“No. Whatever you’re thinking, forget it. One small child plus your parents is a recipe for disaster, and I know you know that. You have to promise me that you aren’t going to do anything stupid, or I won’t do this.”
“Don’t ‘Sam’ me, Kel. I won’t put *another* child in danger. One was more than enough. If you won’t promise me, we can’t do this. Call it *my* condition on this project of ours.”
Kelly looked into her best friend’s serious face. “I can promise you – my parents will never get within two hundred yards of your child. I swear it, Sam.”
“Right. Our child.” Even though Sam could still see apprehension in her eyes, he saw a small glimmer of something else. It faded quickly, and he saw confusion overtake all other emotions. “I know you’re right, Sam. I just – I don’t understand what’s wrong with me.”
“There’s nothing wrong with you – it’s them.” Sam wanted to distract her from this line of thought. All the reassurance in the world couldn’t convince her that she had done nothing to deserve what they had done to her. “How much?”
Kelly shook her head, trying to figure out where Sam was going now. “How much what?”
“How much did they want this time?”
“A couple million.” Kelly shrugged off the sum like it was nothing. “They said I owed it to them.”
“Bullshit. You don’t owe them a dime – let alone two million dollars. Did they tell you what you’d get in return?”
“They said that they’d leave me alone, and that they wouldn’t go to the press.”
“What could they go to the press about?”
“Hell if I know. You, maybe? I think you’re the only ‘secret’ I have that I’d be willing to pay to have kept.”
“Then don’t give them the money. If it’s me, you aren’t paying them to keep that secret. No one ever asked.”
“I wasn’t planning to give them anything, Sam. I’m just not *that* embarrassing.”
“Do you know where they are?”
“I didn’t ask.”
“So what about letting me find them? I want to know where they are – to keep you *and* the baby safe.”
“Then what did we hire Jake for?” Sam had convinced her several years before that she had to have what he called personal security. While he had been visiting, he had vetted the applications and had chosen Jake. Kelly had long since accepted Jake as part of her “family”, but she liked to haul out his official status when Sam started to tread too close to the line between protective best friend and security person.
Sam blushed and admitted defeat. “Fine. Just make sure you keep Jake up to date. That means you need to tell him when you hear from them.”
“I will, Sam. For you, I will. So what are we going to do?”
“About the baby thing and Sarah and you and, well, everything.” Kelly made a helpless gesture with her hands.
“Sarah and I will be fine, just like we always are. As for the baby thing, I’ll take care of my part while I’m here. When you’re ready, you can do your part. I’ll trust your judgment.”
“Yeah. Just do it because it feels right, not because it’s what somebody else wants, okay?”
Sam offered her one of the bottles of root beer. “So we’re agreed?”
Kelly laughed and took the bottle he offered. They could have changed to beer years ago, but they never had. “We’re agreed.” They clinked bottles and swallowed quickly.
Kelly shifted on the couch so that she was lounging. “Should we talk about Josh, now or do you want to wait for Sarah?”
“You said she wanted to have a say. Though what she can say that you haven’t, I have no idea.”
“I’m sure it’ll be interesting, whatever it is.”
“Yeah, I’m sure. Speaking of, we could go up to the house,” Sam offered.
“I’m not going up to the house now, Sam. You can if you want, but Sar is sleeping, so there’s no point for me to right now.”
“Far be it from me to tell you how to run your relationship, but don’t you think it would be a good sign if you were there when she wakes up?”
“Relationship advice from you, Sammy? I don’t think you know enough about them to be offering me advice.”
“Perhaps not. But I know you, and I know her. You’ll both be a lot happier tomorrow if you make up tonight.”
“I’d have to wake her up.”
“You don’t honestly think she’s sleeping, do you? I don’t sleep when I piss you off; I can’t imagine it’s any better for her.”
“Will it make you happy if we go back?”
“Okay then – I’m doing it ‘cause it’ll make you happy, not ‘cause I think your theory has any merit whatsoever.”
“Whatever, beautiful.” Sam wasn’t going to question the rationale so long as she did what he wanted her to do this time. ****
Sam was waiting at the kitchen table when Sarah came down the next morning. He had made coffee and set out the juice.
