Title: Nine Hours After Midnight
Author: Simba
e-mail: petacollins7878@hotmail.com
Archive: Yes to Emerald's Grotto. Anyone else wishing to archive please ask, thank you.
Rating: PG-13. (Language)
Summary: An attack has results for Sam that no one could've seen coming
Series/Sequel: This is the sequel to Fifteen Minutes After Midnight. (Although, you'll still be able to understand this one even if you haven't read that one.)
Disclaimer: Aaron Sorkin created these characters. I don't own them and make no profit whatsoever.
Spoilers: References to Take This Sabbath Day.
Notes: Big thanks to Emerald for beta-ing this baby and to Ankh for being a sounding board for my ideas.
Also, thank you to everyone who has emailed me showing their interest in this story, I'm only sorry I couldn't get it out sooner for you guys. <G>

Nine Hours After Midnight by Simba

Part One:

Sam trotted down his apartment steps stifling a yawn. He’d spent most of Sunday night talking with Josh and now he was paying for it. He had left some files in his apartment which he needed and Toby had sent him home to get them. But first he’d had to listen to a fifteen-minute lecture about why he shouldn’t pull all nighters. Like Toby was one to talk. Sam had tuned Toby out halfway through, realising that his boss had just needed to vent a little. Josh had shot him a grin in the middle of Toby’s rant and Sam had returned the grin. His partner in crime, Josh, was his best friend. Sam pulled out his sunglasses, the daylight feeling a little harsh on his sensitive eyes. He moved towards his car, feeling his phone beginning to vibrate and ring inside his suit coat pocket. He answered it distractedly, a vague sense of disquiet settling in his stomach, but he didn’t know why. “Sam Seaborn.”

“Sam, buddy, how are you? Ears still ringing from Toby’s lecture? Feel about five now?”

Josh.

Sam smiled slightly, his eyes darting about his street. “Nah, Toby was just venting…”

“Well, that’s awfully big of you…” Josh drawled.

Sam tuned out the rest of what Josh said, he suddenly had a bad feeling. Sam felt himself propelled forward as a body slammed into him, knocking him to the ground, his phone skidded out of his grasp. He felt himself flipped over and his eyes widened, he remembered this guy, he was one of the men who had hassled Zoey when they had gone to that bar a few weeks ago. “What do you want?”

The guy smiled thinly. “Oh, you know, faggot.”

Sam swallowed hard, his body aching from where he had hit the ground. The youth looked slightly crazed. The name came to him, John Franks. “Well, that’s an inventive come back,” Sam fired back.

“You, nancy boy, you think you’re so good,” Franks replied, bending to punch him. “I’m here to make you understand.”

Sam scrambled out of reach, kicking Franks hard in the stomach. Franks grunted in pain, but reached for him again. Sam rolled away, standing, he held out his hands out, trying to calm Franks down. “Understand what? What are you doing outside my apartment?” Sam prayed that Josh was still on the cell and that he could hear the conversation with Franks. He didn’t know if the impact with the ground had broken the phone or not. “Understand what?” he repeated.

Franks looked at him incredulously. “That it’s you’re fault that I’m gonna jail, you could’ve done something.”

Sam tried not to laugh at the absurdity of the situation. This was just too surreal. “You assault the President’s daughter and you think you’ll get leniency? That’s idiotic, but then again, having seen your high school transcripts, you aren’t known for being bright, are you?.” He backed away from Franks, trying to figure a way out of this situation. He thought he could hear sirens in the distance. God he hoped they were coming here.

“You could’ve done something,” Franks surged forward and Sam ducked the first punch, but not the second one. Sam kicked out with his right leg, knocking Franks’ feet from underneath him. Franks fell hard, his head cracking back onto the pavement. Sam moved for his cell phone, he could hear Josh yelling for him.

“Josh,” he gasped, “outside apartment.”

“Sam! Help’s on the way,” Josh said, his voice sounding panicked.

Sam let out a sigh of relief. “It’s John Franks, Josh. I think..” Sam paused, hearing the sirens approach. Help was coming, thank god. Franks was beginning to stir. Sam pulled the phone away from his ear. “John, look, I’m sure we can work this out.”

Franks slowly rose to his feet. The sirens were getting very loud now. Sam prayed they would get here in time. “What’s to work out?” Franks hissed and then ran at him. Sam darted to the right, but Franks grabbed him, pushing him forward. Sam tried to avoid hitting the metal banister that bordered the staircase to his apartment building, but it was useless, he hit the back of his head hard. The cell phone dropped from nerveless fingers. It bounced down the staircase stopping at the bottom. The last thing Sam saw, as consciousness faded, was blue lights swirling behind Franks.

~~~~~~

Josh dropped the phone down on to his desk. “Oh my god.”

Donna had already run to Leo’s office, after his frantic call for her to get Leo and to call the police. He had listened helplessly as his best friend had been assaulted. God. Just last night he had comforted Sam about the Cruz appeal and they had talked all night. Josh slumped down in his chair, what had gone wrong?

He came to himself five minutes later when CJ shook his shoulder roughly. “Josh?! It’s a little early to be sleeping on the job, isn’t it? You know, I didn’t think life here was that boring.” She gave a light laugh.

When had she entered? Shaking his head, Josh stared at her in disbelief. “I don’t know. I think Sam’s hurt.”

“What!”

Leo came barging in at that moment. “Okay, the police are on the scene now.”

“Sam?” He’d heard the sickening sound of an impact and then the phone went dead. He could still hear the fear in Sam’s voice. When he had first heard Sam’s muffled grunt of pain, Josh had known something was wrong. Josh shook his head, trying to focus, it had all happened so fast. Sam had been fine, tired, but fine. Now he didn’t know how Sam was. “Is he-“ Josh couldn’t even finish the sentence.

Leo’s face turned grave. “He’s heading to G.W. He’s unconsciousness.”

Josh was moving before Leo even finished speaking. “I have to get there.”

Leo didn’t argue with him, just nodded. “CJ, I’m sorry, you’re going to need to stay here and brief the press.”

Josh felt a pang of sympathy for CJ not being able to come with him. “Does Toby know?”

Leo shook his head. “No, he’s got that meeting with Hutchison. I’m on my way to tell him now and then I have to inform the President. Does anyone know who this Franks guy is?”

Josh nodded slowly, as he pulled on his overcoat. “He was one of the guys who hassled us at the bar a few weeks ago.”

CJ sucked in a deep breath. Leo’s expression darkened. Josh shrugged. “I think he blamed us for getting arrested.”

“But it wasn’t Sam’s fault,” CJ protested.

Josh sighed. “Yeah, well, that’s not what Franks thinks, obviously.” He moved past them. “I’ll call as soon as I know anything.”

“See that you do,” Leo ordered, beckoning CJ to come with him. Josh stared after them as they walked to the Oval Office and shook his head. This couldn’t be happening. Sam had been fine.

~~~~~

Josh thought it was very probable that he had broken every speed limit to get to G.W. in twenty minutes. It still felt like it had taken too long. He parked his car in a no parking zone and thanked god that he had a sticker on his car that meant that he could do that. He burst through the emergency doors and ran to the front desk. “Josh Lyman. I’m here about Sam Seaborn.”

The nurse looked at him, taking in his harried appearance, and gave him a compassionate look. “One moment.”

She walked away and began talking to a doctor on the other side. Josh watched them intently, trying to see by the body language how serious it was. Frustratingly, Josh couldn’t pick up anything. The doctor nodded at the nurse and then walked over to Josh.

“I’m Doctor Lewis.” Lewis smiled at him reassuringly, Josh didn’t smile back.

“How is he?” Josh asked, he needed to see Sam.

“Mr Seaborn’s been taken to get an MRI and a head CT.”

Josh felt his breath leave his chest in a gasp. “An MRI, is that bad?”

Lewis patted him gently on the arm and pulled him into the Doctor’s room. Josh wondered briefly if they knew who he was and who Sam was and that was why they were getting special treatment. “I’m not sure if I told you, but I’m a neurosurgeon. A MRI isn’t bad, Mr Lyman. Mr Seaborn took quite a severe knock on the head. We need to check for inter cranial swelling.”

Josh sank down into a sofa, feeling his legs go weak. Neurosurgeon? Why would Sam need one? “But he’s okay? Right?”

Lewis sat down next to him. “Right now, Mr Seaborn is unresponsive to stimuli. I’m sorry, Mr Lyman, he’s in a coma.”

Coma, oh… oh god. Josh put his head in his hands. Not Sam, this couldn’t be happening to Sam. “Can I see him?” Josh whispered, looking up at the doctor.

Lewis nodded. “Absolutely, once we get him settled in a more private room.” Lewis rose, Josh watched him go. Leaning back in the sofa, he stared up at the ceiling in disbelief. Everything had been fine three hours ago, now, Sam was in a coma. Josh shivered, trying to pull his raw emotions together. He needed to be strong for Sam. Pulling out his cell phone, he called the White House.

Several minutes later, after a brief conversation with Leo, Josh sat hunched over, staring blindly at the floor. There was so much still that Sam had do with his life. This couldn’t be happening. Josh scrubbed his hand over his face, Sam had to be okay. He hadn’t told him that he loved him. Josh looked around startled, wondering if he had said that out loud. There was no one around, so Josh relaxed and tried to figure out what he was thinking. Just last night, he had been joking with Sam about his attraction to Joey Lucas. But this…. His feelings for Sam were deeper than just attraction. Sam had seen him through so much; his father’s cancer, his father’s death. Josh fought back emotion as he remembered Sam greeting him at the airport after he had returned to the campaign. Sam had gotten him drunk and allowed him to cry on his shoulder.

When had this happened?

It had been so gradual that he hadn’t realised it. Josh knew that Sam had experimented in college, and they had actually kissed once or twice, in a game of truth and dare, back when he’d only known Sam a few months. Josh remembered liking it a lot.

But the friendship had developed and neither had wanted to break the status quo. At least Josh hadn’t. Now… oh god. Please let Sam be okay. Please let him be…. No, Sam was just sleeping.

Closing his eyes, Josh began to pray.

~~~~~~

Leo hung up his phone and strode into the Oval Office. Three expectant faces looked towards him. This was going to be hard, Leo thought. There were times when Leo McGarry hated his job, today was one of those days. He coughed, clearing his throat. “That was Josh.”

“Well, Leo.” President Bartlet asked eagerly, “What’s happened? How is he?”

There was no easy way to break this news to these people, it was best to be blunt. “Sam’s in a coma.”

Leo watched the varying reactions with morbid curiosity. CJ closed her eyes and bit her lip. Toby did much the same, sinking down into one of the ornately designed sofas. The President’s face turned very grave. “Dear God,” Bartlet murmured, “How did this happen, Leo?”

“Sir, I’m not…”

“How did we not see this coming?” Bartlet continued as if he hadn’t heard Leo’s interruption. “Why did this happen?”

“Sir, you can’t know when something like this –“ Leo trailed off, feeling as if the words were woefully inadequate. “I’m sure Sam..” Leo began again, only to stop when he remembered his argument with Sam the day before. 'You know Leo, there are times that I feel that we are absolutely nowhere.' Leo repressed a shudder, this was definitely one of those times that they were nowhere. It was a tragedy. He gave himself a mental shake, shrugged his shoulders and answered honestly. “I have no idea, sir.”

Bartlet shoved his hands in his pockets. “Well, how about this Franks character? We got him, didn’t we?”

“Yes sir,” Toby answered. Leo turned to look at Toby, the subdued tone concerning him. Toby’s face was pale and his hands were clenched in his lap, knuckles showing the white. “We got him. He’s being arraigned shortly, there’s no way he is getting off.”

“Good.” Bartlet grunted.

Toby stood. “Sir, if I may be excused, I’d like to go to the hospital.”

CJ rose as well. “Sir, I have to brief the press.”

Bartlet nodded. “Then do so. Don’t give out too much information just yet.”

Leo concurred with that thought. He didn’t want to worry about the press disrupting the medical personnel at G.W. “I’d like to send some Secret Service over to guard Sam’s room sir, if that’s all right?”

“Go right ahead.” Bartlet waved a hand. Leo nodded walking out of the office. “And Leo, let me know if anything changes. Anything at all.”

Leo nodded. “Yes, sir.”

~~~~~

Sam had been moved to a more private room. Josh paced the waiting room outside. Toby had arrived about twenty minutes ago. Sam had yet to awaken. In the time that he’d been in the hospital Josh had found himself continually glancing at the clock to see how long Sam had been asleep. He refused to say the coma word again. His reasoning was simple, if Sam was in a coma he might never wake up. If he was asleep, then he would wake up. It was a simple distinction, but an important one to Josh at the moment. So, Sam had been asleep, for nearly two hours now.

Josh rubbed his clammy palms against his pants. Sam would wake up soon. It was his mantra. He pivoted when he reached the end of the waiting room. Striding back and forth, Josh mused on the friendship he had with Sam. He had never had a friend like Sam before, who accepted him without question. God, he could just kill Franks for what he had done to Sam. If it wasn’t enough that Bobby Zane had beaten Sam up in high school. Someone was back, beating him again.

The static conversation he had overheard as Sam had tried to talk Franks down, replayed in his mind. The fact that Sam had remained so calm in spite of the situation astounded Josh. It made Josh yearn to berate Sam for baiting the guy, yet he couldn’t help but admire Sam’s audacity.

Christ, he just ached to hear Sam’s voice.

His stomach was in knots. He felt so overwhelmingly powerless. He hadn’t felt this powerless since his father had been diagnosed with cancer. Josh veered sharply away from that thought, this was different. Things were going to turn out differently. Sam was going to be fine. Sam was sleeping. Just a short nap, he would wake up soon. His hand clenched together, he should’ve gone with Sam, and maybe then this would never happened… 'Come on Sam, wake up.'

“Josh?”

Toby’s gruff voice interrupted his musings. Josh turned to look at Toby, raising an eyebrow in question.

“What did the doctor say?”

Josh nearly pulled at his hair in frustration. “Toby, I just told you!” Toby had been asking the same question since he had walked through the doors twenty minutes ago. Josh really didn’t want to go through it again. He had already told Toby that Sam was sleeping.

Toby rubbed at his chin. “Then tell me again. His exact words.”

“No.” Josh shook his head stubbornly. To tell Toby would mean that he had to say the “C” word again. Sam was asleep, remember? He was sleeping. “You need to know? Go find the doctor and ask him yourself.”

Toby stared at him for a long moment. Josh turned away and moved over to lean against the wall. He didn’t care what Toby thought right now. All he cared about was Sam. “All right,” Toby said gently, walking past him and patting his arm. Josh sighed heavily, watching Toby walk away.

A nurse exited Sam’s room and looked at Josh sympathetically. “You can go in and sit with him if you like. Talk to him, let him know you’re there.”

Josh felt his mouth go dry. He could see Sam. He could finally see him. He pushed open the door to the room and froze. Sam was so still. His eyes were closed, dark shadows underneath his eyes made Sam look very pale. There were electrodes attached to Sam everywhere. Heart monitors, brain waves were even being monitored. Josh shivered. It was like some weird movie, seeing Sam like this. He had to will himself forward. “Hey Sam,” his voice barely sounded in the room and Josh swallowed and tried again. “Hey Sam, you trying to get out of work? Because it’s working very well.”

Josh reached out and tentatively touched Sam’s hand. There was no response. “God, Sam, you have to get through this. You will get through this.” Josh jumped when he felt a hand come and rest on his shoulder. CJ moved to stand beside him. “CJ! You scared me.”

“Not half as much as Sam’s scaring me.” CJ covered Josh’s hand where it rested on Sam’s and they stood there silently, holding a vigil over Sam.

Josh was the first to break. He pulled a chair over and sat down. Resting his head in his hands, Josh felt a wave of despair. What if Sam never regained consciousness? The very thought made Josh’s stomach tighten. No, he wouldn’t believe that could happen. No, sir. Sam was going to be fine. He reached out to grab Sam’s hand again, if nothing else Sam wasn’t going to be left here alone.

CJ came around and patted his shoulder and gave him a gentle hug. She then leaned over Sam and brushed his hair back. She whispered something so soft that Josh wasn’t able to discern what it was. CJ’s eyes were closed as she whispered it, so Josh assumed it was a prayer. She straightened and gave Josh another quick pat on the shoulder and left the room.

The door closed behind CJ quietly and Josh was left with the quiet beeping of the machines and Sam. He raised Sam’s hand, and rubbed it between his two palms.

“Come on, Sam.”

Sam’s hand was limp in his grasp and Josh found it distressing. Sam was usually active. To see him so motionless, it… it just…It wasn’t right. Josh bowed his head and rested Sam’s hand against his forehead. 'Wake up, Sam, come on…I need you.'

Part Two: _______________________________________________________________________

Toby stared at Lewis in consternation. “So what you’re saying is you have no idea?”

“No,” Lewis pursed his lips, frowning at Toby. “That’s not what I’m saying. Mr Seaborn is in a coma, at the moment he is being monitored very closely. We are giving him drugs to reduce the swelling in his brain. It may be hours, it may be days, but we are hopeful that this isn’t a permanent state.”

Toby crossed his arms. “You said he had some severe bruising on his ribs?”

Lewis nodded. “Yes, that’s consistent with the attack. It’s nothing too serious. Right now, our primary focus is reducing the inter-cranial swelling.” Lewis gave an apologetic shrug. “And that will take time to recede.”

Toby sighed. It was exactly as Josh had said. He now wished that he hadn’t come here to talk to the doctor. Maybe Josh was right in his denial, by not acknowledging the seriousness of Sam’s injury then he held hope that Sam would be okay. “Thank you.” He turned and walked away from Lewis. All he could think about was that the last words he had spoken to Sam had been said not in kindness, but in anger. He would never forgive himself if he couldn’t apologise to Sam and have him hear it and understand. 'God, let Sam be okay,' Toby prayed.

Three Hours Later:

Josh was alone in Sam’s room, since CJ and Toby had been forced to return to the West Wing. There was a country that still needed to be run. They had protested, but had gone in the end, because Sam would’ve have wanted them to. Josh still held Sam’s hand, hoping for some movement. His throat felt raw and he was exhausted. He talked constantly to the still figure of his friend. The only response was the constant beeping of the heart monitors. Oddly, they were comforting. Josh found himself just staring at the little green lines on the monitor. Watching their rise and fall, he also found himself praying.

“Come on Sam, wake up,” Josh murmured. “Who’s going to take me sailing, huh?”

