fandom: West Wing
sequel to: none
spoilers: anything and everything, tho nothing too specific
feedback: yes, please!
archive: sure, just let me know!
summary: Sam and Toby find that life can be a little easier with something to believe in...like each other.
warnings: bad language, violence (Sam-owies), and shmoop
notes: much thanks to Ann for her encouragement to post this. :o)
Believe by Nancy
Toby was engrossed in a report that was mind-numbing and necessary, as so many reports were in his job, but not so engrossed that he didn't notice that Sam hadn't yet left his office. He wasn't so engrossed that he didn't notice the time, which was almost midnight on a Friday night. He also wasn't so engrossed that he didn't notice that there had been no sound coming from the other man's office in over an hour. He glanced over at the rubber ball sitting on his desk, then mentally scratched it off the list of attention-grabbers and stood.
The best way to get to Sam Seaborn, after all, was through words. With that thought in mind, Toby left his office and headed next door to Sam's. Opening the door, he peeked inside to find the young man asleep on his desk. A smile surfaced before Toby could stop it. He took a moment just to look at Sam, who looked even younger than usual while sleeping. A fact that Toby took note of each and every time he caught Sam sleeping on the job. Well, technically it was past quitting time, but still, he was in the office, so it was sleeping on the job.
Walking into the office, Toby stopped at the desk and reached out to shake Sam's shoulder when a pained moan escaped the other man. Startled, Toby hesitated and there was another sound of anguish. Not surprising, given everything that had gone on in their lives. What he wanted to do was soothe the tension and darker emotions from Sam, to bring back that bounce and innocent pleasure in the written word and the world around them. But that was impossible for too many reasons to count. Sighing, Toby gently grasped Sam's shoulder and shook him.
Sam woke only after a couple of shakes, but didn't actually move. Instead, he just looked up at Toby and blinked at him until his brain caught up with his body. "Hey."
Toby half-smiled and replied, "Sleep at home, Sam."
"Yeah. Right. Good idea," Sam agreed, rubbing his eyes and sitting up. "Time's it?"
Stepping back, Toby answered, "Almost midnight. Long day, huh?"
Sam yawned and rubbed his eyes again. "Yeah. Too long. You heading out?"
"No, I still have some things to take care of," Toby replied. "But you need to head home."
Shaking his head, Sam countered, "No, I can do that thing. You know. Where you need a thesaurus."
Toby snorted inelegantly. "I have an actual thesaurus for that, Sam."
"I know. But you like ones that talk back."
"No, I like ones that talk. There's a difference."
Sam grinned at him, not at all phased or insulted, and said, "Point taken. Still, I can…"
"Leave, Sam! Go home!" Toby ordered, his voice raising in volume.
"Go home. Yes, I can definitely go home," Sam confirmed, standing and starting to gather his things.
Toby watched him for a moment before saying quietly, "Good work on that speech."
A smile blossomed on Sam's face at the compliment. "Thanks, Toby."
"Now get lost."
"Right. I'm leaving. Night, Toby."
"Good night, Sam."
And then Sam was gone from the office, coat and briefcase in hand while the free one waved back at Toby as Sam walked backwards towards the exit. Which, naturally, caused the younger man to back into a desk. He recovered quickly and offered a sheepish grin before turning the right way and walking properly.
Shaking his head in fond amusement, Toby waited until Sam was truly gone before sighing and heading back to his own office. It had been a long day, but he knew that the night was going to be even longer.
* * * *
The insistent ringing of his cell was what woke Toby, not his alarm, and it took a few seconds to penetrate his sleep befuddled mind that he was even awake. He managed to answer the phone and mumbled, "Someone better be dead."
There was a brief silence before Leo answered, "When did you see Sam last?"
Something in the other man's voice cleared the cobwebs of sleep instantly from Toby's mind and he bolted upright in bed. He glanced at the clock, which now read 10:03 p.m "At about midnight on Friday night. What happened?"
"We aren't sure," Leo replied. "Josh said that he never showed up for their lunch today, and he discovered that he missed a breakfast meeting, too. When he found that out, he called me and I called the FBI. It doesn't look like he made it home Friday night."
"And you're just calling me about this now!?" Toby yelled into the phone.
"Take it easy," Leo snapped. "We don't know that anything is wrong yet. He could have found some…companionship…and just not made it home yet."
"Because we all know how likely Sam is to go down that road again," Toby snarled, climbing out of the bed that he'd only just gotten into an hour ago. He should've known that trying to get to sleep early was just asking for trouble.
Toby took a breath and released it explosively. "What did you find out?"
"Nothing yet. The FBI is working on it, which is why I'm calling you to find out when you saw him last. Was he in a bad mood when he left?"
"No. No, he was fine," Toby answered. "He offered to stick around and be my thesaurus."
"Right. Because you like the ones that talk back."
"I like the ones that…" Toby gritted his teeth. "Never mind. He had his coat and briefcase and was heading home."
"And he seemed okay?"
"He was fine, Leo!"
"Okay, okay! Look, why don't you come in? Josh is here and so is CJ."
Scrubbing fingers over his head, Toby nodded and agreed, "I'll be there in fifteen."
"In one piece, Toby. Make it twenty-five minutes, okay?"
Toby hung up and immediately checked his voicemail, but found no message from Sam; in trouble, or otherwise. Not feeling at all reassured, Toby pulled out clean clothes and started to get dressed.
