Title: "Tired"
Author: Anna-Maria Jennings
Feedback: Yay for feedback! snchica@yahoo.com
Rating: CHILD-PG (barely even slash)
Pairing: J/S
Spoiler: In The Shadow of Two Gunmen, I, II
Archive: Please do. Just let me know.
Author's scrawny Web site: www.geocities.com/snchica
Disclaimer: Don't sue me. I have nothing, just millions of ideas about these folks, who belong to someone else, and I promise not to make a dime off of them.
Notes: The muse is beating me up with these little ideas. This one is really, really tame, but I'm a character writer, I think. I just like fleshing them out.

Tired by Anna-Maria Jenkins

"Josh, you look like hell."

I looked up briefly from scribbling notes to meet Sam's gaze. He was probably right. I'd been in the office since 5:30 or so, and it was creeping pretty close to midnight, now. I'd barely had time between meetings and memos to choke down some crappy Chinese food that left me feeling a little greasy and nauseated. "It's been a long day."

"Yeah, I know." He sighed, looking a little younger for a moment as he leaned on my doorjamb. Sam had been there as long as I had, that day. Well, I think he got in around 6, but by midnight there's very little difference as to when you arrived as long as it was dark when you did. It had been a stressful week for everyone. We'd been trying to push through some legislation on the Hill - well, we were always *trying* to push legislation, but this was important. This was a new prescription drug plan, not the big plan but a step in the right direction, some immediate relief, at least. There was also a dead Senator in Virginia - a funeral to attend and a new member to pigeon hole; a really obnoxious reporter who'd managed to catch a quote from Zoey on abortion; and the annual budget debate getting ready to rear its ugly head in both houses. I was up late, for the moment, looking over policies on Western Africa and the popular uprisings there and trying to draft a briefing memo for Leo and the president.

"Josh… you can do it tomorrow."

"Really, Sam?" I looked up briefly and met his eyes. "Can I _really_ do it tomorrow?"

There's a difference between working in Congress and at the White House, see. In Congress, you stay up late into the night drafting memos and rewriting legislation and polishing speeches because you're young and it's exciting. Usually, you knock off at 10 or 11, drift around the corner to get a beer with the aides from the other offices - make no mistake, this is part of the job, too. And the worst thing that can happen if a memo is misplaced or a meeting is forgotten is - after a few major, major mistakes - you'll lose your job with one guy, but you're always scouting for positions somewhere else, anyway, so that's not so bad…

But at the White House, no. That's not how it works. First of all, there's no where else you ever want to be. I see old friends looking through Roll Call, scouting out new jobs, and I know I have not only the greatest job in Washington but the greatest kind of job security on earth. As long as I keep my nose clean, I'm going to stay here, because firing me would make the front page of The Post and the Times, and no one wants that. But the thing is, if I don't, say, draft this memo so it's ready for Leo and the President in the morning, and then the President has to make a decision tomorrow regarding his policy on West Africa and all he has is the briefing from the national security adviser or - if she's called away - someone a little lower down the command chain, that makes it about thirty times more likely that a military guy with a half-cocked idea of the delicacy of the politics in Africa might sway him to move some troops closer with a diatribe on the power base of the American military in the African continent. So it's not the idea that I could lose my job that keeps me at my desk well past when the midnight oil burns out; it's the idea that someone else could lose their _life_.

And Sam knew all of that.

But he was still looking at me with that piercing, evaluating stare, smoothing over my objections with concerns of his own. "C'mon, Josh. You know what I mean."

"I have to finish this."

"Hey, what's today?"

I looked up, surprised by the change in topic but not, altogether, unwary. "Thursday. Well, Friday now."

"Friday the 17th, right?"

"Okaaay…"

"And, what happened about a month ago?" I looked down quickly, realizing I'd been had. "Oh, that's right," he said, plowing through my silence. "You were shot."

"Sam…"

"No. No, let me say that again." The humor was gone from his eyes. "You were shot. And you were in the hospital for a long time, remember?"

"Of course I _remember_. I was there, all right?" I had returned to scanning the documents before me.

"Good, good. Then you probably remember the part where you were released from the hospital, and the doctor told you to take it easy, right?"

