Title: The Cast
Series/Sequel: Sequel to A Kiwi Experience
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Aaron Sorkin etc
Summary: Sam has problems with an arm in plaster
The Cast by Jen
"Yow!" Sam yelped, lowering his plastercast. He gingerly pressed the skin above his right eye and groaned aloud with irritation, then flopped backwards and lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling. He let the heavy cast rest across his stomach, gently flexing his fingers, wondering how he was going to handle the next few weeks like this.
Toby's reaction had been a picture. By the time Josh and Sam had arrived back in Auckland, the events of the day had caught up with Sam, and he was shattered, looking pale and drawn, his arm in a sling, Josh hovering until they reached the main terminal. Toby had stepped right up in front of Sam and had stared at him searchingly, noticing the tense jaw and defiant eyes. He had shifted his gaze to the broken arm, one finger brushing gently across the exposed plaster around his hand.
He'd sighed loudly and looked back at Sam's face for a moment before glaring at Josh,
"I'm blaming you for this." They turned towards the exit. Josh's mouth opened in protest,
"It was his idea. He wanted to walk along the coastline. He wanted to see just how rugged it is. And now he knows. I had no part in this."
Sam glanced past Toby and caught his eye, "Like it's not your fault the tide turned while we – were – "
"Shut up, Sam."
Toby had a car waiting. He slid in beside the driver and the others climbed into the rear seat. Toby leaned over,
"Can you write, with your arm like that?"
Sam frowned. "It's pretty sore at the moment but I think it'll be fine after a day or two." He made a tentative pincer movement between finger and thumb. "I could hold a pen… my typing might be a little off centre."
Josh snapped his fingers, "Oh yeah, don't forget you have to take those anti-inflammatories."
Sam leaned back in the seat and closed his eyes, "When we get there."
Josh and Toby began discussing the events of the Forum. Sam sat as still as possible, trying to will away the slow throb of his arm.
* * *
And now, three hours and a farewell function later, the Forum was over and AirForce One was due to fly out at 7 a.m. There was a light knock on the door. Sam rolled awkwardly across the bed to answer it – the good doctor Herring was smiling broadly,
"Samuel! We haven't had a talk in a while. May I come in?"
"Ah, sure." Sam stood back to admit the doctor who frequently travelled with the President.
"How's those migraines? Wasn't that the reason for our last chat?" He bustled over to the occasional table and opened his medical bag.
"Yes, sir," Sam grimaced at the memory of a severe migraine mid-flight from Paraguay.
"I heard you weren't too good on the way over here. Are you worried about the return journey? I can give you something for that."
"I'll be fine, I'm sure. Was that all - "
"Heavens, no, I'm here about your arm." He smiled widely. "Josh has been entertaining us with tales of you extraordinary – ah – accidental episodes. I realised you plan to fly back with that cast on?"
Sam frowned down at his arm, "I can take it off?"
"Heh. No. But I need to check you over – if there's a chance of swelling during the flight, you'd have to get the cast split for the journey, then re-plastered back home. That's the norm after an operation, say, to reset the bone. You didn't have that, did you?"
"But there was dislocation, some manipulation?"
Sam shuddered, the events of the afternoon still a very clear, very painful, memory.
"I take that to be a yes. Taking anti-inflammatories… Sam?"
Sam shrugged, a little sullenly.
"A little co-operation, Sam, I'm trying to help you out here."
Sam sighed, "I'm sorry. Yes, I'm taking – um – Voltaren every four hours."
"Make sure you eat some food then. What happened to your eye?" He looked closely at the red swelling. Sam waggled the cast in answer and the doctor nodded understandingly. "Let's have a look at you."
"Is this really necessary?"
"You want to take this flight?"
Sam sat resignedly on the bed and held out his arm. The doctor had a long, careful look at Sam's arm, his hand, fingers, movement, then took out his medical gear and began to check Sam over. Five minutes later he tapped Sam on the knee,
"Look at me, Sam. I know you don't like talking about yourself but this is important. If you miss any of those anti-inflammatories, you risk swelling in the pressurised cabin. Everything looks good at the moment so I'm going to cautiously approve the flight with the cast intact. We leave at 0700 so I'd like to see you an hour before that. Here?"
Sam shrugged, "Yes sir."
"Good. Now get some rest. You look like you could use it."
Sam lay back on the bed again, weary with exhaustion and frustration. A moment later Josh slipped in.
Sam waved a limp hand in reply.
"What are you doing? You're supposed to be resting."
"I'm on the bed. What the hell else could I be doing but resting?"
"Hey, okay, don't bite." Josh held up his hands in mock surrender. Hmmm. Grumpy Sam. "I meant, why aren't you tucked up in bed waiting for me?"
Sam stared at the ceiling. "The travelling medical circus ring leader was here, to look at my arm."
"Everything okay?" Josh lay down beside him.
"Yeah, fine, he had to make sure the cast wasn't too tight for flying. You know, if it swells." He closed his eyes. Josh leaned in and gently kissed Sam's swollen right eye.
"How many times have you – "
"Ow." Josh kept looking at Sam. "It's nearly midnight. I need a shower."
"Yeah, well, go ahead."
"What's the matter?"
"C'mon, Sam." Josh leaned up on one elbow, yawning. "What's wrong? Was it Herring?"
Blue eyes glared at him unexpectedly. "No, it's you. Why d'you have to have such a good time at everyone else's expense?"
"Herring said you were down there regaling everyone with tales of my klutziness." Sam struggled awkwardly into a sitting position, drawing his knees up under his chin, "It's not fair, Josh, it's just – not." He pressed hot, tired eyes into his knees, shoulders hunched, his good arm wrapped around his shins, the one in plaster hanging limply by his side.