* * * *
The faces of his closest friends did not reassure Toby one bit once he got to the West Wing. CJ looked about ready to cry, where she was doing that tight-lipped thing, and Josh wasn't all that much better off. Leo looked as impassive as he ever did, except for the his jaw, which looked tight enough to crack diamonds instead of the usual walnuts. Leaning against Leo's desk, Toby demanded quietly, "So. What do we know?"
"Nothing more. There've been no ransom demands, no claim of responsibility for his disappearance, and no sign of him in the area hospitals or morgues," Leo answered.
An image I very much didn't need, Toby thought, feeling a little faint at the idea of Sam being dead. Swallowing and keeping in tight control of himself, he questioned, "His car?"
"No sign of it. It hasn't been ticketed or towed."
"So…what? What do we do now?" Toby asked.
"Nothing," Josh answered, his tone emotionless. "We wait. The FBI does their thing, we answer questions when they have them, and we wait."
Toby shook his head. "I can't accept that. We can do something."
"Like what?" Josh demanded.
"Anything!" CJ reached for him, but Toby jerked out of her range and continued, "We can't just sit around while anything could be happening to him!"
Toby paused at the quiet statement of his name, collecting himself. He turned and greeted respectfully, "Mr. President."
"The FBI is working on it," Jed stated firmly. His gaze was no less worried than anyone else's as he finished, "And they are working hard on finding him. He's going to be fine."
It was a sad fact, in Toby's opinion, that if the President had been speaking of anyone else, Toby would have believed him in a second. But because it was Sam, rebellion clouded his heart and mind. Though he kept silent, Toby knew that the other man read his thoughts in his eyes. Their gaze was locked for several long moments before the President nodded and went back into the Oval Office.
Toby said, "I'll be in my office," and left before anyone could say anything to him. Mostly because he was afraid that he'd do or say something he'd really regret if he heard any platitudes.
* * * *
Not that he got any work done. The late hour of a Saturday night gone Sunday morning had nothing to do with the fact that Toby stared into space on and off for a couple of hours before CJ dared to knock on his door. Poking her head inside, she offered, "I bring tea and pie."
Toby eyed her for a long moment, then sighed and waved her in. He stood up and met her at the sofa. Sitting opposite her, he took the steaming mug of tea and breathed in the scent that, normally, would have been soothing. As it was, just then it was only a smell with no such powers. "Thanks."
"You okay?" she questioned, eyebrows furrowed with worry.
The first sip scalded his tongue, but Toby ignored the pain while his eyes smarted with tears for a split second. Blinking them away, he answered shortly, "Fine."
She sighed and leaned forward, countering, "You took Leo's head off back there. Josh's too."
"Sam's missing. I think I'm allowed."
"We're all worried."
"I know." Toby paused, closing his eyes, then repeated, "I know. I'm sorry."
They sat in silence for several minutes, but it was a comfortable one. Or, as comfortable as the circumstances allowed, anyhow. Toby knew that Sam was everyone's favorite, everyone adored him, but it was more than that for Toby. It had been more than that for Toby for a long time. He wasn't all that sure what he would do if something happened to Sam and he never told the other man how he felt.
And how stupid did he feel for thinking such a trite thing, at such a truly agonizing moment?
Startled, having forgotten that CJ was in the room, Toby just looked back at her.
CJ reached out again and this time stretched out to grip his knee. "Don't beat yourself up about this. You couldn't have known anything would happen to him."
Thankful that she thought that that was the problem, though he hadn't yet gotten around to blaming himself for that particular thing, Toby managed to summon a faint smile and replied, "Thanks."
"I mean it," CJ insisted, squeezing his knee. "You can't take this on, Toby."
He covered her hand with his and set the tea down before saying, "Not much I can do to change that."
Which was true, if not in the fashion she was thinking.
Toby just about bolted to his feet at Leo's voice. The serious look in the other man's eyes did not bode well, but he stayed calm as he asked, "What happened?"
"They found him. He's at an emergency clinic," Leo reported. "He was mugged and knocked out. From what the cops put together so far, he was under a footbridge all day, unconscious off and on and didn't have the strength to get anywhere for help. Some homeless guys found him."
…didn't have the strength… ran through Toby's head repeatedly. That meant that Sam was in really bad shape. "Is he, is he going to be okay?"
"They're working on him now to determine the extent of the damage," Leo replied, his voice growing strangely far away before he was done speaking.
CJ's hand was suddenly at his elbow, guiding Toby into sitting down again and then putting his head between his knees. Irritation flared, but it took a few seconds to get out of her helpful and surprisingly strong hold. He glared up at her and stated, "I'm fine. Let's go."
It took a few steps before he was sure that he wouldn't fall over again, and Toby was extremely glad that neither CJ nor Leo mentioned it.
* * * *
The emergency clinic wasn't in the best part of DC, not a surprise, but Toby didn't notice that, except peripherally. He did notice the number of people lining the area who carried a lot of their belongings in bags or shopping carts. And he did notice the excess amount of clothes worn by a lot of the people, given the warm spring night.
He just didn't care.
Maintaining the quiet façade that had built his reputation over the last few decades took every bit of control that Toby had, but he did it. He kept to the back of the group that his friends made up and listened as the doctor explained the injuries that Sam had taken in his assault. There was a severe concussion, a broken ankle, bruises and contusions, stitches for the head injury and a stab wound that hadn't pierced anything vital.
Nausea rose by the time the doctor finished with his list and it was all Toby could do to stay silent while Josh railed at the men who'd attacked Sam. CJ was shaken and pale, and almost as loud as Josh. Leo eyed them both as if wondering who was going to snap first for real, while asking the doctor specific questions about Sam's condition.
