His training kicked in, pure and simple. Will dove forward to get CJ and Toby to the ground. Gunfire, get the civilians down, keep an ear open, figure out what's going on. CJ and Toby still terrified him on some levels, but there wasn't a choice, this wasn't a time to think about that.
He didn't remember much after that. The door to the pressroom slamming open, the taste of adrenaline in his throat, the sound that a dozen pair of standard issue secret service shoes made as they pounded across the tile floor.
He remembered the look on CJ's face, though. That was clear. Her look and her gasp and the way Toby said, "Fuck, not again," so quiet that Will almost didn't hear.
He remembered looking down and thinking, Oh, wow, why doesn't that hurt? and the sharp pain that followed, as if knowledge of the wound triggered his nerve endings.
Things after that got loud and hazy and busy and by the time they were loading him into an ambulance, he had already blissfully passed out.
There were downsides to Danny's relationship with the Bartlet administration. Benefits, too, of course, because the staff was more comfortable with him than most of the reporters in the press room and he had relationships with most of them before they ended up in the White House. His editors let some things slide as well. As long as he kept bringing them leaks and tidbits of information, they looked the other way when he refused to take the cheap shots that the rest of the country was taking.
That all being said, this was possibly the worst downside of all: sitting in the waiting room of a hospital with the rest of the press, unsure of what was happening upstairs, not even clear on who was shot. He knew CJ was okay, and the President, but that did little to keep his stomach from flipping over. Josh, Toby, Charlie, Carol, Donna... he cared about these people and he knew they were all still in the west wing when the shots were fired. He bonded with them on the campaign trail, and even though the trials and tribulations of the first term. He knew them. He liked them. He didn't want to be a reporter any more, he wanted to be on the other side of the rope line.
"I'm taking a walk," he said to Mark and Katie, who were sharing a bench with him. "I need to stretch my legs."
"We'll call if anything happens," Katie said. She squeezed his arm and offered him a weak smile. Katie had been covering the Bartlets almost as long as he had. Mark, too, and Steve and Chris. If anyone could come close to understanding what was going through his head, the violent dichotomy between the demands of his job and his affection for these people, it was Mark and Katie and Steve and Chris.
He meandered down the halls, hands stuffed in his pockets, glancing down the corridors as he passed them. Each one was manned by a secret service agent, with five or six more in the main lobby. There was a coffee maker set up in the waiting room there and he decided to help himself. The cafeteria was currently over the line of demarcation and they'd already been there an hour. He heard rumblings of one of the newer corps reporters doing a run to Starbucks, but nothing had come of it so far.
He was leaning against the wall next to the coffeemaker, watching the nurses gossip quietly at the front desk, when he heard pounding footsteps. He turned towards the hospital's main entrance just in time to see the newest Californian Congressman barrelling through the glass doors and into the corridor without slowing down. This was unfortunate, as he was forced to skid to a halt when two agents abruptly stepped in front of him.
"I need to get up there!" Sam insisted, looking around the agents frantically. "You don't understand, I need to see him!"
Him. That was already more than the press knew.
"Sir, I can't allow unauthorized personnel upstairs right now, you'll have to step back."
"I used to work there!" Sam continued. He looked like he was ready to punch the agents out and make a run for it. "I let him convince me to leave and I promised him I'd come back to DC for him and we were supposed to start over and I gave him that job, he wouldn't even be there if it wasn't for me!" It wasn't bragging, but rather despair, and Danny learned two things he hadn't previously known: Will Bailey was the injured staffer and Sam Seaborn was much more attached to Bailey than Danny had ever guessed.
He stepped out from against the wall and put a hand on Sam's shoulder.
"Sam," he said, and Sam spun to look at him with wide, frightened eyes.
"I have to get up there, Danny," he said desperately. Danny nodded and waved at Andre, one of the agents he knew.
"Andre, could you get Ron, please?" he asked. The agent nodded and turned away, touching his earpiece and murmuring something too soft for Danny to hear. Sam started pacing restlessly, running his hands through his hair and glancing down the hall every few seconds. Danny had no idea what to say, so he slunk back against the wall again, offering Sam the only comfort that he could: the illusion that he had his privacy.
Ron was speedy, clipping down the corridor towards them with another agent in tow.
"It's okay, Matthews, let him through," he said, gesturing towards Sam.
"Thank you," Sam whispered gratefully, jogging ahead of Ron, wringing his hands together as he headed towards the elevators. Ron caught Danny's eye and nodded once before turning on heel and following Sam up the hall.
Danny took a moment to digest the reality of Sam's arrival. He rested his head back against the wall and thought about Sam and Will Bailey and California and the race that Sam won by the skin of his teeth. He wasn't a gossip reporter; he didn't care about who Sam Seaborn was sleeping with as long as he could still do his job. That was a rare opinion, however, in an age when even the New York Times felt the need to keep everyone up to date on Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, and he had no doubt that if he had been almost any other reporter, Sam and Will would be hung out to dry.
Danny pulled out his cellphone, but instead of dialing his editor, he called CJ.
He got her voicemail and wasn't entirely surprised.
"Hey, CJ, it's Danny. I just want you to know that Sam Seaborn just ran through the lobby and nearly took out half the secret service to get up to Will Bailey's room. I'm the only reporter here right now, but there are nurses and candy stripers and who knows how many other people who might want to make a quick buck, so tell Sam to tread lightly. And I hope that Will's okay."
He hung up, drained his coffee, and headed back towards the press room. He had no qualms spreading around the victim of the attack, even if he was going to keep mum about his visitor.
Donna wouldn't stop hovering at Josh's elbow. Toby could tell that Josh was growing progressively more irate, but he understood her concern. Underneath his crippling concern for Will (because, fuck, he had been right there, it could just as easily have been him, he had been the one to challenge Will to the stupid fucking dare, oh fuck), there was a gentle buzz reminding him of the last time he paced a hospital hallway like this, the last time one of them had been shot. When they had left the west wing, Josh told Donna to stay. It was Leo who nodded at her slowly and deliberately and held the door to the car open for her as they sped to follow the ambulance. Leo had always been good at taking care of Josh, even if taking care of Josh meant deferring to Donna.
He wished he had been better at taking care of Will.
Logically he knew there was nothing he could have done to stop what had happened, but he couldn't stop replaying it in his mind. Tossing the card into the garbage can, taking Will's stupid dare, filing away to the press room even though Debbie and Ed and Larry had protested.
He'd promised Sam that he'd look after Will. Of course, at the time it had been because Sam was whining and begging and looking at him with those big eyes that could give newborn puppies a run for their money. At the time he had said it to get Sam to shut the hell up already, what did he think he was, some kind of kindergarten teacher, but yeah, if it would get him to leave Toby alone, sure, he'd look after Will. He could almost hear Sam's voice in his head, heart-broken and breathless and desolate.