That’s when he felt it.

The slightest twitch of Sam’s hand, Josh stood leaning down over Sam. He tried to quell the surge of excitement that went through him. “Sam?” He reached for the call button and buzzed the nurses’ station. “Can you hear me?”

Another gentle twitch of Sam’s hand, Josh couldn’t help himself, he let out a joyful laugh. There was a god. “You’re going to be okay, Sam. You’re going to be okay,” he whispered soothingly.

Sam’s eyes lids moved rapidly. Josh watched silently urging Sam to open his eyes. The door was pushed open and a nurse and doctor bustled in.

“What happened?” Lewis asked, pulling out his penlight and turning it on.

“He moved,” Josh said, breathless with his excitement. Lewis nodded, still checking Sam over.

“Could’ve been a muscle reflex,” Lewis muttered, then nodded again. Sam blinked and opened his eyes.

“Sam?” Josh asked, looked down at the hand that he still held. Sam’s hand tightened slightly.

Sam’s eyes moved sluggishly about the room, there was the slightest skip of Sam’s heartbeat on the monitor.

“Mr Seaborn, do you know where you are?” Lewis asked.

“Hospital?” Sam whispered, his heart rate was increasing on the monitor.

“That’s right,” Lewis agreed. “You’re in G.W.”

Josh rubbed Sam’s arm soothingly. “It’s all right, Sam. I’m here. You’re going to be okay.”

Lewis flicked his pen light in Sam’s eyes Sam didn’t flinch. He just stared blindly back. Josh felt the slightest bit of dread settle in his stomach.

“Mr Seaborn, can you follow the light?”

Josh felt Sam’s grip tighten, the slightest bit of fear on Sam’s face. “If I could see the light, I would,” Sam said softly.

Lewis nodded. “That’s okay, Mr Seaborn. That’s normal.”

Josh raised his eyebrows at that statement incredulously. How could it be normal? His best friend was blind. That wasn’t normal. Josh forced himself not to comment. Lewis ignored Josh, continuing his examination.

“Sam,” Sam muttered.

“Okay, Sam. You had quite a bump on your head...”

Josh repressed an angry snort, was Sam five? The doctor was treating Sam like an idiot.

“…It caused quite a bit of swelling in your brain. Now, that pressure is probably pressing on your optic nerve-”

“Permanent?” Sam asked, his eyes looking straight ahead. It was bizarre, Josh thought, this wasn’t happening.

“It’s too early to say,” Lewis said gently, “I’m scheduling you for another MRI and CAT scan so we can see what’s going on, okay?”

Sam gave a weak nod, his eyes sliding shut.

Josh looked at Lewis panicked. “Is he?”

“He’s sleeping more normally now, Josh. It’s a healthy sleep now, not a coma.”

Josh nodded, then brushed Sam’s hair back from his forehead. He’d prayed for Sam to wake up, and now he didn’t know if the situation had improved or worsened.

~~~~~~

Sam woke up slowly. It wasn’t a dream. He had been hoping that it was, but it obviously wasn’t. It was disconcerting, not being able to see. Scratch that, Sam thought, it was frightening. His world was dark. He struggled to sit up and jerked in alarm when he felt two warm hands on his shoulders. Fighting them, he heard a muffled grunt. “Easy, Sam, easy, it’s me, it’s Josh.”

Sam stopped struggling and slumped back against the pillows. “God, give a guy some warning, will you?”

Josh gave the slightest of sighs. Sam swivelled his head, ignoring the momentary dizziness that he felt. “Anyone else here?”

“No. It’s just me. You just missed Leo.”

Josh’s hands let him go, but not before he felt a reassuring pat. Sam concentrated on his other senses. He could smell disinfectant, and there was a slight dripping sound to his left. He felt something pull on his left arm and knew he was hooked up to an IV. His head ached badly, but whatever they were giving him in the IV was dulling it.

“Oh did I?” Sam tried to sound interested. They lapsed into silence. For a moment Sam panicked, wondering if Josh was still there. “Josh?” He reached out blindly, trying to sense where Josh was. His hand was caught in Josh’s reassuring grasp.

“I’m still here.” Josh’s tone was soothing, but Sam thought he could detect a note of worry. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Sam nodded then winced as his head protested. He reached up with his free to touch his head, feeling the bandage gently. “What happened?”

“You apparently fell against the railing outside your apartment. Franks is in custody, he’s up on attempted murder,” Josh said, squeezing Sam’s hand gently.

Sam sighed. “God, I thought…” he trailed off, not willing to admit to the fear that he had felt. He couldn’t remember much of the attack, just that he had been talking to Josh on his phone before it happened.

“It’s okay.”

“It’s not though, is it?” Sam said very quietly, closing his eyes. It was weird, his eyes were shut and it was dark, just blackness. When he opened them again, it was still black. “Josh, if this is…” His voice cracked.

“Doctor Lewis believes the swelling will recede with time,” Josh said quietly.

Sam sighed. “And until then? Do I stay here or do I go home? What about work? How long is this going to last?” Once the questions started they wouldn’t be stopped. He had to force himself to be quiet.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, okay?”

“Little late for that, isn’t it?” Sam asked caustically.

“Sam-“

“Josh, for once please be quiet,” Sam said pulling his hand out of Josh’s grasp and turning over onto his side. He shut his eyes, pretending to fall asleep, he didn’t know if Josh believed him. Then he heard Josh sigh.

“All right, have it your way. I’ll be right here.”

Sam’s heart in his throat, he willed himself to regain control of his emotions. He wouldn’t break here. Sam was aware of one thing, if he allowed himself to fall into despair, he wouldn’t be able to climb his way out of it. Franks wouldn’t win this, no way in hell. “Josh?” he queried tentatively, testing to see whether or not Josh had truly stayed.

“Yeah?”

Sam let out a small sigh of relief. “Nothing.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

“A-kay.”

The sound of the door snapping open made Sam jump in fright. He felt Josh’s hand rest down on his arm, reassuring him. “Doctor Lewis.”

Thank god for Josh, Sam thought, discretely letting him know who it was. “Doctor, when can I leave?”

Lewis harrumphed at that. Sam didn’t care, he just wanted to get out of the hospital. “We’ll see.” Sam winced at that, see, that was a laugh, like he could. Lewis went on oblivious to his discomfort. “At the moment, the swelling in your brain has decreased quite a lot in the past few hours. With any luck, you’ll be able to go home in the morning.”

“And my sight?” Sam asked hesitantly.

There was the briefest of silences and Sam wished desperately that he could read the expression on the doctor’s face.

“Sam, you have had a serious head injury. Now, your body is going to need time to recover. It may be a matter of hours, days, or weeks…”

“Months,” Sam finished for him. “So which do you think it will be doctor?”

“At this point, it’s hard to say,” Lewis informed him.

Sam glared at him. “That’s not an answer, Doctor.” Then winced as he felt a flash of pain shoot through his head. His hands reached up involuntarily to hold it.

“Sam?” Josh’s worried voice.

“Sam.” Lewis was calmer. “Can you tell me what’s happening?”

“Headache,” he said between clenched teeth. “Bad headache.”

Lewis muttered something that Sam couldn’t quite hear, then all sound whited out and he felt everything fade away.

~~~~~

When consciousness returned, Sam could hear several voices conferring above him. He spent the next few minutes playing possum while trying to figure out who was there. The first one he recognized was Josh, then there was CJ, Doctor Lewis, and Toby.

They were arguing.

Josh’s anger was palpable. “Just tell me what’s going on? Why did he lose consciousness again?”

“Josh, you have to understand. Sam’s body is still trying to recover. It’s very normal for him to do this.”

“And the pain?” That was Toby.

“Yes, how about that? He looked like he was in agony.” CJ asked.

Sam tried to hide the fact that the comment disturbed him. They must’ve come in just after Lewis and he hadn’t realized. God, the helplessness he felt overwhelming him.

He must have made some sound because Josh was grabbing his hand again and murmuring to him in a reassuring tone. It eased his fear considerably, Josh’s presence meant everything to him at the moment, to cover that, he tried to smile and laugh it off. “Easy, people will talk.”

Josh let out a light laugh, but he didn’t drop Sam’s’ hand, Sam was grateful for that. “How you feeling?”

“Like crap,” Sam answered honestly, “Doctor?” he asked tentatively looking to his right to where he had thought he heard him. He sighed when the Doctor spoke to his left.

“Yes, Sam?”

“What happened?”

“You simply lost consciousness and focus because you had a pretty bad headache. We checked your CAT scan and everything looks normal under the circumstances, so as the pressure in your brain decreases nerve endings are coming back on line, ergo you have a headache.”

“Oh,” Sam muttered, that sounded relatively simple. “When can I go home?”

“Sam, you can’t be serious.” Toby sounded incredulous.

“There is nothing they can do for me here, is there?”

“No,” Lewis agreed. “It’s going to be a matter of time. We’ll give Sam several prescriptions of antibiotics…”

“Wait a minute, how is supposed to know which one to take?” CJ inquired.

Sam didn’t like the reminder of his situation, but nevertheless agreed with the sentiment.

“I’ll stay with him,” Josh volunteered.

Sam felt his throat tighten with emotion again. “Thanks,” he said huskily.

“Anytime.” Josh squeezed his hand. “I promised I’d stay with you, remember?”

Sam had no response to that; it felt like this was above and beyond the call of duty for a best friend.

“We’ll discharge Sam in the morning. Until then, he is staying here for observation,” Lewis said.

“I’ll need to tell Leo.”

“I already heard,” Leo’s gruff voice carried across the room. “Josh that’s fine, I think we can manage with you working from Sam’s apartment.”