"When can we see him?" Toby asked, vaguely proud of himself to remember to say `we,' instead of `I.'
The doctor looked at him as if just seeing him for the first time, and replied, "He's sedated right now, but as long as you're quiet, I don't see any reason that you can't check in on him now. But only for a few minutes."
At any other time, Toby would have grinned at how fast Josh and CJ closed their mouths.
It actually took a good fifteen minutes before a nurse came over to take them to Sam's room. Toby felt sick all over again at the sight of Sam lying pale and unconscious in the bed, even if it was a drugged state of unconsciousness. His face was bruised, but not nearly as bad as the doctor had led them to believe. Or maybe it was the vivid imagination that Toby normally kept ruthlessly in check that had led him to believe Sam's face would be so much putty. The bandage that wound about his head, though, was disturbingly thick and covered a good portion of Sam's skull. And one foot was hiked into the air in some kind of traction device, covered in a cast.
"God…" Josh breathed, moving beside Sam's bedside. He rested a hand gingerly on Sam's shoulder and whispered, "Sam? Hey, buddy, how're you doing?"
CJ walked up beside him and said quietly, "He can't hear you."
"I know, but…"
She rubbed Josh's back. "I know."
Leo joined them there, looking more shaken than Toby had seen in quite a while. He knew it was because this was personal, that the other man was so affected. Leo could face down the most powerful man in this hemisphere without batting an eye, but seeing Sam like this had gotten to him. Toby felt perversely glad that he wasn't the only one.
"I can't believe they did this to him," CJ murmured, threading her fingers through Sam's hair.
Leo nodded and said, "He was lucky."
Furious, but quiet, Josh exclaimed, "Lucky would have been not getting attacked like this in the first place! What the hell was he doing in this area, alone at midnight!?"
A question that I didn't even think about until now, Toby realized with a start.
A nurse entered the room and announced, "Excuse me, but you'll all have to go now."
CJ gently tugged Josh from Sam's side and they left the room. Leo was behind them, but he stopped at Toby by the door, and gave him a questioning look.
"I'm going to stick around," Toby stated.
Leo nodded. "I'll square it with the staff."
Toby wasn't really surprised that Leo closed the door behind him, but was already focused on the man in the hospital bed. How had he not known that Sam was in trouble? How had he gone blithely about his Saturday routine without knowing that Sam was bleeding and broken and lying in a ditch under a bridge? How was it possible?
Bringing a chair over to the bedside, Toby sat and sighed deeply, feeling every one of his years. He wished, not for the first time in his life, that he could turn back the clock.
Something wasn't right, but Toby was too exhausted to really figure out what it was at first. There was the feel of something warm and soft and heavy on the top of his head, just resting there. For a moment, he thought he was in bed and Andi was holding his bare head the way she sometimes did as comfort for them both. Except that wasn't right, because he wasn't lying down in bed, his neck was killing him too much for that to be the case.
"Didn't think I'd see you again."
The barely whispered words jolted him to full awareness, but Toby didn't move. He didn't dare move for fear of not hearing what else Sam had to say.
"They were so fast and so many. Couldn't do anything but think of you and hope you didn't take the news too bad. God. Toby. It hurt so bad."
And that was more pain than Toby could take. He shifted and opened his eyes, meeting Sam's startled blue ones and said, "I should have been there. I'm sorry, Sam, so sorry."
"I thought I was dead," Sam whispered.
Toby placed his palm against Sam's unmarked cheek and whispered back, "I'm sorry."
"Make me believe I'm not dead, Toby, please. Make me believe it!"
The soft, agonized plea sliced through all of Toby's automatic defenses and walls and he responded without thinking. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to Sam's, taking the other man's mouth in a slow, deep kiss. Sam gasped, opening his lips to the intimate play of tongue against tongue. When Toby broke it off, Sam looked as dazed as he felt.
Swallowing convulsively, Sam finally croaked, "Wow."
Humor lit unexpectedly through Toby and he chuckled, sitting upright and taking Sam's hand in his. "Yeah?"
"Oh yeah," Sam agreed, smiling with wonder. His fingers laced with Toby's and he continued, "Really. Just…wow."
"So much for a talking thesaurus," Toby teased lightly.
Heat flushed through Sam's face as he answered, "You can't really blame me. I've been wanting this for a long time and now it's happened."
Toby remained silent, but he brought Sam's hand up and turned it to kiss the palm. There were so many things that had yet to be talked about; rules and guidelines, do's and don'ts, but he didn't want to think about those. He just wanted to keep this moment for a while longer. To be amazed at how easy it was to declare love with just a kiss.
Sam's tired voice broke into his thoughts and he again kissed Sam's palm. "Yeah?"
"I think the drugs are kicking in again."
A faint smile surfaced at the slightly slurred announcement and Toby ordered, "Then go to sleep. I'll be here when you wake up again."
"You sure?" Sam asked, obviously fighting to stay awake.
Toby nodded. "Positive, believe me."
Yawning, Sam mumbled, "Always do, Toby."
The blue eyes closed again and Toby was left holding Sam's hand while the other faded into sleep. He sighed and rubbed at his eyes with his free hand. It wasn't going to be easy, Toby couldn't even come close to fooling himself on that score, but it would be more than worth it. Sam was already his life, now he just got to share that fact with the object of his affection. They would find a way to make this work, even with all the obstacles facing them. They would.