Toby whirled around when he heard Josh speak. Huh. Maybe the voice wasn't just in his head. Sam was following a severe looking Ron Butterfield down the hallway. He looked broken.
Sam ignored Josh's question and strode right up to Toby, hands shaking, and said, "What happened? How is he? Will he be okay?"
Toby wasn't sure what showed on his face, but Sam bit his lip and looked down. "Shit. Shit," he whispered.
"Oh, Sam," Donna said softly, moving automatically from Josh's orbit to Sam's. He hadn't known that Donna knew about Sam and Will, but it made sense. Donna and Sam were close and she had spent some time with him out in California at the tail end of the House race from hell. She looked at him now with the same big blue doe-eyes she had been turning on Josh all night. The difference was that Sam shakily held his arms open and let Donna step into them, hugging her fiercely and burying his face in her neck.
"Shit. Donna. I just... this is all my fault," he whispered.
"It's not your fault, Sam," Toby muttered gruffly, rubbing the back of his neck and trying to ignore the voice in his head pointing out that he had just been thinking the same thing.
"If I hadn't--"
"Did you fire a gun into the press room, Sam?" Toby asked.
Toby threw his hands up in the air. "What? You're going to blame yourself for getting the guy a job? For god's sake, Sam, it was a freak accident that you had no control over. I know it might be a shock to your anal retentive mind, but not everything in the world is under you thumb."
From the way Sam was staring at him, Toby figured he may have raised his voice a little at the end, there.
The way Sam was looking at him had nothing on the way Josh was looking at him, though, and things started to slot into place in Toby's mind. He had just assumed... Sam and Josh were inseparable, he would have... but obviously he was wrong.
Before Josh could comment, CJ appeared at the start of the hallway. She had dark circles under her eyes and wasn't even trying to conceal them. She was on the phone and her eyes widened and then softened when she saw Sam.
"I understand, General. We'll keep you posted, I promise... of course. Just come right up when you get here. Room 332. Thank you, General. We'll see you soon." She quickly crossed the few remaining feet and offered Sam a weak smile.
"You were next on my call list," she said.
Sam tried to return her smile, but he didn't seem to have it in him. "Was that Tom--um, General Bailey?" he asked. CJ nodded.
"He and his wife are in Massachusetts visiting relatives. They're getting on a plane as we speak," she said. "The First Lady was on a plane, but they stopped it on the runway. They're driving Elsie over here right now."
"Good," Sam said, the words soft and dry and empty. "God, CJ, we were supposed to have dinner with them on Monday night." Donna hugged Sam again and Toby had to fist his hand to keep himself from patting him awkwardly on the back. He couldn't stop thinking about what had gone through his head when the assholes in California had threatened Andy and how he would feel if any of them had laid a finger on her.
Taking a deep breath, he relaxed his hand and offered Sam his awkward, impersonal pat on the shoulder. Sam turned to him, blue eyes wide and open and amazed. He smiled, grateful but empty, and nodded at Toby.
"Is there any news?" Toby asked, clearing his throat and looking away, to CJ, to the floor, to anywhere but the open vulnerability coming off of Sam in waves. Sam had always been the vulnerable one, but that didn't mean that it stopped hurting every time he was crushed and the rest of them had to stand around and watch.
"Still in surgery," CJ said quietly. She reached over and brushed a lock of Sam's hair--too long, still dangling down in front of his eyes and making him look even younger--off of his forehead. "You should sit down Sam. It'll be awhile."
"I remember," Sam said, and that hurt too, because they did all remember and Sam probably best of all, save maybe Donna.
Sam sunk into a chair and Toby followed suit, sitting awkwardly at Sam's side. He didn't know what else to do. CJ was back on the phone, Donna was sitting on Sam's other side and holding his hand, and Josh was... well, glowering off to the side.
"I just can't believe this. It's happening all over again," Sam whispered.
Taking a deep breath and going against his better instincts, Toby said, "You know that I don't tend to compliment my staff lightly, so obviously you can understand how much I mean what I'm about to say." Sam turned to him, just a hint of humor shining in his eyes. "And you should know that it pains me to say it, but Will's a good guy. He's strong and damn lucky and I'm sure he'll be fine and soon enough you'll be getting back to doing... whatever it is that you do, please don't elaborate on it. Ever."
Sam grinned at him. Still a little hollow and shaking, but the closest he had come to a real smile so far.
"You have to swear never to repeat that to him," Toby said. "I know where you live and where you work and I'm your boyfriend's taskmaster. I can make your life hell, Seaborn."
Sam looked rather disturbingly like he wanted to hug Toby, so he was quite glad when CJ approached them, her mouth slanting nervously to the side.
"Toby, can I talk to you for a minute?" she asked. He glanced at Sam, who was starting to get a little color back in his cheeks at the very least, and nodded, pulling himself to his feet and following CJ down the corridor. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Josh wandering over to Sam and leaning over to ask him a question, but he put it out of his mind when he saw that CJ was dead serious.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"I just got a voicemail--" She stopped abruptly and looked up and down the hallway, then took a step closer before continuing. "I just got a voicemail from Danny Concannon. He wanted to tip us off that Sam raised hell before anyone would let him up here and he wasn't the only person to see it."
Toby rubbed fiercely at his face. This was the absolute last thing that they needed. A White House staffer getting shot was bad enough without every supposedly respectable newspaper in the country turning it into the backdrop for a sordid gay love scandal.
"What did Sam say?" he asked, reigning in his temper.
"Danny didn't say," CJ said. "I don't think it was anything specific but... God, Toby, you saw him when he got up here. Can you imagine what he must have looked like when they denied him access?"
Toby knew exactly what Sam was like in a personal crisis. His entire being showed on his face. Fuck. "What's Danny going to do about it?" he asked.
"Nothing," CJ said quickly.
"I'm serious, Toby," she snapped. "It's Danny, he' s not going to... he wouldn't. But that doesn't mean that some first year resident isn't going to tell the Enquirer for enough money to pay off their student loans!"
Toby scrubbed at his face again and CJ ran her hands through her hair. He didn't entirely buy that Danny Concannon was going to ignore the story entirely, but where it came from didn't matter as much as the fact that it was out there, just waiting to be spilled to the public.
"Okay," he finally said. "What are we going to do about it?"
"I'll tell Leo," CJ said. "But after that... unless it comes out immediately, I'd like to at least consult with Sam and Will, considering it's their lives that are going to be on display for the public."
"Right," Toby muttered. "And until then..."
"We wait," CJ said. She shrugged sadly and headed back to the small breakroom that Ron Butterfield had taken over as a security headquarters. Toby headed back to the chairs in the waiting room. A stupid poker game and a stupid bet were pulling everyone into a world of trouble.