“All right then, it’s settled,” Josh said quietly.

~~~~~

There was a sharp rap at the door and Sam jerked in alarm. He wondered if it was the secret service checking on him. They had introduced themselves as soon as they arrived, to let him know what was going on. Yet, despite this knowledge that some of the world’s best protection was outside, he still felt afraid. He couldn’t quite keep the fear out of his voice as he heard the creak as the door open. “Yes?”

There was sharp click of heels on the floor as they approached the bed. Sam’s heart was pounding in fear. “Who’s there?”

“I’m sorry, Sam. It’s Andrew. There’s a Detective here from the DC police, do you wish to see him?”

Andrew was one of the guys guarding his door. Sam vaguely recollected a tall man with raven black hair. Sam gave a wave of his hand. “Yeah thanks, may as well get it over with.”

“You don’t have to Sam.” Andrew said.

“He needs my statement.” Sam sighed. “Let him in, Andrew.”

“Okay, I’ll be right outside, holler if you need anything.”

“Sure, thanks.” Sam could hear Andrew shoes as he left. A moment later, squicky shoes entered with Andrew.

“Sam, this is Detective Francis.”

“Right, thanks Andrew.”

Sam listened to Andrew leave and the door was clicked shut behind him. “So what can I do for you Detective?”

“I’m here about the…”

Sam cut him off. “How do I know for sure?” Sam asked sharply, the call button was up to his right. If needed, all he had to do was yell and help would come running. He wished Josh was here. Josh had gone back to the West Wing to get things in order or something. Sam hadn’t really listened to the reason, but he heard the heavy reluctance in Josh’s tone about having to leave. Josh had promised he’d only be away a short time. He had left about fifteen minutes ago…. It could’ve been longer Sam wasn’t sure. He wasn’t sure of anything at the moment, except that he couldn’t see, his head and ribs hurt and this man may not be who he said he was.

“How do you know what?” Francis asked.

He was right beside the bed now and Sam could smell him: a distinctive scent of sweat and cigarettes. “That you are who you say you are,” Sam clarified. He was minutely pleased that the fear was out of his voice.

There was a rustling sound and Sam frowned, wondering what it was. “What are you doing?”

“Relax, sir, I’m not here to hurt you,” Francis drawled. “I’m here to ask you a few questions about the assault….”

Sam’s mind flew back… he swallowed hard and tried to clamp down on the fear.

“… aha, this should put you at ease…”

Something was shoved into Sam’s hand, fiddling with it, Sam felt the worn leather and the metal of a badge.

“Okay,” Sam said with a sigh. “What do you need to know?” Sam held up the badge and it was taken out of his hands gently.

“Thanks. Okay…” A flip of paper and a pen was clicked on. “What happened?”

“A couple of weeks ago, a few of us went out for drinks at a bar. By a few of us, I mean, Josh Lyman, Deputy Chief of Staff, Charlie Young, the President’s aide, CJ Cregg, Press Secretary, Mallory O’Brien, she’s Leo McGarry’s daughter, and he’s…”

“I know who he is,” Francis interrupted quietly.

“Okay, well, we also had Zoey Bartlet with us.”

“The President’s daughter was with you?”

“Yes.” Sam nodded, then winced as his head throbbed. He had to remember not to do that.

“You okay, Mr Seaborn?”

“Fine. Just…” Sam waved a hand vaguely in reference to his condition. He really didn’t want to say it out loud at the moment. “Anyway, while we were there, Zoey went to get CJ’s drink for her. She wanted to see how a grasshopper was made.”

“Seriously?” Francis’ tone was one of amusement.

“Yeah. CJ likes grasshopper’s despite how out of date they seem.” Sam smiled at the memory, then his smile faded. “So, Zoey went to the bar and while she was there she got accosted by three guys, we stepped in and they got arrested… they were carrying weapons. Luke White, John Franks and Ben Harrison.”

Sam could hear the pen working furiously on the paper and waited for Francis to give him the go ahead before he continued. “Aha, so Franks somehow managed to get out on bail, while the other two didn’t, he apparently blamed the senior staff for his predicament…”

“By predicament you mean jail time?”

“Yes. I was heading out of my apartment this morning at nine and….” Sam shifted uncomfortably, remembering Franks face looming over him. “Franks must have been waiting for me, I assume he would have gone after the others after me…” Sam said then frowned, god, if that little bastard had gone after Josh, CJ or anyone he would’ve been first in line to get the little shit in prison.

“Mr Seaborn?”

“Hmmm?”

“You okay, sir?”

“Oh, right…sorry.”

“It’s okay, we can take all the time you need.”

“I’m fine.” Sam murmured, he plucked at the bedspread and continued his narrative. “So, we had words, he blamed us for getting him arrested, he mouthed off a bit, trying to assert his authority, I tried to talk to him down.”

“Yes, Mr Lyman mentioned that…” Francis murmured.

Sam’s brow furrowed and then it clicked, Josh had heard him on the phone and he must’ve given a statement to the police earlier.

“And then the police were there and I was knocked out, next thing I know, I’m here.” Sam summed up, he leant back in the pillows and sighed. “That’s all I remember.”

“That’s good enough,” Francis said and Sam could hear the smile in his voice. “I’ll be in touch, sir. Thank you for your time.”

“Pleased to help,” Sam murmured, holding out his hand and waiting for the detective to shake his hand, it was grasped in a firm but gentle grip.

“You take care.”

“I will,” Sam said with a smile and a few moments later he heard the door click open and shut behind Francis. He was alone.

Sam closed his eyes and tried not to think about the assault, but every time a trolley rolled past his room, he jumped. It was hard to stop thinking. Sam took a deep breath and then winced. He forced his mind to think of a mantra…

“Hey, Sam.”

Sam started. Then closed his eyes in relief. Josh.

“You okay?”

“Sure.” Sam looked in Josh’s general direction. “Police came by.”

“Oh yeah?” Josh’s tone was carefully interested. “And?”

“It’s all coming together…” He paused, trying to re-phrase the sentence.

“The case?”

“Yeah. Detective mentioned that he interviewed you.”

There was a definite pause and Sam heard a chair creak as Josh sat down.

“How much did you hear?” Sam asked softly.

Josh made a distressed sound that was neither sigh nor snort. It was upsetting to hear. “All of it.”

“I…” Sam didn’t know how to respond that. He had known that Josh was on the phone, it was possibly the only reason why he was alive. He felt his heart rate increase at the thought. God. He could’ve died. Oh christ..

“Sam!” Josh’s hands were on his shoulders. Sam could feel his breath hot against him. Minty. Had Josh brushed his teeth? “Easy, just take slow breaths.”

Sam tried to do as ordered, but the panic seemed to be consuming him. He felt himself pulled into Josh’s arms. “Easy. You’re all right. You’re fine.”

Finally, Sam seemed to have his breathing under control. “Sorry.”

Josh gave him a gentle shake. “Don’t.” Sam leaned back onto the bed and Josh rested his hand on Sam’s chest. “You’ve been through a lot.”

Sam sighed. “Thanks.”

“Any time,” Josh said patting his chest gently. “How are the ribs?”

“I’m fine.” They were aching a little, but he wasn’t going to admit that.

There was a soft sigh and Sam knew that Josh didn’t believe him, but was willing to let it slide. “Well, I got everything covered…” Josh went on to explain about what had happened in the West Wing in his short absence. Josh’s hand reached out and held his for a moment, after he’d finished telling him of the President’s good wishes. The touch lingered then let go. Sam heard Josh rise and rummage in his backpack for something. “Want me to read to you?”

Sam’s heart skipped a beat at the question, it was so thoughtful of Josh to ask it and the consideration behind the question floored him. “Aha, yeah. That would be nice.”

He fell asleep to Josh narrating 'A Tale of two Cities'.

Part Three: _______________________________________________________________________

One day later and unsurprisingly, the press were still asking questions. Initially, Sam had placated their interest by releasing a statement. Toby had written it himself, he knew it had been an informative statement that gave absolutely nothing away. Yet, the press wanted more. That was no big surprise. Sam’s blindness was a closely guarded secret. Only a handful of people knew, Toby wasn’t even sure if Sam had told his parents. He had thought he had heard Josh coaxing his friend to tell his parents, but Sam might’ve refused. Toby’s memory was vague on that, he had been forced back to the West Wing before it was resolved.

Toby glanced at his watch, he had a short amount of time allotted for this visit to Sam, but he wasn’t going to break it. Josh had told him this morning that Sam got tired easily, something about the drugs he was on. Toby guessed that was the only reason that Josh had been at work instead of the hospital, that and he needed to get everything together for when he went home with Sam.

He gave a soft but firm knock and entered Sam’s room. Sam was awake, staring blindly about the room, he was listening to a radio. “Hey Sam.”

Sam started in fright and then looked blindly in his direction. “Toby?”

Toby shut the door behind him and gave a verbal affirmative to Sam’s question. “How you doing?”

A bitter smile crossed Sam’s face. “I’ve been better.” He gestured at the radio, it’s sound obviously telling him where it was. “They’re still at it huh?”

“Yes.” Toby moved closer to the bed. He hated seeing Sam like this, he was furious that it had happened to Sam. Furious that Sam had been incapacitated and hurt, the fight to keep his emotions in check made Toby’s voice strained when he next spoke. “The other day, when I gave you that lecture…”

“Toby.” Sam cut him off, obviously realising where Toby was going with this train of thought. “There is no need to apologise, you couldn’t have known this was going to happen. It’s fine.”

“Is it?” A bleak question.

Sam sighed, rolling one shoulder, he looked vaguely in Toby’s direction. “Yes. Don’t change the way you treat me because of this, please.” He reached out and understanding the intention, Toby grasped Sam’s hand within his own. Sam’s hold was warm and firm.

“Okay, I’m still sorry about telling you not to pull all nighters. You can pull as many as you want…”

“Don’t feel guilty,” Sam ordered bluntly, and he shook Toby’s hand with emphasis. “You didn’t know that…” the barest of pauses before he continued, “… Franks was going to be there waiting for me. I would’ve had to go home and get those files, so don’t feel guilty about this Toby. None of it is your fault, or mine, for that matter.”

Toby nodded, then realised that Sam couldn’t see that. “Okay.”

“Sure?” Sam sounded suspicious like he couldn’t tell if the response was truthful.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Toby said and then his pager went off. Sam let go of his hand.

“They need you?”

“Yeah, I’ve got aha…” Toby thought better of telling Sam what he was missing in the office. It would only depress him. “…this thing.”

Sam gave him a sardonic smirk and waved him away. “You better go. Thanks for dropping by.”

“I’ll see you tonight, with CJ and Josh,” Toby replied, patting Sam’s hand once more and then exited. He shut the door firmly so that Sam knew he was gone and then sighed, rubbing his forehead. It hurt to see Sam like that, it really did. ______

He heard Toby walk away, heard the brisk measured walk. Sam had begun to try and identify the walks of his friends. He knew Josh’s. It was a distinctive strut. Sam sighed. He could hear the clock ticking on the nightstand and wondered at the time. He heard the drip of his IV. Birds outside, cars, horns, sirens, the rustle of the trees, people talking as they moved past his room.

He tried to keep his mind occupied from thinking about his blindness, but how could he not? The hospital had sent him a therapist that morning to talk about what he had been through. Surprisingly, it had helped. Sam knew the assault wasn’t his fault. But Jessie, the woman that he had spoken to, had told him that he should allow himself to feel whatever it was that going through his mind and now was the time to tell his friends what he was thinking. Sam agreed with the reasoning…

He was angry that this had happened. That he was blind. That he had no idea what was going on around at any given time. But anger was a useless emotion, it didn’t help anyone least of all himself. Although he did get a certain amount of savage satisfaction that Franks’ bail had been revoked, additional charges of attempted murder had been added and Franks was looking at a substantial prison time. Sam hoped the man rotted in jail.

Doctor Lewis had also dropped by just before Jessie came to tell him that they wouldn’t be releasing him that day and that had been a blow. He had been really looking forward to being in his own space, not that he could see it, but there was a certain level of familiarity and comfort that came from being in one’s own home. Josh had already been told, he had been there when Lewis had dropped by, at least that took care of everyone else finding out about when he would be released. The reason they were keeping him? His headaches, he’d had another bad one during the night and they wanted to just keep him for observation. Sam had reluctantly agreed. Besides he couldn’t really argue with the doctor. After all, it wasn’t like he could find his way out of the hospital. That particular joke had fallen flat when he had told it to Josh. There was a sound of a trolley or something rolling past his room and Sam jumped at the sound. God, nothing would be the same again.

Sam rolled on to his side and tried to get some sleep. He was fine with everything. He would just have to start adjusting, that was going to take some getting used to, Sam thought.

_____

The next day, Sam was finally allowed to go home. Sam was relieved that he could finally leave the hospital and that this time Lewis hadn’t retracted the order. Since the accident his friends had been keeping a constant vigil over him, only leaving when visiting hours were enforced. Sam hadn’t told anyone, but he hated it when he was left alone. Being alone, meant no one to talk to. No one to talk to meant being stuck with only himself for company. He had never realized just how much he had taken for granted reading, writing, watching t.v. God, what he wouldn’t give to just be able to watch a football game on T.V. and see what was going on.

The idea that he might never regain his sight, was something that Sam refused to focus on. He was going to see again, so it hadn’t happened yet, but it would. It will. His blindness had enhanced his sense of vulnerability. It compounded the residual fear that had lingered from the assault. Whenever someone walked into a room, Sam had a momentary irrational feeling of panic. It was in part why he had started trying to find signatures to identify people with. He knew Josh’s walk and aftershave. Toby’s aftershave. CJ’s heel’s… and so on.

Sam touched the sunglasses that he wore. It had been CJ’s idea for him to wear them, reasoning that he would prefer it if no one could see his eyes. Sam didn’t try to understand why, he really couldn’t be bothered – yet was grateful that he was wearing them.

Now he was free. Well, relatively free, he was still forced into making regular visits to the hospital neurologist to see how he was coping, but other than that he was free.

It was the noises that bothered Sam the most as he was wheeled out of the hospital. He still felt weak and off balance, apparently that was normal as well. Sam wanted to say that the fact that he was still blind hardly felt normal. But he had refrained from commenting, just needing to get out of the hospital. Sam was trying very hard to focus on his surroundings, trying to assess where he was. He had needed Josh’s help to get dressed, he hadn’t been able to do it alone. It felt like one humiliation after another. He had tried to do it by himself but Josh had informed kindly, that his shirt was buttoned wrong. Then Josh had given him the sunglasses to wear for his ride through the hospital.

Toby had come barrelling into the hospital room then. Sam remembered starting slightly at the abruptness of the entrance. It was going to take some getting used to, not being to able see when someone was coming. He had informed them that the Press had staked out the hospital to get a statement from him. Sam had felt his knees go weak at that, Josh had eased him back on to the edge of the bed. He couldn’t believe the entire world knew he was blind. He hadn’t even told his parents, he wasn’t gonna tell his parents… at least not until he knew more.

It was Josh who had figured out what he was thinking. To keep Sam from worrying Josh had called CJ to see what she knew and had found that the press only knew the basics of Sam’s injury, in other words they didn’t know he was blind. Sam still didn’t know if he was relieved by that knowledge or not. But they were going out the back way of the hospital to avoid the press at any rate.

He heard a door open and Josh was pushing him forward down a ramp to a waiting car. He heard Josh and Toby swear and frowned, trying to figure out was happening. Josh’s hand clamped down on his shoulder and he leaned down to whisper in Sam’s ear. “They’ve found us.”

Sam felt a surge of adrenalin run through him. He heard scuffling footsteps and Toby muttered something about getting the car and he was pounding away.

“Mr Seaborn!”

Sam jumped in the wheel chair. Sam heard a muffled curse behind him.

“Get out of the way,” Josh snapped, his hand still on Sam’s shoulder, forcing him to remain in the chair.

“Mr Seaborn, can you tell me what happened?”

“Are you ready to go back to work?”

“What has been the president’s response, Mr Seaborn?”

“Sam! Can you tell me what it felt like?”

“Do you think this was in response to the Cruz appeal?”

“What do you think of Franks being given no bail?”

“What has been…”

“Can you…”

Sam opened his mouth to respond, but it felt dry. In the cacophony of sound there was too much going on. Too much noise, too many questions. Sam couldn’t follow what was going on. He looked up at Josh blindly, “Josh, get me out of here.”

Josh’s voice came right next to his ear. “We’re working on it, buddy.”

Sam tried to remain calm, but it was hard. Josh was pushing the chair forward, trying to appease the press, but still get them moving. Sam tried to focus on his breathing. In and Out. In and out. That’s right Sam, you can do this, he told himself.

“Sam!”

Sam frowned, that sounded like Toby. But was it? Surrounded by voices bombarding him it was hard to tell. Then Josh had stopped the chair from moving and there was a sound of car door opening and Josh was easing him out of the chair and helping into the car. Josh didn’t bother helping him do his seatbelt up, he just slammed the car door shut. Right away the sounds of the press diminished, Sam leant back on the seat and closed his eyes and let out a sigh of relief.

“You okay?”

Sam couldn’t answer, he was still trying to get his heart rate back to normal. Sound increased two minutes later and then the car rocked as somebody hopped in, a door was slammed. “Drive Toby!” Josh ordered.

“You got it.”

Sam felt the car swerve into action and reached out to steady himself against the car door.

“You okay, Sam?” Josh asked this time.

Sam waved a shaky hand in response. It was then that he realized that he hadn’t put his seatbelt on. His hands fumbled for it, but he couldn’t get a hold of it. He felt like he was going to be sick. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t think. He had to get out, he had to do something. “Pull over,” he muttered.

“What?” Toby asked, but then the car jerked to a sudden stop. Sam grunted and his hands reached for the car door. Trying to open it desperately, it was opened for him and then Josh was there, talking to him, helping him out. Sam fell to his knees, trying to breathe, trying to calm down.

“It’s over, you’re okay,” Josh murmured over and over rubbing his back.

He felt a brush of air and then sensed Toby crouching down beside him as well. “You okay?”

The absurdity of Toby asking that, when he clearly wasn’t, made Sam chuckle. “No,” he said honestly, “but let’s get home.”

Both men pulled Sam to his feet and steadied him when he felt a wave of dizziness. He was gently put in the car this time and Josh reached around him and buckled his seatbelt. Sam let him, sensing that Josh needed to do something practical.

A beat later, two car doors opened and then slammed and the car was once again moving. Josh and Toby tried to keep a cheerful conversation going through out the rest of the drive. Sam didn’t hear much of it, he just let the drive slide by. This was how it was going to be from now on, he was going to have to get used to this way of life. Sam blinked hard, feeling his eyes sting with tears. He wasn’t going to cry. No, he was a Seaborn he could do this. He could cope. He had to.

The car slowed to a stop. “Okay we’re here. Josh?” Toby didn’t complete the rest of his sentence. Although, Sam had the sneaking suspicion that the two men were talking about him without using words. Bastards, at least they could communicate non-verbally. At least they could read one another’s expressions. Sam decided to ignore them, undoing his seatbelt and getting out of the car. He still felt shaky and had to brace himself against the car door as he tried to gain a sense of his surroundings. The wind was cool and brushed against his face. There were birds cawing above him. Sam raised his head and looked up, feeling the cold warmth of the winter sun on his face. He felt the car door shift underneath him and knew that his two friends had gotten out. He stretched out a hand seeking to find where Josh was. A car door slammed beside him. “Come on,” Josh said, grabbing him by the elbow and wrapping his other arm around his waist. They made slow progress, Toby hovering behind them as they walked. Josh telling him to step this way and guiding him up into his apartment. By the time he was inside, Sam was dead tired.