His heart believed that, it really did. Convincing his mind was probably going to take some time.
* * * *
"Sam. Sam, wake up. Come on, Sam, wake up now."
The soft, familiar voice worked its way through the comfortable numbness, as did a gentle shaking of his shoulder.
"Come on now, wake up, Sam."
He thought about it for a long time, then decided that Toby was worth the effort and opened his eyes. It took a few blinks to get everything into focus, but eventually, Toby's haggard face sharpened in his view. Managing a smile, he said, "You need a shower."
Toby smiled one of his rare, full-out smiles and replied, "I know. You back with us now?"
"Yeah. What happened?" Sam questioned, looking around the hospital room to find two cops standing behind Toby.
Cautious, Toby countered, "You don't remember?"
Realizing that Toby thought he didn't remember their conversation, Sam said hastily, "Of course I remember! I mean, well, I remember waking up here in the hospital and everything after that. What I meant was, why are the police here?"
Toby relaxed enough for Sam to know that the older man had indeed thought that Sam didn't remember what they'd talked about. "They need to take your statement."
Relaxing now that Toby had relaxed, Sam said, "Okay, but I don't remember anything about Friday night at all and only a little of Saturday."
"Mr. Seaborn, I'm Detective Kyle Walton and this is my partner, Jack Dellahey. Whatever you can remember will be a great help to us," the younger of the duo said. "What's the last thing that stands out in your memory?"
Sam focused on the detective, taking in his calm demeanor and face like a bulldog. It was a reassuring face for a cop to have, in his opinion, befuddled though it was. He thought back to Friday and snorted. "I remember lunch."
"What was so special about lunch?" Detective Walton questioned.
Glancing at Toby, whose lips were twitching in an effort not to grin, Sam explained, "I'd been having a spectacularly bad day. There was a Senate thing and a speech thing and…anyhow. My coworkers decided to cheer me up, in their own…inimitable fashion."
Curious now, Watson asked, "How's that?"
"They super-glued my desk drawers shut."
Watson paused, his pen stopping on the small notebook in his hand. "They…?"
"Don't you work at the White House?"
Sam had to give him points for not A) bursting into laughter and B) demanding their salaries be revoked if that was what they did during the course of the day or C) both.
Toby informed them, in that innocent, almost shy way he had that drove Sam nuts, "It was a tension reliever, according to CJ."
Detective Dellahey spoke for the first time. "That would be Ms. Cregg?"
"Yes," Sam confirmed sleepily. "She's the ringleader."
"He's fading again, guys. You should wrap this up," Toby said quietly. Watson nodded and asked, "Is there anything after that, that you can remember? Why you were there in the first place? Any distinguishing marks of your assailants? Anything about the men who attacked you at all?"
Sam tried to recollect anything, but the only thing he could remember was Josh and CJ laughing hysterically in his doorway, as Toby looked on with what was, for him, a big grin. The last thing he remembered was the warm look in Toby's dark eyes as the other man started the `official' scold for gluing Sam's desk shut. After that, nothing…
Jolting awake without even having realized that he'd fallen asleep, Sam savored the feel of gentle fingers combing through his hair. He sighed deeply and opened his eyes to find Toby sitting on the edge of his bed and the room empty. "Guess I wasn't much help."
Toby smiled and replied, "You're allowed. How do you feel?"
Sam thought about it for a moment, then answered honestly, "Sore. My head hurts. You're a little blurry and my leg is killing me. But I'm alive, and you're here, so I'm good."
"Sam…" Toby's words stopped. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Sam, you don't know…I was so worried. How did I not know you were in trouble?"
The pain in Toby's face was almost too much for Sam to take. He reached up and took Toby's hand in his, pressing it against his cheek, then kissing it. "I didn't realize you'd added psychic to the resume."
"Sam, I'm serious," Toby protested.
Firmly, Sam stated, "So am I. Stop it right now, Toby. You couldn't have known. None of this is your fault, understand me?"
"Do you understand me?" Sam repeated.
An all too familiar scowl lit Toby's face, but he nodded.
Deciding to take what victory he could and run with it, Sam kept his face serious and asked, "How're things at the office? Did I miss anything?"
"Did you miss…? Damn it, Sam! You were beaten to within an inch of your life and stabbed!" Toby yelled. "I think you're allowed to miss some things at the God damned office!"
When the nurse burst into the room demanding to know what was going on, Sam was laughing, even though it caused his head to start splitting.
* * * *
Everything was starting to get back on track in the West Wing. Sam had finally left the hospital for home the day before and the worry that had clouded his staff for the last week was starting to abate. Jed knew that it wouldn't completely go away until Sam was back in the office and working again, but at least things could start to get back to normal.
Toby had pretty much been working from the hospital, only making brief, necessary stops at the West Wing, but as long as the work got done, Jed didn't care. It was good to know that someone was there to keep an eye on Sam.
A knock at the door interrupted the rare moment that Jed had for private thought, and he looked over to see Charlie poking his head inside the Oval Office. "What is it, Charlie?"
"Mr. Ziegler would like a few minutes, Mr. President," Charlie answered.
Jed nodded and stood as Charlie withdrew and Toby entered the room. The door closed softly behind Charlie and for a split second, Toby had a trapped look on his face. Jed sighed to himself and thought, So much for back to normal.
Aloud, he asked, "Everything all right, Toby?"
"Fine, Sir, thank you," Toby answered, meeting him halfway.
"Why don't you have a seat?"
"No, Sir, I'm fine."