"Sam – " Josh sat up too, reached a hand out to touch Sam's shoulder. Sam jerked away.
"Just eff off!"
There was a moment's silence. "Fine."
Josh clambered off the bed and shut himself in the bathroom. When he emerged twenty minutes later, Sam had fallen asleep, still dressed, curled up sideways across the bed, his good arm cradling the broken one protectively. Josh set the alarm, rearranged the bedding, covering Sam, and crawled in next to him.
* * *
Josh woke with a start. A lamp was on, and Sam was sitting on the edge of the bed, his hunched form casting a huge shadow across the opposite wall.
"What're you doing now?"
"I can't undo these bloody buttons with my left hand."
"Can't you use the right one at all?"
"It's too damn sore. I can't do any bloody thing." Sam was in a state, hissing noisily.
"What time is it?"
"Two. I forgot to take those damn pills. Then I realised I was still fully dressed. But I can't get UNdressed!"
"Let me help you?" He shuffled through the blankets and knelt in front of Sam, who stared off to the left, blinking angrily. Josh reached out tentative hands and loosened one of Sam's buttons. Sam appeared oblivious. Holding his breath, Josh undid another button. His fingers brushed against Sam's undershirt and he heard Sam's breath catch. Keeping his eyes lowered, Josh released a third button, letting the back of his hand swipe across Sam's stomach. Sam gasped audibly this time and dragged his eyes back and down towards Josh, who was reaching for the fourth, fingertips reaching into the waistband of Sam's pants for a fleeting moment. Sam fluttered, his good hand lifting in half protest then softening and gently grasping at the nape of Josh's neck.
Josh lifted Sam's shirt off his shoulders, down over his left arm, then tried to ease the sleeve over the heavy plaster cast – it stuck. Josh tugged firmly.
"Yow! It's still tender in there, you know!"
Josh peeled the sleeve down over the cast and flung it aside. Then he very gently cupped Sam's face between his hands and kissed him slowly and deeply. Sam felt the tension ooze away as he leaned into Josh's kiss, but after a moment Josh reluctantly pulled back,
"C'mon, you need to get some sleep." Ignoring the inevitable pout, he loosened Sam's pants in a business-like fashion and stepped away quickly. "I'll get you a glass of water. Where's the pills?"
At 5 a.m. Sam realised he didn’t have a plastic bag anywhere in the hotel room to cover his cast, and tried to shower with one arm over his head. After the third frustrated curse, Josh appeared naked behind him, and they enjoyed a three-armed closeness that extended the duration of the shower by a considerable time.
* * *
0630, crossing the tarmac, a brilliant golden dawn flickered tremulously across the watery farms that flanked the airport. Pale pink streaks of cloud streamed across the sky, already a white blue, heralding promise of a brilliant day.
Sam shivered slightly, his suit coat hanging loosely over one shoulder – he gazed across the runway towards the sea, inhaling his last taste of Kiwi air, …nothing gold can stay.
"Is every airport right next to the sea?" Josh was not in a reflective mood. Sam decided to keep Frost to himself.
"Get over it, Josh." Sam walked away a little and turned his face towards the gentle morning sun, somehow different to the dawns he knew from other places in other lands. He closed his eyes and absorbed the feel of that moment, logging it deep inside. His eyelids felt warmed and heavy and he wondered if he could fall asleep standing right there, washed in a pastel dawn.
"Sam!" Toby's bark shattered that.
* * *
Four hours into the flight, CJ found Sam by himself right back at the rear,
"Hey, Spanky, whatcha doing way back here alone?"
Sam eyed her edgily, "Nothing! I'm doing nothing. Is that all right with you?"
"Why? What's wrong?"
"I can't DO anything so I'm doing NOTHING! All right?"
"Jeez, what'd I say?" She spun on her heel and stalked away. Sam groaned, flinging his arm across his eyes…
"Ow! Ow ow ow ow ow!" He rapidly dropped the offending cast-laden arm and pressed his left hand across his face. "Ow ow ow ow O God ow ow!"
CJ was back by his side, peeling away his fingers.
"Sam, what happened? What's wrong?"
"Ow ow ow!" His eyes were squeezed shut.
"Your nose is bleeding."
"Ow ow!" He pressed his fingers back against his painful eye sockets.
"It's only a few drops. Here." CJ dabbed at his nose. "What did you do – punch yourself in the nose?"
"Practically. Oh man, that hurt."
"Sam, if you kept your arm in the sling, this wouldn't happen, would it?" A shrug.
Charlie appeared, "CJ, Leo wants to see you – there's been a thing…what's wrong with Sam?"
"Could you get him some ice? Then bring him back to the fold? Watch yourself though, I can see why he was banished – he's pretty volatile."
"I am not volatile!"
CJ and Charlie locked eyes over his head. Both smirked.
"I'll get some ice. Are you sure the fold will want him?"
* * *
"There's a huge liability playoff here and any number of approaches'll be valid, depending on how many people were hurt or killed – do we have a ball park figure yet?" Sam's head turned slightly under the gel pack fixed across his eyes.
Josh came in waving a fax, "They're looking at at least seventy missing."
"My God," CJ rubbed her eyes.
"What a disaster. Are they sure it wasn't some form of terrorism? A bomb?"
"Doesn't appear so."
"How can this happen? I mean, we're looking at possible building code violations, suppliers, architects, builders…" Sam was trying to tick things off in his head. "This just shouldn't happen."
"What time of day was it?"