"Suicide by cop," Ron said. Leo sighed with relief, even as Jed's brows knit together in concern. "He was hoping to be shot by the first officers on the scene." A mentally unstable loner was infinitely better than someone with a vendetta against the administration, the press, or the President in particular. "He shot towards the press room because he assumed no one would be there. Unfortunately for us..." Ron trailed off. No one needed to be reminded of how unfortunate the night had turned out for them.
"What happened to him?" Jed asked.
"He was apprehended," Ron said. "We have him in custody. He wasn't trying to hurt anyone and when he heard about Will... well, he's on suicide watch, at least for the night."
Leo nodded and sighed again. He was mad as hell, but a part of him couldn't help but feel sorry for the guy. Not too sorry, of course. Not with one of his guys in emergency surgery.
"We're going to--" Ron started to say, and then stopped. He put his hand to his ear and listened for a moment. "I'm here with the President and Leo, I'm going to defer to them. One moment, Martinez." He looked up at Jed and said, "Sir, Sam Seaborn is downstairs raising a hell of a fit. He wants to come up. I can see no reason to keep him out, but I'd like to clear it with you first."
"Sam?" Jed said, frowning. "Of course Sam can come up. But how did he...?" Jed turned to him, and Leo couldn't help but cringe a little. He had been putting off this conversation. In fact, he had hoped that Sam and Will would be discreet enough that they'd never have to have it. He should have known better. Sam was a great kid, but discretion had never been his strong suit.
"Ron," Leo said, "if there's nothing else, why don't you go ahead and bring Sam up here? I need to talk to the President for a moment." Ron nodded and left the room, already murmuring into his earpiece and closing the door behind him, leaving him and Jed alone in the room. Jed was giving him That Look. The look that was specifically reserved for instances in which Leo knew something that he didn't. Jed liked to know everything about everything and everyone and he did not take kindly to people keeping things from him.
"Now keep in mind, Mr. President, that there was no reason you needed to know this, that it doesn't really involve you, and that it's somebody else's secret that I didn't feel comfortable sharing."
That Look turned into a glare.
Leo sighed. "Will Bailey and Sam are... in a relationship," he muttered.
He remembered finding Will in his office that day. It was only a few months ago, but it felt endlessly longer. He'd dismissed Margaret without even realizing that Will was sitting there and was halfway through dialing Will Shortz to snap at him about yet another incorrect crossword clue when Will quietly cleared his throat.
"Will?" Leo said, dropping the phone and glancing over at him with a raised eyebrow. "Is this about the missing chairs? Because I'm supposed to tell you I don't know where they are."
Will snorted, but shook his head. "No," he said. "I'm pretty sure they're in that empty storage room two floors down, but thanks. This is about something else. CJ said I should come see you." He was inspecting his nails, staring out into the hallway, and fidgeting. This was not going to be good.
"Well?" Leo said. "I do have a country to run, Will, so I'd appreciate it if you could--"
"I'm gay," Will said. It was conversational in tone, but still threw Leo for a loop. He knew, of course. It was in Will's file.
"I know," Leo finally said. "And?"
Will sighed. "Um, let me just start by saying that I really think this is none of anybody's business and the less people who know, right now, the better, but CJ said after last time that--"
"Spit it out, son," Leo said.
"I'm seeing Sam." It took Leo a moment to figure out what Will meant, and in the meantime, he elaborated with, "I'm sleeping with--Sam and I are in a relationship."
Even as Leo said it, he knew the answer. "Sam Seaborn?"
"Well, yeah," Will muttered. He glanced up, a spark of something defiant in his eyes, and added, "And yes, I've gotten the lecture on how stupid this is, I know how stupid it is, believe me, this whole thing isn't my fault, but you try denying Sam Seaborn something he wants and see how far you get. We'll be careful, we've been seeing each other since November and we've been careful the entire time and I'm prepared to accept the consequences of things going south, okay?"
He took a deep breath, stared at Leo, and then deflated somewhat. "I'm so totally screwed, aren't I?" he said.
Leo could only blink. He had known about Will, sure, and there had been rumors about Sam, but there are always rumors about the young, good looking ones. He should have known the moment Sam told him he was just very good friends with that hooker and meant it sincerely.
What is it about Sam Seaborn? he thought.
He must have said it out loud, because Will said, "He's very, very pretty." His eyes glazed over. "He pulls you in with the prettiness and then traps you with the unexpected depths and his hands and--"
Leo held up his own hands quickly. Oh god. Those were not images he wanted. "It was rhetorical, Will."
Will colored a little, looking away. "Um. Right."
Leo rubbed his forehead. This was not the way he wanted to start the day. "Who else knows?"
"Toby, CJ... I think Sam might have told Donna because she keeps beaming at me in the hallways and clasping her hands together. Um, my sister, my dad and stepmom. Maybe my brothers. I'm not sure if my dad told anyone else."
"Okay," Leo said. "I need time to process this. Go do your job, will you?"
"Gladly," Will said. He was up like a shot, looking like a kid rocketing out of the principal's office. "Thank you, sir."
At the time, Leo thought the biggest problem was going to be Sam keeping his mouth shut. Now he had Will Bailey bleeding out in an OR, Sam raising a hysterical fit, and the pleasure of telling the President that a current and former staffer were having a secret gay affair.
That, at least, was only half as excruciating as he expected.
"Sam?" Jed said again. "Really? I never would have--Sam's gay?"
"How the hell should I know?" Leo said. "If he's not gay he's at least... you know." Leo McGarry was absolutely not going to say the word "bisexual" to the President of the United States.
"How long?" Jed asked, amazement still evident in his voice.
"Since November. Since the first time Sam went down there after Wilde died," Leo said. Jed shook his head slowly.
"I never would have imagined. Sam? Really?" Leo nodded. "Who else knows?"
"On the staff, I think it's just Toby and CJ. Outside of the White House, Will's family knows too." Jed nodded.
"Sam and Will. Who'd have thought?" he said, with one last rueful head shake. "God, poor Sam. Is he up here yet?"
"I don't know," Leo said. "I'll go--" His phone started ringing before he could finish his sentence and once he saw that it was Mal, he couldn't exactly ignore it. "One second, sir. It's Mallory returning my call."
It took him more than a second to convince Mallory that he was all right, that the President was all right, and that Will would most likely be all right. The entire time he couldn't help but think about her brief almost-relationship with Sam. He wondered if she had known, whether he had told her or she figured it out for herself. The curiosity that was niggling at his brain almost got him to ask, but it was his daughter and he really tried to know as little about her love life as possible.
By the time he hung up, Jed was talking to Ron again and Charlie was standing by with Fitzwallace on the cell phone. He took a moment to steal into the hallway to see how Sam was holding up, but to his surprise Sam was no where in sight. Donna and Toby were sitting silently in the waiting room, an empty chair between them. CJ paced towards him, looking grim, and he could hear several sets of footsteps approaching from further down the hall.
He addressed CJ first.
"What do you have for me, CJ?"
"Some less than great news," she said.