"Look, I don't have time for easy, okay?" My response was pretty angry, but this was getting me worked up, and worked up was not the best thing for me late at night. I stood up, meaning to push past him into the hallway, where the ever-present coffee could be found. He caught me, though, as I hit the doorway, his hand on my arm. I tried to pull free, but the effort made me puff a little.

"You need to rest."

"I'm - fi -" Then the coughing started, and I knew it was all over. The coughing spells were the worst side effect of the shooting, now that the wounds seemed to be healing. Once I started, it was a fight to stop, and every cough lit my torn muscles with fiery pain. Sam steered me back to a chair, then knelt in front of me. When I could see again around the tears in my eyes, he was looking up at me, patiently, his hands resting on my knees.

"Let's go home, Josh," he said quietly.

I looked at him for a minute, saw the worry wearing on him, and nodded. He stood to get my coat, and I sat silently, wondering for the seven millionth time why this had had to happen to me.

Then, after he helped me put my jacket on, Sam kissed me on the forehead, and I realized there might be a single good thing that came from all of this. "Let's go," he said, his hand resting on my elbow.

"Let me get my…"

"No. Leave it." His grip tightened.

"Okay. Okay." Sam wasn't usually this forceful. It was an important glance at how worried he truly was.

I let him propel me through the hallway. I must've been more tired than I thought, because things passed in a blur. I'm usually observant, so when I realized I was seated in Sam's car and barely remembered passing the last security checkpoint, I gave a weak laugh.

Sam turned to me, his glasses on over his driving face. "You okay?"

"Fine. I'm fine."

Sam drives with clinical precision. I mean, he knows every turn and exactly when to signal. When he drives, even if he's talking to you, he doesn't turn to face you. Just keeps driving. But that night, as we coasted through the city - still wet from some ridiculous all-day mist - I saw him sneaking glances at me until I finally closed my eyes to block him out.

~ ~

The next morning, I woke up in Sam's empty bed. I was wearing my boxers and a T-shirt he'd pulled from a pile of things I'd left after my last over-night. I barely remembered asking Sam for the shirt the night before. By the time we pulled up next to his place, I was pretty fast asleep. He pushed me inside, past the door without even hanging up his coat - I'd mumbled something about his usual anal clothing tendencies being abandoned, but I don't think it came out clearly. It certainly hadn't erased the worried crease on his forehead. But then, after he had me out of the suit, as his hands were making quick work of the buttons on my shirt, I stopped him. "D'you have something I can sleep in?"

"What…?" I touched my side, not able to meet his eyes. "Oh. Oh, sure." So he found the T-shirt - which he'd laundered and pressed - and I turned my back to pull it on. I hated the red scar there, and I didn't want Sam to see it. Though he'd seen worse in the hospital, and in those few precarious days after my release when he'd stayed over to make sure I was okay, now the scar was a bitter reminder. But he'd turned his head, then finished taking things off - without the least bit of sexual innuendo, though I think I made some sleep- drunk crack about it. Then he walked away to get ready, himself.

A few minutes later, he slid into bed facing me and sharing a pillow, allowing me to tuck my head up against his neck. I remembered his hand skittering briefly over the wound before it rested on my back, felt him kiss my head, once, then I drifted to sleep.

And now, he was nowhere to be found. "Sa-" I tried to call, but my throat was too dry. I swallowed a few times and called for him again. When he didn't answer, I decided to try moving a little. As I turned slowly to face the bedside stand, I saw a note. It was scratched on legal paper, with black ink.

Josh,

You needed the rest. Before you move, call me.

Sam

"Wha'…" I looked up past the note to the clock. It was 9:30. "Aw, Christ!" I started to sit up, but a familiar little knife of pain lodged itself in my chest muscle, and I ended up doubled over on the bed. "Damn you," I growled, not so much angry at Sam as I was angry in general. I picked up the cordless phone he'd left on the beside and dialed his cell number.

"Hey, Josh, how -"

"Sam, you have -"

"Wait. Wait, Josh, let me explain."

"Sam, I have to -"

"Josh?"

Oh, shit. "Mr. President?"

"Josh, how are you feeling?"

"I'm - I'm fine, Mr. President. Look, I'll be in in -"

"Josh, you're bein' a damn fool. If I see you in this office today, I'm going to have the guards forcibly remove you."