Sarah picked up the coffee mug and sniffed appreciatively before taking a sip. “I should thank you –“
You don’t have to – it’s just coffee.”
“That’s not what I meant, Sam. I know you got her to come back last night.” Sarah took in Sam’s bemused expression. “She usually doesn’t. It’s not easy living with her sometimes.”
“I think you just won the prize for understatement of the year.” Sam debated saying more but decided that he shouldn’t.
“So are you fixing me breakfast or do you only make coffee?”
“I can toast you a bagel, if you’d like.” Sam proceeded to do just that, making Sarah laugh.
“We’ve been together for almost fourteen years, and I still can’t reach her like you can. Am I ever going to be able to?” The frustration Sarah felt was apparent in her voice.
Sam handed Sarah a plate with a perfectly toasted bagel and refreshed both coffee mugs before answering her question. “I can’t even reach her sometimes, S. I don’t know what to tell you. If you wanted an easy relationship, she wasn’t the person to pick. And if you’ll remember I told you that *before* I introduced you to her in the first place.”
“I remember. I just – why was she so on edge last night?”
“I can’t tell you. You have to ask her, or wait for her to tell you. She will when she’s ready.”
Sarah took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I knew you were going to say that, but I had to try. I take it you’re heading in with me today.”
“Yeah, but I’m going to need to follow you because Kel and I have stuff to deal with today too.”
“And we have another conversation this evening; we really ought to finish the first one, too. Do you think we can get through them without anyone running out of the room?”
“Unless I run screaming into the night – yeah, I think I can guarantee Kel won’t walk out this time.” Sam cocked his head to one side as he heard music, loud music, starting upstairs. “She’s skipping breakfast?”
“She’s still upset with me, I guess.” Sarah put her dishes in the sink and started collecting her gear for the day. “I’m heading out. You with me?”
“Sure.” Sam had a fairly good idea what his specific job was for the next couple of hours and figured by taking a separate car he wouldn’t have to hear it in explicit detail all the way to the hospital. ****
When Sam returned the music wasn’t playing, but he wasn’t sure what that meant. Kelly’s car was in the garage, so he knew she hadn’t gone far.
“How’ve you been, Sam?” A familiar voice boomed across the kitchen into the living room where Sam was standing.
“Fine, Jake. I’m just fine. What brings you here?”
“Kelly said you wanted to speak to me, so here I am.”
“She did?” When Jake confirmed the statement, Sam asked, “Where is she anyway?”
“She cleared out. Took the van to move some canvases. Said to tell you she’d be awhile so you and I could have our conversation.”
Sam frowned. “I’m not sure exactly what she’s got in mind. Can you give me a clue?”
“I got the feeling she thinks you have issues with the way I’m handling security here. If you do have complaints, I need to know what they are so we can find a way to fix them.”
“Did she tell you that she’s heard from her parents again?”
“No – she did not.”
“That’s the problem.”
“I can’t be responsible for what she doesn’t tell me.”
“Remember what we talked about when I hired you?”
“Refresh my memory.”
“She’s stubborn as hell. She let me hire you because it gave *me* peace of mind. She doesn’t believe that she needs protection.”
“I’ve gotten that impression.”
“You have to be able to anticipate her. You can’t wait for her to tell you what’s going on. You have to ask her direct questions. Did you know she let the restraining order lapse?”
“No, I didn’t know.”
“She and I are going to get it reinstated today, but you need to pay more attention to stuff like this. She doesn’t, so we have to.”
“Sorry, Sam. I don’t have an excuse. She convinces me that things are okay even when apparently they aren’t.”
“She does it to me too. Don’t worry about what’s passed; just focus on trying to outsmart her from now on.” Jake groaned. “I know, man. It’s a tall order. Do the best you can. I’ll talk to her again; see if I can convince her to go easier on you.”
“Thanks, Sam. I’d appreciate it.” Jake thought for a few minutes, and then asked, “Why don’t we walk the property and I’ll tell you about my ideas for increasing security? She won’t listen to me, but she’ll write the check if you ask her to.”
