Down The Rabbit Hole

by: Abigale

Character(s): Josh, Sam, Toby
Category(s): Humor
Rating: YTEEN
Summary: Toby and Josh guide Sam through a labyrinth.

There is a car in Sam's neighborhood. Its alarm is a simple bleating horn, over and over, and it goes off with such frequency and predictability, he is more aware of its silence than its presence. And Josh says he has a small mole on the back of his neck that wasn't there a year ago. So, he has a lot of things on his mind.

But first and foremost, Sam has the quote. Stuck in his head like a splinter, working its way deeper. If he tries to prod it, it's numb and elusive. Only when he allows his mind to lightly brush over it does it pinch at his consciousness. "Nurture your mind with great thoughts."

Wandering into Toby's office, distraction playing across his features, Sam absently began fingering the objects on a shelf.

"What? What do you need Sam?"

"Mmmm, nothing." Not very convincing.

It's been a weird week, and Toby has given up trying to anticipate where these bizarre dream inspired flights of fancy will take Sam. The first day he was impatient and annoyed by the distraction. The last two, he's become mildly intrigued. After his talk with Josh, Toby realized there may be some significant insight into Sam to be had here, but damned if he could figure any of it out, and damned if he really cared.

"Is it still the cats?" Toby wanted to know in spite of himself.

Sam swung around to face him, tugging at his tie, working his fingers into the knot. "No. I've left the cats behind me. I've moved on from the cats. The cats are so over - where have you been? Turns out the mystery was no mystery. The cats were Monday, man."

"I get it!" Toby bleated. This was an unfortunate side effect of having shown any interest at all in Sam's obsessions. He actually thought Toby cared. "So... Oh. Please tell me you're not back on the pigeons again. You made me talk to that woman at the health department for half an hour, Sam, and I swear to you, she doesn't know where all the dead pigeons are either. They're not, you know, KEEPING THE INFORMATION FROM YOU. They really don't know."

Sam was waving a hand through the air, dismissing the matter with a creased brow. "No, no, it's not the pigeons. Although..."

"Don't."

A quick shrug of the shoulders. "I've got something stuck in my ear."

"Do you need to... see a doctor...?" Maybe this wasn't part of the pattern, maybe Sam had just poked something sharp into his ear.

"Toby! It's a quote. I think. I'm not sure. I woke up and it was there." Sam's head dropped down a little, a lock of hair falling across his forehead.

Toby almost looked disappointed. So it *was* a thing. But as Sam's went, this seemed like a pretty simple one.

"What is it?"

"Nurture your mind with great thoughts."

This caused Toby to sit back and take a good look at his deputy. "Sam." Trapped between relief that this was going to be so easily dispensed with, and a nagging dread that it was only the beginning of something else. "Disraeli. Who's your daddy?"

"Ah ha!" The glee and relief in equal parts shone through Sam's eyes, and Toby was instantly on his feet, putting his chair between them. He was certain Sam was going to come over and kiss him.

"Saaaam," Toby cautioned.

Yes, Sam would have kissed him. So it assured Toby greatly when Sam turned and went dancing out of his office, and kissed Bonnie instead. That was way too easy.

Cautiously sitting back at his desk, Toby kept one eye on his door for the next half hour, fully anticipating the reappearance of his deranged co-worker. So it was no surprise when Sam did indeed come slinking back in and sat dejectedly in a chair.

"Why the hell is Disraeli stuck in my head?"

Maybe, Toby mused, if I just sent him after one of my balls... out in traffic... "You love to quote Disraeli, Sam. Why are you questioning him being stuck in your head?" Sam didn't look convinced.

"Yeah." He wasn't convinced. "It's just... I can't fit it into the dream. And you know, it's troubling me." Well, of course it was.

"What I'm saying is, has it occurred to you that this wasn't from a dream?" Toby offered. "Maybe this is just a *regular* thing, like a thing that happens to everyone once in awhile." Toby was saying the words with all the conviction he could muster, but as they streamed out of his mouth, he already knew it was bullshit. This was definitely another thing. "Like when I left the tv on after Inside Washington was over and they played that infomercial for the `sounds of the forties' cd. I came in humming songs I had never even heard before." That was logical, and rational, and Sam wasn't buying it for a second.

"Noooo, I don't think that's what it is."

But wait. "But, wait. Two weeks ago you were writing the remarks for the Educator's lunch. You used Disraeli in there! Ah ha!" Toby was so disgusted with himself for getting this involved, he was thinking of going down to the locker room and taking a shower.