Jed hid a smile as the other man sat opposite him. There were very few people in the world who could tell Toby Ziegler what to do, and it was kind of fun being one of those people. "So, what can I do for you?"
After hesitating a moment, Toby finally said, "I need to tell you something, Mr. President, and I want to say up front that I know there will be negative ramifications to this announcement if it`s made public."
Well that doesn't sound good, Jed thought with another silent sigh. "What is it?"
"Sam and I are, ah, in a relationship."
Jed blinked a couple of times in surprise, the only real expression that he gave to the unexpected situation. He'd long suspected that Sam had a liking for Toby that was more than strictly friendship, but that it went both ways was completely unanticipated. To be truthful, there hadn't even been any signs that Toby would even consider something like that. Or, not that he'd noticed anyhow. Toby had always been wrapped up in his ex-wife, so far as he'd known.
So much for the great Bartlett intellect.
"A romantic one, I presume you mean."
"And this happened…when?"
"Just recently, Sir."
Jed eyed Toby closely, but as usual, the other man's expression was unreadable. He hadn't gotten to where he was by showing his emotions and what he thought, after all. "So why are you telling me?"
"After everything that we've already been through, I wanted to give you the option of my resignation before someone finds out. Because you know they will," Toby replied quietly.
Jed almost smiled as he questioned, "Are you planning to make out in the Mural Room or the Press Room?"
A flush actually crept over Toby's face as he refuted, "No, Sir. But…Sam is recovering at my home. Someone is bound to find out, and wonder why, and then investigate. We can only be so careful, Mr. President."
Which was a very valid point. You couldn't be on guard twenty-four hours a day, that was just impossible. Jed did, finally, allow himself to aim a small smile at Toby. "Are you planning to abuse your authority over Sam, or use it for his gain?"
"No, Sir!" Toby exclaimed.
"Then what you do together is your own business. There's no regulation forbidding government employees from being in a romantic relationship with one another, though of course it's frowned upon when one is the boss. You did, however, bring it to my attention and I have no problem with it as long as things don't spill over too drastically into the office. I presume you'll still be yelling at Sam when he makes a mistake and occasionally almost praising him when he pulls something off brilliantly?"
At that, Toby's lips nearly twitched into a smile and he answered, "Yes, Sir."
"Then that's all I care about. Go away now, Toby, I have important things to do," Jed announced, standing.
Toby stood as well, a smile briefly curving his lips, and agreed, "Yes, Sir."
He let Toby get all the way to the door before calling out, "Toby?"
Toby faced him. "Yes, Sir?"
"I'm happy for the both of you. And if it does get out, don't worry about it. We'll weather the storm if and when it arrives. We've done it before, and we can do it again. Oh, and tell Sam that I think he's got terrible taste," Jed teased gruffly.
The smile returned and grew as Toby replied, "I already have, Sir, and thank you, Mr. President."
"You're welcome. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Good night, Sir."
Jed sighed to himself as Toby closed the door behind him. He was happy for them, there was no doubt about that. He knew how hard it was to make it through the world alone. Without Abby, he never would have gotten nearly as far in life as he had.
He also knew that when the news got out, it would be a shitstorm for sure.
* * * *
Lying in bed that night, watching Abby get ready to join him, Jed wondered how best to bring up the situation of Toby and Sam. He knew that Abby was angling to get Mallory and Sam together and didn't want her matchmaking efforts to interfere or accidentally cause the two men embarrassment. He finally settled on, "Talked to Mallory lately?"
Abby paused in the act of brushing her hair and frowned over at him. "Leo's Mallory?"
"How many other Mallory's do you know?" Jed questioned.
She snorted softly and replied, "More than one, but yes, I did just speak to Mallory last week as a matter of fact. She was planning to come down for a visit."
"You weren't planning on arranging some kind of…entertainment…for her visit, were you?" Jed questioned.
Arching an eyebrow at him, she repeated, "Entertainment?"
"In the form of a certain young and handsome speechwriter?"
"Sam? Oh no, I gave that up quite a while ago," Abby informed him, returning to her hair.
"What? Why?" Jed demanded, a little affronted on Sam's behalf.
"She's engaged to be married, Jed."
Jed paused. "When did that happen?"
"You don't remember that period of about a month where Leo was in a constant black mood and muttering under his breath about hockey players?" Abby questioned, setting down the brush and walked to the bed.
Thinking about it, Jed pointed out, "That's pretty much how he behaves all the time."
"More than usual, then," Abby teased, climbing under the covers.
Jed put his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. "No, I can't say I do remember that."
"Why do you ask?"
"Toby came in today to see me about Sam."
Abby was instantly alert and pushed away from him, into a sitting position. She was almost gleeful as she exclaimed, "It's about time! I thought Sam was going to pine away entirely before Toby got off his ass."
Surprise echoed through Jed for the second time that day as he demanded, "You knew how they felt about each other?"
"Why do you think I was pushing Mallory at Sam so hard? They're certainly not well matched as a romantic couple," Abby replied, exasperated. "I was trying to force Toby's hand. Honestly, Jed, if it was a dog, it would've bit you."
Nonplused, Jed shook his head and observed, "Machiavelli has nothing on you, Abby."
She smiled, pleased, and settled back against him. "Why thank you, honey. I'm glad you finally noticed. So what are you going to do?"
"Nothing. We'll see if someone notices."
"Which they will."
"And then see how bad it is. My official position is that neither man is doing anything wrong. That they are both excellent at their jobs and what they do in the privacy of their own home, is their business, not mine or the public's."