"Sir, I-"

"Look, do you know where I'm supposed to be right now?"

"Sir?"

"I'm supposed to be meeting with my senior staff. They're all here, in fact. Toby here is trying to tell me about the advisability of announcing our new West Africa initiative before I meet with the prime minister on Wednesday. CJ probably wants to chew on me about not informing her of my impending veto on the house bill that Sam's been tracking. And I've got Leo trying to read me my latest approval numbers and getting me info on this Senator. And you know what, Josh? You're screwing up my meeting."

I sighed and tried to complete a sentence. "I'm really sorry, sir, I - "

No such luck. "You're screwing up my meeting, Josh, because Sam's been sitting here staring at his phone the whole time, waiting for you to call and yell at him because he's dumb enough to care about you."

Well, no problem with sentence completion now. I'm speechless.

"So, again, let me say, I don't want to see you here today." His voice was softer now. The sympathetic voice. I felt my throat getting tighter, even as my head spun a little with anger. "And maybe not tomorrow, either, okay? Not until you're rested up again."

I heard Leo say something in the background and the President grunted. "Josh, you still with me?"

"I'm here."

"I'm going to pass you off to Sam now, okay? Go easy on 'im. Pretend he was under my orders."

"Thank you, sir."

"You take care, Josh."

There was some phone shuffling, then Sam's voice, sounding cowed. "Josh, hey. Give me a second to step outside." I took that moment to lean back on the bed. My chest didn't hurt so much anymore.

"Okay. Hi."

"Hi."

He paused, probably stunned I hadn't bitten his head off by now. "You feelin' okay?"

"I'm tired," I admitted. "Sam -"

"Josh, you needed to rest. It was the only way I could do it. I'm sorry if you're mad, but you've gotta know I just did this because…"

"I love you."

"because I - wait?"

I laughed a little at his abrupt pause. I could almost hear the gears turning in his head as the pause lengthened.

"Sam?"

"Uh-huh?"

"You gonna say something soon? 'Cuz I need to get back to sleeping."

"Uh-huh."

"Sam?"

"Yeah. Yeah, Josh. I love you, too."

"Go back to your meeting."

"Okay. Listen, you need anything? I could bring something for lunch."

"I'm good," I said, stretching out on his bed. "But there's one thing you could do for me."

"What's that?"

"Come home early tonight." I could hear his smile.

"Okay. I'll see you then."

Sam got home around nine that evening, after a swing by Josh's apartment to pick up clothes. It seemed a deliciously early hour to turn into his driveway. The President and Leo were being a little kinder than usual, Sam thought warily. Well, the President was still recovering, himself. So was everyone, for that matter. Sam sighed as he pulled out his keys. He had strict orders from Leo to inform Josh he wasn't coming into the office the next day - or the next. In fact, after a mid-afternoon call to Josh's doctors, the Chief of Staff and the President had decided Josh wasn't going to be back in the West Wing for at least a week. Somehow, it had fallen to Sam to tell him.

From the silence of the house, he knew Josh was asleep - though his kitchen TV was on C-SPAN and the living room television was broadcasting CNN. Sam shook his head, shutting both sets off before heading toward the bedroom. Josh was asleep on his side, twisted in the sheets. Sam sighed, looking at him, and rubbed his hand through his hair. He wanted to wake him, but he knew Josh should get all the rest he could. Letting his rational side take over, as always, Sam turned from his friend to his closet. He hung his suit jacket on the chair and his tie on its rack, then carefully slipped out of his dress shirt and slacks. He carried both to the hamper, then returned to his dresser. He'd pulled on a pair of black shorts when he heard a soft grunt behind him. At first, he thought Josh was waking up, and he turned with a smile as he pulled on a Georgetown T-shirt.

Josh made the noise again - a snuffling little groan. Then Josh jerked a little, just a twitch, and grunted again. Sam pulled the shirt the rest of the way on and stepped toward the bed. Josh's arm flailed to the side and he cried out "No! Ah!" as Sam reached him.

"Josh! Josh, wake up!" Sam knelt next to the bed, grabbing Josh's shoulders.