“Guys, do you mind if I?” He asked waving in the gesture of where he thought his bedroom was.

“No problem, let’s go.” Josh grabbed his arm again.

Sam held out a hand, it fell against Josh’s chest. “Aha, can I do this by myself?”

“Sure Sam,” Toby said, not hiding his worry.

Sam felt Josh’s nod and then his friend let go. At once Sam missed the supporting presence of his friend and wavered slightly. Josh’s hand on his back reassured him. Sam shook his head and then grimaced as it ached with the movement. He could make it to his bedroom right? It wasn’t that far. He had done it plenty of times before…. just…just not when he had been blind.

“Sam? You sure?” Josh asked hesitantly.

Sam gave the slightest of shrugs. “I have to get used to this, don’t I?”

He stretched his arms out in front of him and tried to remember the lay out of his apartment. He took a tentative step forward. Okay that wasn’t so bad, Sam thought, taking another. He hunched over trying to find the edge of the couch. He hit the back of a hardwood chair instead. Sam frowned, now where was he in his living room? The chair had thrown him. Sam paused balancing trying to figure out which way to go. Right or left? Which way? Sam took another step forward and stretched out with is left hand. He refused to ask Josh or Toby which way he had to go and then took another step he was relieved when his left hand found a wall. He walked trailing his hand along it, he had found the hallway.

_____

Josh turned helpless eyes to Toby. It was painful watching Sam move about his home. Sam’s hesitant movements had been hard to see. Watching Sam reduced to this wasn’t easy, Toby’s face was grim. It looked like he didn’t quite know how to react to this either.

He moved to go towards his friend when Sam froze beside the dining table chair. An iron grip on his arm prevented him from moving. Josh opened his mouth to speak, but Toby shook his head, gesturing towards Sam. Josh looked on as Sam tilted his head as if evaluating his home.

Josh had to swallow past the lump in his throat as Sam disappeared down the hallway. “God,” he muttered when he was sure Sam couldn’t hear him. He jerked his arm free of Toby’s grip and sat down on Sam’s sofa. “He’s too calm, Toby.”

Toby nodded. “I know.”

And Sam was, a part from the panic attack on the way back from the hospital Sam had been very stoic and calm. It was disconcerting, if it had been him in Sam’s position, Josh would’ve been yelling, shouting doing something other than just accepting it. Yet, Sam was acting like this was the way things were going to be. Josh knew it was a front for the way Sam was really feeling. One or two times he had thought that he had caught a look of despair on Sam’s face that was quickly hidden when he had realized that someone was there. Josh had a sinking feeling that it was only a matter of time before Sam lost it.

Toby ran a hand over the top of his head. “You’ll be okay here?”

Josh nodded. “I’ll be fine. I’ve got everything I need. If I do need anything I’ll let you know, okay?”

Toby sighed and gave a nod. “Anytime. Josh? Anytime you think you need some help, let me know.”

Josh gave Toby a small smile. “Okay.”

Toby gave a nod and then jingled his keys and moved towards the door. “Anytime?”

Josh let out a light laugh. “Seriously Toby, I’m sure we will be fine. But I promise I’ll let you know.”

Toby didn’t look appeased at that, but finally gave a grumbling assent to Josh’s promise. Once he had shut the door, Josh hurried towards the bedroom. Sam hadn’t made a sound but Josh just needed to check to see if Sam was okay.

The bedroom door was open, Josh stepped inside and sighed. Sam was lying on the bed, sunglasses placed neatly on the side table. Sam was asleep, only partially covered by the bed covers. Josh moved forward and pulled the blanket over his friend. Sam looked too pale and the shadows underneath his eyes were still a testament to Sam’s injury. He brushed his hand gently over Sam’s hair. Sam nestled into the touch. Josh felt his heart skip a beat at the subconscious gesture from Sam. It locked onto his heart for some reason. Sam meant more to him then anything and to see Sam hurt, Josh blinked away tears. He bent down and placed a gentle kiss on Sam’s forehead. Sam didn’t stir. Josh brushed Sam’s hair back again and then straightened, shaking his head, Josh forced himself from the room. Sam needed his rest if he was going to get better.

______

The clock was ticking beside his bed. Sam rolled over and wished he could read what the time was. He had no idea. He sat up, wincing as his head ached. Doctor Lewis had told him that he would have a headache for the next few days or even for a few weeks. That, plus the medication he was on, was making him sleep more than he had in the past year.

His stomach rumbled and Sam pressed his hand against it. He listened, trying to hear if Josh was moving about or even there at all. Sam stood slowly, he bent over and touched his side table and nodded to himself. He had to figure out the lay out of his apartment. Taking another cautious step forward, he kept his hand balanced on the side table. He counted out the width of his bedroom, from his side table to the wall. Then to the door and back to the bed. When he had figured how many steps it took, he made his way out to the hallway. Sam took a deep breath this was going to be harder. He turned to the left. Four steps and there was the bathroom. Eight steps back and he was nearing the spare bedroom. He trailed his hand along the wall and cursed when his hand hit a picture frame and nearly had it crashing to the ground. Sam could hear it swing widely from side to side and tried to stop it. Once he had it settled, he moved on then swore. He had forgotten how many paces he had taken. Sam turned back to head to his bedroom. He wasn’t going to eat till he had this done. Till he could move about his apartment without crashing into anything. Eight steps and a half, Sam had nearly walked into the doorframe. He turned back and made his way down the corridor again.

He paused, to the left was the living area, to the right lay the kitchen. Sam moved to the kitchen. He could hear the hum of the refrigerator, the clicking of the clock on the kitchen wall and the hum of the coffeepot. He moved cautiously forward, counting. Two steps, bang, kitchen table. Turning to the right, three steps fridge. Four steps to the left, kitchen sink and coffee pot. Sam sighed, now to remember where everything was. Oh, well, only one way to learn. Sam began opening the drawers next to the sink systematically, touching what was inside so he could commit it to memory. He hadn’t realized how much crap he kept in his kitchen drawers, and how hard it was to tell by shape what some of the things were.

He was on the fourth drawer down when his hand cut across something sharp. Sam let out a startled grunt, his hand stinging. He could feel a flood of warmth over the palm of his hand. Pulling it to his lips, he tried to figure out where the bandages were. Where was Josh? What time was it? He couldn’t tell how badly he had cut himself. “Josh?” he queried tentatively.

No answer.

Sam let out a shaky breath, his heart beginning to pound. He could do this, no sweat. He just had to make his way to the bathroom. How many steps was it again? Five steps out of the kitchen, then left. Eight steps Sam held his hand against his shirt trying to stop the bleeding. It was already stopping, Sam thought with a little relief. The cut wasn’t too bad then.

Sam reached the bathroom and pulled open the door and started feeling his way through the cabinets. His hand brushed against something cold and too late Sam realized it was. A glass. It crashed to the tiled floor with a splintering sound. Sam froze, he wasn’t wearing any shoes. God. If he moved, he was going to step on glass. He didn’t know what to do.

“Sam! Where are you?”

Oh thank god, Sam thought with relief, Josh. “Bathroom.” His voice sounded frightened. Sam cleared his throat and tried again. “Bathroom.”

It didn’t matter, Josh was already there. “Okay, Sam, it’s all right. I’ll just clean this up. Don’t move for the moment, okay?”

Sam nodded, hearing Josh pound away. He had never felt so helpless before. He could feel himself start to shake. No, he couldn’t lose it. Be calm Sam, everything’s going to be fine.

Josh was back and in no time it seemed to Sam, the floor was clean. Oh the beauty of having sight, Sam thought.

“What did you do to your hand?”

Sam started, he hadn’t realized that Josh was talking to him. “What?”

Josh’s hand gently took his and held it, pressing here and there. Sam let out a slight hiss when Josh pressed on the wound. “Well, it doesn’t look to bad.” Josh guided him to sit on the lid of the toilet.

Sam sighed. “Where were you?”

There was the briefest of silences as Josh pulled things out of the bathroom cabinet. Sam could just tell that Josh was looking at him, evaluating his expression. Sam suppressed the urge to duck his head. He wasn’t going to hide from this. “I was asleep,” Josh said finally.

Sam frowned. “What time is it?”

Josh grabbed Sam’s hand and began to clean the cut. “11:30pm. I didn’t hear you get up. Sorry.”

Sam shrugged. “Nothing to be sorry for.” The antiseptic stung a little and Sam winced.

Josh’s hand touched his wrist. “Still, I’m sorry. If had known-“

“Known what?” Sam snorted, glaring at Josh. It was, he thought briefly, hard to glare at someone when you didn’t really know where they were. “That I was awake, what would you have done? There’s nothing you could’ve done, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m still-” Sam forced himself not to continue.

“You okay?” Josh asked softly, wrapping a gauze bandage on his hand.

Sam closed his eyes. “Just fine.” It was a lie. But at the moment it was the best he could do.

Josh patted his shoulder. “All right then, anything you need?”

Sam gave a small smile. “ Some dinner since I missed it.”

“You bet.” Josh pulled Sam to his feet and led him out of the bathroom.

_____

“No!”

Josh awoke with a grunt. He looked around blearily, trying to categorise what had woken him. There it was again. It sounded like a cat crying out. It took a moment for Josh to realise what it was and when he did he was out of the bed like a rocket. It was no cat. It was Sam, and he was crying.

He flicked on the light and squinted at the brightness that flooded the hallway as he hastily moved to Sam’s bedroom. The light from the hallway illuminated the room brightly, but still Josh flicked on the lights. Sam was wrapped in sheets, moving restlessly. He was alternately clenching and unclenching his fist. Sam let out an anguished cry and Josh moved without thinking. He sat down on the bed and gently placed his hand on Sam’s forehead and began to talk to him, trying to wake Sam up. He gently shook Sam’s arm and Sam awoke, eyes wild and staring. “It’s Josh.”

Sam shook his head, rubbing at his forehead. “Josh?”

“Yeah.” Josh ruffled Sam’s hair soothingly. His hand was still on Sam’s arm and he rubbed it reassuringly. For the moment though, Sam didn’t appear to realise that he was there. “Sam, it’s okay.” Sam gave a distracted shake of his head, making another odd noise. “Shhh, you’ll be fine. It was just a dream.” Sam shuddered and Josh pulled Sam into a gentle hug, after moment though, he let Sam go. “Want to talk about it?”

“No.” Sam’s face was set, then an odd embarrassed look travelled his face. “Would you, um… could you, stay with me?”

It sounded so child like and so unlike Sam that Josh felt like crying, but he didn’t. “Sure.” Pleased that his voice sounded normal to his ears, which meant it would sound normal to Sam’s. Sam’s hand gripped his and wasn’t letting go, Josh sighed, glancing at the lights he had switched on. It wouldn’t bother Sam and that was the main thing. Who cared about the electricity bill? Sam needed him. He lay down beside Sam and gently rested his hand on Sam’s back as Sam rolled over and went to sleep. Five minutes later, Josh followed suit.

Part Four: _______________________________________________________________________

The next morning found Sam listening to the sounds in his apartment, he could hear Josh working in the kitchen, he was on the phone… to someone. He had thought he had heard Josh say CJ, but he could’ve been mistaken, that could’ve been several calls ago. He could hear the muted sounds of the television. It was on the news. Sam found it depressing, he wanted to switch channels but was the point? It wasn’t like he could truly watch anything. He sighed, listlessly. He felt useless. Like he couldn’t do anything. He wondered what the time was, he only knew it was breakfast or lunch when Josh told him so. Hell, it could be three am in the morning and Josh could feed him and he would think it was breakfast. Sam let out a disgusted snort. He was truly pathetic. He shifted position on the sofa, lying on his side. His ribs still ached some, but they were healing thankfully.

Trying to sleep, Sam rolled over again. He couldn’t stop himself from thinking. He couldn’t help wondering what his future would be if he could never see again. Sam’s heart gave an unsteady thump. He’s future was a blank slate, it felt like someone had come along and wiped everything that he’d previously known off. Sam shivered, he would not cry. He wouldn’t. He couldn’t.

God. He was pathetic.

There was a ding at the door, and Sam realised that Josh must’ve buzzed someone in. Sam didn’t move, Josh would answer it and sure enough a few moments later, Sam heard Josh bustle past after a quick pat on his shoulder. Sam tried to control the surge of affection he felt from that offhand gesture. He frowned absently, he had been getting some mixed signals from Josh since this had happened. Maybe he was misreading it because of his… his blindness. He couldn’t control the little mental hiccup as he categorised his condition.

The way Josh had been touching him since the assault had been different. Or maybe he had just been overlooking how often Josh used touch to express himself. Still, the way Josh’s hand had lingered at the hospital when he had gotten dressed, the way that Josh had soothed his nightmare the night before. Had he missed something? Was Josh interested in him?

No. Probably not, Sam thought, he was probably mistaking friendship for something more. He just couldn’t tell what was going on because he couldn’t read Josh’s expression. Sam suddenly missed seeing Josh flash him a smile. His heart ached to see it again. Then again if Josh was interested in him, was it more out of pity for what happened? Why would Josh wait till now to make his move? Sam dismissed his thoughts angrily. What was the point thinking on this? It wasn’t like anything could happen, but still Josh had been touching him differently. It was more like how a lover touched a lover, not how a friend touched a friend.

There were soft murmurs at the door and then Josh shut the door. Sam could hear Josh move towards him and began to sit up slowly, trying not to jostle his ribs. “Who was that?”

“Delivery guy.”

“Oh.” Sam felt the sofa dip as Josh sat down beside him. Josh rested a hand on his shoulder and Sam gave him a quizzical look. “What?”

“I got you something.” Josh guided his hands to the box and Sam frowned at him. “Open it.”

The box felt rough to touch and Sam’s hands smoothed down the sides, trying to find the edges. He found the tape and ripped it off, it stuck to his hands and Sam smiled faintly. Josh’s hands took the tape off, lingering slightly, but that might’ve been his imagination. Sam pulled open the box. Delving inside, he pulled out a hard plastic object. There were buttons on in it and one really… He jumped, as he accidentally pressed one of the buttons and was told the time.

Sam pressed it again.

“It is now eleven thirty am,” a small robotic voice told him.

He knew the time and he didn’t have to ask anyone.

The thoughtfulness behind the gesture blew Sam away. He tried to speak, but he couldn’t get past the lump in his throat. Sam swallowed hard, emotion suddenly overcoming him and he found himself pulled into a warm embrace. Josh cradled his head against him, Sam burrowed into Josh’s warmth. Sam felt hot tears on his cheeks and knew they were soaking Josh’s shirt. He tried to pull back, but Josh wouldn’t let him go.

“Shhh, I’ve got you.” Josh’s voice was so tender Sam was nearly undone. “You’re going to be fine.”

“But what if…” He did pull back then, Josh’s hands framed his face. Sam wished again that he could see Josh’s expression.

“But nothing…” Josh countered, his thumb brushing back and forth on Sam’s cheek.

Sam wondered at the mixed signals he was getting here. He knew Josh swung both ways, just as Josh knew that he had experimented a little, but what was happening here? What about Joey Lucas?

“I’m not leaving you. You’re not alone.” Josh’s tone was adamant and reassuring.

“I fee…” Sam’s voice broke and he ducked his head, taking a shuddering breath. Sam rested his hands on Josh’s thighs and tried to pull back away from Josh. Josh didn’t let him go. “I don’t want pity.”

Josh stilled. “Is that what you think? It’s pity?”

Sam shrugged, raising his head and looking in Josh’s general direction. “Isn’t it? What about Joey Lucas?”

“What about her?”

“You’re attracted to her,” Sam stated, he could distinctly remember their conversation about this the other night.

Josh’s hands moved to his shoulders. “Yeah. I won’t deny that. I’m attracted to plenty of people, doesn’t mean it always takes.”

Well, that made no sense, Sam thought with a frown, his hands fiddling with the clock. He accidentally pressed the time again and he jerked a little at the sound.

Josh gave an exasperated sigh. “Sam. I’ve been… this isn’t about any of that. I have strong feelings for you.”

It sounded like Josh was choosing his words carefully, Sam desperately wished that he could see Josh’s face. The anguish must’ve been showing on his face because Josh brushed his hand down his cheek, caressing it. Sam jerked his head away. “I don’t want pity,” he said again.

Josh gave a sad sigh and shook his head. Sam could feel the movement. “Aha, Sam. This was never about pity.”

Hope tore through him. “No?”

“No.” Josh gave him a gentle shake on the shoulder. Sam sensed Josh come closer and Josh tilted his head up. The kiss when it happened, felt so normal, Sam felt like he was going to cry again. Josh brushed his lips over Sam’s, it was a tender caress. It wasn’t long, it wasn’t short, it was enough for the time being for two men to realise that their friendship had somewhere along the lines turned into something more. Sam wrapped himself in Josh’s arms and Josh held him, rocking him. They stayed like that for god knew how long, but then Sam had to have his pills and that meant food, which meant lunch. Josh helped Sam stand, steadying him. Sam gave the slightest sigh. What he wouldn’t have given to see Josh’s face, his eyes.

“Sam?” A tentative question.

“It’s okay.” Sam reached out to reassure Josh, patting his arm. “I’m just…” He stopped, then thought better of telling Josh what he had just been thinking. He needed to get it straight in his head first. His blindness could be permanent and he needed to come to terms with that.

The phone rang at that exact moment, Sam jerked at the abruptness at the sound. His heart pounding erratically and he had to sit back down and take a deep, calming breath. Josh’s hand was a warm rock of reassurance on his shoulder. Sam heard him answer the phone.

“Josh Lyman…..Yes, ma’m he is.”

Sam looked up, confused at who Josh was speaking too. “Who is it?”

Josh placed the phone in Sam’s hand. “D.A. She wants to get a statement.”

Sam brought the phone up to his ear. “Hello?”

“Mr Seaborn?”

“Speaking.”

“I’m District Attorney Karen Lathem, I was wondering if you could come in and give a deposition about what happened in the Franks case.”

“Aha…” Sam hesitated, he didn’t want to leave the apartment. It was too frightening, too many noises, too many obstacles. He couldn’t handle it. The idea of going into a building where there might be criminals, and he couldn’t even see them, terrified him. He shook his head, trying irrationally to push the fear away. The phone was abruptly taken away from him.

“Josh Lyman here, what was the question, Ms Lathem? … I see, no that won’t be possible. You will have to come here.”

Sam listened to Josh reel off the address and heard that they were coming over that evening. He rested his head in his hands. There was a beep and a clunk, Sam assumed that the phone had been placed on the coffee table after Josh had hung up.

“So about lunch?” Josh asked.

Sam closed his eyes at the surge of affection he felt for Josh. Josh wasn’t pushing him to talk. God. That meant everything. He looked up blindly. “I just don’t want to go out…”

“It’s cool.” Josh’s tone was easy and there was a soothing rub on the shoulders. “You’re not physically up to it.”

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Josh was sitting back down next to him now. “It’s not your fault.”

“I know…it’s just… I don’t want to go out,” Sam murmured, “too many people.”

“It’s okay.” Josh gently pulled Sam up. “Now, let’s get some food in you, then you have your medicine…”

Docilely Sam allowed himself to be led into the kitchen and given the food. He was tired and he really didn’t want to think. All he knew was that he didn’t want to go anywhere where they could be too many people. It was a nightmare already just going to the hospital. Sam dreaded it.