"And people said you wouldn't make a good president."
Jed laughed and pulled the blankets up higher around them, kissing her deeply before saying, "Why thank you, Dr. Bartlett."
Sam waited anxiously for Toby to get home, flipping through the television channels without really seeing what he was skipping over. His leg itched under the cast, but having just taken his drugs for the night, it was muted now, thank God. The rest of him throbbed in synch to his pulse, especially the stab wound, but it wasn't really painful anymore, also thanks to the drugs. But there was also his location adding to his comfort factor.
He was relaxed now in a way that he definitely hadn't been in the hospital. Resting in Toby's home, feeling the character of his lover all around him, was soothing. Even knowing what Toby had planned to do tonight after work didn't cut through the calming affect of Toby's home. Their home, now. The thought made him smile.
The late hour with Toby still as a no-show didn't surprise him. It was more than likely that Toby would take care of as much on his desk as he could, in case he wound up being escorted out of the building. Sam didn't think that the President would ask for their resignations, but it was a possibility after everything the administration had been through. President Bartlett was one of the most loyal men he knew, but there had to be a limit to what even he could tolerate.
Finally, the front door opened and closed and he pushed himself to his feet, grabbing his crutches and heading over to meet Toby. The other man was in front of him in short order and he was grabbed in a silent, tight hug that just made him melt. It was the safest place he'd ever been, and the most loving, and Sam couldn't yet believe that Toby really was his.
Pulling back, he searched the dark eyes to find them crinkled up at the edges and that, right there, was his answer. "We still have jobs!"
"Yes, yes we do," Toby agreed, smiling. "He was great, Sam. Oh, and he said to tell you that you've got bad taste."
Sam grinned. "So you said."
"Come on, let's sit, I don't want you on your feet for too long," Toby fussed, aiming him towards the sofa.
"No, let's go to bed, instead," Sam countered, tugging Toby in the other direction. Not that there was much persuasion needed, he was pleased to note.
It took several minutes to navigate the stairs to the master bedroom, and Sam was even more sore and exhausted by the end of it. The main reason that he was only to make the trek twice a day, with help. While Toby was at work, Sam haunted the lower levels of the townhouse, his body not yet up for climbing all those steps on his own. His doctors had been very firm on the recuperation part of the next few weeks, so no matter how bored he got, Sam knew that Toby wouldn't let him work. It wouldn't be like when Josh was recovering from his bullet wound, he knew that without even asking.
Collapsing on the bed, he groaned in pain as Toby gently propped the cast onto pillows. "God, I can't wait until the damn thing is healed!"
"And the rest of you," Toby said quietly.
Sam opened his eyes as the bed dipped with Toby's weight. Dark eyes looked at him with worry and that made him smile. Toby was definitely a worrier, and it felt good to know that someone cared enough to worry about him. Reaching out, lacing their fingers together, Sam agreed, "And the rest of me."
"How's your head? Your vision still okay?" Toby questioned. "When did you change your dressing last?"
"My head is fine and so is my vision. My dressing was changed not even an hour ago and will be fine for the rest of the night," Sam answered patiently.
It hadn't surprised him a bit to find out how overprotective Toby was. The older man was overprotective of everyone he loved, he just didn't have the opportunity to show it that often at work.
A wry half-smile surfaced on Toby's face and he said, "I'm doing it again, right?"
"Yes, but I like that you do, when it doesn't annoy the shit out of me. Which will probably be in about three point six days."
"Three point six days, huh? I'd better take advantage of that time then."
Sam grinned as Toby's hands roamed his body, checking out his injuries with gentle, barely-there touches. He shivered as his body tried to respond, but it was still too drugged and off-kilter to appreciate the attention. Sighing in disappointment, Sam caught the wandering hands and brought them up to kiss. "The spirit is willing, Toby, but the body is another story."
"That's okay," Toby replied softly. He changed their hands and brought Sam's up to kiss, leaving them there for a long moment before continuing, "When someone finds out about us, the President is going to stand behind us completely. What we do in the privacy of our home, is our business."
Warmth flooded through him at the announcement and Sam couldn't help the smile that spread across his face. "He really is great, isn't he?"
Toby smiled. "He is."
After basking in the good feelings for a few moments, Sam forced himself to come back to the ground and asked dryly, "How did Leo take it?"
"Ah, Leo wasn't there."
Sam went still, then groaned. "If my head weren't on shaky ground already, I'd be banging it against the headboard. How could you not tell Leo?"
"He wasn't there."
"Well he wasn't!" Toby insisted, his volume growing.
Taking a deep breath, Sam said, "Okay. We can work around this…no we can't. Toby, you have to tell Leo."
"I know, I know. I just…"
"What?" Sam prompted when Toby fell silent.
Toby sighed and met his eyes again with, "Telling Leo makes it real, because you know he's going to be angry. He's going to yell and rant and demand explanations and probably ask for our resignations."
Sam pulled his hand free to cup Toby's face, his fingers scratching through the beard. Toby sighed and leaned into the touch. "First, he's not going to ask for our resignations, though I'm pretty sure there'll be yelling involved from both you and him. You're not exactly shy about that yourself. And even if he does ask for them, which he won't, the President's already refused them, remember?"
Smiling again, Sam slid his hand up and over Toby's bare head and ordered, "Get ready for bed, Toby. It's time to go to sleep. You've got to get up at an insanely early hour and you need your rest because tomorrow, you're telling Leo."