Josh started up out of sleep and swung into a seated position, panting. "Oh, God, oh…"

"Josh, it's okay," Sam said calmly, sitting next to him on the bed. He put a tentative arm around

Josh's shoulders, feeling tension trembling through him. "What happened?"

"I - the same dream," he said. "It's - God, Sam, the same dream."

"What dream?"

Josh wiped his sweaty forehead with his right hand. "We're at the speech. The shots ring out - I can see the gunman. I mean, I can just see him. He's _right there,_Sam. Right in front of me, and I can't - I can't stop him. I know he's gonna hit… and I just - there's nothing - I can do."

Sam nodded, gently rubbing Josh's back with one hand. "The same dream?"

"Have it - every few - days," Josh panted. His breath was coming in ragged gasps now.

"Lie back," Sam urged gently.

"I don't - want to - lie down!" Josh gasped. "I'm - this - fuck, fuck!"

"Josh, calm down." Sam put his hands on Josh's shoulders. Josh tried to shake him off, but he was too weak, Sam realized with a frown. He pushed his friend to the bed over his angry protests, holding him pinned to the pillow. "Just calm down for a minute," he pleaded, listening to Josh's rushing breath and watching his face turn redder.

Josh glared at him for a moment, then closed his eyes. Eventually, Sam let up on his shoulders, though he continued to lean over him. Slowly, Josh stopped panting. Sam touched his face, letting his fingers play at Josh's hairline, at the curve of his cheekbone. "You okay?"

"I don't know," Josh sighed.

"Josh…?"

He forced himself to open his eyes, took a shallow, calming breath. "Yeah." He reached for Sam's hand, interlacing their fingers across his chest. "Just wound up, you know?"

"Yeah."

They sat quietly for a moment, Sam watching Josh, Josh collecting himself and his thoughts. Finally, Josh spoke. "So you're home early," he said, trying to be light.

"As per your request."

"Oh, yeah." Josh laughed. "Probably won't be the best company."

"I know. That's why I told Mallory to stop by later."

"What?!"

"Just kidding," Sam soothed with a smile and then a soft kiss.

"Jerk," Josh murmured when Sam pulled away. "Playing with a broken man's heart."

"Yeah." Sam sat up farther. "You hungry?"

Josh reached for him, rubbing his fingers through his hair. "Wanna kiss me again while I think about it?"

Sam grinned and leaned in, meeting his lips. He was overly gentle with Josh - not just because of the injuries, but because they'd only really discovered each other's mutual romantic feelings within the last few weeks, among the tension of the shooting, and Sam didn't know how far to push. The physical stuff would wait, he knew, until Josh was strong enough to make moves on his own.

Josh's fingers flexed briefly on the back of his head, and his other hand suddenly clutched his chest. Sam pulled back, watching Josh's face tighten in pain. "Josh? You okay?"

"Yeah, 'm fine," he muttered. He opened his eyes slowly, hardly fooling Sam that he was okay.

"Damn muscle spasms."

"You did have a bullet hit there."

"I seem to remember that." He sat up against the headboard. "Did you say something about food?"

"Oh, yeah. Donna sent lasagna." Josh snickered. "Hey, what, you know I can't cook."

"No, I was laughing because that rhymed."

"What did?"

"Donna sent lasagna."

"Oh, yeah." Sam was studying Josh closely, catching the painful flutter of his eye when he breathed. "You sure you're -"

"Lay off, okay?" Josh said the words quietly, but his eyes were steely.

"Right. Okay." Sam stood up. "I'll go heat the lasagna. You want to eat in here, or…?"

"I'll be out in a minute."

"Okay." Sam nodded and smiled, then padded out toward the living room.

As he left, Josh fell back against the headboard with a tiny groan. <MUST'VE before, it pushed _really_he chided himself, feeling sharp pains near his ribs.

The bullet had worked its way through his chest muscles before knocking off his lung and artery. The surgeons, later, had further severed the muscle. Breathing for the first few days had hurt so much he'd barely remained conscious at times. It had been getting better, but maybe going into the office so soon had been stupid. Probably not as stupid as overdoing it with the prescribed muscular exercises, as he'd done a few hours ago, but… hell. It was only pain, and the harder he worked, the sooner he could get back into the swing of things. He'd already showed the doctors up, going into work weeks before they'd thought it possible.