"After midnight. But it was a popular all-night supermarket on the lower floor. That's been completely crushed." Josh sat down, running a hand through his unruly hair. Toby clicked his pen, on, off, on, off in the silence. He cleared his throat,
"We need to make a statement, for CJ, for arrival." He glanced around the group, "Are we willing to let Sam out of his cage?"
"Doc said leave the gel pack on for at least half an hour."
"It's way past that!" wailed Sam. CJ eyed him speculatively, her eyes twinkling. "He has to wear the sling and be pleasant."
"I guess." Sam's face turned from one voice to the next. Toby reluctantly loosened the blue tie, Sam's tie, where they had secured his good arm to the arm of the seat. Sam reached up and lifted the gel pack off his eyes, blinking madly against the light of the cabin. He turned his face towards Josh, who rolled his eyes,
"Man, you'd better wear shades when we hit D.C."
"Really?" Sam's eyebrows lifted in consternation.
CJ came out of her seat and grasped Sam's chin, turning his head back and forth in the light,
"It's not too noticeable yet. You might just get away with saying you slept badly." She leaned forward and kissed his forehead, "Now be a good boy and go help Toby. I need a statement as soon as possible."
Sam looked heavenwards for a moment, "Yes mom." He struggled upwards and trailed after Toby down the corridor. CJ and Josh watched them go.
"D'you find yourself wanting to protect him sometimes?"
"Aw, Ceej, c'mon!"
"Josh, please, do you? I know I would."
"Why should I tell you?"
"Because I care?"
He sighed dramatically, "Course I do. He's brilliant, but sadly lacking in the self-preservation department. I mean, the arm, the fall, that was just an accident, could've happened to anyone, but the three, no, four times he's whacked himself in the eye today, that's just klutzy, and when that happens, yeah, I guess I do want to just shove him safely in a padded box and take him home."
"He can be quite stubborn."
"Tell me about it! Look at him with the sling, hopes no-one will notice a whopping great white cast on his arm, if he doesn't wear it. I can see some battles ahead of us there – " he stopped suddenly, aware of CJ's smile, and stood up briskly, "I'll see if Leo has any more info."
CJ leaned back, stretching her long legs out like a satisfied cat in front of the hearth.
* * *
They arrived back in D.C. in time to go home and get some more sleep, after the press conference.
Sam arose early, having slept poorly, determined to get ready by himself. He managed to shower in a haphazard fashion, and decided to go unshaven for once. But Josh awoke to a renewed round of cursing as Sam tried to button his shirt and pants. Josh leaned on one elbow,
"Why can't you just ask for help?"
"Man!" Sam pressed his hand to his heart, dropping his pants around his ankles. "You gave me a hell of a fright." He struggled to secure his pants again, "Damn!" He stared at the arm in the cast, "I thought it'd stop hurting after the cast went on."
"It's from the dislocation, isn't it? Supposed to hurt for a few days."
"Didn't you listen to that doctor in the ER?"
"They call it A&E."
"God, the A&E then. She said you wouldn't be able to use it much for a few days."
"Yes! Stop saying 'really'. We just have to get through this. Come over here."
Sam shuffled over, frowning and clutching his pants. Josh knelt on the bed, carefully buttoning pants and shirt, rolling Sam's sleeve neatly to the elbow, and tucking his shirttails in, which caused some hilarity and quite a bit of squirming on Sam's part.
"Here." Josh raised Sam's collar and slipped the tie around his neck, pulling Sam forward suddenly into a long, deep kiss. After fixing the tie, Josh traced a finger thoughtfully along the bluish shadows around Sam's eyes, especially the right one. "We might escape with 'jet lag'!"
* * *
One hour after arriving at the office, Grumpy Sam was back in full swing. One spilt coffee, several failed attempts at holding a pen, a laborious twenty minutes typing one paragraph with his left hand, the irritation of a heavy file he couldn't lift out of the filing cabinet… as another curse darted out into the Bullpen, Ginger turned from the printer to catch Bonnie's eye, biting her lower lip with amusement. They leaned towards each other,
"We might have to keep his door closed."
"It's barely 7 a.m. How's he going to get through a whole day?"
"More to the point, how're we going to survive?"
"How are you going to survive what?" Toby was suddenly looming in the doorway. "What's happened?"
There was a hefty thump and a muffled 'damn' from the inner office. Ginger inclined her head,
"That's what's happened. It's been going on for an hour already." Toby wrinkled his brow and flicked a glance towards Sam's office. Sam was struggling one handed to retrieve a large law text from its splattered position on the floor. Toby sighed and looked from Ginger to Bonnie, who smiled back,
"Hey, welcome back, Toby. Did you enjoy New Zealand?"
"Hmmm." Toby plonked his bag and newspapers on a chair and leaned on Sam's doorway,
"Wanna hand there?"
"Huh?" Sam was on his knees, the now closed text sitting defiantly in front of him. "No, I'm good."
"Are you praying to the law book?"
Sam frowned at him blankly. Toby thought distractedly that Sam looked rather pale, his features appearing sharp and strained. The bruising around his eyes had darkened and deepened a little. Toby swiftly closed in on the book, scooping it up and dumping it on Sam's desk.
"Come into my office, I need you to look over the President's comments on the shopping centre collapse. I did a little tweaking last night."
Sam rose, reaching automatically for a pen before dropping it back on the desk in disgust. He trailed after Toby, a slightly defeated look on his face. Toby handed him the speech and he settled into his favourite corner of the couch. There were a few minutes of rustly silence, as Toby checked through the daily papers. He glanced up to see Sam frowning irritably.