Sam nodded in agreement and the two men left the house with Jake gesturing and talking earnestly, while Sam took notes and offered other options from things he’d learned watching the Secret Service. ****
Kelly returned to a suspiciously quiet house. She had expected that Sam would leave again when he found she wasn’t home. She had actually expected him to show up at the warehouse; he knew where it was. But his rental was outside, so she knew he had to be around somewhere and she also knew that Jake wouldn’t leave without his van.
“Sam? Jake? Anybody?”
Kelly walked out behind the house and found Sam and Jake sitting at the picnic table poring over something that looked suspiciously like the blueprints for her house. “What are you boys doing?”
Sam grinned at her. “What do you think we’re doing?”
“Something I’m not going to like.”
“I was just explaining the new perimeter security system that I’d like to install on the property.”
“The place is already better guarded than Fort Knox, Jake. I don’t need more security stuff to deal with. I can’t remember the codes to half of this stuff as it is.”
Jake returned Kelly’s glare with a fearsome one of his own. Sam watched the two of them face off before speaking. “Kel – the damned house is made out of glass. There isn’t a solid exterior wall here at all. Perimeter security is your best defense.”
“Defense from what? The way you two talk, I keep thinking that I’m going to be invaded or something.”
Sam rolled his eyes at her, but Jake picked up the conversation before he could say anything. “If you don’t want to protect yourself, think about Sarah and this kid you’ve been talking about. Breaking into this house would be easy – perimeter security will make it harder to do that.”
“He’s got an excellent plan here. It makes sense to do it now – the upheaval to your life will be minimal. Hell, come stay with me if you don’t want to be here while they put in the system. It needs to be done, and I’ll feel better if you put in the system.” Sam knew that last statement would get her to do it even if she disagreed with everything else he said.
“Yup. I’m sure. We’ll make this place as secure as the White House and then I won’t have to worry about you, Sarah, or the baby.”
“You’ll worry anyway, Sammy, but I’ll write the check.”
Jake rolled up the blueprints and started to head into the house.
“Hey, Jake?” Kelly called as he was walking away.
“Sam and I have some stuff to do like go to the warehouse. Would you mind making dinner before you leave? Sam’s leaving tomorrow and I want Sarah’s undivided attention tonight.”
“There’s stuff in the fridge?”
“I’ll take care of it.” Jake was amused by the fact that Sam would even allow the two women the opportunity to guide or dissect, depending upon which was speaking, his life. He’d never seen a relationship quite like this in his life, but it seemed to work for all of them – a little less so for Sarah, maybe -- so he didn’t question it. ****
When Sarah came in, she knew that she had been spared kitchen duty for the evening, but she stopped in before going upstairs to shake off her day.
“Smells good. What did you make?”
“A vegetable strudel. When the other two get here, I’ve got some fish ready to grill. I’ll cook that and then get out of your kitchen and your house.”
“So where are they?”
“Kelly took Sam to the warehouse. I wasn’t clear about the purpose of the visit, but she was determined.”
Sarah nodded thoughtfully. “She has a show coming up. Probably wanted to see if he wanted any of the canvases himself before she puts them up for sale. Since you have things under control here, I’m going to go grab a shower before the trouble twins get back.”
“Do they know you call them that?”
“What do you think?” Sarah winked at Jake and left the room with his laughter following her up the stairs.
By the time Kelly and Sam returned, Sarah had finished her shower, done some paperwork she’d brought home from the hospital, and even made some phone calls. Sarah looked up when she heard Kelly laughing in the hallway. Good. Whatever she and Sam had done today had lifted the dark mood from last night.
“Sar – where are you?” She heard Kelly calling and it sounded like she actually wanted to see her. Sarah pushed her chair back from her desk and wandered out to find Sam and Kelly. “
What’s up, love?” “
I just wanted to let you know that Sam and I were back, and we’re ready to talk whenever you are.”
Sarah raised an eyebrow. “You’re ready are you, Sam?”
Sam rolled his eyes and flashed a resigned grin. “What she said.”
“You two are in high spirits. What have you been doing?”