He sighed, and his chest flared again. Well, maybe he'd take the day off tomorrow, as suggested, and rest up over the weekend. Next week would be easier.

Getting up from the bed was tricky with his chest on fire. He stumbled toward the bathroom, where he'd left his pills earlier in the day, before walking to the kitchen. Sam was just pulling a plate of lasagna from the microwave. "Aw, honey," Josh said, his voice dripping sarcasm. "You cooked."

Sam laughed. "Go sit down."

"Just getting a drink."

"I can get it. You wanna beer?"

"Yeah, I do, but… probably not a good idea."

"Why n- oh," Sam said as Josh shook the pill bottle. "Got it. Well, I've got Coke or orange juice."

"Water's fine. I can get it." Josh took a bottle out of the refrigerator and wobbled over to Sam's dining table. He grimaced as he swallowed the caplet, then watched Sam juggle plates with a smile. "I'm surprised Donna didn't come herself."

"Wasn't she already here today?"

"Brought me lunch."

"She has a thing with you and food."

"A thing."

"Yeah. She'll be here tomorrow, too."

"Ah." Josh nodded and swallowed. "Here? Or…?"

"Do you want to stay here? I mean, I didn't know whether… well, if you want to go home, or what."

"Mm," Josh said. "I suppose I should go home. You know, appearances."

Sam snorted as he sat down. "I don't know that it's going to fool anyone whether you're here or there tomorrow. I think they've pretty much got the idea."

Josh sighed, pulling his plate toward him. It seemed extraordinarily heavy, but Donna wasn't the only one worried that he was losing weight. "Yeah, that's kinda what I figured."

Sam looked up, a bite of lasagna hovering in the air on his fork. "Does it bother you?"

"What? Nah. Just - I probably should've told Donna and Leo face-to-face, is all."

"You still can," Sam said with a shrug. "Or, at least, Leo."

Now Josh's lasagna hovered in midair. "Huh?"

"Donna knows you pretty well, Josh."

Josh looked hard at his friend. "Whaddya mean by that?"

"She just - knows you."

"She say something?"

"Ah, well," Sam muttered, staring at his food, "maybe."

Josh put his silverware down, focussing fully on Sam. He put his hand on Sam's shoulder to draw his attention. "What happened?"

Sam couldn’t quite meet his eyes. "She, ah, she sort of threatened to kill me if something happened to you."

"She threatened…"

"I believe her exact words were, 'You do anything to hurt him and so help me if I won't rip off your head and feed it to…' what's her dog's name?"

"Donna doesn't have a dog."

"Okay. Well, then, she's stranger than I thought, maybe." Sam shook his head. "Something about

'Spike.'"

"Donna doesn't have a dog named Spike," Josh said, sitting back with an amused face. "Donna does, however, have a brother…"

"Ah. Yes. Okay. That explains some things."

Josh shook his head. "What'd you say?"

"That's the funny thing." Sam gave a doubtful frown. "Well, first, I told her that I have no intention of hurting you."

"Comforting. Go on."

"Then I said that, if I should do something that reprehensible, it would really be your call on the manner of my death, and while both you and I love animals, that I doubted you would chose decapitation and feed for a mutt as your method for my demise."

Josh laughed quietly. "So, you called her brother a dog."

Sam's eyes were flickering in confusion. "Think so, yes."

"Good day for you."

"Mm." Sam looked up as Josh winced and took a quick breath. "Josh?"

"No - s'okay - just -" he held up his right hand to halt Sam's worry, clutching his chest with the

other. The spell passed within a moment, and he looked up to meet Sam's worried eyes. "Just need to remember not to laugh, maybe."

"Is it worse today than usual?"

Josh started to shrug, then thought the better of it. "It's okay."

Sam nodded, but Josh saw the fear in his eyes. He wasn't altogether unconcerned himself, though he attributed the pain to lapsing in his medication and the overzealous exercise that afternoon. As the twinge passed, he offered Sam a weak smile and turned back to his food.