“Sam?”

“Hmm?”

“You going to eat?”

“Oh right,” Sam murmured, reaching out he felt for the sandwich that Josh had made and began to eat.

______

Josh shut the door behind the district attorney and looked at Sam, who was sprawled tiredly on the sofa, already falling asleep. Josh glanced at his watch, it was only about five, he would let Sam sleep for an hour or so and then give him dinner. Settling down at the table, Josh began to work. He tried not to think about the bleak expression that had fallen across Sam’s face as he once again explained the attack. The dispassionate tone worried Josh. Sam’s desire to be locked up in the apartment, while understandable, worried him as well. Josh glanced at the patient’s bill of rights in front of him and sighed, he had to do some work and make some notes on this, so he could fax it to the office later.

An hour later, Josh found himself thinking about the kiss as he cooked dinner. The idea that Sam thought it was pity saddened him. Yet, he knew where Sam was coming from and Josh was ready to be patient. He wasn’t going to push. Sam was already dealing with so much. He wasn’t going to burden him by telling the younger man that he was in love with him. It wasn’t the right time.

Waking Sam up, Josh silently served up the dinner. He placed it down in front of Sam as well as some juice.

About to sit down, Josh halted when the distinctive ring of his cell rang out. Noting the way Sam jumped at the sudden sound, Josh repressed a sigh moving to answer it. “Josh Lyman.”

“Josh.” It was Donna.

“What do you need?”

“Now, Josh is that any way to greet your assistant?”

“It is today,” Josh fired back with a grin.

“You know one day you’ll lose me and then where will you be?” Donna asked, Josh could just see her eyes dancing as she said this. He glanced at Sam and saw that he was listening to his side of the conversation with a frown.

“Donna…” Josh said and watched Sam’s expression clear as he realised who he was talking too. “What do you need?”

“I have some files… I was wondering when I could…” She was rambling and Josh knew why.

“Tonight sometime, if you’re coming back. I’m sure Sam would love to see you.” Josh winced as he saw Sam’s expression go blank. Christ, he should have chosen his words more carefully.

Judging by the silence on the end of the line, Donna had noticed as well. “You okay?”

Josh moved out into living area away from Sam. “Yeah.”

“No. You’re not.” Donna’s voice was gentle. “You’re best friend is blind. Of course you’re not fine.”

“Donna.” Josh tried to sound annoyed that she could read him so well, it didn’t work. “It’s fine.”

“Okay. But if you need to talk I’m here. We’re all here. How’s Sam?”

Josh looked back into the kitchen, Sam appeared to be motionless. “Not good.”

“He’ll be okay.” Donna’s voice was uplifting and reassuring, it made Josh smile. “So I’ll come by later?”

“Yeah, that would be good, actually no, how about tomorrow morning?” Donna agreed and then hung up. Josh walked back into the kitchen. “That was Donna.”

“Yeah, I figured that out when you called her Donna,” Sam said sarcastically, he reached out for the drink in front of him. He nearly toppled it, but Josh saved it from breaking by steadying it. Sam had already broken three glasses today when he had reached for them. He seemed to misjudge the distance every time.

“Yeah.”

“What she want?”

“Dropping by some files and she aha…” he paused.

“She wants to _see_ me,” Sam finished in a sarcastic tone.

“Sam.”

“No. It’s fine,” Sam said cutting him off. “What files?”

Accepting the fact that Sam refused to talk about his blindness at the moment Josh gave a vague answer.

Sam made a frustrated sound at his comment. “You know, you can talk about work with me.”

“I know,” Josh said, his voice rising defensively.

There was a look of scepticism on Sam’s face as though he didn’t believe Josh. “It’s not like my brain has suddenly been impaired as well… it’s just my…”

Sam didn’t say blindness. In fact now that Josh thought about it, he rarely did, Josh realised. “I know, but seriously, there is nothing to tell…”

“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that?” Sam asked and his eyes flashed with something that Josh couldn’t quite define.

Swallowing a mouthful of food, Josh pushed his plate to the side. “Seriously, Sam. There is nothing to talk about with work. Donna’s been sending me e-mails about not being there, I’ve been going through the patient’s bill of rights.”

“Oh.,” Sam murmured, then he sighed. “Boring, huh?”

Josh snorted in amusement, pleased to see a vague smile light Sam’s face at his response. “Oh yeah. I tell ya, what the revisions that the Senators want… it’s a Christmas tree bill, Sam. I don’t see how it’s ever going to pass.”

“Oh that’s the attitude to have,” Sam countered, reaching out tentatively to find his glass with a look of concentration that tore at Josh’s heart. Josh didn’t help him, though, no matter how much he wanted to. He knew Sam wanted to be able do things for himself so as painful as it was to see, he didn’t help.

“Well, I’m just saying…” Josh sighed.

“Tell me more..” Sam urged quietly and so Josh did.

Later as he cleaned up the kitchen and Sam was out listening to some music, Josh thought about when he had come to love Sam. He couldn’t remember how it had happened, just that it had. He grinned when he remembered that game of truth or dare. That kiss had stayed with him for months afterwards. It had been fantastic. Josh had firmly believed afterwards that he had never had a kiss that had that much sizzle. It had lit something in him even then, but then they had become friends and anything else had become secondary…

“Josh?” Sam’s tentative query, as he stood in the kitchen door, brought Josh back to the present, he had finished cleaning up the kitchen, placing the tea towel on the counter turned Josh attention to Sam. Sam was dressed in slacks and plaid shirt that was easy to get on and off. His feet were bare, but what was disconcerting was the way that Sam just stared blindly about the room.

“Yeah, I’m here.” He moved towards Sam.

Sam’s eyebrows twitched, it was hard to read what he was feeling. Josh mused. “I was wondering if …” Sam let out a deep breath and then grimaced, his hand straying to his ribs. “I was…”

“What?” Josh questioned mildly, leading Sam out into the living area. The CD had finished playing, Josh noted absently.

Sam shrugged. “Nothing. Don’t worry about it.” Sam turned away as if he was heading to the bedroom, but Josh forestalled him by grabbing his arm gently.

“What?”

Sam shook his head, a wry expression twisting his face. “Don’t worry. I’m fine.”

Josh nodded, then realised that Sam couldn’t see that. He tried not to sigh. “Well, if you’re sure?”

There was a jerky nod again and Sam was moving down to his bedroom. Josh watched him go, torn about wanting to go with Sam or give him the space he obviously desired. Sitting down on the sofa, he gave Sam a few minutes alone, before he headed down there. Drumming his hand on the armrest, he pondered what Sam had wanted to ask, but felt he couldn’t. Josh glanced at his watch, then rose, ten minutes alone was long enough. He headed down to the bedroom and gave a gentle knock on Sam’s door before walking in. Sam was sitting on the edge of the bed staring straight ahead. He looked like a trapped animal.

“I can’t do this.”

Josh frowned. “Can’t do what?”

Sam clamped his mouth shut, but the way he was wiping his hands back and forth on his pants telegraphed his distress.

Josh squatted down in front of Sam, resting his hands on Sam’s knees. “Can’t do what?”

“Go,” Sam whispered, his eyes racing about the room. Josh could feel the trembling in Sam’s body and squeezed Sam’s knees gently.

“No.”

“Please.”

“No.”

“I..” Sam leaned forward, burying his head in his hands. Josh stared at the thick brown hair in front of him and let out a sigh. His heart literally ached to see Sam liked this.

“I’m not going.”

“Why not?”

“Why do you want me to?”

“I…” The minutest shake of Sam’s head, Josh rested one of his hands on Sam’s bowed head. He could feel the remnants of the bump that Sam had received.

“Please, I’m okay.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“I have a good poker face.”

“Not today.”

“Josh, please.”

“No.”

“Why not?” Sam trembled. His voice was shaking. Josh rose and sat down on the bed beside him.

“What’s going on in that head of yours?”

“Nothing.”

“Liar.”

Sam rose and moved away to stand in front of the dresser, bracing himself against it. “I’m okay. You can go.”

“No.”

“We’re going in circles,” Sam muttered with a frustrated shake of his head.

“Circles are good,” Josh countered.

“Better than a square?” Sam kidded. Then Josh saw Sam’s face twist in the mirror. Josh was up and moving, but couldn’t stop Sam when he wiped everything off the dresser and sent it crashing to the floor. He gripped Sam from behind, holding the struggling form when Sam tried to fight to break free.

“Easy. Shhh. I’ve got you. It’s going to be okay.” A litany of platitudes that Josh hoped would break through the anguish that Sam was feeling and help calm him.

“No,” Sam muttered, trying to break the hold. Josh grunted when Sam elbowed him in the stomach, but he refused to let go.

“It’s okay,” Josh whispered in Sam’s ear, trying to soothe him. “I’ve got you.”

Sam shook his head, still trying to break free, but Josh’s strong grip prevented him. Sam, finally realising that it was useless, collapsed a dead weight in Josh’s arms, causing both men to sink to the floor. Josh held Sam cradled to his chest, rocking him slowly as Sam tried to control his breathing. He rested his head against Sam’s, feeling the flutter as Sam closed his eyes. Sam’s hands came to rest on top of his. Sam took a heaving breath. “I’m fucking blind.” There were hot tears leaking down Sam’s face, Josh could feel them against his cheek. It tore at his heart. It was the first time he’d heard Sam say it.

“Short term only,” Josh murmured, because that’s what the doctors had told them. “You’re going to be fine,” he said it fiercely, because he refused to believe otherwise.

Sam relaxed against him. “I’m sorry.” It was a husky apology.

“Don’t be sorry about any of this.”

“I’m a basket case.”

“Who can blame you?” Josh asked, brushing his lips against Sam’s temple. Sam’s hands tightened on his and he gave a little sigh.

“We’re going to have to talk about this.”

Josh frowned, although he knew where Sam was leading with the comment. “About what?”

Giving a wave of his hand, Sam expanded his comment. “You and me. Something’s changed.”

Josh smiled, that was truly an understatement. “Not too much…”

“Believe me, kissing and stuff is far beyond best friend duty.” Sam’s dry sarcasm, made Josh laugh. Sam rubbed lightly Josh’s hand. “Do you know what I’m getting at?”

“I don’t want to push you,” Josh responded carefully, loosening his hold on Sam somewhat, afraid of hurting Sam’s ribs.

Sam made a little noise of what sounded like frustration. “I’m still me, I just can’t fucking see.”

“Shh, I know that.” Josh hugged Sam too him. Sam didn’t often swear so the fact that he was swearing so much right now, told Josh Sam’s level of agitation. “I just didn’t want you to feel pressure from me, that’s all.”

“Josh, I’m not going to crack because you kissed me,” Sam snapped, struggling against Josh embrace, Josh refused to let him go. “I’ve wanted it for too damn long…” Sam trailed off.

“Wanted, what?” Josh inquired, he could feel’s Sam’s heart racing and wondered if Sam would answer the question. When he didn’t respond for a moment, Josh answered for him. “Me too, somewhere in the past few months …” he gave a wry laugh, “or years…I’ve fallen for you. I don’t know when it happened and to be honest I don’t care. I’m just, … I’m just, I’m in love with you.” He kissed the hollow of Sam’s neck. “And before you think it, it’s not pity talking.”

“I…” Sam raised Josh’s hand to his lips. “Same for me.” He pressed a kiss to Josh’s palm.

Josh felt his heart lighten at the declaration. “Cool.”

“Yeah,” Sam muttered, then he sighed. “Help me up.” Josh hefted them both up from the floor and balanced Sam when he wavered slightly.

“You okay?”

“Just a little vertigo.” Sam waved away the concern. He moved hesitantly towards the bed, his hand reaching out for it. Josh closed his eyes seeing it, no matter how short term this thing was supposed to be, it anguished him to see Sam reduced to this. He helped Sam on to the bed then gave him a quick kiss on the forehead. He went out to grab a dustpan and brush. Coming back he cleaned up the mess that Sam had made. Thankful suddenly that Sam didn’t keep much on the dresser and that the medication Sam was taking was in the kitchen rather than on the dresser. It didn’t take him long, but when Josh finished what he was doing he turned his attention to Sam. Sam was staring up the ceiling, gnawing on his lip. Lying down beside Sam, Josh rolled onto his side and rested a hand on Sam’s stomach. “It’s still early, want me to read to you?”

There was a flash of something on Sam’s face and shrewdly Josh realised that this had been what Sam had been about to ask when he came to the kitchen. “What do you feel like?”

Sam shrugged. “I’m easy.”

“Oh really?” Josh kidded playfully, trying to lighten the mood.

Sam’s only response was a smirk. Josh reached over Sam and grabbed a book from the night table. He was so close to Sam’s face, he could feel Sam’s breath on his face. Sam’s hand came up to brush his cheek, as if he was exploring it, re-learning the curves and textures. It was an erotic experience to feel Sam Seaborn map the contours of his face. He dropped the book on the bed and brushed his lips over Sam’s. Josh lost himself in the kiss. Exploring, revelling, savouring. Someone was whimpering and Josh suddenly realised it was him. At some point, Josh ended up on the bottom and he was cradling Sam to him. Sam pulled back and rested his head on Josh’s chest, taking a few breaths. Josh trailed his hands through Sam’s hair, massaging his scalp gently. Sam gave a soft sound of appreciation. He shifted closer to Josh and lying snuggled against him, Josh felt Sam’s breathing even out and knew that Sam had fallen asleep. He tucked the cover over them both and then drifted off to sleep as well.

Part Five: _______________________________________________________________________

Sam woke up in Josh’s arms. He felt the arms tighten around him and knew then that Josh was awake.

“Hey,” Josh greeted, smoothing Sam’s hair down gently.

Sam nestled into the touch, he couldn’t help himself, it felt so good to have this tactile reassurance. It felt like since the…the assault, that everything had been enhanced by his inability to see. He got tired easily though, as if his mind was working overtime to categorise what was going on around him.

“How you doing?”

“Okay. What time is it?” Sam asked, sitting up and gently extracting himself from Josh’s embrace.

There was a rustle and the bed dipped as Sam supposed Josh sat up. “It’s five thirty.”

“I’m usually heading into work now.” Sam moved to hop of the bed, but Josh stopped him by grabbing his hand.

“You okay?”

Not really, Sam thought, “Fine.” He got off the bed and stood there for a moment, once again mentally preparing himself for the route he would take to the bathroom. He moved stiltedly, afraid of bumping into things. Sam was grateful for Josh’s silence on this. He went into the bathroom and began his morning absolutions. He felt Josh’s presence, before he spoke. “Yes?”

Sam could almost imagine Josh raising his eyebrows in surprise. “You need any help?”

He really wanted to say no, that he wasn’t an invalid, but Sam was nothing if not a realist. “Yes.”

“Okay,” Josh said easily, coming closer. “What can I do?”

Sam frowned, this could be weird with the new development in their…

“Want me to help you shower or shave?” Josh asked, his tone was carefully devoid of interest. Sam silently thanked him for it.

“Both.”

“Shave or shower first?”

“Shower.” Get the hard part over with first, Sam thought.

The shower was turned on and Josh was helping him undress. “I just need you to help me inside,” Sam said. Josh gave him a little pat on the shoulder.

“You bet.”

Sam balanced himself, by resting one hand on Josh’s shoulders as Josh helped him out of his pants. Sam felt extremely exposed, but Josh eased his awkwardness by bustling him into the shower as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

The water was so warm it was soothing. He needed to wash his hair, he reached blindly for the shampoo and then couldn’t remember which were shower gels that his mother had given him or was the shampoo. His hand fumbled over the bottles.

“Now don’t take this the wrong way.” Josh’s voice was nearby and it sounded odd.

“What?”

“I’m coming in,” Josh answered. “Let me help you?”

Sam turned, the water pounding over him. Sam nodded. “Okay.” He moved back and made room for Josh to get in. Then he felt a strong arm brush past, one hand steadying him, while the other obviously grabbed the bottle. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” Josh murmured, he began to massage Sam’s scalp, the soapy liquid running down Sam’s body. There was a moment of skin against skin and Sam felt his heart rate increase at the close proximity of his friend. Josh was in the shower with him, which meant he had to be naked. Sam turned, his hands coming to rest on Josh’s shoulders, running down over Josh’s chest. Over the running water, Sam heard Josh suck in a breath at his exploration. His hands strayed lower, caressing Josh’s stomach, his other came up to explore Josh’s face, a tactile exploration of Josh’s body. Josh’s hands came to encircle his wrists.

“Are you sure?” Josh asked.

Sam sighed. “I’m not up to it,” he admitted feeling guilty for leading Josh on. Josh seemed to read that in his expression and he ran his hand over Sam’s forehead, pushing back the now clean hair.

He brushed his lips against Sam’s. Sam found himself lost in that kiss. It was a kiss of understanding, his lips parted and their tongues duelled. Melding together. It was a truth that spoke of Josh’s feelings more than words could. Josh just wrapped Sam up in his arms like he wanted to protect him. Josh rested his head against Sam’s, Sam sensed that his head was tilted up to the water spray, but his words were spoken right in Sam’s ear. “I’m happy to just hold you. Anything else is secondary.”

Sam swallowed hard and was grateful for the water that pounded down on them, because it hid his tears. After a moment, Josh let him go and soaped him down and then washed him clean, then switched the shower off. Josh guided Sam out of the shower and towelled him dry. Sam was given a quick kiss, then guided back into the bedroom to get dressed. Sam heard Josh getting dressed as well. Sam sat down on the bed and waited for Josh to finish.

“Okay, ready for that shave?” Josh asked.

Sam nodded. He was led back to the bathroom and was made to sit on the toilet.

Josh tilted his head up and began to run the razor over his face. Sam forced himself to relax and just sit there as his head was tilted this way and that. Josh finally stopped. “Okay I’m done.” He placed a gentle kiss on Sam’s forehead. There was a clunk as the razor was deposited somewhere.

Josh rubbed his hands together. Sam could tell by the sliding sound. “Okay, you want breakfast?”

“Sure.”

Sam rose and looked around blindly in Josh’s general direction. “Josh?”

“Yeah?”

Sam heard Josh step closer. “Thanks for…”

“Hey no sweat,” Josh said, giving Sam a rub on the shoulder. Sam reached out and his hand hit Josh’s chest, he ran his hand over it and down Josh’s arm till he reached his hand and raised it to his lips.

“Still, thanks.”

“No sweat.” Josh’s tone had dropped an octave and Sam shivered with anticipation at the possibilities between them. Sure while he’s body recovered from the attack, they wouldn’t do anything, but after that… after that things could get interesting.

Josh gave him a quick hard kiss, he needed a shave, Sam thought with a grin. Then realised that this was the first smile that he had given that hadn’t felt forced in a long while. Sam allowed Josh to lead him out to the kitchen and cook him breakfast. He could deal with this. He could, the blindness was only temporary, right? He ignored the voice that told him that it might be permanent.

_____

Over the next two days, the two men fell into a routine of sorts. Josh worked from the kitchen table, and Sam slept on and off on the couch or in his bedroom. Every morning Josh drove Sam to the hospital for his neurological exam with Doctor Lewis. Then they would head back to Sam’s apartment and Josh would help Sam into the building and Josh would settle down at the kitchen table again and begin working for the day. Donna dropped by around lunchtime to help out and give him files. In the afternoon, Josh went into the West Wing to attend the meetings that he couldn’t get out of and couldn’t take place over the phone. This morning though Josh couldn’t concentrate, his thoughts were centred on Sam.

Sam had been silent on the drive home from the hospital. When Sam had walked out of the doctor’s office with the white cane, Josh could still taste the bitter feeling of dread that had come over him at the sight.

They had been home for two hours now and Sam only spoke when spoken to. He had retreated into a shell and Josh didn’t know how to break through it.

His hands drummed agitatedly on the table. Sam usually rested in the time he was gone. But today Josh had felt a reluctance to leave Sam alone, which was why he’d called Leo to say he wouldn’t be coming in that afternoon. Leo had been understanding about it and had hinted a visit that evening. Josh liked the idea because Sam needed the interaction. Sam’s strained voice broke his rumination.