"Because we need more of that tonight," he muttered under his breath. "What's up?"
"Danny Concannon left me a voicemail," she said. "Apparently Sam threw a fit to get up here and there were witnesses. He didn't specifically say anything about why he wanted to get upstairs so badly, but Danny came to the correct conclusion on his own and I don't think it's out of the question to think that some of the other people in the lobby might think the same thing."
This was the last thing they needed tonight, and Leo felt an overwhelming urge to punch the first person to try and sell this story to the tabloids. It was just another thing to add to the endless list of things to cover and look into and control on a night that none of them had control of anything.
He felt remarkably old.
"There's nothing we can do about it right now, CJ," he said, "but thanks for the heads up. You should let Sam know. Will, too, when he wakes up."
CJ nodded. "Of course. Thanks, Leo." She ducked into the conference room, probably to tell the President as well, and Leo turned his attention to the footsteps from the hallway, which revealed Abbey and Zoey Bartlet and another girl about Zoey's age who he eventually identified as Elsie Snuffin. Her eyes were red and puffy and she looked very pale.
"Leo," Abbey said, approaching him and pulling him into a hug. "How's Will doing?"
"He's in surgery now," Leo said. He hugged Zoey too, and added, "The President's inside." He pointed towards the empty room they were using as home base and Abbey nodded.
Zoey hesitated and asked, "And... Charlie?"
"He's in there too," Leo said. Great. More romantic drama. Just what the night needed.
Zoey turned to Elsie and squeezed her shoulder. "I'll be right back, Elsie." Elsie nodded weakly, staring into space, and then Zoey was gone and she was alone.
"Elsie, right?" he said to her. It took her a moment to glance up at him, but she nodded. "Your brother is going to be fine, Elsie. We got him here as fast as we could and he's in surgery right now." She nodded again, and shivered.
"Where's my dad?" she asked, glancing around. "Dr. Bartlet said he was on his way. Is he here yet? Is my mom?"
Leo shook his head. "They're on a plane. They should be here soon."
"And Sam?" she asked. Leo glanced around.
"He was here," he said slowly. "I don't know where he went." She nodded absently.
"He was supposed to be in Colorado tonight," she sniffed. "Will, not Sam. Sam didn't want him to go because they were supposed to have dinner together, so he compromised by switching to a later flight. Sam had to cancel dinner anyway. If he had just switched back to an earlier flight... who the fuck leaves at midnight, anyway, even if it is an Air Force flight?" For a moment, she seemed righteously indignant, right before she burst spectacularly into tears.
Toby and Donna both glanced over, startled. Feeling helpless, Leo did the only thing he could think to do and pulled her into a hug.
"Shhhh," he murmured. "Hey, it's going to be all right." She let out another sob and clung to his shoulders. It should have been awkward, but his paternal instincts were kicking in. He didn't know Elsie, but he knew how to take care of a little girl. It was the one thing he hadn't failed at in his marriage.
She glanced up and so did Leo. Sam was standing in the hall, looking nearly as bad as Elsie did. Josh stood behind him. He did not look happy.
"Thank you, Mr. McGarry," Elsie whispered. She offered him a watery smile before stepping back and launching herself at Sam.
"I'm so sorry, Elsie," Sam said, his voice breaking. "I'm so sorry."
"If he hadn't changed flights," she said. "If he hadn't... oh god, Sam...."
Leo knew that the President would want to speak with Sam, but he couldn't find the words to ask Sam to join them. It was obvious he was more needed here, and Leo silently retreated back to the first family. He could get Sam later.
Donna had been lingering at Josh's shoulder all night and he was minutes away from shouting at her to knock it off. He knew that he shouldn't, that she was only concerned and that her concern even made a weird sort of sense, but he wasn't the one that she needed to be worried about tonight. He was fine and the continued pleas that he call Stanley just agitated him. He hadn't even been in the room. He hadn't even heard it and he certainly didn't end up shot...
He didn't even like Will Bailey that much. Well, that wasn't entirely true. He liked Will well enough, but he didn't actually know him, didn't care about him on a personal level the way he cared about the rest of the senior staff. His first terrible thought when he heard what happened had been, Thank god it wasn't CJ or Toby. He felt awful, but he couldn't deny it. CJ and Toby were like family. Will was like someone's awkward date who no one really knew yet.
He stood up to get another cup of coffee and felt Donna following him. He was about to snap at her, to say something he'd probably regret, when he heard footsteps approaching from down the hall.
"Sam?" he blurted out without thinking. He hadn't seen Sam in weeks, maybe months, and he looked like... well, he looked like shit. He had dark circles under his eyes, his hair was overly long and in disarray, and he looked pale and drawn. He also ignored Josh completely in favor of striding right up to Toby, nearly shaking.
"What happened? How is he? Will he be okay?" Sam said, desperation coloring his voice. Toby didn't say anything, but the look on his face was more than enough. Sam very nearly crumbled. "Shit. Shit."
Sam was this worried about Will? He knew that they had spent some time together out in California, but he didn't think it was that much. Maybe he felt guilty for getting Will the job. Maybe he felt like this was his fault. That certainly sounded like the sort of stupid, self-sacrificing thing that Sam would do.
"Oh, Sam," Donna whispered, and in one fluid moment she had moved from Josh's elbow to Sam's. They hugged tightly and Sam started babbling about how it was all his fault, but there was definitely something else there.
And just like someone flicked a switch, Josh was suddenly sure of what it was. He could feel his face falling as he processed the information. Weird things, little things started to make sense. The amount of time Will spent on the phone with Sam. The way Donna seemed to smile slyly at Will whenever he passed. Some comments that Toby had made about Sam rubbing off on Will.
He wasn't happy about it.
And didn't that just make him feel like the world's biggest asshole? Will had been shot, Sam was freaking out, his friends were nervous and exhausted, and he was wasting his time being pissed because Sam hadn't told him about some guy he was dating or... whatever.
Except that Sam was supposed to be his best friend. And, sure, he scoffed at the phrase manfully whenever CJ said it, claimed that his camaraderie with Sam went beyond something written on dime store necklaces worn by teenaged girls, but it was true. There wasn't anyone in the world that Josh respected or relied on more than Sam. They were close, and this was the sort of thing you told people you were close with. Certainly before you told your boss or your best friend's assistant or--Jesus, now CJ was walking over like she wasn't the least bit surprised that Sam was there.
He watched as Sam talked to CJ and Toby, as he referred to Will's parents and sister and the others nodded and watched as if they weren't surprised at how thouroughly ensconced Sam was in Will's life.
CJ gestured for Toby to follow her into the hallway, leaving Sam to sit shakily in a chair with Donna holding his hand--another tiny betrayal that hurt Josh more than he wanted to admit--and Josh couldn't just sit and stew on it any longer. Better to nip this in the bud than passive-agressively stomp around all night while one of his co-workers was in surgery.