The medication _was_ kicking in now, though. He stared at his lasagna, picking at it unenthusiastically with the fork. He was suddenly beat. he thought, steeling himself to withstand the sudden wave of drowsiness. As Sam started to replay the meeting he'd missed with Senators Dorsch and Woolley, though, Josh realized it was no use. He waited until Sam reached the end of the sentence, then looked up. "I think I'm gonna go back to bed," he said slowly, trying not to panic his partner.

Too late. "Why? You feel okay?"

"Yeah, just - damn pain pills knock me on my ass." He stood, surprised to find himself wobbly on his own legs. "Whoa."

"Josh?" Sam was on his feet, too, his arm sliding around Josh's waist.

Josh reluctantly accepted the support. "Just so tired," he said, leaning into Sam.

"Let's get you to bed, then," Sam said gently, his blue eyes cloudy with worry.

They walked slowly across the kitchen. By the time they reached the door, Josh was puffing pretty heartily. He leaned against the doorframe as the neared the hall. "Just - gotta - rest," he said, putting one hand on his knee.

"Are you okay?" Sam asked, his hand skittering restlessly over Josh's back. "Do you - do you need something? Should I call some-"

"No," Josh gasped. "It's just - like this - sometimes." He was lying, but he didn't believe anything was truly wrong. This was just payback for overextending, right? "Gotta - sleep."

"Okay," Sam said uncertainly. Josh reached for him again, and they started down the hall. Josh suddenly felt sweat on his neck; each step seemed a little harder, like moving through molasses. He took a breath and heard his own wheeze, terrible, racking his body with coughs. He vaguely heard Sam's tinny voice in his ears a moment before he started falling, and then he swam into painless, peaceful blackness.

"Bye."

"CJ, I don't know," Sam sighed for what seemed the 57th time that evening. He was sitting in the waiting room at Georgetown University Hospital this time, the hospital closest to Josh's apartment. Leo was there, as was Donna; CJ had been calling every ten minutes or so from the White House. Josh was somewhere else - they had whisked him straight out of the ambulance into a bright white emergency room, away from his by-then panicky lover. Left to himself, Sam had called every member of the senior staff. His first - and most agitated - call had been to Leo, who was in the middle of editing briefs for the President. Leo was at his side within fifteen minutes, somehow, both out of concern for the fact that his deputy director of communications was hyperventilating into his cell phone and out of the raw, fatherly concern he had for Josh. Donna had followed a few seconds later.

As he hung up with CJ, Sam was grateful for all of the distractions.

"The President wants to come," Leo sighed, snapping his own phone closed and sitting next to Sam.

"Oh?"

"I told him the last thing Josh needs is to worry about is having the trivia master in the building while he's trying to recover."

Sam gave a weak laugh, appreciating Leo's attempt to distract him more than the joke itself. Leo clapped him on the shoulder and stood to stretch and change the channel to CNN.

Donna stood, too, wringing her hands. "Why haven't we heard anything?" she asked. "I don't - I don't understand. What happened, again?"

"I've told you everything," Sam said patiently, giving a little shrug. It was getting harder not to be defensive. He could see in Donna's eyes the accusation that he'd been doing something or that he'd let Josh do something that flared the injury.

"I'm gonna get some coffee. You kids want anything?" Leo asked, standing near the door.

"No, thanks," Sam said. Donna didn't answer.

When Leo left, she turned sharply to Sam. "It's only been a month," she said, almost growling.

"You should know better than…"

"Donna, what are you saying? I didn't do -"

"He had a hickey!"

"What?" Sam said, genuinely taken aback.

She looked away. "I - I saw it, today, when I was there, he was, well, he was changing, he'd been exercising, and… by his collarbone, there it was." Now her eyes were right on him, again, bright and glaring. "He needs _rest_, Sam. He needs to sleep. He doesn't need your hormones getting him worked up and making him - making him _pass out_ for God's sake!"

"Donna, I have no idea what you're talking about," Sam said slowly, truly stunned by her accusation. "I didn't - _we_ didn't do anything."

"That's bullshit!" she yelled. Leo was just opening the door. "You drove him to a setback!"

"Donna!" Leo snapped. She looked over sharply, her scowl remaining. The older man crossed the room with an alarmed scowl of his own. "You will not accuse Sam of anything! He didn't do this."