“I don’t think we should let anything else happen between us.” Sam’s expression was tight. His hands were alternately twisting and gripping the white cane that Doctor Lewis had given him that morning.

“What?” Josh’s heart dropped and his mouth fell open in shock. “Why not?”

“Because I don’t think we should.” Sam’s eyes were locked downward staring at the floor. The chair scratched back as Josh rose. Involuntarily Sam stepped back and then he shook his head. “It’s for the best.”

“Why?” Josh asked, he knew how hurt he sounded but he couldn’t control the tone. He just wanted to be with Sam and now Sam was telling they shouldn’t be and he needed to know why.

“Josh, please..” Sam shook his head. Josh saw Sam’s hands tighten to a white-knuckle grip on the cane. “It’s just… well, what about our jobs?”

“If we’re discrete, no one’s gonna care,” Josh countered, running a hand through his hair in an effort to keep himself from touching Sam.

“That’s not true.”

Sam raised his head and looked around vaguely. His eyes were so distraught. Josh felt his breath quicken at the sight. He wanted to hug Sam desperately, but Sam would repel any such contacts in his current state of mind. He had to be logical about this and figure out where Sam was coming from.

“We work…well, at least you do,” Sam amended with a sad grimace. “for the president.”

“Is that what this is about?” Josh took a step towards Sam.

“We can’t.” Sam took another step back as he obviously heard Josh’s movement.

Josh sighed. “I’m in love with you. That’s not going to change.”

Stubbornly Sam shook his head. “It might. You could meet someone else… someone who can meet your needs more adequately than I can...”

“Sam,” Josh said reproachfully.

“I’m not… Jesus Josh! I’m blind! You deserve better than this.” Sam gestured madly with the cane. Josh reached out and stilled Sam’s agitated movements. He took the cane from Sam and threw it on the table behind him.

“You think I’m that shallow?” Josh asked trying and failing to keep the indignation out of his tone.

“No.”

It was a whispered denial, Josh took heart from it.

“You just… I’m blind, you deserve better.”

“I don’t want anyone else.” Josh took both Sam’s hands within his own, gripping them firmly and holding Sam to the moment.

Sam bowed his head. “You deserve someone who’s worthy of…” Sam trailed off.

“I do not want anyone else. Whatever happens Sam, I’m here for the long haul.”

Josh risked a tentative kiss to Sam’s forehead. Sam gave a soft sad sigh. “You should want something better than this.”

“We take the cards we’re dealt.” Josh wrapped his arms around Sam and hugged him. “I love you. I did before this, and I will always…”

Sam took a deep breath. “Always?”

“Always,” Josh confirmed kissing Sam’s temple.

Sam’s eyes fluttered shut and his face was so sad and he frowned, then his expression cleared as he seemingly came to a decision. “Okay,” he whispered.

“Okay?” Josh felt Sam’s hands come to rest on his hips.

“Okay.” Sam gave a slight nod.

“All right then.”

“You going into work?” Sam asked, leaning into Josh’s embrace.

“Aha,” Josh hesitated, Sam rapped him on the butt.

“I’ll be fine.”

“You sure?”

“Positive.”

“All right.”

“Good,” Sam said, he moved out of Josh’s arms and moved over to the fridge. “Want some juice?”

“Yeah.” Josh felt his heart swell in pride at Sam’s movements. Josh watched as Sam pulled out the juice and two glasses and then poured the juice. It was a slow process, but one that made Josh admire Sam even more. His love for Sam just seemed to be growing.

Sam held it out to him and Josh took it.

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” The smile that Sam bestowed on Josh was so sweet that Josh gently grabbed Sam and gave him a quick heartfelt kiss. Things were going to be fine, Josh thought.

Part Six: _______________________________________________________________________

Breakfast two days later was a quiet affair, Toby called asking for some ideas on a speech and Josh simply handed the phone to Sam. Sam’s face brightened at being given some work to do. Sam seemed to be coping, they had developed a routine. A routine where Sam didn’t really talk about his feelings, he was bottling it up, suppressing them. Josh recognised the signs, but what could he do? But the longer it went without Sam talking about his blindness, the worse it was going to get. Part of the routine, Josh liked. He liked to read to Sam and he liked the way Sam always fell asleep in his arms. He loved the way that Sam snuggled into his touch. Sam in repose was one of the most beautiful sights that Josh had ever seen.

Josh had just begun calling Leo for his usual update on the morning events when he heard the shattering bang of something breaking come from the living room. Hanging up the phone quickly, he raced out of the kitchen fearing that Sam had somehow fallen or tripped and hurt himself. “Sam!”

Josh skidded to a stop, stunned. Sam was standing next to the lounge, his hands were buried in his hair. But that wasn’t what had Josh stunned. Sam’s television was lying broken on the hard wood floor. It’s screen smashed in like something had hit it with force. Sam was breathing heavily, his shoulders were shaking. Shaken, Josh didn’t know what to say, he had never seen Sam intentionally do something so violent. “Ah Sam?” Josh took a step forward, “What do you think you’re doing?”

Sam didn’t answer, but he lowered his hands so that they rested on his hips.

“Sam, I know this—“ He didn’t get a chance to finish.

Sam whirled in the direction of where he thought he was standing. Josh winced, Sam was facing the wrong way. He had moved about two feet in the time that he had spoken. “I’m here, Sam.”

Sam adjusted slightly to face him. Josh bit his lip, Sam’s expression was so desperate. “Don’t tell me what you think you know, Josh.” His voice was strained with his fury. “You have no idea!”

“Then tell me!” Josh entreated, for two days he had watched Sam bottle up his emotions. After the initial breakdown, Sam had seemed to be intent on proving that he was okay, when he was far from it. Josh tried on several occasions to get Sam to talk, but Sam waved it off with the usual platitude of being fine. “Tell me what I don’t know. Come on! You have a captive audience here. Tell me!”

“You wouldn’t understand.” Sam crossed his arms protectively against his chest.

“What happened? Why did you do that to the TV?”

Sam shook his head and backed up step as he listened to Josh. He backed against the coffee table and faltered nearly losing his balance. “No, I can’t,” he whispered, closing his eyes. “I can’t. Don’t you get it?”

“Get what?” Josh questioned quietly, taking a step closer. Sam must’ve heard him because his eyes snapped open and he held out his hands, warding him away. Josh eyes brightened with emotion when he saw how they were shaking. “That you’re afraid? That you scared to death that it may be permeant? That you’re frightened that you won’t be able to see your friends again, watch a game on T.V.?”

Josh pushed on relentlessly, watching as Sam flinched as he spoke. He had to get Sam to face his fears and his emotions, denial wasn’t good for anyone. And he just wanted Sam to show some emotion, anything, anything at all. Rather than this easy going attitude that Sam was intent on showing to his friends.

“Or work for the President of the United States. That you’re terrified every time you leave this apartment, don’t you know that I feel the way you flinch every time we leave your home and get out to go to the hospital.--”

“Don’t tell me what you think you know!” Sam bellowed.

Josh ran a hand through his hair, sensing that his words were hitting too close to home for Sam. “I’m right though, aren’t I?”

Sam shook his head, stumbling backwards away from Josh. He tripped and would’ve fallen if Josh hadn’t caught him. Sam yanked himself away from him. “Don’t touch me,” he hissed.

Josh closed his eyes briefly at the tone. “Sam.”

Sam wasn’t listening to him though, his face was drawn tight. “I’m fine, I can handle it. I can.”

Josh stared at Sam suddenly horrified. Sam’s haunted whisper was the only thing that seemed to be keeping Sam from losing it. And just like that Josh knew, that this was a mantra that Sam had been telling himself all week. “God, Sam. You’re not fine,” he muttered.

Sam flinched. “You don’t know, Josh.” Sam’s vacant eyes looked about the room as if he was searching out where Josh was standing. “You don’t know what it’s like.”

“Then tell me.”

Sam sank to the floor, resting his head on his knees. Josh crouched down beside him. “Talk to me, Sam, tell me what you’re feeling. Why did you smash the TV?”

Sam shrugged. “It’s not like I need it anyway.” The defeated tone was enough to bring tears to Josh’s eyes, but resolutely he pushed his own feelings aside.

“Sam.”

Sam raised his head, obviously recognising the admonition in Josh’s tone with that one word. “Come on, Josh, it’s been over a week. I still can’t see. You can’t stay here much longer. I just…” Sam trailed off as his words caught in his throat. Sam blinked once, twice and then gave a sad twisted smile. “I’m really am blind Josh, I’m not getting any better.”

“Don’t say that!” Josh shot back, angry that Sam was being so accepting of his fate. Why couldn’t he fight? Damn it. Why couldn’t he just believe that he was going to get well? Sam patted him awkwardly on the shoulder as if trying to comfort Josh. “Doctor Lewis said it would take time. So it hasn’t happened yet, is that any reason to give up? You know if we had let ourselves think this negatively about the campaign then we would never have gotten into the White House.”

“Josh-“ Sam paused, then closed his eyes. “Please, I can’t allow myself to think on things that might never happen. Now where is my cane?” Josh grabbed it from it was lying next to the couch and silently put it in Sam’s hands. Josh wished the Doctor hadn’t given Sam the cane, because it had seemed to have broken something in Sam to receive it.

Sam rose unsteadily and made his way from the room. Josh could hear the cane swooshing from side to side as Sam made his way to his bedroom. The door was closed resolutely and Josh bowed his head, praying for strength. If Sam didn’t get his sight back soon, Josh didn’t know how he was going to cope. He needed Sam to be Sam again. He missed joking with Sam, he missed laughing about the game. He missed having that friendly face at work. Josh let out a heavy sigh. All he could think was why -- Why did this have to happen to Sam. Why now? Why?

_______

Lying on his bed, staring blindly up at the ceiling, Sam mentally made a list of things he had broken. At least eight glasses. He should buy plastic ones; they didn’t break as easily. He made a mental note to tell Josh later. A vase that he had gotten last Christmas from his mother. The TV. Sam sighed, he hadn’t been lying when he had told Josh that he didn’t need it. It wasn’t like he could see the pictures that they so often discussed on the news… A radio was all he needed now. It gave him a description, and not just the bare facts. He had been so frustrated when he had smashed it, it felt good to unleash some of that emotion. He was so tired of pretending he was fine…

Josh’s words resounded in his head. The man was right, damn him. Sam sighed heavily. He shouldn’t give up. Lewis had given no indication that it was permanent. He had been careful to use the word temporary, it just might take longer than he had previously thought.

There was a tinkle of sound and Sam guessed that Josh was cleaning up the remnants of the T.V’s screen. Josh was so thoughtful to not treat him like an invalid. Sam appreciated it on many levels, but still he wondered, if his blindness lasted months, if Josh would stay. Sam slammed his hand against the bed, berating himself for thinking that about Josh.

Sam had known Josh many years. In that time, the depths to Josh still pleasantly surprised him. There had been numerous times that Sam had seen Josh demonstrate his love and care for his friends. It was a side that he liked to keep hidden, but Sam had seen it on more than one occasion. It had been why Josh had visited that… Sunday, so long ago now it seemed, after Cruz’s execution. That brought Sam full circle, was this some sort of cosmic payback… No, that was ridiculous. Josh was right. He shouldn’t give up.

Yet, he was afraid. He was so afraid that he wouldn’t see again. Sam snorted, it had been a week. It hadn’t been months, so it hadn’t yet, but it would. He just to accept that this was just a phase and if it wasn’t? Then he would deal. He needed to get back his life. He was tired of being scared and hiding from his emotions. He was sick of being frightened and jumping at sounds and thinking everything was going to hurt him. That wasn’t anyway to live. And he wanted to live. He would deal with this. He would.

He fell asleep contemplating how he was going to tell Josh all of this.

______

Toby knocked three times and then waited. He wondered how things were going with Sam. He had been stopping by as regularly as he could, but his work load had tripled with Sam being out of commission. He was just raising his hand to knock again when the door was pulled open. Josh stood there, a frazzled expression on his face.

“Hey Toby.” Josh waved him in.

Giving Josh a querying look Toby stepped into the apartment and then stopped. Sam’s TV was lying on the floor a broken mess, what the hell?

Josh seemed to sense his confusion because he sighed. “Sam did it.”

Toby felt his tension level increase, why would Sam do such a thing? “When?”

“This morning.”

“Why?”

“Because his frustrated and angry and …” Josh paused and massaged his temple. Toby put down the folders he had brought. He gave Josh a moment to compose himself. Josh walked over and picked up the files. “So these are things that Leo wanted me to look over?”

Toby looked around the room searching for other signs of a struggle. There were none. “Yeah.” Sitting down on the couch he stared at the TV set, he had never really seen Sam furious. The very idea seemed so alien. He had seen Sam righteously indignant but never violent. It was worrying. “So where is he?”

Josh sat down beside him on the couch the files in his hand. “He’s sleeping.”

Toby glanced at his watch, it was one pm. Toby’s brow furrowed, he had read some where that when someone slept a lot it was a sign of depression. God, knew that Sam had every right to be depressed right now. “Should he be doing that?”

“I don’t know, Toby. He needed some time alone so I’m giving it to him, okay!” Josh snapped, then waved a hand. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Toby reassured him. “There’s going to be a thing with Senator Hillworth.”

Josh frowned, and Toby watched as Josh kicked his mind into gear. “What?”

“He wants to know why we couldn’t help with the Patients Bill of Rights.”

“What about it?” Josh asked confused.

“He wants to do something now. ”

Josh gave a light disbelieving laugh. “Well, that’s ridiculous. He can’t seriously think he can get this on the table now.”

“He’s trying,” Toby said quietly.

Josh scrubbed a hand over his face. “Great, that’s just what we need.” He rose and gestured to the TV. “Help me move this thing will ya?”

Toby sighed and stood. Physical exertion wasn’t really his thing, it was more Sam’s thing. Toby berated himself for thinking about that, Sam wasn’t really up to doing anything like this – then again he’d never imagine Sam could smash his TV. Squatting down on the opposite side of the TV, Toby nodded at Josh that he was ready to lift. Hefting it up, Toby paused. “Where do you want it?”

Josh gestured with his chin. “Over there in the corner, so Sam won’t run into it.”

Toby grunted and together they carried the TV set and deposited it in the far corner of the room. Reaching past Toby, Josh grabbed a coat that was hanging on the coat rack. He placed it over the TV covering it. Toby decided it was wiser not to comment, if Josh wanted it out of sight he wasn’t going to argue.

“So you want some lunch?”

A sharp rap on the front door made both men pause. Josh looked through the peep hole and sighed. “Man alive, why did I give you guys copies of the security lock downstairs?”

Rhetorical question, Toby decided as Josh opened the door, a smile pasted on his face. “Claudia Jean, Madeleine. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

CJ and Mandy breezed past Josh and pulled off the coats. “We were in the neighbourhood Josh and we…” CJ began.

“No, you weren’t.” Toby interrupted. He knew that they had very specific things they both needed to be doing today and that did not include coming to Sam’s apartment. It smelled like a Leo ploy to get Josh out of the apartment for some reason. “What’s going on?”

CJ sighed, obviously sensing the game was up. “Leo needs you both for a meeting about Hillworth.”

“Now?!” Josh said incredulously. “I can’t. What about Sam?”

“That’s what we’re here for, silly.” Mandy smiled pertly at Josh. He didn’t look pleased. “Honestly Josh, I don’t see why you—“

“He’s sleeping, don’t disturb him,” Josh said cutting her off.

“All right, let’s go,” Toby said holding out Josh’s coat. “Sooner we go, the sooner we get back.”

“Where’s the TV?” Mandy asked as Toby shut the door on them.

Josh rolled his eyes. “They’re going to do nothing, but make things worse. He doesn’t need this right now, Toby, he doesn’t.”

“I know,” Toby said quietly, “but the sooner we leave, the sooner you can get back.” Josh opened his mouth to comment, then nodded. “Good.” Toby began walking back towards the staircase. “So how are you holding up?” Toby knew that this couldn’t be easy for Josh to see his best-friend like this. Hell, it wasn’t easy for him either.

Josh didn’t answer until they exited the apartment building. “I’ve been better.”

“He’ll see again.”

“Yeah, I hope so,” Josh replied.

______

“Do you want me to cut that for you?” Mandy asked.

Sam repressed a sigh. “No, it’s fine.”

“You sure?” CJ said, between bites of her salad. Sam could hear her crunching next to him.

“Yes.”

“Because you know that I could quite easily do it for you.” Sam could just imagine her waving her fork around as she spoke.

“It’s fine,” Sam said picking at the food on his plate. He really didn’t want to eat in front of them. But they had practically forced him to sit down at the kitchen table to eat lunch with them. It was CJ’s and Mandy’s bickering that had woken him up in the first place. God, he couldn’t wait for them to leave. He wondered when Josh would return, he missed his comforting presence.

“You need a drink?” Mandy asked.

“No.”

“I really think you should have a drink, Sam.”

Sam tried not to roll his eyes. “It’s fine.” He knew he was being ignored when he heard the scrap of a chair and Mandy began moving about the kitchen. “I really am fine,” he said again.

“No, don’t be silly Sam.” Mandy berated cheerfully. “Now where do you keep the glasses?”

“They’re in the-“

“What kind of an insensitive question is that?” CJ cut in. “He can’t see where you are Mandy, how the hell is he supposed to know where the glasses are?”

“It’s a normal question CJ!” Mandy shot back.

Sam placed his knife and fork down, there was no way he was eating anything now.

“Fine, you’re right it’s a normal question. I think there in the cupboard there,” CJ said. Sam reached for his fork, but CJ picked it up for him and then handed it to him. Sam fumbled for it and pressed his lips into a thin line when CJ grabbed his hand and put the fork in it. “There you are, do you want water Sam?” she asked.

“He should have juice,” Mandy decided. Sam heard her move and open the fridge. There was a slight brush of cool air as it escaped from the fridge.

“Oh I don’t know, it might react with the medications he is on.”

“How do you know CJ?” Mandy laughed.

“Because I do.”

“Sure, CJ. I really don’t think apple juice is going to hurt him. Do you want juice Sam?”

“I really don’t-“

“He’s not having juice,” CJ said.

Sam started when CJ took his knife and fork from him and began cutting his food. “CJ, I really can do that.”

CJ gave him a little nudge with her shoulder. “Don’t worry about it, I got it.”

Sam wanted to argue that wasn’t the point that he had been managing just fine cutting his own food without the two of them there to take care of him. But what was the point? They would just over ride anything that he said any way.

“Here’s your juice Sam, drink up.”

_______

Pulling his coat tighter to him, Josh jogged up the stairs outside Sam’s apartment. It had been a reasonably short meeting with Leo and the President. The President had inquired about Sam, Josh had hedged a little bit about how Sam was truly coping. Protective of Sam, he had obfuscated telling them that Sam was fine, he made no mention of the broken tv, Sam’s nightmares any of that. It wouldn’t set their minds at ease, so it was useless to mention it. Josh unlocked the security door and entered jogging up the staircase. Sam must be going stir crazy with both Mandy and CJ to contend with, they were high maintenance at the best of times.

Quietly unlocking the front door, he entered, hanging up his coat on the coat rack. He heard them long before he saw them.

“I really don’t think apple juice is going to hurt him, CJ. Do you want juice Sam?”

“I really don’t c—“

“He’s not having juice.”

“CJ, I really can do that.”

“Don’t worry about it, I got it.”

“Here’s your juice Sam, drink up.”

At that point Josh had heard enough and upon entering the kitchen, he could see that Sam had a resigned expression on his face. His features were drawn tight over his cheekbones as if it was costing him everything to seem untroubled by the way they were treating him. Josh didn’t have Sam’s strength. They were treating Sam like he was a five-year-old kid. God damn it, CJ was even cutting Sam’s meat for him. But, it was their tone that got to Josh the most, it was so sickeningly sweet, it was bordering on patronising. Scratch that, Josh thought, they were being patronising. Even if they didn’t realise it, they were, Sam knew it too, judging by his expression.