"Sam, buddy, can I talk to you for a minute?" he asked. Sam blinked at him, as if he hadn't even realized Josh was there. And wasn't that good for his self-esteem.
"S-sure," Sam said. He let go of Donna's hand and rose to his feet. Donna was shooting daggers at Josh, obviously trying to send him a message. Be good to him, maybe or Be careful. He ignored her and led Sam down an empty corridor by the shoulder. Once they slowed to a stop, Sam scrubbed at his face and sighed.
"Josh, I was going to tell you," he started to say.
"Well why the hell didn't you?" Josh snapped. "This is a pretty big thing to ignore for--what? Weeks? Months?"
"Since November," Sam said quietly. He wouldn't look at Josh.
"November?" Josh hissed. "You've been seeing--sleeping with, dating--Will Bailey since November and I'm the last one to hear about it?" He didn't want to be angry. Well, that wasn't entirely the truth. He did want to be angry. He wanted to be furious and throw a fit and shout at Sam until he was hoarse. He wanted to throw around words like "friendship" and "trust" until Sam apologized. But Will had been shot and Sam looked like he was going to break into a million pieces at any moment and Josh recognized the fact that he shouldn't be angry. Not right now. He was doing his best to muffle that first instinct, but it was hard.
"I didn't know what to say!" Sam snapped. "I didn't want to tell anyone, but after the Laurie fiasco, I thought CJ should know. Toby and Donna figured it out on their own and CJ made Will tell Leo... I wanted to tell you, but I didn't know... I wanted to do it myself," he finished lamely.
"And you couldn't pick up the phone?"
"I was afraid, all right?" Defiance, now, and Sam was actually looking at him, glaring weakly past the dark smudges underneath his eyes. "I know how you can get, how you are, and I was afraid you would think this changed something between us. I was afraid you'd give Will a hard time for some stupid macho reason. He's... he's incredible, Josh. You should have seen him out there. He was amazing, and he didn't deserve to be... to be pushed around because of something that happened between us years ago!"
Josh came up short, eyes going wide as he looked at Sam, who was once again very interested in his own shoes. He had to admit, jealousy had been one of the first emotions to overcome him when he started to put the pieces together, but he thought he had hidden it better than that. It wasn't as if he still wanted Sam. Not like that, anyway.
"It's not that," Josh said a little weakly. "It's... well, it's mostly not that. It's just... Sam, you're my friend, okay? And it hurts that I apparently don't mean enough to you to hear about your life first hand." He supposed he should be honest with Sam. "And... I mean, we mostly joked about it, but what about our plans? What about your future?" He had said the same thing years ago when a grassroots campaign had turned into something that had the possibility of landing them both in the White House--they couldn't continue their little fling, they were better as partners than lovers anyway, and being gay would pretty much kill Sam's chance at holding an elected office.
Times may have changed in five years, but they hadn't changed that much.
"I'm sorry," Sam said quietly. He swallowed hard, still not looking at Josh. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I don't know what to do. I don't know what I'm doing, except that I care about Will and at the time I didn't think I had a shot in hell at winning. And once I did... Josh, the way he motivates people, the things he can do, the things his mind comes up with... He's noble, Josh, and funny and smart and once I had all of that I just... I'm selfish. I wouldn't give it up."
Josh thought about breaking up with Sam before things could get serious. He thought about Donna's hovering and the question in her eyes when he drove her home the night of the inauguration.
It took Jed longer than he expected to shake Leo and Ron in person and Fitz and Nancy on the phone, to convince Abbey he needed a moment to himself, and no, he wasn't going to go smoke, to dodge around Zoey and Charlie and slip out into the nearly silent hallway.
What he really wanted to do was check on Will. He had come out of surgery about twenty minutes beforehand, but the doctors didn't want any visitors at least until he woke up. Jed was rather certain that if the President of the United States demanded to visit his bedside they'd step aside, but it seemed wrong for him to see Will before his parents, his sister, or... well, Sam.
Sam was currently slumped in a chair with his head tipped back and his eyes closed, Will's sister sitting on his left and Donna on his right. Toby sat on Donna's other side. Jed vaguely remembered Josh and CJ heading back to the office as soon as Will had come out of surgery, but he was surprised to see Toby and Donna still keeping vigil. Maybe he shouldn't have been. Will was the only person Jed had ever met who Toby had taken to half as well as he did Sam. It almost made sense that he'd want to be around for both of them. He hadn't realized Donna and Sam were close, but knowing both their relationships with Josh, that made sense, too.
"Mr. President," Donna said softly, fatigue evident in her voice as she struggled to get to her feet. The others glanced over at him as well, and Jed held out a hand to still them.
"Don't get up," Jed said. "Any of you, really. I'm sorry I couldn't get out to see you sooner." Toby and Donna got up anyway, stepping aside so that Jed could take the seat next to Sam, who was doing his best to hide the open devastation that had been on his face before he looked up.
"Sam," Jed said, squeezing his shoulder as he sat down, "it's been awhile."
"Sorry, sir," Sam said quietly. "Things have just been... it's been busy."
"Understandable," Jed said. "I just wish it was under better circumstances." It was a cliché, but he didn't know what else to say in a situation like this. All that wanted to roll off his tongue was a long list of terrible clichés. They'd been here once before, bundled together in a hospital waiting room waiting for news, and he still had no idea what to say or do to even attempt to make any of it better. He was still trying to wrap his mind around the fact that Sam was... what? Gay? Dating Will? Whatever it was, it just made trying to talk to Sam worse.
As if someone heard his pleas, a new contingent of exhausted well-wishers arrived, taking the burden of conversation off of Jed's shoulders.
"Daddy," Elsie breathed softly, before stumbling to her feet and meeting General Thomas Bailey halfway across the room. Bailey looked... different. Tired and severe, yes, but without his uniform he seemed... almost normal. Jed couldn't remember ever seeing him dressed casually and the t-shirt and jeans looked oddly out of place. His wife, Barbara, stood right behind him, and behind her was... well, Jed assumed it was one of his other sons. He didn't know for sure which, though.
"Oh, sweetheart, I'm sorry we couldn't get here sooner," Bailey said to Elsie. He held her close and then passed her over to her mother and extended a hand to Sam. "How are you holding up, son?"
Sam allowed himself to be hugged as well and laughed weakly and humorlessly. "I don't think I'm ever going to let him out of my sight again," Sam said. "That's acceptable, right?"
"I tried to do the same thing when he broke his arm when he was seven," Bailey said. "He didn't take too well to it." Bailey released Sam and offered a hand to Jed. "Mr. President. I'd say it's a pleasure, but I honestly can't think of a worse reason for us to be socializing."