Sam could see Kelly crossing her fingers behind her back and knew that she wasn’t going to tell Sarah what they had really been doing. “I’ve been whipping his butt in video games all afternoon.”
“Try again. You don’t like video games, remember?”
Kelly flushed with embarrassment at being found out so easily. “Fine. We were doing stupid legal stuff and then we went to the beach and relaxed.”
“Sounds more reasonable.” She looked to Sam and studied his face intently. “Is that everything, Sam?”
“Yeah, so what smells so good?” Sam knew Sarah hadn’t cooked it, but he was certain she’d checked the kitchen situation when she came in.
“Jake’s been cooking again.” Sarah turned to Sam. “We need to talk about that sometime too, Sam.”
Sam nodded. “As I understand it, tonight’s agenda is: 1) finish the baby discussion; 2) talk about some security stuff; and, 3) talk about Sarah’s thing with Jake.”
“Not quite, Sammy, but close. You’ve forgotten we need to talk about Josh.”
Sam winked at Sarah before turning fully toward Kelly. “Given that you forgot you don’t like video games when you were attempting to create a cover story, I thought I stood a reasonable chance of slipping that past you.”
“Better luck next time.”
Sam trailed behind Kelly and Sarah as they headed into the kitchen. Jake was just pulling the fish off the grill and inclined his head in Sam’s general direction. Sam gave him a signal to let him know that things were back in order again.
“Okay, you’ve got fish; you’ve got veggies; dessert’s in the fridge. Someone here will clean up, right?” Jake rinsed off his hands while he was speaking and after seeing a nod from Sarah left before he could get roped into the discussion or worse.
While they were eating dinner, Sam decided they might as well get the easy conversational subjects out of the way. “S, Jake’s going to supervise crews putting in perimeter security over the next couple of weeks.”
Sarah arched an eyebrow and shot an inquiring look at Kelly.
“Yeah, I agreed to it. Sam can be persuasive when he wants to be.”
“Okay, so how are you going to work when there’s upheaval around here?”
“I haven’t decided yet. Maybe I’ll take a break.”
“I see.” Sarah didn’t believe that for a second.
Sam realized they were heading into dangerous ground again, so he thought a change of subject might be in order. “Um, S. What did you want to talk to me about regarding Jake?”
“What exactly are his responsibilities?”
“Why are you asking me? He works for Kel and for you.”
“You hired him.”
“True. He’s supposed to provide security and do some general stuff for Kel. Basically do what she needs when she needs it done.”
“I don’t think we’re paying him enough. He’s cooking two or three times a week and doing so much non-security work for Kel that I honestly think he’s being overworked.”
“It’s her money.” Sam motioned to Kelly, who was watching this conversation develop without saying anything.
“I know that, but you write the contract. I’m suggesting you make sure he gets paid more when the new one gets written.”
“And she can’t just give him a raise now because . . .”
“Well, she can, but I don’t know if she will. But if you write it into the contract, she’ll sign it.”
Kelly rolled her eyes. She was a sucker for Sam, but she really wasn’t as easily persuadable as Sarah seemed to think. “She’s sitting here listening to this, and she’s certainly thankful that you two don’t usually include her in these discussions. What do you think would be fair, Sar?”
“Seriously? Do you have any idea how much I pay him now?”
“He puts up with you. Double.”
“How about a compromise? Raise it by half.”
“Done.” Kelly grinned as she realized that perhaps Sarah was right and she really was that easily persuaded by Sam. “Next subject.”
“I think we’ve exhausted the topics on our list that can be discussed over dinner.”
“Oh, I don’t know, I think we can finish the baby discussion too. I don’t know if he told you, but Sam went with me today and took care of his part.”
“He mentioned that he was going to last night. We also talked about his conditions and mine, but I still don’t know what yours are.”
“Sam has conditions?”
“I have two. Kel waits until she’s ready to do this; she doesn’t dive in head first because either you or I are ready before she is. The other one has to do with her parents, restraining orders, and keeping all of you safe.”
“Okay, what’s going on that I don’t know about?”
“Sam is making a big deal out of nothing.”