"Right. Tomorrow I'm telling Leo," Toby agreed, dour.
Sam chuckled and took his hand away so Toby could start getting ready for bed. All Sam had to do, fortunately, was squirm out of the bathrobe and toss it on the chair by the door. His eyes drooped as Toby took care of business in the bathroom, but he was determined to stay awake this time. He'd fallen asleep just about right away the night before, his first night there, and only discovered this morning that Toby had slept on the couch.
It seemed like forever before Toby was framed in the doorway, looking at him from a few feet away as he said, "Goodnight, Sam."
"Hey! Where do you think you're going?" Sam demanded, forcing his eyes to open. "Get your butt into bed."
Startled, Toby replied, "Excuse me?"
"You heard me."
"I'll hurt you."
"You will not."
"Yes, Sam, I will. I'm a very restless sleeper."
"I'll risk it."
"Toby, please. Come to bed."
Toby hesitated a long moment, then turned off the light, uttered a sigh, and walked over to the bed.
Half-smiling, Sam prompted, "Now get in the bed. You know, lift up the covers, climb underneath them, put your arms around me, and close your eyes."
Toby snorted, but did as he was ordered. He paused again before sliding an arm underneath Sam's head. Sam looked at Toby, seeing him as a pleasant outline in the darkness. "You can come a little closer, you know."
"I don't…want to hurt you, Sam," Toby whispered.
Scooting closer until he was full-length against Sam, Toby draped his other arm over Sam's chest and asked uncertainly, "This okay?"
Sam sighed in contentment. "Very okay. Of course, it would be better if you kissed me."
The flash of teeth gleamed briefly in the near dark and Toby leaned in to press his lips against Sam's. It was a slow, leisurely kiss and Sam responded by opening his mouth further, thinking, Just because I can't enjoy more than this, doesn't mean Toby shouldn't. But Toby intercepted his hand before Sam reached his target, breaking the kiss up into smaller ones and then stopping altogether.
"I can wait," Toby said, nuzzling against Sam's throat.
"You shouldn't have to," Sam muttered, wishing he could do something.
A warm chuckle echoed in his ear and Toby observed, "I'll be struggling to keep up once you're back to full strength, Sam, let me enjoy the slow pace for a while, okay?"
Well, put like that…
Sam smiled happily and curled closer, as close as his injured body would allow, and said, "Night, Toby. I love you."
Lips pressed to his temple as Toby whispered, "Same here, Sam, same here. Good night."
"Better stay here all night," Sam threatened through a yawn.
Toby chuckled again and promised, "I will. Go to sleep, Sam."
With that reassurance in his ear, Sam closed his eyes and drifted into sleep.
* * * *
Leo pulled his glasses off as he looked up from the report and found Toby standing in his doorway. Waving the other man in, he asked, "How's Sam?"
"Good, good," Toby answered, stepping into the office. "He's actually why I'm here."
A little surprised when Toby closed the door on that, Leo crossed his arms over his chest and waited for the news. It couldn't be good, from the serious, almost hangdog expression on Toby's face.
"I spoke to the President about this last night," Toby began, shuffling a little on his feet.
"About Sam…and me."
It took all of ten seconds for Leo's brain to catch on to what Toby hadn't yet said. The ramifications of the news was a blow to the administration, no doubt about it, but Leo was having more trouble simply grasping the fact of the matter. Toby and Sam. Together. As in, a sexual and/or romantic relationship. It was personally staggering and Leo knew he was going to have to take a few minutes to properly appreciate the irony.
"You're not yelling," Toby observed, ironic.
Leo gaped at him for another couple of seconds before forcibly pulling himself together. "No, yelling would require comprehension and I'm not really there yet."
There was a minor pause.
"When the hell did this happen!?"
"Now you're yelling."
Taking a breath, Leo calmed down a little and replied, "Okay. I'm there now. What did the President say?"
"He was fine with it," Toby answered. "Said as long as we did our jobs, what we did in our home was our business."
"No offense, but the President can be a lunatic sometimes," Leo snapped, his mind stuck on the `our home,' phrase.
Sam had already weathered one sex scandal with the call girl, would that offset this because Laurie had been a woman? Groaning, Leo flung his glasses onto his desk and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Who else knows?"
"You, the President, me, and Sam," Toby replied. "That's it. Oh, well, I expect Mrs. Bartlett probably knows, by now. We all know the President can't keep something like this to himself."
Leo nodded, knowing that was true. Jed would be ecstatic that one of his best friends and a man he considered a second son had found happiness, and Abby would be right there with him. They would be happy with Toby and Sam being happy and in love together, but it was about to make Leo's life a living hell. And CJ's, too. Sighing explosively, he said, "I need to tell CJ so she can prepare something for the press, and you should probably tell Josh."
Startled, Leo looked over at Toby and found stark determination on the other man's face. It wasn't the determination that surprised him, just that Toby wore it so baldly. "Excuse me?"
"This isn't something that needs to be handled," Toby stated evenly. "When it comes out, we'll deal with it, but Sam and I are not going to make a public statement any sooner than we have to. We aren't breaking any rules, and we weren't elected. There is no reason for disclosure to the public."
"No!" Toby shouted. "I won't have it! Sam is still recovering from a beating that left him half dead! He's going to have peace and quiet for as long as humanly possible!"
A bit stunned by the force of Toby's fury, more than he'd ever seen, even more than when he'd found out about the MS, Leo didn't say anything at first. Then, realizing that he may have just badly damaged his friendship, Leo apologized, "I'm sorry."