“All right, that’s enough!” His voice whipped around the kitchen, startling all three occupants.

“Josh!”

“Give people warning next time, Josh,” Mandy berated, giving him a bug eyed look that Josh guessed was supposed to be reminding him that Sam needed a warning when someone entered the room.

“You guys are done,” Josh said, not bothering to hide his anger. “Sam’s not a child, don’t treat him like it!”

“Josh, really it’s okay…” Sam trailed off and then shook his head and rose from the table. “I’m just going to go and lie down, you girls have worn me out.”

“Sam, do you need some help?” CJ asked rising as well, reaching out to grab his arm.

Sam gently shook her free. “No thanks, I’ve got it.” Sam stepped out and picked up his cane which was lying on the floor. Sam walked confidently out of the room, only the tight lines around his mouth gave away his stress.

Josh turned on the two women when Sam was gone. “What the hell were you thinking!”

“What do you mean?” CJ asked clearly baffled

“What do you think I mean, CJ! You were treating him like an idiot. Did you even hear a word that he said?”

Josh watched as guilty comprehension dawned on the two women’s faces.

“Oh god, Sam must hate us,” Mandy said.

Josh shook his head and sat down at the table. “Look, the last thing he needs right now is to be treated like an invalid. It’ll be fine. Just give him some space. Go back to work, Leo and Toby need to go through a few things with you.”

Bustling them out the door, Josh breathed a sigh of relief when they were gone. Josh strode back to Sam’s bedroom. Sam was lying back, staring blindly upward. Josh knocked softly and entered.

Sam waved a hand, bidding entrance. ‘They gone?”

“Yes.” Josh sat down on the other side of the bed. “I brought you some juice.”

“Oh would you stop treating me like I’m going to break,” Sam snapped, then instantly regretted it. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Josh sat down on the bed next to him, there was soft sound of the juice being placed on the side table. “I don’t mean to treat you like that.”

“I’m over sensitive,” Sam sighed, he felt the bed roll underneath him and knew Josh was lying down beside him.

“You want to talk?” A careful question.

“No,” Sam murmured, he turned to the warm heat of Josh. “Can you hold me?”

“That I can do.” Josh took him into his arms fiercely.

After a while Sam spoke. “I’m sure they meant well.”

Josh tapped the bed. “You don’t have to cover for them, Sam.”

Sam blinked, then sat up. “It’s not like I can’t do those things for myself.”

“I know.” Josh sat up as well.

“I tried to tell them.” Sam shook his head. “Is this what it’s going to be like?” Sam hit the bed, frustrated. “Because I refuse to accept it damn it, It was like I wasn’t even there.”

“I know.”

“You don’t freaken’ know Josh. You don’t.” Sam bit out, rolling off the bed and standing. He began pacing back and forth. Josh wanted to stop him, but what could he do? He knew Sam had mapped out the entire apartment in his head. Josh could see Sam’s pacing was measured - three steps and a quick pivot and three steps in the other direction. Stilted moves, Sam’s usually graceful moves had been contained and suppressed.

“I know.”

Sam let out a frustrated yell. “Damn it, would you stop being so understanding!”

Josh stood also. “How do you want me to be Sam? Just tell me and I will be.”

Sam shook his head, “God, don’t do this, Josh.”

“What?” Josh pressed. “Ask you to talk about your feelings?”

“Yes!” Sam stopped walking and then sighed. “I can’t friggen tell where I am in my own bedroom Josh, do you have any idea what that’s like?”

“No.”

Sam rubbed his eyes, one eye twitching slightly. “They were fighting over what happened to the TV, can you believe it? Can you? Like it mattered that it was broken,” Sam shuddered, turning around, he stepped towards the bed, then took another hesitant step. He reached out and patted for the bed. Josh wisely chose not comment. Finding the bed, Sam sat down, heavily rubbing at the tension in the back of his neck. Sam closed his eyes, the lines of tension deepening. “I can’t see, Josh.” It was a despairing whisper.

Josh rested his hand on Sam’s shoulder, massaging it gently. “You will again.”

“Will I?” Sam asked despondently.

“Yes.” Squeezing Sam’s shoulder gently, Josh sat down beside Sam and gave Sam a quick hug.

“How do you know?” Sam trembled, his hand searching for Josh’s and finding it after a moment. Sam’s hand slid over Josh’s, as if Sam was memorising the texture.

Josh shrugged. “Because I do.”

“It’s that simple?” Sam looked over at him. Josh placed a quick kiss on Sam’s lips, Sam started slightly at the gesture then relaxed into the kiss. Josh pulled back, his hand rising Sam’s up so it rested against his chest.

“It’s that simple.”

Sam tilted his head and closed his eyes. “I can feel your heart,” he whispered.

“What’s it telling you?”

A faint grin touched Sam’s lips. “It’s telling me, that you love me.”

“I do.” Josh brushed his free hand over Sam’s cheek.

“I love you too.” Josh’s heart skipped a beat at Sam’s soft words.

Sam blinked and opened his eyes. “I felt that…” His hand came up roughly to find Josh’s cheek and it brushed over Josh’s lips. Josh’s hand framed Sam’s face he controlled Sam’s movement. Sam’s acquiescence was obvious, he was content to let Josh lead. So Josh did, he leaned in and brushed his lips tenderly over Sam’s. Sam’s lips parted and the kiss deepened passion overcoming the two men. Sam’s hand ran through Josh’s hair, seeking, caressing, loving. Through out all, Sam’s hand still rested on Josh’s heart, feeling it’s erratic pounding as Josh lost himself in the kiss. Finally, they broke apart. Sam licked his lips, that smile still lingering. Josh leaned in again tasting Sam, before sitting back. “Well…”

Sam laughed faintly. “Yes, well.”

Josh rose tugging at Sam’s hand. “Got to keep your strength up, let’s have lunch. Did you eat anything?”

Sam gave the slightest of grimaces. “No.”

“Oh well, come on, let’s get some food into you then.”

Sam allowed Josh to pull him to his feet. Josh steadied him, then watched curiously as Sam shook his head and blinked once or twice, then shook his head. “You okay?”

“Yeah.”

They moved out to the kitchen and Josh set about getting lunch ready. Sam sat down at the table. “I’m sorry about before.”

Placing a sandwich down in front of Sam and grabbing a cup of coffee for himself, Josh sat down opposite. “For what?”

“For snapping at you….” Sam hesitated and gave a sheepish smile. “For smashing the tv.”

“It’s okay, Sam.” Josh took a sip of his coffee and gave Sam an evaluating look. “You wanna tell me why you did that?”

Swallowing a mouthful of food, Sam gave an odd flick of his hand. “It’s hard to explain.” He put the sandwich back down on the table and raised a hand to his head massaging his temple. “I felt… God. This is hard….” Sam sighed, bowing his head.

“You were frustrated? Angry?” Josh prompted after a moment. He had came to the realisation that Sam wanted to talk about this but had no idea where to start.

A heavy breath and a roll of the shoulders, “I’m tired of being scared.”

The mug of coffee was plonked down on the table at that. “Scared of what?”

“I don’t know… I just everything. The assault…”

Josh noted the way Sam’s face twisted when he said that.

“…being blind, work, just… I… when I was in the hospital I was really hoping this was a dream and that I would wake up. Then I would realise that I was awake. That I had my eyes open and I couldn’t see a damn thing.” Sam’s voice was sharp with emotion. Josh forced himself to remain quiet and let Sam speak. “But, I’ve realised that I’m hiding. I’m hiding from the truth. And I’m short changing myself and I can’t do that any more. I just can’t.”

“You don’t have to be scared,” Josh whispered, reaching out and taking Sam’s within his own. “You’re not alone. You have me. Toby, CJ, Leo, Donna, the President, who by the way knows some odd facts about bats being blind.”

Sam gave a snort of laughter. “Yeah?”

“Yes. Believe me when I tell you, you don’t want to know.”

There was a soft squeeze on the hand he held and Josh grinned. “I believe you.” Sam finally raised his head. “You’ve been there every step of the way, I don’t think I’ve thanked you.”

“You don’t have to thank me.” Josh tried to fob off the gratitude.

“I do.” Sam’s voice was insistent and so was his gaze. “Thank you Josh.”

“You’re welcome.” Josh’s voice was thick and Sam gave him a gentle smile. Josh rose and still holding Sam’s hand, walked around the end of the table to give Sam a hug. Sam leaned into his embrace. “I’m sorry this happened. But I’m not sorry that it brought us together.”

“Me too,” Sam whispered, pressing a kiss to Josh’s palm. “Shall we go outside for a walk?”

Sam must’ve felt his ripple of surprise because he let out a laugh.

“You sure?”

Sam gave a nod. “I have to start somewhere.”

“Well,” He stepped back and handed Sam his cane. “No time like the present, right?”

There was a look of determination on Sam’s face and he nodded. “That’s what I’m saying.”

“Just outside, Sam. No pressure. Just outside to the street and to the corner and back.”

Sam nodded, he moved towards the door and Josh found their coats and helped Sam put his on and gave Sam his sunglasses. “Do I look really weird not being able to see?”

“What?” Josh asked confused.

Tapping his sunglasses Sam sighed. “Every time I go out, you give me sun glasses… I just wondered if it was because I…”

Josh shushed Sam’s words with a touch on the arm. “It’s um…it’s about protecting you, Sam.”

“It is?” Sam’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “How?”

“Aha, so people can’t tell where you are looking…”

“I have a cane.”

“That’s different,” Josh countered. For some reason it was, he always gave Sam the glasses to wear to protect Sam on some level from the stares that people gave him also, to hide the vacant look that Sam had at the moment. It was disconcerting, he wanted to protect Sam from that, even though Sam wouldn’t know what was going on.

Sam gave a sigh and waved his hand. “Whatever.” He opened the door and held out his hand to Josh. “Let’s go.”

Taking the proffered hand, Josh felt Sam freeze when the made it down to the main entry. Every time they got this far, Sam froze. He knew why. It still reminded Sam of the attack. He had a sudden idea. “I tell you what, let’s not go out for a walk, let’s just sit on the stoop.”

“What?” Sam asked distracted, his hold on Josh’s hand tightening momentarily before he let go.

“Let’s just sit outside…”

“I would prefer to go for a walk.”

Josh rested his hands on Sam’s shoulders and gave them a gentle squeeze. “You said you didn’t want to be afraid any more. This is the first step to facing that fear…”

“I’m not..” Sam protested then sighed. “He was waiting for me out there…”

“I know.” Josh’s voice was soft. “But you got through it, you survived.”

There was a bitter snort of laughter. “Not for want of trying on Franks part.”

“No. But you’re a better man than he is. You tried to talk him down. Just like you did with Bobby Zane.” Josh opened the front door, his hand checking that he had the key and then he guided Sam outside.

Sam’s hand groped for the rail and Josh allowed him to find his way. Sam moved awkwardly and then sat down heavily on the stairs. “I can still hear the sirens, and see the flash of blue lights….” Sam turned and looked around vaguely. “It was the last thing I saw you know…”

“Really…”

“That and I can still hear you shouting my name…” Sam reached out a hand. “I’m sorry I scared you.”

Taking Sam’s hand, Josh sat down beside Sam. The cement was cold. “Don’t worry about it.” Josh threw that apology away, Sam was here and alive that was all that mattered.

Sam seemed to nod and rubbed Josh’s hand. “Okay.”

“Okay,” Josh echoed. The two men sat outside for another twenty minutes before Josh decided that Sam had been exposed long enough to the cold. It was a silent communion of companionship and healing. Sam’s cheeks were flushed rosy from the wind when they finally got back inside. To Josh he had never looked more relaxed, for the first time Josh felt like that Sam believed that he was going to get better or be able to handle his blindness.

Part Seven: _______________________________________________________________________

The next day, Sam lay on the sofa his head resting on Josh’s lap. Sam listened to the news on the radio while Josh read some file that Donna had left. Josh’s hand was absently thumbing through Sam’s hair as he read the article. “Listen to this…” Josh said with a disbelieving snort. “Senator Stackhouse thinks the senior staff at the White House are a bunch of over educated geeks that have no real experience at running a country… Where do they come up with this stuff?”

“Same place they all do, I guess,” Sam said with a smile. “At least he recognised the fact that we are, in fact, well educated.”

“Damn right we are.” Sam felt Josh brush a kiss on his temple and smiled. “It’s probably about the Patient Bill of rights. It’s not like we can get it on the table.”

“Right,” Sam agreed, idly listening to the news as well as listening to Josh. “How’s the speech coming?”

“Toby’s doing well, your suggestions really helped.”

“Good,” Sam grunted, pleased that he was getting things back on track. Maybe next week he could go into the West Wing and dictate some of the work that he had left when he had been injured. “Maybe I should get a dictaphone …”

“Donna’s dropping one by today,” Josh answered absently, there was a flip of the page and then Josh’s hand stilled it’s caress of Sam’s hair. “Oops”

“Oops?” Sam rolled over and gazed sightlessly up at Josh. The legs underneath him shifted and Sam knew that Josh felt really uncomfortable. “Wasn’t I supposed to know?”

“It was supposed to be surprise… you know for next week when you..aha, you might go back to work…I mean this way you get to do work and we need you there at work Sam… Toby needs you, Cathy’s apparently taken to stealing Toby’s bagel…”

Sitting up, Sam manoeuvred so that he was facing Josh. “Josh. It’s fine. I look…” He frowned. “Cathy’s been stealing Toby’s bagel?”

“Yep. She’s will continue to do so till you are at back at work.”

“Oh man. I knew she was up to no good when I talked to her on the phone yesterday,” Sam muttered. Sam shook his head. “So people don’t care that I’m blind?”

The sofa rustled and the folder was thrown away somewhere with a clipped sound, as Josh moved closer. Sam could smell his aftershave. He liked the smell. He had grown accustomed to it. Josh’s hands rested on his cheeks, framing his face. “Sam, people care about you. About who you are not what you are….”

“I know, it’s just every now and then..” Sam waved a hand.

“Yeah. You’re physical appearance or whatever matters little to them…” Sam could almost sense the grin that crossed Josh’s face. He could hear it colour Josh’s voice. “Although, I gotta say it’s not a bad package.”

“Josh.” Sam smiled. He reached out and touched Josh’s face trying to find Josh’s lips. Then using that as a guide he leaned and gave Josh a quick kiss. “Thanks.”

“Sure-” The doorbell ringing cut off whatever Josh had been about to say. Sam jumped at the sound and Josh’s hands gave his shoulders a brief understanding squeeze before he stood to answer it.

There was a creak as the door was opened. “Hello.”

Donna.

“Hey Donna. Come on in.” There was a short scuffle of shoes on the floor and then Donna was walking over to where he was sitting.

“Hey Sam,” She touched his shoulder in a brief hello. Sam gave her a smile. “How are you?”

“I’m doing okay. Where’s the thing?”

“Josh!” Donna’s voice was rebuking. “You told!” Sam laughed when he heard a little slap and Josh’s muffled sound of hurt. “I specifically told you not to.”

“I didn’t mean to, it just slipped out.”

“Well, that’s the last time I ask you to keep a secret.”

“Well, Sam said he was going to get one…”

“Don’t blame Sam!” Donna fired back, but Sam could tell she was laughing. “You were?”

“I was,” Sam confirmed with a nod. He held out his hand and a moment later a package was placed in it. Donna spent the next twenty minutes showing him how to work it. Donna got up to get a drink and Josh sat down next to him on the sofa and absently rubbed his shoulder when Sam rolled his neck in a move to relax tight muscles.

“You okay?”

Truthfully, he was getting a headache. He had woken up with it and now it seemed to be getting worse. “Can I have a glass of water and my pills?”

“Take mine,” Donna offered, Sam heard a glass placed down in front of him. “Which pills do you need?”

“The pain meds.” Sam massaged his temples and Josh continued to rub his back soothingly. Donna came back and gently put the pill bottle in his hand. “Thanks.”

“Anything else I can do?” Donna asked, her hair brushed against his face as she straightened and obviously sat down nearby.

Sam nodded, then winced. He fumbled with the opening of the bottle and sighed and held out it to Josh, who wordlessly gave him the required dosage. Sam put them in his mouth and reached out tentatively for the glass of water. Finding it, he gulped down a mouthful.

“You want to lie down?” Josh asked softly.

“I think I’d better. Those tablets really knock me out,” Sam answered, already feeling them begin to work, they were dulling the pain and everything was beginning to feel soft around the edges, disjointed.

“Josh, maybe he should stay on the sofa,” Donna suggested.

Sam agreed with that, he didn’t think he could stand at the moment. He was tenderly shifted to lie down and felt something soft float over him. He meant to say thank you, but fell asleep before he could.

Donna raised her eyebrows at Josh in surprise. “Wow, those tablets really knock him out.”

Josh turned from his contemplation of Sam’s sleeping form. “Yeah. Why are we whispering?”

Rolling her shoulder, Donna looked at him aghast. “Because we don’t want to wake him.”

Josh looked down at Sam and then back up at Donna. “He’s not going to wake up for hours.” He picked up the glass of water and took it back to the kitchen. Donna trailed after him.

“How are you?”

“Good.” Josh gave her a smile. Donna folded her arms and rested them against her chest.

“Really?”

“Yes. Really. It’s hard seeing him like that… or in pain.. but you know…”

“You’re coping?” Donna finished, her face settling into an understanding smile. Josh gave her a nod. “How is he?”

That was a tough question to answer and Donna could usually tell when he’s lying.

“He looks better, than he did. More relaxed, you know. Well, apart from the headache.” Donna conceded, she looked out to the living area and Sam’s sleeping form and then back to Josh.

“I think he is better. Coming to terms with things and all. We made some headway yesterday.”

“Good.” Donna said. Her eyes were worried. “He’s coming back to work, right?”

“Oh yes,” Josh confirmed with a reassuring smile. “He wants to go back.”

“I’m glad.” Donna flicked her hair over her shoulder. “Place doesn’t seem the same without you two there.”

“Thanks.” Josh gave Donna a quick hug and she returned it. “Now, what did Leo or Toby give you to give me?”

Walking out, Donna grabbed the files and then began to go through them with Josh. She left an hour later, after giving Sam a kiss goodbye. She thought Josh hadn’t seen, but he had. It had been a sweet gesture of caring from a friend. Josh had wanted to say something, but knew the moment had been a private one. He wandered out and sat down on the coffee table and, resting his head in his hands, watched Sam sleep.

“Hey.” Josh greeted when Sam woke up hours later. He had grabbed some files and had been working his way through him. They were spread out over the coffee table because he hadn’t wanted to leave Sam. Sam blinked a few times blearily, then squinted in his general direction. “How you feeling?”

“Everything’s out of whack,” Sam responded, his voice scratchy from the medication. “But okay.” He moved to sit up and wavered lying back down. “Next time make me have food first.”

Josh swallowed the first ten replies to that. “Sure.” He moved to sit next to Sam on the sofa. Brushing a hand over Sam’s forehead he frowned when it felt a little clammy. “You feeling okay?”

“I’m fine. I’m hot from this blanket. What time is it?”

A glance at the clock and Josh told Sam the time. It was 2 in the afternoon. Sam frowned at him. “Why are you still here?”

“Because you needed me,” Josh answered simply. “Donna gave me everything I needed.”

“Oh she did, did she?” Sam’s voice was dryly amused. Then he yawned. “God. What is in those things? I feel like I could sleep for a week.”

“Then get some rest,” Josh said, with a quick pat to Sam’s chest. Sam tried to give him an annoyed look that was ruined totally by his rumpled appearance. “You’re cute.”

“Cute,” Sam murmured, his eyes fluttering shut. “Calls me cute, was that some kind of …” He was asleep again.

Josh ran his the back of his hand down the side of Sam’s cheek. “Yeah, you’re cute,” he whispered. Rising, he went back to his position on the floor and the files he had been going through.

When Sam finally woke up enough to hold a conversation longer than five minutes, Josh got some food into him and then put Sam to bed, so he could rest more comfortably. He had to remember to tell Lewis about this headache in the morning. Lying down on the bed that evening, Josh was struck by how young Sam looked. He hadn’t seemed that young before, but maybe he hadn’t been looking for it before. Why was he now? Maybe it was that Sam seemed so vulnerable like this. He pulled Sam closer to him and drifted off to sleep. All in all it had been a good day.