“Time out – both of you.” Sarah once again adopted the role of referee between her lover and her lover’s best friend. “Sam, yes or no, is the situation that she thinks you’re blowing out of proportion now handled to your satisfaction?”
“Kelly, can you live within the boundaries that Sam is asking you to? Full time – and no compromising on the terms once they’re set?”
“Yeah, I guess. Some of this only applies when the baby’s with me, right?”
“You know I’d like it if you would do what I’m asking all the time, but I know you can’t do that. So, yeah, the extra stuff when you have the baby with you. When you don’t want to deal with that, let S keep the baby or let my parents.”
Kelly gave Sam a strange look, and then nodded.
Kelly shook her head and whatever she’d been thinking was erased from her face. “It’s nothing. If you guys will excuse me, I have a couple of things I need to do, and then we can have the other parts of these conversations.”
Before either of them could agree or disagree, Kelly was out of the room.
“Well, that was abrupt. Something I said?”
“You know how she gets sometimes.”
“Yeah.” Sam stared thoughtfully at the food still on Kelly’s plate. She wasn’t eating much these days, and that was just one more reason to worry about her. “Does she do that often?”
“What? Not eat? Not too often. When she’s distracted, which she absolutely is tonight, she forgets to, but once we get this over with, she’ll eat.” Sarah knew that what was bothering Kelly had a great deal more to do with something she had accidentally discovered, but there was no way she was going to explain *that* to Sam.
When it was clear that neither of them were going to eat anymore either, Sarah said, “Sam, could you clear up? I want to go check on her.”
Sam nodded and started cleaning up as Sarah ran up the stairs to find Kelly. It wasn’t a long search -- as Sarah had suspected, Kelly had retreated to their room, the one place Sam wouldn’t enter without a clearly expressed invitation. Kelly was sitting on the edge of the bed with her head in her hands.
Sarah crossed the room quietly and put a comforting hand on Kelly’s shoulder. “I know this is driving you crazy, but you have to come downstairs.”
“How can I sit there and listen to him talk about his parents and not say anything?”
“You don’t know what was really going on. Until you talk to his Dad, you know you shouldn’t say anything. What if you’re wrong?”
“The woman was all over him, Sar. I’m not wrong about this.”
“I agree the evidence is overwhelming, but it’s circumstantial. Until you can talk to Mr. Seaborn, you need to wait.”
“He’s avoiding me.”
“And I know you think that proves your theory, but he could just be busy right now. You need to focus on what we’re trying to do here tonight and not worry about future things, okay?”
“I don’t like keeping something like this from him.” Kelly nodded her head in the general direction of the kitchen where she’d left Sam.
“I know you don’t, but if you say something now when you’re not really sure what’s happening, you’ll only make things worse.”
Kelly rolled her eyes and nodded.
“Sure. This isn’t going to be fun, is it?”
“Someone has to inject a realistic point of view into this. That won’t be you, so it has to be me.”
“But they’re so cute together.”
“Be that as it may –“ Sarah stopped when Kelly held up a hand.
“I only want to sit through this once. Let’s go downstairs already.” Kelly was out of the room so quickly that Sarah practically had to run to keep up.
Sam had settled in the living room when Kelly came into the room. She crossed quickly and settled into the seat next to him.
Kelly whispered into his ear as Sarah entered the room. “Hang on to your seat, Seaborn. This is going to be a bumpy ride.”
Sarah saw Sam and Kelly share a quiet laugh. **It’s like dealing with co-conspirators all the time,** “So where were we?”
Sam grinned. “You were going to share your conditions on this project with us, S. And then, I believe, we were moving on to dissecting my life.”
Sarah nodded. “I really have given this whole thing a lot of thought. I’ll admit that it’s a peculiar arrangement, in that most sperm donors aren’t known, and when they are, they usually aren’t encouraged to be involved in the child’s life. However, I think the only condition I’m going to place is that you follow through.”
“If you say you’re going to do something, then you damned well need to show up and do it. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.”
“I can do that.”
“Make sure you do, Sam.” A look passed between Sarah and Kelly that clearly meant that Kelly felt enough had been said. There had been a few times, through the years, that Sam had been unreliable, but Kelly didn’t believe that he would ever knowingly or willingly let down a child.