"Huh?" Sam stared at him owlishly, startled, his glasses masking his eyes as they reflected the office light.
"You're frowning – what don't you like?"
"I just want to make some notes."
"I can't hold a pen – my wrist is too sore." Sam lifted and dropped the cast in annoyance.
"Shouldn't you have that in a sling or something?"
Sam shrugged, "I don't think so. I mean, I thought… maybe I can try with the other hand."
"I dunno." Sam angrily plucked a pencil off the coffee table and tried to make a left-handed notation. After only a few letters, he threw the pencil down and swore loudly, causing Toby to tear the newspaper in surprise.
"Sam, if you're in that foul a mood, maybe –"
"Look!" Toby slapped the newspaper down on his desk and stood up, half-turning towards the window. "You're clearly in no condition to help me like this. Either get over this bout of irritation and get some work done or get the hell out of here and go back home where you can sulk in peace!" Sam's mouth dropped open a little, and he sat frozen, staring up at Toby. His mouth melted into a sort of pout, before he gathered his wits together and focused on what Toby had actually said. The wounded expression morphed into a frown of concentration and finally an apologetic face appeared, Sam chewing on his lower lip, eyes now staring at Toby's shoes,
"I'm sorry." It was the quietest of murmurs, but Toby heard it clearly in the sudden silence. "I just… it still hurts more than I expected and I'm not feeling particularly patient right now. I DO want to get on with the work. I just don't know how." He flopped back into the couch defeated, his plastered arm lying in his lap.
Toby stood there beside his desk, rubbing his forehead, absorbing Sam's confusion. He picked up a pen, walked over and sat down beside Sam on the couch.
"Give me your ideas. I'll write them down."
* * *
10.15 and Sam was elbow deep in recommendations for a Presidential appointment to the IJC, as there should be three from the US and three from Canada, and the untimely death of Dennis Ryder had left an opening on the US side. With Senate advice and consent, it should've been an easy job to select a new candidate, but Sam was holding back on the most likely choice, Joseph Burrows. A report from the Detroit District Corps of Engineers had listed a non-Federal shoreline process that was endangering the shore of Lake Michigan in several ways, and Burrows' name kept popping up in design plans and applications for engineering approval.
And another report from a private group, Project GLOP – glop – Sam stopped and said the word aloud,
"Glop!" What a lovely sound! "Glop! Glopglopglopglop glo-o-o-o-o-p!" He heard a giggle and looked up to find Bonnie in front of his desk.
"I brought you a fresh coffee. Don't spill this one. Ah, what're you saying?"
Sam stared at her, straight-faced. "Glop," he stated solemnly. The corners of Bonnie's mouth twitched treacherously, but she maintained a professional demeanour,
"Yes, glop, Bonnie." His eyes widened, and they both burst out laughing.
"I'll, ah, I'll just go back to my desk now. Drink your coffee."
"No problem, Sam."
He settled for a bold, fluorescent green highlighter which he jammed under the edge of his cast, allowing him to accentuate key paragraphs for later reference. As his arm tired, he swapped the highlighter to his left hand, making bold, unconventional splotches through the reports. Undeterred, Sam ploughed on, frowning deeply at the web of intrigue surrounding Burrows.
Josh appeared suddenly and dropped into a chair.
"Hey." Sam smiled brightly. Josh's presence filled him with a sudden warmth, an excited churn twisting deep inside him. He marked the paragraph he was reading and peeled off his glasses. Josh immediately whistled with surprise,
"Man, you're starting to look like you went a couple of rounds in the ring."
"I thought it'd be fading."
"All of this only happened twenty-four hours ago or less. What d'you expect? How's your arm anyway?"
Sam scowled at the plaster cast.
"It still hurts."
"A lot or a little?"
"God, I don't know! More than I expected, less than it did at the hospital. Will that do?"
"Jeez, you're grouchy." Josh stood up. "Get some lunch later?" He took a step towards the door.
"Sure." Sam stared fixedly at his desk. "Sorry." Josh froze and looked back at Sam, whose head was down, the dark hair falling forward, masking his eyes. He swivelled and moved swiftly over to perch on the desk right beside Sam's chair. He ran a finger along the length of the cast from the elbow, gently dawdling his fingertip across the back of Sam's hand, tracing around the knuckles peeping out of the white plaster. He heard Sam's breath catch, and felt his own quicken, as his finger slid around and under the cast to caress Sam's palm. Slowly Sam melted into the chair, closing his eyes, and after a minute, Josh leaned in, kissing his temple.
"I gotta get going. See you at lunch. Just take it easy, bruiser!"
"Uh-huh," a quiet murmur. Josh stepped back, seeing Sam was nearly asleep. Guessing he had slept badly, he decided to slip out quietly. Sam let him leave, enjoying a moment of relaxation. He was concerned about his arm, it felt really sore, throbbing painfully…
He opened his eyes with a start and realised he had been asleep. A glance at his watch implied maybe half an hour. He couldn't see any particular activity in the Bullpen, and Josh had closed the door, so he wondered if anyone had even noticed. Then it occurred to him the phone hadn't rung, Toby hadn't bothered him – they knew.
He waggled his fingers painfully – the cast felt tight and uncomfortable, and he wondered if he should have taken the rest of the anti-inflammatories the doctor had prescribed. He picked up his glasses, opened the reports and returned his focus to the Great Lakes.
* * *
At three, Leo wanted to see everyone. CJ was already sitting back on the couch, and she patted the cushion beside her.