"How do you know?" Donna asked, her eyes much wider than usual. Sam shrunk back on the couch, taking off his glasses and stammering ineffectively over Donna's rant. "When I talked to him at 8 he was fine! He was in bed! Then Sam gets home and…"

The door swung open, stopping Donna in mid-sentence. "Here for Joshua Lyman?"

"Yeah, that's us," Leo said.

The doctor nodded slowly. "Okay. Here's what I can tell you. Josh tore some of the internal stitching that was done in his last surgery."

"Oh God!" Donna gasped, wrapping her arms around herself and sinking into a chair.

"Not to the artery, luckily, but there was still some internal bleeding that put pressure on his injured lung. That's why he fell unconscious."

"Is he okay?" Sam asked, his voice small.

"We've repaired the damage," the doctor said. "He's in recovery right now. I expect he'll be fine, but… this is a major setback. We had to reopen the wound. We're looking at an added three, four weeks of recovery time."

"A month! He was back at work yesterday!"

"Yesterday?" the doctor said with equal alarm. "This man shouldn't have been anywhere _near_ work this soon. This is a long-term injury. With this setback, I wouldn't expect to see him active again until November, at least!"

"November?" Sam and Leo cried simultaneously.

"You're kidding, right?" Sam asked.

"Not at all. If he - well, it's no wonder he's back in the hospital if he was trying to work again." The doctor shook his head. "He'll be here for at least a week."

"Can we see him?" Sam asked.

"You can see him in an hour," the doctor said. With a final shake of his head, he was gone.

It was one of the longest hours of Sam's life.

Donna kept shooting him terrible, angry glances, glances Sam felt wholly unequal to. He sure as hell hadn't made out with Josh last night - or any night, come to think of it. They usually kissed in greeting at home, and they lay together to sleep, but Sam was very, very wary of going too far too fast. And now Donna hated him for the exact thing he'd been trying to avoid since the shooting. Great.

Leo was on the phone with the President, updating him on Josh, then urging him not to come.

"It'll just make a bigger scene, and besides, it's not secure," Sam heard him say. Sam agreed. As deeply committed to the president as Sam was, Jed Bartlett was one of the last people he wanted to see or worry about at the moment.

CJ, though, had already arrived. She was the only pleasant point in the whole room. She sat next to Sam, asked him gentle questions about the evening, then assured him that Josh would be fine. She told a few jokes and had a few funny CJ moments, letting him concentrate on her for a while instead of the weird tension of waiting. She even, somehow, managed to guard him from Donna somewhat.

Then, the doctor came back. "He's awake," the man said with a weary smile, "but very groggy. I can only let you in one at a time for a few minutes."

Sam was ready to demur to Donna, if it would bring any peace, but the doctor said, "Is one of you Sam?"

"That's me."

"He's asking for you."

Sam nodded, swallowing hard and not meeting the curious glances of any of his colleagues as he walked out the door. The doctor led him to an isolated room. Josh was alone inside except for about a dozen blinking machines. Sam hovered near the end of the bed for a moment, just watching him. Josh was pale, the familiar oxygen lines running to his nose again. He was tucked in under a blanket - hospitals made him cold - but Sam could see his right hand, the IV line taped to it. Sam sucked in a sharp breath of air to fight his slight fear-induced nausea, and Josh stirred.

"Hey," he rasped.

"Hi there," Sam said inadequately. He crept forward, sinking into the chair by the bed. Josh couldn't turn to face him, he realized, so he stood again, hovering just above him. Josh gave a weak smile and held out his hand. His fingers felt like ice. "You okay?" Sam asked, covering Josh's hand with both of his own, trying to warm it.

"Feel pretty bad," he admitted, his left hand gesturing to his chest.

"I bet." He moved one hand to stroke Josh's hair. Josh let his eyes slide closed.

"Sorry I scared ya," Josh whispered.

"No. Don't be."

"'Kay."

"Leo's here, and Donna, and CJ."

"Ugh."

"You wanna see them?"

"No. Not yet."

"Okay. Go back to sleep, then, okay? You should rest."

He opened his eyes again. "Stay with me?"

"The doctor doesn't want…"

"Please stay." He looked away for a second. "If I wake up - and the dream…"

"Okay," Sam answered. He leaned down and kissed his forehead. "Okay."

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