______

The next morning Josh awoke first, Sam resting snugly against him. He gave Sam a gentle kiss and then rose to get dressed and showered for the day. Sam came in a moment later. After helping Sam through his morning ablutions, Josh left to get the coffee started for them both. Coffee was their life line in the morning, Sam couldn’t live without it first thing and that was a fact. Josh came back to find Sam sitting on the bed an odd expression on his face. “You okay?”

Blue eyes looked at him dazedly. “Yeah, fine.”

“You sure?” Josh asked resting a hand on Sam’s forehead and checking his temperature.

Sam captured his hand and pressed a kiss against it. “I’m fine. Just a little headache.”

“Still? Need some of your meds?” Josh asked, Lewis had given them some pain pills in case Sam’s headaches became too severe.

Sam shook his head. “No. It’s fine.”

“All right then, you want breakfast?”

“Yeah, let’s go.” Handing Sam his cane, Josh led the way to the kitchen. Sam sat down at the kitchen table. Josh cleaned up the table and frowned when he saw Sam waving his hand in front of his face.

“What are you doing?”

Sam froze guiltily. “Nothing.”

“Wrong answer, counsellor, you were doing something,” Josh said, beginning to make Sam’s breakfast.

Rolling a shoulder delicately, Sam shrugged. “I… no reason.”

Josh sighed deciding to let it go, then frowned when he saw Sam’s face twist in pain. “Sam?”

“It’s nothing,” Sam said distantly, “Just tired from the pain meds yesterday… and this headache.”

“You need anything?”

Sam gave a dismissive wave of his hand. “Nah, it’ll be fine. I’ll have a nap later.”

“Sure?”

“Positive.”

“Okay,” Josh acquiesced. If Sam thought he was fine he wasn’t going to argue, but he was definitely going to be telling the doctor about it at the next check up. Breakfast was nearly done when he saw Sam rise unsteadily from the table. “What?”

Sam looked vaguely over in his direction, confused. “I just, I just…”

“What?” Josh felt a wave of anxiety. Sam wavered, shaking his head. “Sam?” Panicked, Josh stepped over towards Sam. Sam’s face went white. “Sam!”

Sam didn’t hear him. His eyes rolled up into his forehead and he folded in on himself. Josh caught him, staggering with Sam’s dead weight. Frantically he checked him over, Sam was clammy and pale. He felt for a pulse, it was there a nice steady heartbeat, if a little fast. “Sam, come on, don’t do this to me.”

Standing, he raced for the phone, he was torn when he heard Sam murmur. Grabbing the phone, he dialled 911 as he knelt down beside Sam.

“Hello…. My friend, he collapsed…..No! He’s breathing,…. See here’s the thing, he had a head injury a week ago….. No, I think he’s waking up. … What?! I don’t know.” Josh pulled the phone away from his ear as he heard an ambulance screech to a stop outside the building. That was awfully fast, he thought dazed. Racing with the phone still clutched in his hands, he buzzed the paramedics into the building. “Apartment 4B.”

The next fifteen minutes were a blur to Josh. He knew that he should’ve been calling people about what happened, but he didn’t want to leave Sam. The paramedics were apparently very used to dealing with distraught relatives and friends and just worked around him. It was the paramedic who turned the stove off, Josh knew that because he thought it was such an odd, but kind thing for the guy to do. The ride to the hospital was agonisingly slow, the paramedics didn’t seem too concerned, but that could’ve just been a front Josh thought worriedly.

At the hospital, Sam was wheeled out and from there Josh didn’t know what was happening. The paramedics were talking in a rapid fire to the emergency doctors. One of them looked over at him. “You his friend?”

Josh nodded. “Yes, he had a head injury…” He paused trying to collect his thoughts, when had Sam been attacked by Franks. “Aha…I’m sorry?” He said, realizing that a nurse had approached him and had been talking to him.

The nurse gave him a comforting look. “I just need some information…”

Josh forced himself to concentrate on her, it was hard though to pull his eyes away from Sam. “He had a head injury- made him go blind. He was seeing Doctor Lewis.”

“I see.” The nurse nodded and looked over at the doctor. The doctor gave her a look, which the nurse seemed to understand and she hurried over to the phone.

“All right people let’s get this guy a head CT, blood type and match…”

Josh felt helpless as another nurse approached and pushed him out into the waiting room. It felt like hours before Doctor Lewis appeared with another doctor at his side. Josh gave a glance for a nametag, Doctor Boyle. Josh rose quickly. “Well?”

Doctor Lewis gently led him by the arm to the elevator. “The swelling’s receding quite a bit.”

Josh tried to curb his frustration. “What does that mean?”

“It means that it’s very likely that within the next day or two, Sam’s sight should return to normal capacity.”

Josh sank back against the elevator wall in relief. “Really?” Lewis nodded and glanced at Boyle “Does Sam know?”

Lewis shook his head. “No, he’s unconscious I’m afraid. His system had quite a shock and needed to shut down. It caused him some pain when everything got back online so to speak.”

“Is that why he collapsed?”

“Yes, that’s very probable. Also the stress of losing his sight may have prompted such an intense physical response when the body started to heal.”

“But he’s going to get better, right?” Josh asked breathlessly.

“Yes, he will need to take it easy for the next few weeks. But yes, he should be fine.”

Josh collapsed back against the side of the lift in relief. The two doctors gave him a look of understanding. Josh ran a hand over his face, trying to pull himself together. God, he had forgotten to call the Wing. They needed to know. The elevator dinged and Lewis and Boyle were shepherding him out and down to the room that Sam had been shuttled in to. Josh followed the doctors inside, Sam was once again lying on a gurney attached to numerous machines, but not, Josh noted, as many as last time. That was a plus. Sam still looked far too pale for Josh’s liking. Lewis and Boyle left him alone and Josh was grateful for that. He knew he should call Leo or someone, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave. He grasped Sam’s hand within his own and sat down beside Sam’s bed, he raised the limp hand to his lips and nuzzled it. “God. Sam, if you ever scare me like that…” It was an empty threat and Josh knew it. He loved this man. He really did. Sam meant everything to him. Sam filled something that had been missing since… since god knew when, all Josh knew was that he loved him. He rested his cheek against Sam’s palm. “Wake up.”

They stayed like that for the next hour, before Josh finally forced himself to leave and call his friends. Josh wasn’t surprised when he found out that they would be coming down to the hospital as soon as possible. They all cared for Sam. He walked back in to Sam’s room and resumed his position beside the bed, once again grasping Sam’s hand within his own. He must’ve fallen asleep, because the next thing he was aware of was someone softly stroking his hair and urging him to wake up. Groggily Josh came back to awareness and when it dawned on him who was speaking, he shot up out of the chair in shock. He blinked and a big grin covered his face as he looked down at one very awake and alert Sam Seaborn.

Sam smiled up at him.

It was then that Josh realised that Sam wasn’t giving him the blank stare that he had become accustomed to. There was an alertness behind the gaze that had been absent for the past week or so. “Hey.” His voice sounded parched, it was so coloured by emotion.

Sam’s smile broadened. “Hey.”

Josh couldn’t tear his gaze away and Sam reached out a hand and Josh took it, holding it firmly.

“You missed everyone,” Sam told him, with a gentle grin.

“I did?” Josh’s eyebrows twitched, he must’ve been asleep for hours.

“Yeah, you’ve been asleep for about six hours,” Sam explained. Josh sat down on the bed beside Sam, pulling Sam’s hand into his lap.

“You okay?”

“Everything still kind of fuzzy, but I’m going to be fine.” Sam’s joy was obvious and contagious.

Josh surreptitiously glanced about the room and saw that they were truly alone, door shut, blinds closed and he brought his gaze back to Sam. “That’s the best news I’ve heard.”

“Yeah,” Sam agreed, titling his head to look at Josh. The bed had been angled upward, Sam was supported by several fluffed pillows. Josh brushed his free hand over Sam’s forehead. Sam’s eyes lightened with emotion. Josh leaned closer. Sam’s hand came to rest at the base of Josh’s skull, guiding him closer. When their lips met, Josh gave a little sigh, it was almost too good. Josh felt Sam deepen the kiss and groaned at the assault. It was a passionate kiss of hope, it broke Josh’s heart at its beauty.

Finally they separated, and Josh brushed his thumb over Sam’s lips before he sat back. His hand coming up to tap at his tingling lips. “I love you Sam.”

Sam closed his eyes at his words and when he opened them the adoration made Josh blink hard at the emotion that swelled within his heart. “I love you too.”

“Where do we go from here?” Josh asked.

“We take it one day at a time,” Sam answered, his hand tangling with Josh’s.

“Then that’s we do,” Josh agreed, looking down at Sam’s strong graceful hand entwined with his. Nothing had ever felt so right as this, and he wasn’t going to let go. As if he knew what he was thinking, Sam tightened his hold on Josh’s hand. “I’m not letting you go.”

“You think I would go?”

“Nah,” Josh countered. He gave a little sigh and grinned. “So you’re really okay?”

“I’m going to be fine. Still a little hazy, but I can see you and that’s more than enough for me.”

“You’re easy.”

“That’s the second time you’ve called me easy,” Sam said with a mock frown, ruined completely by the twinkling of his blue eyes.

Josh laughed. “Is it? Well, you did sleep with a hooker.”

“Call girl. Why does everyone get that confused?” Sam complained, his eyes still smiling.

“You’re so easy to rile.”

“That’s the third time.”

“Guess you’re going to have to punish me,” Josh baited, with a suggestive smile.

“Sure, as soon as we get home,” Sam agreed, then he yawned. “Sorry, but I’m gonna have to…” His words trailed off as his eyelids drooped. Josh brushed back Sam’s hair and gave him a gentle kiss that Sam murmured appreciation of.

“Sleep for now. We have all the time in the world.”

“Count on it,” Sam slurred, rolling onto his side, but never letting go of Josh’s hand.

“Good.” Josh settled in to watch Sam sleep, he couldn’t think of any other place he’d rather be, than here with Sam.

Part Eight: _______________________________________________________________________

There were children playing on the swings, even though the air was cold and brisk. They laughed and swung high, their cheeks rosy from the exertion and the cold. The wind brushed leaves across the lawns and the trees swayed and whistled with the wind. There was a young couple walking hand and hand through the park.

Sam savoured it all.

He sat resting back against an old tree. It’s knuckled bark dug into his back, but he ignored it. His hands rested on his knees. His eyes were dancing everywhere. He had been released from the hospital two hours ago. Josh had needed to go to work for a few hours, so Sam had taken the opportunity to go outside and just watch life pass him by. It was an exhilarating experience. The wind ruffled his hair and the sun was getting brighter as it approached… Sam looked at his watch and read the time. It was nearly noon. He was taking nothing for granted.

There was an unread paper beside him, but Sam was just enjoying sitting and looking around the park. He would read the Post in a minute, when he felt like it.

He was going back to work tomorrow and Sam was really looking forward to it. He wanted to explore the White House, truly. It was like he was looking upon everything with new eyes. Sam gave a wry smile, which he supposed he was. The swelling had receded and he could see. He still got tired a little too easily, because of the drugs and was only allowed to work half days for the next week and from there… Sam didn’t care, he could see. The bruising on his ribs had pretty much faded, just a green tinge here and there, from what he could see. Sam’s hand strayed to his ribs and he shook his head in bemusement.

A week and a half and everything had changed.

Sam’s thoughts turned to Josh and his smile widened. Josh had been a godsend. Sam couldn’t have imagined surviving his illness without him there as a support. Sam loved him for it. He had been so patient and caring. Sam’s heart swelled with emotion.

“Hey…” A soft voice interrupted his thoughts.

Sam looked up and his smile was full of love. Josh was standing there, dressed in a soft grey suit, one of Sam’s favourites on him. His dark coat blowing in the wind. “Hey.”

“How’d you find me?” Sam asked confused.

Josh rolled a shoulder. “I was driving past the park and looked over and there you were.”

“Aha. Coming home to check on me?” Sam gave Josh a tender look.

Josh lowered his head then nodded. “Yeah.” Josh shoved his hands in pockets. He was wearing sunglasses that hid his eyes from Sam. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing.” Sam eyes drifted away from Josh, darting about the park again.

Josh squatted down next to him, his coat billowing around him. He tilted his head looking at him then, followed Sam’s gaze. “Quite a sight.”

Sam nodded. “Yeah.”

“Think he’s going to propose?” Josh nodded towards the young couple that Sam had noted earlier.

Sam looked at them and then shook his head smiling softly. “No, she’s pregnant.” He had noted the way that they interacted, the man had rubbed the woman’s belly and she had covered he’s hand giving him a joyous smile.

“Aha,” Josh said, still looking over at the couple.

Sam looked at him, relishing this opportunity to study Josh’s profile. He had missed seeing it. “So what brings you…”

“Came to check on you,” Josh answered before he could finish. He rose and held out his hands, Sam grasped them and Josh hefted him up, steadying him when the momentum pushed him forward. Sam smiled his thanks and bent to pick up the paper. They walked out of the park side by side, Sam’s eyes gliding over everything. Josh rested his hand on Sam’s shoulder, guiding him through the park and pedestrians.

Ten minutes later, they walked into Sam’s home. Sam threw the paper down on the side table near the front door and hung up his leather coat on the rack. Josh followed suit. Sam lingered at the door, his eyes scrutinising the apartment. Josh touched his shoulder, bringing him out of his thoughts. “You okay?”

“Never better.” Sam laughed, and Josh smiled, his dimples creasing his cheeks. Involuntarily, Sam’s hand came up to caress Josh’s cheek, gently smoothing his fingers over those dimples. Somewhere along the line, Josh had taken off his sunglasses, Josh’s eyes were smouldering.

Josh’s hand ensnared Sam’s wrist, holding it there. His other hand came to rest on Sam’s hip and he tugged Sam closer. Sam’s other hand came to rest at the base of Josh’s neck. His eyes lingered over the contours of Josh’s face, the dancing dark eyes. The creases around his eyes, the worry lines on his forehead. Their eyes locked and then Josh’s eyes fluttered shut when their lips brushed together, Sam savoured the expression of adoration on Josh’s face. Then he closed his eyes and allowed himself to feel. The soft linen of Josh business shirt, the smooth heavy material of his suit, Sam pushed the suit coat off Josh’s shoulders and it fell to the floor. Josh’s hand had untucked Sam’s shirt and was exploring the bare skin underneath. Sam shivered at the thrill of it. Josh grinned into the kiss. Sam pulled back. “Let’s take this somewhere more comfortable?”

Josh acquiesced with a nod, after bending to pick up his suit coat and hang it up. Sam took Josh’s hands and led him to the bedroom. Once there, Sam took off his shirt without preamble and Josh did the same. Josh’s hair was askew from the singlet coming off. Sam walked forward after giving Josh a brief kiss, he smoothed it down. Josh’s hands reached for Sam’s pants and, with a raised eyebrow at Sam, he waited for permission. Sam gave it. Josh shot him a smile and undid the buckle on the slacks and slowly undid the zipper. Sam sucked in a deep breath as Josh’s hands brushed against his growing arousal. Josh bit his lip and knelt down, tugging the pants off Sam, his hands running down the side of Sam’s legs as the pants pooled at Sam’s feet. Sam stepped out of the pants and Josh rose, pulling Sam flush against him. Josh just held him. “God. Sam.”

Sam rubbed Josh’s back soothingly. “It’s okay.” Josh rested his head in the crook of Sam’s neck. Sam understood the release of emotion. He just held Josh, running his hand up and down Josh’s back. He kissed Josh’s shoulder, tasting the sweet scent that was Josh. Josh raised his head and pulled back. Seeing that Josh was about to apologise, Sam shook his head at him. “It’s fine, I’m okay. We’re fine.”

Josh nodded wordlessly, his eyes falling to Sam’s lips. Sam ducked in for a kiss. Josh let out a small sound and Sam smiled, he pulled back resting their foreheads together. “We have time. We have all the time in the world.”

Josh grinned. “Well, then let’s get started.” He gently led Sam towards the bed and pushed him down.

Sam lounged back and watched as Josh stripped his suit pants off and placed them on a chair near the door. Sam patted the bed next to him. “What are you waiting for?”

Josh gave him a smile. “Who says I’m waiting?” He crawled up the bed, his hands exploring and Sam moaned at the extensiveness of the assault on his senses. He was helpless to do anything but submit to it. Josh had him and he wasn’t letting him go.

Sam whimpered as Josh divested him of his boxers and caressed his hard cock. Josh gave him a look and then leaned down and tasted him. Sam gasped, his hands grasping the bed sheets as Josh loved him so thoroughly he lost of all sense of where he was. Sam’s last coherent thought was that he would have to repay the favour to Josh. Josh stroked his legs, shifting Sam’s position to give him easier access. Sam’s hands let go of the sheets and tangled in Josh’s hair as Josh sucked his cock, Sam was whimpering with the pleasure of the sensation. He thrust into Josh’s mouth, unable to stop himself from seeking more of the warmth, he arched and cried out Josh’s name as he came. Josh swallowed all of his seed and slowly and gently released Sam’s sensitive cock. Sam was breathing hard and he moaned at the loss. His body felt so loose and relaxed as he let go of Josh’s head. Josh gave a soft throaty laugh at his actions. Sam managed to open his eyes and gave Josh a tired grin. “You’re something else,” Sam murmured.

“Thanks.” Josh grinned, his eyes dark. Josh ran his hands over Sam’s chest tweaking the nipples once each.

Sam squirmed at the touch, but decided that reciprocity was the name of the game, so he ran his hands over Josh’s shoulders. “Come here.”

“Sure.” Josh moved closer and nuzzled the side of Sam’s neck, licking and tasting the salty skin.

Sam pushed Josh onto his back. “All fairs in love and…”

Josh let out a chuckle that sent shivers down Sam’s spine. Sam kissed his way down Josh’s chest, loving the way that Josh’s stomach rippled with his caresses. He nuzzled Josh’s erection through the dark grey boxers that he wore. He tugged Josh free and Josh let out a sigh when he was no longer restrained. Sam ran his hands down Josh’s silky length, memorising it and savouring it’s its texture and look with his eyes. He kissed it and Josh gasped, his hand coming to rest gently on the back of Sam’s head. “Please,” Josh whimpered.

Sam took mercy on him and reverently took the head of Josh’s cock into his mouth, savouring the bitter taste. Josh squirmed, his actions telling Sam of his need, so he took him deeper, giving Josh the pleasure that he had been given only moments ago. Josh cried out his name, thrusting in. Sam was ready for it. He took Josh to the point of no return and enjoyed the way that Josh came hard. He dropped Josh’s cock from his mouth and slid up Josh’s body, giving him a quick kiss. Josh smiled at him, sleepily. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Sam murmured, settling down beside Josh and drifting off to sleep.

Later, he was lying in Josh’s arms, Josh was absently stroking and caressing his chest. “I love you.”

Sam lifted himself up so he could see Josh’s eyes when he said it this time. “I love you too.”

There was a flare in the pupils before they contracted with emotion. Josh ran a knuckle down Sam’s cheek. “Yeah?.”

“Yeah…. So you need to head back to work?”

“Nope. Free for the afternoon,” Josh said easily.

“You’ve got files in your car, don’t you?” Sam laughed, Josh looked mildly indignant then gave a sheepish grin.

“Yeah.” Josh tenderly brushed his knuckle over Sam’s lips, parting them. “Doesn’t mean that I’m gonna work.”

“No?” Sam asked, a warm glow spreading through him at the words. Josh pulled Sam for a quick searing kiss.

“No. The federal government can go to hell for all I care…”

Sam’s grin was like lightening. “Good plan, until we go back tomorrow.”

Josh gave a quick dimpled smile. “That’s what I figured.”

Sam laughed. “So you want to have some food?”

Josh shook his head. “I just want to stay here and forget about everyone else for a while.” He pulled Sam into a tight hug. Sam returned it, the warmth of Josh’s body a treasure. For the rest afternoon, the two men did nothing but cherish the experience of being together. The government could wait, work could wait… until tomorrow. Life would go on, but Sam and Josh would face it with open eyes together.

Fini