"Sam, honey, come and sit beside me and let me take a look at you." Sam obediently sat and turned his face towards her, Toby marvelling at his trusting acceptance of her attention. She ran a neatly manicured finger around the circles beneath his eyes, tidying a few strands of hair away, before looking at his hand. As she touched his fingers, he winced audibly, visibly tensing his body. CJ frowned at him,
"Was it that sore before?"
He shrugged, his expression lightening as Josh slipped into the room. Josh plonked down on Sam's right, smiling at CJ before noticing she was holding onto Sam's cast.
"What're you two up to?"
Toby rolled his eyes, "CJ's playing doctors and nurses." CJ huffed at him and eyeballed Josh,
"His wrist's quite sore. I think you should get it looked at."
"Ceej – "
"Quiet, Sam. Really, Josh, I've a funny feeling – he doesn't seem quite – "
Leo bustled in with a wad of papers, "Sorry to keep you waiting. We have a situation with a Congressman, Richardson from Ohio. There are rumours about affairs, women, parties and drug use."
"And he hasn't invited any of us?"
"Shut up, Josh. We need to get a handle on what this guy's up to. CJ, have you heard anything?"
"I know he's the guy whose parties everyone wants to attend. Didn't know about the drugs, though."
Leo leaned forward in his seat, "We don't want some reporter confronting CJ the morning after attending one of these parties, Josh. I want you to go see him. Now. Take Sam – no," he frowned at Sam's pale face and bruised eyes, "I don't want anyone seeing him right now. Toby, can you –"
"Yeah, I have to go up there anyway."
"I can do this by myself."
"We want to show a little power in numbers here, Josh." Leo turned to CJ, "Anything comes up today about this, push it aside."
Sam was staring at the floor, a wounded expression on his face. Leo suddenly felt a pang of – something, "Sam?" Sam looked up at him, his eyes serious. "Sorry, kid, but you look like hell right now. Arm still bugging you?" Sam nodded almost imperceptibly. "Maybe Abby could take a look?"
"No, I'm fine, Leo, really." Sam broke away from Leo's steely gaze, only to confront Josh's warm brown eyes gazing at him speculatively, head on one side like a blackbird looking for worms. "It's fine, Josh. I'm fine." Sam was practically squirming on the couch. Josh laid a firm hand on his shoulder,
"We can always get it checked on the way home if you want, all right?"
"Good," Leo stood up. "I need to talk to the President. Let me know what goes down with Richardson."
* * *
Josh and Toby pinned Richardson down in the Capitol building and found an empty meeting room. The three of them stared at one another for a moment. Josh cleared his throat, holding out his hands in a preliminary placatory manner,
"How are you doing, Mike?"
Richardson's tone was cautious, a slow, "Good."
"Everything staying upbeat in Ohio?"
"Ye – es," he drawled.
"No real problems on the Hill at the moment? Good. Hmmm. Fine. Well," he made to stand up, then sat back again, "Just one more thing. We've been hearing stories."
"Stories?" Richardson shifted uncomfortably.
"Yes, about you."
"You and girls," Toby decided to join in.
"You and parties."
"You and drugs."
Richardson's demeanour suddenly became very, very controlled. He stared at Josh – it was easier than looking at Toby.
"Josh, I haven't. Who said this?"
"Leo's upset, Mike. He's hearing things and we don't like it."
Mike smiled tensely, "Honestly, it's just stories. I may have had one or two parties – that's it. Rumours run rife here, you guys know that. D.C., the rumour capital of the world." He flicked a brief glance in Toby's direction in the hope of support, swallowing nervously when the dark eyes sliced right into him. Toby leaned forward,
"You'd be surprised how much truth we find at the bottom of the rumour mill." Their eyes locked.
"Mike!" Richardson turned back to Josh with relief. "You need to get your act cleaned up or you will find yourself on Leo's doormat." He glanced at his useless watch in a dismissive way, "We have to move on."
Richardson scowled at the two of them, "So that's it? I don't get to put my case?"
"Oh, you did, Mike, but we didn’t believe you."
Richardson stood up, "I'm not taking this."
"Nor are we, " Toby threw back at him, "Fix it." Richardson stalked from the room, slamming the door. Josh turned and smiled at Toby,
"Well, that went well, didn’t it!"
* * *
At eight, Sam had a meeting with a representative for refugees, this time over some illegal Somali refugees who had turned up in the U.S. The meeting was not a pleasant one. The rep came in all guns blazing, putting Sam on the back foot, and they had been battling for several minutes… but the rep was beginning to seem defeated by the whole process,
"The government's not even considering our position, Sam. Harrison wouldn't even see me this time."
"What were you like last time?"
"I was damn furious."
"Harrison likes a cool head, Dave. And you're still angry, even here, now."
"It's so harsh. These people need to be heard. Their stories must be heard." He leapt to his feet and paced up and down, "They've been through hell, Sam, absolute stinking hell."
Sam watched him pace out his fury, understanding that well enough. But he knew it was a no-win situation and he had to get that across, and his arm was aching terribly, the heavy, hot throb threatening to dominate his thoughts, blotting out the careful consideration he was trying to put into his words.
"I know that, Dave." He shifted uncomfortably, unable to find a way to ease the pain, "I do know that. But these people, they were already accepted as refugees in Canada. They were meant to stay in Canada." He shifted again in his seat, wincing with the movement but unable to sit still through the pain. "They entered the U.S. illegally. They're illegal, Dave." He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and shifted again. The rep stopped pacing and stared at Sam with concern,
"Are you – what's wrong, are you in pain?"
Sam blinked at him, "It's okay, just – this arm."