Jed shook Bailey's hand and offered his own wry grin. "I'm sorry about your boy, Tom," he said. "But he's been out of surgery for a few minutes now and they say he should be fine once he recovers. We can go in as soon as he regains consciousness." Bailey nodded once, still looking stern and authoritative, but there was a fear lingering underneath the surface that Jed recognized. He felt the same fear when his daughters' lives were threatened. He couldn't imagine how he would feel if those threats were carried out.
"Why don't you take a seat?" he suggested. "Tom, Barbara..." He turned to the young man still hovering on the sidelines, bespectacled, frazzled, and, despite the lighter hair, the spitting image of what he assumed Will would look like in ten years' time. "I'm sorry, son, I'd guess you're one of Will's brothers, but I didn't catch your name."
"Christopher," he said distantly, reaching out to shake Jed's hand. "I was just talking to him this afternoon. He was trying to convince me to come down with Dad and Barb to meet..." He turned slowly away from Jed and focused on Sam, who was standing next to Elsie and Barbara. "I'm sorry," he whispered quietly to Sam. "I know he must like you. Normally he won't let me within twenty feet of anyone he's dating."
"We all like Sam," Barbara said, reaching over and squeezing his shoulder. Sam shot her a weak but grateful smile and Jed felt a surge of pride. He loved his girls, but he'd always wanted a son and Josh and Sam had so very much stepped into that role in the past six years. Sam, who trekked out to California and won a race that no one expected him to win. Sam, who was going to be his legacy. Was supposed to be his legacy. Now...
He didn't know what the world had in store for Sam. Logically, sensibly, humanely, nothing should change, but he knew the world wasn't logical, sensible, or humane. The odds of Sam keeping his seat in the House if this got out... he'd be lucky if they'd let him finish his term. It wasn't the sort of thing you bounced back from, and it hurt Jed almost as much as he knew it must be hurting Sam, if any part of him had even gotten past the idea of Will in a hopsital bed for long enough to think about his future. He remembered the shine in Sam's eyes when Jed had told him, unequivocally, that Sam was going to run for President one day. He knew that Sam wanted it for himself as much as Jed wanted it for Sam. He wondered, once this was all over, if Sam would be mourning.
Of course, if there was anyone in the history of the United States who could turn this around into Sam's favor, he knew without a doubt that it was his staff.
He glanced around, wondering where the staff in question had disappeared to. He assumed they slipped away to give him time with Will's family, though he hoped they knew they were more than welcome to stay and wait. Will had officially become one of them on Inauguration night, and Jed knew how much that meant to the rest of the staff.
He took a seat next to Bailey, who was still shell-shocked. His wife was speaking quietly to Elsie, who had begun to cry again.
"We're going to step out to the ladies room for a moment," Barbara said, putting an arm around Elsie's shoulders. "We'll be back in a few minutes."
"Of course," Jed said. Bailey just nodded weakly. Christopher and Sam were silent.
"I always thought Tom would be the one getting into trouble all the time," Bailey mused absently from the seat to Jed's left. "He was a rough and tumble sort of boy. Knew he wanted to join the military from the time he could walk. Always getting into fights, running around wild... he drove his mother up the wall. But he calmed down as he got older, learned to control his temper and his energy..." He tipped his head back and closed his eyes. "No, it was Will who was the most trouble. He didn't mean it. He never looked for trouble like his brother did--trouble just found him. Constantly. He broke his arm falling down the stairs when he was seven. He got in the middle of fights without even realizing it, went exploring and managed to explore his way into ditches. At sixteen, he fell out of his bedroom window and got stuck in a bush trying to sneak out of the house. During his Air Force training, through no fault of his own his plane went down in the middle of an exercise. It was just like... he decided what he wanted and dove right in to get it without looking to see what stood in his way." He turned to Jed, straightening up. "Part of me has been expecting something like this to happen to him since that first fall down the stairs. Doesn't make it hurt any less."
He sighed heavily and rubbed his eyes. Before Jed could stop himself, he reached over to squeeze Bailey's wrist.
"He'll be okay, Tom," he said, and he believed it, if only because the other option was unimaginable.
"Mr. President?" Jed glanced up, surprised to see Will's young doctor standing in the hall. "Mr. Bailey's regained consciousness. You can see him now, if you'd like." Bailey nodded and got to his feet and Sam quickly followed.
"You guys go on," Christopher said. "I'm going to... I think I need to sit here for a moment."
"Take your time, son," Bailey said. "And I hope you'll join us, Mr. President."
"Of course, Tom," Jed said, following them out into the hallway.
Will's room was as bland as every other hospital room that Jed had ever been in. The walls were a dull pink color and the plastic chairs looked as uncomfortable as ever. None of that matter, though, when Will rolled over and opened his eyes.
"Hi, Dad," he said. He was squinting--his glasses were on the table next to the bed--and sounded a little dreamy.
"Hello, William," Bailey said.
"I got shot," Will said. "It hurt more than I thought it would."
"That's what you have to say?" Bailey said wryly. "That you were shot and it hurt? I'm glad I spent all that money on your supposedly exemplary education." He crossed to the bed and squinted at the machine standing next to it that was hooked into Will's IV. "Morphine. I should have known. Morphine's always made you a little loopy."
Will giggled, which seemed to break into Sam's breathless stupor. He lurched past Jed and over to the side of Will's bed.
"Hey," he breathed.
"I know you," Will said, breaking into a goofy grin. He reached out, fumbling, and managed to wrap his hand around the tips of Sam's fingers. "You need a haircut."
"You said that this morning," Sam said, his voice cracking a little on the last word.
"My dad's here," Will continued, gesturing absently towards Bailey.
"So's the President," Sam said. He sat on the edge of the bed, allowing Will to crane his neck to see where Jed was standing in the doorway. He took a few steps forward for Will's benefit and smiled.
"Hi," Will said. "I can't stand up."
"That's fine, Will," Jed said. "I'm gonna head back down the hall so you can spend some time with Sam and your family anyway. I just wanted to see how you were doing."
Will cocked his head to the side, as if he were considering it. "Good," he finally said.
"Can we quote you on that?" Jed joked.
"Sure," Will said. He gave Jed a dreamy smile and then looked at Sam again. "You're really..." He gestured vaguely with his free hand. "I like you."
"I like you too," Sam said softly.
Jed took that as his cue to leave. He raised a hand to Bailey, who waved back, and silently headed back to find the rest of his staff. They deserved an update, and Will deserved some quiet time with his family before everything went to hell.
It was the second briefing since Will woke up. That was where the trouble started.
"For those of you who missed the details last time," she said, "Will was shot twice, once in the shoulder and once in the chest. The first bullet was a through and through, but the second grazed his lung. He suffered a broken collarbone from where he fell on the floor and a minor bump on the head. He's awake, he's mostly functioning, and he's really enjoying the morphine they've got him on." She allowed time for laughter and then turned it over to the floor. "Any questions?"
"CJ," one of the newer reporters--Jim? Joe?--called out. "I heard a rumor that Sam Seaborn demanded to be let up to see Will Bailey the night he was shot. Any comment on that?"