“So that’s done? Everyone satisfied?” Both women nodded in answer to Sam’s questions. “Let’s get on with the other now. I can’t imagine that you have anything to add, Kel, but if you do, feel free.”
“I think, for now, this is Sar’s show.”
“Right. I have concerns.”
“About who?” “About what?” Kelly and Sam asked the questions simultaneously and Sarah wasn’t sure who had asked which question.
“I’ve talked with Josh on the phone many times, and I’ve met him once. I – I think you’re going to get hurt, Sam.”
“Josh wouldn’t hurt me.”
“I’m glad you feel confident about that, Sam, because I don’t. He’s too focused on himself and what works for him to notice anyone else. Think for a minute about the pills in LA. He called here to find out what it was about, and it wasn’t to help you, and both of you know it.”
“But that was an isolated incident.”
“Was it, Sam? Or does he tend to throw you out in front when things are getting messy and he wants to see which way the wind is blowing?”
Sam twisted in his seat as he realized how close to the mark Sarah had come. “Okay, so he *can* be like that sometimes. But Kel wouldn’t tolerate him if that was all there was to him.”
Sarah met his gaze steadily. “I know that, Sam. But do you want to put your life in the hands of someone who will, however occasionally, use you as a shield against whatever shit is coming his way? And what if he doesn’t feel the way you feel? What is he going to do with the information you will have handed him?”
“I don’t know, S. I don’t know what he might do, but isn’t it worth the risk?”
“Let’s look at the most unpleasant possibility for a moment. You tell him and the feeling isn’t returned. He then finds an excuse to get you fired, or makes life so uncomfortable for you that you have to quit. What will you do then?”
“Be thankful I’ve passed the bar in California?” Sam paused and then added, “So you’re saying I shouldn’t do this?”
“I’m not saying that, Sam. I wouldn’t say that, but I want to make sure you’ve thought through this and you don’t rush in blindly.”
“I’ve known him for ten years, S. How much longer do I have to know him before you think I’d have enough information? Seriously? How much did you need?”
“I don’t think you really know him, Sam. I don’t think you will know him until or unless you get more involved with him, but then it will be too late if his true colors are what I think they are rather than what you and Kelly think they are. What happens then?”
“I guess I come home. But you didn’t answer my question, S. How much information did you need?”
“Okay, you have a point. I guess the difference is if Kel and I didn’t work, I wouldn’t have had to quit my job, but I think you’d have to. I don’t see another option.”
Kelly shifted in her seat. “Can I jump in here?”
“Sure.” Sam wasn’t sure he was prepared to hear Kelly’s defense of Josh, but he knew she wouldn’t allow his reluctance to deter her.
“Josh isn’t a saint – in fact, he’s pretty much a jackass sometimes -- but, really, who is?” Sarah shrugged, which suggested to Kelly that she could keep talking. “I guess my point is, if Sam thinks he can deal with Josh in all his moods, maybe he should. He’s happier, Sar. Isn’t *that* supposed to be the point?”
“But shouldn’t he be happier in the long run instead of in the short run? He’s not going to have the stable, steady relationship he’s looking for with Josh and you know that.”
“I don’t know if I do know that. Josh has never been in a relationship that was remotely stable, so we don’t know how he’d react were he to find himself in one.”
“I don’t think he can handle it, but I also don’t know him as well as the two of you do.”
“But what if Sam wants to try anyway?”
“Then he should. I’m not saying he shouldn’t try it; I’m just saying he should think it through carefully.”
“And if I think it through *again*, and I decide that I want to pursue this, you’ll what?”
“I’ll be right behind you. And if it goes bust, I promise I won’t say I told you so when you move into my house.”
“Whatever, Kel. You both knew what I meant.”
Kelly smiled and winked at Sam. Sarah had a need to establish her place in the house and in Kelly’s life. Sometimes she overcompensated, but mostly it made Kelly happy when Sarah would refer to things as hers.
Sam looked expectantly at both women. When neither seemed to have anything else to add, he stretched out and sighed. “So does this mean we’re done?”