"What happened to you anyway. Sorry I didn't ask before, I get so…"
"Don't worry about it. We were in New Zealand for the forum, Pacific forum, I was looking at the coast, took a tumble on some rocks."
"Yeah. But really, Dave," Sam wriggled awkwardly again, frowning, "Our hands are pretty much tied at this stage, we've only just had a huge meeting with Canada on this, you know that. We have to return them – now, look," he held up his good hand as Wilton's mouth opened in protest, "I can put forward a special request, I can earmark it for specific concern, but right now – well, you know what's going to happen, right?" He stood up slowly, his eyes fixed on the other man, and moved around the desk.
Wilton's gaze softened slightly, recognising Sam's position and realising at the same time that he was really physically uncomfortable,
"Anything I can do for you? …Sam?" He moved closer as Sam swayed slightly, "Sam!" He took hold of Sam's upper arm, feeling him fluttering shakily. "C'mon, sit down here." He lowered him into one of the chairs and eased his head down between his knees, "Just breathe slowly." Keeping one hand on the back of Sam's head, he glanced around – beyond the window he could see a couple of women talking in the Bullpen. "Stay there." He stepped over to the door and leaned out,
"Excuse me – ah, Sam's not feeling so hot. Could you come and see him?"
Ginger looked at Dave then back at Donna, who was already heading for the corridor, "I'll get Josh."
Ginger followed Wilton into Sam's office, where Sam still had his head down, his plastered arm lying in his lap. She crouched down, her hand on his shoulder, and peered at his face,
"Sam, it's me. What's wrong?" She could feel his shoulders quivering, hear his quick shallow breathing. He slowly lifted his head, suddenly deathly white. Josh tumbled in the door, Donna on his heels.
"What happened? Hey, Dave, how are you doing?" Josh shook hands briefly with Wilton before turning his attention to Sam.
"His arm's been bothering him – he got up to see me out and just sort of wavered. I swear he was gonna pass out on me. I got him into that chair, head down."
"Thanks, Dave. Sam, how're you doing?"
Sam blinked dully at Josh, a tiny smile flickering at the edges of his mouth, "Hey, Josh."
Ginger stood up, "Shall I see you out, Mr Wilton?"
"You be okay now, Sam?"
"Thanks. I'm –ah- sorry about – "
"Not your fault. See you." He patted Sam's shoulder, shook Josh's hand again and followed Ginger out to the lobby.
They sat out on the steps, Sam shivering occasionally. It was a glorious still night, the air crisp and sharp. Their breath merging in light puffs of white, Sam and Josh sat side by side pressed against one another, enjoying the closeness of one another's bodies, the deep, velvety darkness of the sky, the soft glow of city lights, the hum of traffic. Josh nudged Sam gently with his shoulder,
Sam adjusted Donna's ice pack around his hand and shrugged slightly, "Not – yeah? No, really, no, it's not."
"So we're freezing our butts off and your arm's still killing you?"
"Ah yeah, I guess so."
"The cold's not helping? Still feeling tight?"
"Yeah, it's still throbbing." There was a companionable silence for a minute. Josh rubbed his eyes wearily, yawning widely at the dark sky,
"Where are the stars, Sam?"
"They're there, Josh, we just can't see them sometimes." A slight breeze suddenly rippled across the garden, lifting Josh's hair lightly. Sam shuddered, a shiver forcing his shoulder into Josh's. He flexed his fingers against the cast, inhaling tensely, and looked down at his arm,
"Josh, I think there's something wrong in here."
"You think?" Josh reached down casually to pick up a pebble.
"What should I do?"
"How sore is it?"
"It –" Sam paused, so unwilling to discuss his own pain. Josh flicked the pebble into the darkness and turned towards Sam, trying to get a good look by the light spilling out of the doorway. His eyes crinkled at the stress this caused his partner,
"Finish that sentence, Sam!"
A deep sigh. Sam ran his good hand over his face. "It's incredibly sore. I'm finding it hard to concentrate on anything else. Poor Mike, I could barely listen to him."
"He didn't have a chance anyway."
"I know but – " Sam shifted slightly, a solemn expression darkening his features, "He's wanting to do such good. Why do we have to seem like the bad guys, when we're just enforcing the law? Which is supposed to be right?"
Josh rubbed a hand up and down Sam's back, "C'mon, I'd better get you seen to."
"By whom?" Sam frowned at him concernedly.
"I dunno." He squinted at his watch in the half-light, "It's …half past seven."
"It so isn't." Sam checked his own watch, "It's a quarter past nine."
"Damn!" Josh tapped the face of his watch. "You feeling okay to be on the move?"
"I guess so." They rose slowly and headed back inside. Josh needed to stop in and see Leo before they left. Sam sank into a chair by Margaret's desk, relieved she wasn't there. The pain in his wrist had become his only consideration and he was extremely uncomfortable. He closed his eyes and tried to find words to recapture the extraordinary New Zealand bush he had fallen in love with – the multitude of shades of green: pale lemon green, silvery-grey, a rich glossy green, dark, mottled leaves interspersed with shadows that suggested hidden creatures, the graceful ponga ferns that rose above their neighbours to spread bright fronds to every point on the compass, and the glorious cabbage trees, standing alone above the sea of green, as tall as palm trees, yet wild and untamed, their flax-like heads a tangle of green spikes.
"Sam!" His eyes flew open. Abby Bartlet was standing right in front of him. He leapt to his feet, immediately swaying drunkenly as the pain of his arm dragged at his nerves. Abby quickly grabbed hold of his upper arms and lowered him back into the chair. Sam closed his eyes again. She perched on the edge of the desk and studied him carefully.