CJ was good at this. She hadn't always been, but after four years of dodging bullets, both real and figurative, she knew her mask didn't slip as she said, "I don't know if I'd use the word 'demanded.' Sam and Will are close friends. Sam got Will his job and Will basically got Sam his. He was in the area and heard from one of the assistants in the White House what had happened. Of course he wanted to come up."
"CJ," Danny said quickly, before anyone else could try to poke holes in her story, "Has General Bailey released a statement yet? Do you know if he's planning on it?"
"I don't know, Danny, you'd have to ask him," she responded. "For those of you new to the game, Will's father is Chief Strategic Advisor to NATO and a former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Europe. Luckily, he was in the States visiting one of his other sons when this happened. He's currently at the hospital with his wife and two of his other children, spending some time with Will."
The rest of the briefing went smoothly and no one revisited Sam's appearance at the hospital. CJ knew better than to think it would stay that way.
As soon as the briefing was over, she told Carol to grab Danny from the mob. Danny was already halfway to CJ's office by the time Carol was leaving to get him.
"Thank you for that," CJ said, closing the door to her office behind him. "I had it under control, but I appreciated it. I'm sure Sam and Will, idiots that they are, appreciated it too."
"I do what I can," Danny said. "And like I said that night, I like Sam. I like all of you. But once this breaks... if they're already sniffing around, this isn't going to be a secret for long."
CJ sighed and ran her hands through her hair as Danny took a seat on the edge of her desk. "You think I don't know that?" she asked. "Jesus, Danny, I knew this was going to happen. I knew it was going to happen from the moment Will told me and instead of preparing something, I stuck my head in the sand and crossed my fingers."
"You probably shouldn't have done that," Danny said helpfully.
CJ glared at him.
"Seriously, CJ, how long have you known?"
"Off the record," CJ asked, narrowing her eyes.
"Of course," Danny said. "I'm asking as a friend. Yours and Sam's."
"November," CJ said. She dropped into her desk chair. "It was stupidity at first sight, apparently." Danny snorted.
"Really, though, you should have come up with some sort of scenario in case it came out," he said. He looked serious and concerned and for a moment, CJ remembered that Danny was her friend. She remembered that Danny went through the campaign trail with them, that he threw them bones every once in awhile, that he liked her. Danny liked all of them, but he was a reporter, and as soon as this was public information, he'd be writing about it like the rest of them.
"I know that, Danny," she snapped. "You think I don't know that? It's my mistake, I screwed up, but..." She softened. She couldn't help it. "God, Danny, they're so happy. I just don't understand why this has to be a problem. They're in love. It's sickeningly sweet, yeah, but why is it any different than any other relationship between any other staffers here? Because they're both men?"
"Because they lied about it," Danny said simply.
"They did not," CJ said. "They did not say a single thing that can be proven to be false."
"That's just as bad," Danny said. "I mean really, CJ, do we have to go through the whole MS thing all over again? It's a lie of omission and people are going to be pissed." He paused and then shook his head. "And yeah, they're two men, and unfortunately, most of the country seems to think that makes them somehow less than the rest of the population."
"It's stupid and degrading!" CJ seethed.
"I agree," Danny said, "but that's the way things are and there's no way you're going to change that perception before someone starts digging into Sam and Will's affairs and this gets out. There's nothing you can do except hope that the sympathy from the shooting is enough for you guys to ride through this without too much damage."
She knew he was right, but she wasn't about to actually admit that.
She leaned over her laptop and started tapping her way through her e-mail.
"I have... things to do, Danny. I'll see you at the next briefing."
She heard Danny sigh and felt the desk shake slightly as he stood up. She heard the door open and then...
She did look up at that.
"Tell Will that I'm glad he's okay, will you?"
She nodded. "Yeah," she said. "Sure. Thanks, Danny." He closed the door behind him.
When she heard it click shut, she sighed and closed her eyes. She needed a moment to herself before she dove into the mountain of work waiting for her. It was only going to get worse from here, and if she had any hope of escaping this week alive, she needed to take time to breathe while she still could.
William was trying, ineffectually, to eat Jell-o with his left hand when Thomas walked into his hospital room.
"Hey, dad," Will muttered, letting the spoon clatter to the tray in exasperation. Thomas sat down in one of the lurid orange plastic chairs next to the bed. It was Monday afternoon, two days since the shooting, and the doctors were optimistic that Will would be able to go home in the next few days. His mobility had improved slightly, although he wasn't thrilled about having his right arm in a sling, and keeping his arm immobile had the side effect of keeping the pain from his broken collarbone manageable.
"Hello, William," Thomas said, hiding his smile. "How are you feeling?"
"I miss the morphine," he said with a long-suffering sigh. "Although," he added, "I'm not sure I miss how I was acting on the morphine. God, I'm so lucky I didn't fall in with the stoners in college. My giggling probably would have driven my roommate insane."
Thomas chuckled. "How many times did you tell Sam he needed a haircut?"
Will groaned and covered his face with his left hand. "At least half a dozen. Of course, he still hasn't done it, so you can see how much impact my words have on him."
"Well," Thomas mused, "He probably hasn't had much time for it, what with being here every second of the day."
Will got quiet and looked back down at his Jell-o, making a feeble grab for his spoon. "Yeah, well," he said, a false brightness infusing itself into his voice, "he's probably trying to spend some time with me while he still can." Will managed to get another spoonful of Jell-o most of the way to his mouth, but his lips were set in an unhappy frown. Thomas was puzzled. He doubted Sam was the type to run away because he was afraid of Will getting hurt. The type to tie Will to a chair and never let him out of the house again, maybe, but Thomas just didn't see Sam abandoning him.
"Why do you say that?" he asked.
Will sighed. "I know you know what's going on, Dad," he muttered. "The story is going to break any second now. I have no idea why it hasn't already, except that maybe they thought they should wait until a Monday afternoon so as to broadcast to the largest possible political audience." He let out a shaky breath. "Sam's a congressman, Dad. In one of the most conservative districts in California. If this gets out, his career is over. He's going to deny, deny, deny until people start to believe it. And they will, because Sam's a charmer and because he has that smile and knows the perfect way to phrase everything. But he'll have to back off. I won't be able to see him for weeks, maybe months. And in the end, I won't be surprised if it's easier for him to end it all together."
Will was silent for a long time before adding, "I'm ready for this, Dad. I came into this relationship knowing this was a real possibility." He looked up at Thomas, eyes bleak and empty with a forced smile on his face. "I'll be okay."
It was plain to see that he wasn't, that he wouldn't be, and Thomas felt something clench in his gut. He liked Sam, but more importantly, William liked Sam. Quite a lot, as far as Thomas could tell, more than he had liked any other man in a very long time. He wanted that little bit of happiness for his son, and if this took it away from him... well, Thomas was going to be very angry indeed.