Still glaring, Toby just looked at him for several long moments. Finally, he gave a short nod and said, "Fine."
Braving the lion's mouth again, he asked quietly, "Are you going to tell CJ and Josh? Or anyone else?"
Toby nodded again and replied, "CJ and Josh and Charlie, Ginger, Bonnie and Donna."
Which rounded out the roster of those immediately impacted and, not coincidentally, the list of Sam and Toby's circle of friends. Feeling like he'd let Toby down with his reaction, Leo offered sincerely, "If this is gonna make you happy, Toby, then I'm glad it happened. Really. It's just going to take some getting used to on my part. I never…thought of you like that. Or Sam, for that matter. But I am happy for you."
"Thank you," Toby replied, just as quiet. "We're going to have CJ and Josh over sometime this week to tell them. I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention it to them before that."
Leo nodded. "I won't."
"Good. Thank you," Toby repeated. "Are we still on for…?"
"Okay. I'll see you at three."
And that was that. Toby left his office and Leo was left to deal with the fallout as best he could. Which was what he always did. Sighing, Leo turned and picked up his glasses and started rereading the report that he'd been going over before Toby had dropped his own, personal bombshell.
* * * *
Sam was on the sofa when CJ and Josh arrived bearing pie and wine, respectively. Even just four days after his release from the hospital, two weeks after the attack, he felt a lot better. Most of that, he knew, was due to Toby and the other man's steady, loving care. He wondered often if Josh would have recovered faster if he'd had someone to look after him like Sam did. Not that Donna hadn't done a great job, Josh was a difficult patient, but it wasn't the same.
He started to get up, but CJ exclaimed, "Plant your butt back in that seat, mister!"
Smiling, Sam held out his arms as she bent down to hug him. When she was done, Josh was next, and that felt just as good. They ate in the living room, much to CJ's amusement at Toby's close observation for any dropped food. It was so Toby that he couldn't help the smile that surfaced every time Toby warned Josh about something about to fall off his plate.
Tapping her pie fork against her wine glass, CJ called for attention with, "I just want to announce that Joshua owes me a hundred big ones."
Josh groaned, but started fishing out his wallet.
Curious, Sam asked, "What did you guys bet on this time?"
"Be thankful Amy wasn't involved," Josh muttered, pulling out a bunch of bills and handing them over to CJ, who cackled with glee.
Grinning broadly, CJ explained, "I bet Josh, young, foolish, inexperienced in the ways of the heart Josh, that the two of you would get together before the year was out."
Sam's jaw dropped and a glance at Toby showed a similar muteness holding his lover silent. Not for long, though, because Toby demanded loudly, "You bet on us!?"
"Hell yeah," CJ replied, smirking. "You should've heard the odds Josh gave me."
Holding up a hand, Sam put in hastily, "That's okay, we don't really need to know, do we Toby?"
Toby looked like he was going to argue, but his jaw tightened and he stayed silent.
Turning a little serious, though she was still smiling, CJ said, "We're both really happy for you…I assume it's going to be a quiet wedding?"
"CJ!" Toby yelled.
Sam grabbed Toby's shoulder to restrain him from doing CJ bodily harm. "Thank you, CJ, and no, no ceremony, quiet or otherwise."
"Ask us again when the term's over," Toby muttered.
Warmth that had nothing to do with the scant amount of wine he'd had, flushed through Sam at the statement. He looked over at Toby and asked, "What was that?"
A smile hovered over Toby's face as he returned the gaze, dark eyes warm and steady. "You heard me."
"Look at them! They're so adorable!" CJ exclaimed.
Toby growled something better left not understood, and started collecting dishes. When he and Josh were gone, laden down with plates and glasses, CJ took the seat next to Sam and put her arm over Sam's shoulder, resting her head there as well. "Are you happy, Samuel?"
"Very," Sam replied simply.
"Good. You both deserve to be."
When Toby noticed that Sam was drooping about a half hour later, despite the relatively early hour of ten, he ordered CJ and Josh both out. Minus the leftover pie, of course. Sam grinned at that, even as he fought off sleep during the goodbyes and additional hugs and promises to talk the next day, over Toby's dead body if necessary.
Toby needed no urging to climb into bed with Sam after that first night and, nearly an hour later, Sam drowsed in his arms. Not taking his afternoon dose of medicine so he could enjoy a little wine had debilitated him, but he felt it was worth it. Of course, the nightly dose was hitting him with double efficiency, thanks to that.
Struggling back out of the dark layers of sleep that were dragging him down, Sam focused on the warm body holding him and answered, "Yeah?"
Toby said softly, "I meant it, you know."
Lost, Sam questioned, "Meant what?"
"About us getting married. Joined. Whatever the term is. This is it, for me. You're it, for me, no matter what."
The utter certainty in Toby's voice blew Sam away, eradicating the sleepy cobwebs from his mind, if only temporarily. Looking at his lover in the dark, Sam said, "Me too, Toby. It doesn't matter what happens when the press finds out, I'm not leaving you."
Toby kissed his temple and whispered, "I love you, Sam."
He knew how difficult it was for Toby to say those words, how very difficult it was. Sam put his hand on Toby's chest and whispered back, "I love you too, Toby. For the rest of my life."
Toby's arms tightened around him and he ordered gruffly, "Go to sleep, Sam."
Smiling, Sam nodded and closed his eyes, relaxing into the arms that held him and the healing sleep that waited.
Back to the Big Block of Cheese Main Page