"I heard you'd been in the wars. But I hadn't realised just how bad you were feeling. You nearly passed out on me there, Samuel. What’s going on?"
Sam dragged his eyes open and squinted up at her with trepidation. "I think my, er, my cast is a little tight."
"Tight? Let me have a look." She reached for his hand and was surprised when he leaned away from her touch. "I won't hurt you." She lifted his hand a little. Sam gasped out loud, scrunching up his face in pain, and Abby released his hand at once. She frowned at him, and unhitched her hip off the desk to kneel in front of him. She carefully inspected his arm, moving each finger slightly, feeling around the rim of the cast, noting Sam's ragged intakes of breath with each movement. "I'm sorry, Sam. But this looks very painful and swollen. I think you need to get to the hospital."
He tried to focus on her face, "That's where we're going now. Josh just had to see Leo."
He shifted in the chair, trying to overcome the ebb and flow of his throbbing arm. After staring at him for a moment, Abby stood up and moved over to Leo's door, knocking firmly before opening it wide.
"Good evening, Leo. Could you spare Josh right now? He needs to take Sam to the hospital."
Josh turned toward her, "What happened?"
"Nothing happened, he's just in acute pain right now, and he needs medical attention. I think I can guess what's gone wrong – did he have some dislocation, Josh?" He nodded. "I'd say something has come loose in there. You really need to get going." Josh looked at Leo questioningly. He nodded and they all trailed into the outer office, where Sam sat, eyes closed, rocking slightly in rhythm with the pulse of his heart, the throb of his arm. Leo shook his head,
"Jeez, kid, you don't do things by halves, do you?"
Sam blinked up at the three of them, biting his lower lip. Josh slung his backpack over one shoulder, and hefted Sam up out of the chair,
"Let's go. Thanks, Abby, Leo. I'll let you know what they find under there!" The two of them headed unevenly for the door, Josh's arm wrapped firmly around his partner. Abby turned to Leo, surprised to find him smiling,
"Leo, you old dog, you look almost benevolent. You care about those two!"
Leo shrugged, "What a pair! If it's not one, it's the other. Josh's mouth, Sam's klutziness, it's like having your own kids to keep an eye on all over again. And I only had one the first time!" He snorted, "Come and have a coffee with me, Abby. It could be a while before we hear from them."
* * *
Sam lay back on the bed in the cubicle, his arm now free of its confining cast, a tell-tale x-ray on the light box showing the offending wrist bone that must have slipped out of place even as the doctor in New Zealand was plastering his arm. He could feel the ice pack around his arm working on the swelling, and he stared around the room, anywhere but at the bruised and swollen limb at his side. Removing the plaster cast had been a tricky venture, with Sam's arm so sore, and Sam so nervous, and they had finally given him a local anaesthetic and a mild sedative, which left him feeling slightly nauseous but rather relaxed.
Josh's unruly head appeared around the curtain – "I finally found some decent coffee – this place is a mess while they renovate the ER. These curtained cubicles are like something from the ark." He sat down next to Sam, and took a long sip of coffee before gazing firmly at Sam, "Now tell me how you are really feeling."
"Give me a sip of your coffee first."
"Uh-uh. Nothing by mouth until they decide what to do with you."
Sam groaned dramatically, and flared his nostrils, "At least let me sniff it!"
"You're pathetic! I'm gonna cut your caffeine intake this month. Then we'll see how peppy you are in the mornings!"
"Peppy? Josh, do you want me to tell Toby you use words like 'peppy'?"
"Shut up. And by the way, Toby says don't come back tomorrow if you are anything like you were today. What the hell did you do to him?"
Sam lowered his eyes, "I was a little, ah, a little short-tempered. But it's so unfair, he's grouchy every day. I have one little tantrum…"
Josh grinned gleefully, "You had a tantrum – at Toby? Oh God, I wish I could've seen that!" He soothed a hand across Sam's stomach, smoothing the wrinkles in his undershirt, enjoying the sensation of close contact with an immobile Sam.
"It wasn't a real tantrum –" They were interrupted by a loud commotion in the adjacent cubicle. A man had started shouting, and there were a couple of loud metallic crashes, one spit bowl hurling across the floor in front of Josh's feet and sliding through into a third bed port. The softer tones of a nurse or doctor were halted by renewed shouting.
"Get her some help. She's overdosed, come on, you can't stop now. Do something for her. You can't just leave her like this."
"We have to wait for the effect of the drugs to diminish before we can take any other action. The drip she has in now should be sufficient. Now please come and fill in a report – we need to know what she might have taken."
"Hey, this is nothing to do with me. I just brought her in…" Josh's eyes grew huge. His hand was entwined in Sam's t-shirt, and he twisted it tighter as the man kept talking.
"Sam" he whispered, "I know that voice – it's Richardson – the guy from Ohio, the one Toby and I saw this morning… oh man, he is involved in drugs." Sam looked down at Josh's hand, the knuckles white, Sam's t-shirt dragged into a knot, exposing his stomach.
"Ah, Josh, my, ah, shirt?" Josh looked down in surprise at Sam's bare abdomen and grinned in sudden, lustful delight.
"Oops, sorry!" Reluctantly smoothing down the shirt, he returned his attention to the neighbouring cubicle. "Wait here, I'm going to have a look."
"Where d'you think I might go?"
Josh snorted and disappeared through the curtain. Sam sighed, relaxing once more into the pillow. There was silence next door, so he figured Richardson must have moved away. A nurse came in, leaving the curtain swinging wildly, and smiled at him in a business-like fashion.