"William, I very much doubt that Sam is going to end anything," he said.
"It's career suicide, Dad," Will muttered, looking away again. "For me, less so. I mean, Bartlet's pretty pro-gay rights and I'm just a lowly staffer. But Sam... god, Dad, Sam loves this. He loves politics, he loves making a difference, and I am not going to be the person who takes it away from him."
Thomas reached out and stroked Will's hair back from his forehead. William didn't acknowledge him with anything more than sharp intake of breath.
"You've told me about a million times that all that matters to you is my happiness because you love me." He took a deep breath. "Well, I love Sam. And I want him to be just as happy."
Thomas got up from where he was sitting and walked to the other side of the bed, the side with Will's good arm. Without preamble, he sat on the edge of the bed and wrapped his arms around Will, cautious of his injured side. William may have been in his thirties, but for a moment, he reminded Thomas of the little boy he held onto the night his first wife died.
"Did you ever think that you could make him happy too, William?" he said softly.
Will didn't say anything, but he hugged back tightly, which spoke for itself, really.
Once they had both regained their composure, they managed to have a normal conversation about the family and their jobs without losing too much of their dignity. Will gave the expected tirade against his brother Dean's fiancée and listened with amusement as Thomas recounted the disastrous dinner with Christopher and his rather peculiar wife and children the night that Will was shot.
When the nurse came in to take away Will's lunch tray, Thomas glanced outside and saw Sam hovering outside the door.
"I'll be right back, William," he said, getting to his feet. "Just have some business to take care of out in the hallway." Will tried to lean forward, but the curtain mixed with his broken collarbone kept him from seeing Sam lurking just outside the room. Thomas grinned easily at Will and slipped out of the room, taking Sam by the elbow and pulling him around the corner.
"Afternoon, Sam," he said, offering Sam his most non-threatening smile.
"Hi, Gen--um, Tom," Sam said, shifting hesitantly. After a beat, he added, "Um, how are you?"
"Good. I'm good, Sam," Thomas said. "I'll let you go in and see William, don't worry. But first, I want to ask you something."
"S-sure," Sam said, tugging at his collar. Thomas held back a chuckle. Good to know that his intimidation factor was still as effective as ever.
"You love my boy, Sam?"
Sam didn't stop fidgeting, but when he nodded his eyes were wide and clear and blue and Thomas knew he was telling the truth.
"That's all," he said, releasing Sam's elbow. "Go see Will."
Sam nearly tripped over his own feet in his haste to flee, and this time Thomas did laugh. He wasn't sure what was going to happen once the press finally put together what was going on, but he had a feeling that neither Will nor Sam would have to go through it alone.
It took every ounce of pride within Sam not to turn around and watch Thomas Bailey over his shoulder as he retreated into Will's room as fast as humanly possible. He liked Thomas Bailey, he really did. Most of the time the General was almost nothing like Sam had imagined he'd be, but every so often he'd do or say something that would leave Sam fearing for his own life, sweating bullets, and swearing he'd never even think about mistreating Will.
Not that he would ever think about mistreating Will, but still.
"Any more comments about my hair today?" Sam managed to say once his nerves were settled and he was in Will's line of sight.
"You know," Will said, "I may have been high as a kite, but that doesn't mean what I said didn't have merit. If you don't get it cut soon, I'm going to start braiding it while you sleep."
Sam laughed and glanced around the room quickly before leaning over to kiss Will hello. What he really wanted more than almost anything was to climb into that bed next to Will and kiss him until they were both breathless, but given that Will had just been shot and they were probably on the precipice of having their relationship splashed across the front page of every paper, both reputable and less-than-reputable, in the country, if not the world, he curbed that instinct.
"Hey, did you see my dad?" Will asked. "He said he'd be right back." He leaned forward a little bit, as far as his sling would allow, and Sam gently pressed him back by his good shoulder.
"Yeah," Sam said, rubbing the back of his neck. "Yeah, actually, I did. Um, funny thing, about that." He bit his lip and glanced down at Will, who was starting to look slightly uncomfortable.
"Go on," Will said, after the silence started to stretch out.
"Um," Sam said. He looked out the window.
It wasn't that Sam was afraid to tell Will he loved him. Not really. In fact, he was pretty sure he had said it before, even if it was during sex. But something about Will in the hospital... something about Will's father, pulling him aside and asking him firmly and simply whether or not Sam loved Will...
"He stopped me in the hallway," Sam said finally. "On my way in. He asked me, um."
He wasn't going to stare out the window for this. He wouldn't let himself. Instead, he trained his eyes on Will.
"You know I love you, right?"
"Yeah," Will said, letting a breath out. "Yeah, I know that. And you know that it goes both ways?"
"Of course," Sam said, but he was frowning, because Will looked surprised and resigned and afraid and that certainly wasn't what he was going for with his declaration. "Will, what's wrong?"
Will pulled off his glasses, ostensibly to clean them off. He was staring down at his lap, rubbing a little harder at the lenses then was probably necessary.
"This is going to come out, Sam," he finally said. "Any second now. I wouldn't be surprised if we flipped on CNN and we were the top story of the hour."
"So?" Sam said, with more bravado than he felt.
"So," Will said slowly, finally looking up, "This is going to come out and you're going to lose your job. I'm going to lose my job. Sam, this is all going to go down in flames and this isn't what you signed up for. This isn't how your story is supposed to end, okay? And I'm..." He looked away again. "I'm willing to accept that."
Sam closed his eyes and sat down on the edge of Will's bed. He felt sick, the same way he felt every time he thought about the inevitable press conference and his inevitable resignation.
"I'm tired of lying," he said carefully, evenly. "I'm tired of treating this like it doesn't matter. My career isn't half as important as being honest with myself, and being honest with myself isn't half as important as being honest with you." He swallowed and opened his eyes, reaching for Will's free hand. Will stared at him. His expression was blank, but Sam could detect just the slightest bit of hope underneath the surface.
"This is going to suck," Will said. "A lot."
"That's probably an understatement," Sam agreed.
"They're going to dig into our personal lives," Will added.
"Then it's probably a good thing that we're boring as hell," Sam said.
That got a laugh out of Will, at the very least.
"Don't say I didn't warn you," Will said, squeezing Sam's hand.
"Duly noted," Sam said. He reached for the remote and flicked on the television. "Wanna make a bet on how long it takes the story to break?" Will narrowed his eyes.
"No calling CJ and asking for tips," he said, pointing at Sam sternly with the hand in the sling.
"Okay," Sam said, "but I still say two hours, tops."
"Oh, wow," Will said. "I'm calling it waaaay before that."
Sam smirked and leaned back against the wall, sliding an arm very gingerly around Will's shoulders. A nurse ducked into the room and Sam didn't bother to move. Instead, he just smiled. "Okay, Bailey," he said. "You're on."