“Yeah, Sammy, we’re done. It wasn’t too bad, was it?”
“It could have been worse, I suppose.”
“What time’s your flight?”
“In a rush to get rid of me, S?”
“Just don’t want you to miss it is all. And, just to confirm, Kel’s going to be with you when the installation is going on, correct?”
“I assume so.” Sam looked to Kelly for confirmation. She shrugged, which he took to mean that would be her preference. “Okay, so I’ve got to pack up my stuff and get out of here. I’ll miss you guys.”
Sam pushed up from the couch to get organized. Kelly followed him out of the room and up the stairs. He let her follow until they reached his room, and then he turned to arch an eyebrow at her.
“I just wanted to thank you for . . . everything. You’re the best, Sam.”
“At least for today, anyway.” Kelly giggled in acknowledgement of the truth of his statement. He would mess up again, and she would get mad, but that was part of the way they were. “Call me a cab?”
“I’ll drive you.”
“No. You’ll get on the plane with me just like last time.”
“Last time we were eighteen, Sam.”
“True, but you haven’t changed *that* much.” Sam pulled Kelly into a hug. “I love you. Don’t forget that.”
“I won’t. Now go before I decide not to let you leave.”
“You can’t really decide that, you know.”
“Okay, I’m out of here. See you soon, beautiful.”
“Absolutely, sweetheart. Go fight the good fight.”
“Done.” Sam walked out of the room, bag slung over his shoulder, without a backward glance. Sarah had already called the cab and it was waiting for him when he got downstairs. “You’re always a step ahead, S. I love that about you. Take care of our girl.”
“I always am and I always do, Sam. You take care of yourself.” Sarah gave Sam a warm hug and then held the door open for him. *****2003*****
Josh’s brow had furrowed as he listened to this explanation. “So, you decided almost a year before she got pregnant to do this? You never said a word about it.”
“Why would I? We were friends then, Josh. Just friends. And this was a seriously private issue.”
“Well, yeah, but when we got together why didn’t you say something then?”
“You were still seeing a shrink because of your Christmas meltdown, I just didn’t see how this could have been a good thing to tell you.”
“Weren’t you excited? Didn’t you want to tell anyone?”
“Excited? I guess. I was really kind of outside of the whole thing. I didn’t get excited until I held her for the first time. Truth, though, I was terrified. She was so small and I was so far away. I almost didn’t come back.”
“I can believe it. And you never told me that Sarah didn’t like me.”
“She liked you just fine. She didn’t trust you not to hurt me. There’s a difference.”
“You proved her wrong. She was happy that you had, you know.”
“I guess.” Another random thought crossed Josh’s mind. “I can’t understand how you hid Carrie for two years. I still can’t believe that you did it.”
“I did what I had to do. We were protecting Carrie.”
“From you – kind of. From the press? From Kelly’s parents? Without question. If Sarah had been right about you, the risk to Carrie was too huge. I wouldn’t take that chance. I couldn’t. She’s my daughter – she takes precedence over everything else. Can you understand that?”
“Think about it this way, Josh. The only reason Toby and CJ took it well when she did come was because they had no choice. If Kel hadn’t died and I had just announced that I had just had a child with Kelly, they would have come unhinged because of who her mother was. There would have been no other way for them because of who she was.”
“Okay, yeah. But to not tell me –“
“You couldn’t have handled it. You know it and I know it.”
“I handled it well when she arrived, didn’t I?”
“Again, you didn’t have a choice.”
“I could have freaked out.”
“You could have, but Carrie’s too cute. You didn’t stand a chance against her, Josh.”
Josh took Sam’s hand in his and patted it gently. “She’s going to be serious trouble when she’s a teenager, isn’t she?”
Sam sighed. “Like mother, like daughter.”
“Now that’s what I’m afraid of.” Josh laughed.
“Anyone with half a brain would be, Josh.”
Both of them allowed their thoughts to drift to the little girl sleeping upstairs and who she would be as she got older. There was promise of great things spiked with an intense personality. She would be a challenge; there was no doubt about it
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