"How's your arm doing?" She carefully prodded the swollen wrist. "Needs a little longer, I think. I'm just going to replace this ice pack." She gently lifted Sam's arm out of the cold pack and laid it across his stomach. As the cold seeped through his t-shirt he yelped in surprise. "Ooh, sorry, I should have put a towel there first." She smiled apologetically and tucked a towel under his arm, before fetching a fresh ice pack. Sam lay there wishing he could just go home. Josh returned a moment later.
"He'd cleared out. But I am 100 % certain it was him. There's no way I'm letting go of this one. The girl is some sort of hooker, the nurses think. She's ODed on ecstasy or something similar, some designer drug."
"How did you manage to find all that out?"
Josh waggled his eyebrows, "My natural charm!" Sam snorted at that, but left it alone.
"When can we get out of here?"
"As soon as you get a new cast, I guess." Just then a doctor slipped though the curtain and smiled warmly.
"Hi, I'm Francis McHardy, orthopaedic surgeon. I've come to have a look at your arm. Can you give me a bit of history?" Between them, Josh and Sam told him the story of the accident and subsequent treatment. While they talked, he carefully investigated Sam's wrist, gently manipulating the small bones, turning this way and that without upsetting Sam too much. He asked them a few questions about the West Wing then, and as the conversation became more animated, he worked a little more firmly on Sam's arm, ignoring his increasing tension and writhing body. Josh stood on the other side of the bed and placed his hands on Sam's good arm, in mute support, trying to keep the conversation flowing.
"There, done!" McHardy sat back and smiled at Sam, who was sweating profusely, his hair plastered down his forehead. "Sorry about that, twice in two days is a bit much, isn't it! Now we just have to replaster your arm, but this time, I need you to take all of the medication, to keep the swelling to a minimum. And no work tomorrow! You need to rest this arm, so no work, a sling for at least five days, all the time, and just keep things quiet for a week or so. I know that's nigh on impossible in your job, but you'll have to do your best. We'll just pop you back to x-ray, check it's all intact."
* * *
Josh and Sam collapsed on the couch together. It was nearly 3 a.m. They sat in silence for a few minutes, just relishing the peace after the bustle of the ER. Josh, his head leaning back against the back of the couch, looked sideways at Sam, his Sam, pale faced, dark bruises shadowing his eyes, his hair still plastered down his forehead in untidy streaks, a fresh plaster cast gleaming whitely, and was filled with an extraordinary heat, a desire to envelop Sam with his own body, to absorb him and all of his pain into himself. He licked his lips, suddenly dry, and leaned across, gently kissing Sam, a tender, delicate, shadow of a kiss, barely brushing Sam with hot breath. Sam stared at him close range, the very depth of blue there swallowing Josh and all of his desire and Sam leaned into Josh and their lips met with a fierce hunger and intensity that numbed their brains and heated their bodies. Josh was careful and tender after that, and they managed to satisfy their physical needs in a slow choreography that left them satiated and exhausted.
* * *
Josh was in CJ's office, relaxing on her couch, when she bustled in.
"What are you doing here? And why do you look so tired?" CJ frowned at him with concern. She hung up her coat and sat down beside him.
"I've had, like, two hours sleep. But I need to talk to you about Richardson."
"Two hours? Why?"
"Sam. His wrist, you know, it was so sore, turned out to be dislocated again, inside the cast. So we spent a few hours in the ER last night, well, last night and this morning."
"Oh no. I thought it was pretty sore. He's so quiet about things like that though. Where is he now? They didn't keep him in hospital, did they?"
"No! 'Course not. But he has to rest for a day. He's sulking at home. I left him with the newspaper and a coffee, and a big, sad, pouty look on his face!"
"I might go visit him later! What is it about Richardson?"
"I swear he was in the cubicle next to ours in the ER, brought in a hooker who had ODed on e."
"Trouble is, I didn't get a look at him, I just heard him. But I'd swear on the Bible that it was him. How can we use this?"
CJ frowned at him thoughtfully. "Leo will be furious. Hell, I'm furious. We've gotta do this guy like a dog's dinner! "
"I know. We need to put a lid on him. I'm just not sure how."
"Let me talk to a few people, Josh, okay?"
Josh rose wearily, yawning. "Thanks, CJ!"
"Maybe you need a rest yourself."
* * *
Three hours later, Richardson was seen leaving Leo's office, very very quietly.
* * *
CJ drove Josh home mid-afternoon, after he fell asleep at his desk for the third time that day. They found Sam scrooched up in the corner of the couch, fast asleep. CJ smiled down at his pale features, emphasised by an unbelievably sexy day's growth of stubble. She placed a hand over her heart, and sank into an armchair,
"God, that man is gorgeous! He's had a rough couple of days, and he looks like a rugged male model ready for a photo shoot!"
Josh smiled down at Sam's sleeping form and couldn't help but agree. He perched on the edge of the couch next to Sam and kissed him right on the lips. CJ rolled her eyes at him. Sam blinked blearily, and his face broke into a slow smile.
"When did you get in?"
"Just now. CJ here drove me home." Sam swivelled around to greet CJ with another smile. She waved her fingers at him and stood up,
"I have to get back. Put Josh to bed, will you, Sam? He can't keep his eyes open at work any longer."
"Sure, thanks, Ceej. " He shoved Josh aside and struggled to his feet, his arm safely encased in a sling this time. CJ fingered the sling gently.
"I hope you're keeping that on this time." And she was gone.
Sam turned to Josh, a tender smile on his face. "I'm sorry I kept you up most of the night. Want anything?"
"Only you. Bed. Sleep."
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