"That was Plato. 'The beginning is the most important part of the work'." So Sam was going to be stubborn about this. Now that Josh was due back in town, Toby was really going to have to talk to him again.

Taking a moment to make the most important decision of his life, Toby considered the options. He could sit here and wrestle through this ridiculous dilemma with Sam, probing his subconscious, probably delving into areas of his mind that would either leave Toby with a raging headache, or possibly even dead. Or he could send Sam on his way to figure it all out on his own... which would only mean he'd still have to go through all this later in the day. Oh, what the hell.

"But you were *considering* using some Disraeli. The `Am I not their leader?' line, you know, the one the President loves."

Evidently this was a colossal waste of time, Sam didn't even seem to be listening. He was leaning forward in his chair, running his thumb up and down a stack of briefing books six inches high, seemingly mesmerized by the staccato sound of the pages snapping. " `Learn to unlearn.' That was in April, for the thing on tolerance," he mumbled.

Damn, he was still with him, so now Toby was going to have to follow through. "Okay," he began. "So it was already there, this isn't a thing, we can both go back to work."

"Umm... Toby," Sam sat back now and leveled his cool gaze on Toby. "I think there's more."

Holy mackerel, Sam, what more could there be?! At least the conundrum about where all the dead pigeons were had held Toby's attention for a few hours. Enough - to his utter and complete humiliation - that he actually called back the woman at DC Public Works when she'd hung up on Sam. It hadn't ended all that satisfactorily, either, since they still had no idea why old or injured pigeons weren't littering the public spaces of Washington.

But clearly, Sam had been able to move on.

"What?" Toby almost sounded like really wanted to know.

"There's still the dream." Sam sounded apologetic. He knew how Toby felt about hearing the dreams. And one day he was going to ask him why the hell he sat here and listened to them while Josh had been away. It was so un-Tobyish, Sam couldn't help wanting to see how far he could go. See, there; even though Toby's eyes were rolling around in his head, he wasn't saying anything to deter Sam. Which Sam took as a sign. "There was this, um, woman at Princeton - "

"No!" A slight misjudgment? "No you don't Freud-boy! That's why you have a best friend. Don't for a moment think that I'm gonna sit here and listen to your - "

"Toby, relax! It wasn't like that. The dream, I mean. I take great pains in these times of, um, hyper-stimulated subconsciousness to, you know, avoid all thoughts or images of a sexual nature - "

Toby was wailing now, like a wounded animal. "Enough, enough! Already you've said too much! Seriously, Sam, how much longer? It's been four nights. Surely you've regulated your sleep pattern by now. Stop the drugs, okay?" Toby was inexplicably tempted to reach across his desk and actually take Sam's hand for emphasis. "For my sake, for your sake, for god's sake, don't take the sleeping pills!"

A loud and undeniably distinctive snort sounded from the doorway. "Toby, Toby, Toby...." Josh stepped into the office shaking his head. "It doesn't sound to me like you have Sam's best interests at heart here." He easily lowered himself into the vacant visitor chair by Sam's side and reached out to snatch a baseball from the desk.

"Hey! How was the last meeting?" inquired Sam brightly, his earlier reflective mood dispelled by the fresh energy Josh brought into the room.

Josh flashed Sam a conspiratorial grin, then zeroed back in on Toby's still stricken expression. "Good, good, we got everything we wanted and I didn't even break a sweat. But I'd much rather hear what you two have been up to."

An audible groan escaped the furry region of Toby's face. "Josh, help me out here. You've been through this before. How you survived it, I'll never know, but please. Tell him he doesn't have to keep taking the Ambien." Toby was beseeching Josh, and he was humiliated to realize Josh was eating it up.

Turning his eyes on Sam, Josh sat back a little to take him in. "How are you sleeping?" As if he didn't already know. But this was for Toby, so damned if Josh wasn't going to have some fun.

Sam's smile was broad, his eyes crinkled. "Very well, thank you. Five hours straight, four nights in a row." Proud of himself, holding up first five, then four fingers.

His arm reaching out to pat Sam on the back, Josh spoke to him enthusiastically. "Good job!"

"Oh for crying out loud..." Toby muttered. Sam shot him a pout. "Yes, I'm glad you're getting some sleep Sam, of course I am. But I gotta wonder at some point. Which is worse, you stumbling in here sleep deprived for a couple weeks, or this, this - " swatting the air like a swarm of gnats had enveloped him. " - insanity you're shrouded in when you take those pills?"

Josh's countenance instantly hardened, and he replaced the ball he'd been rolling in his hands. Speaking firmly and directly, he leaned towards Toby. "Don't for one instant underestimate the severity of this, Toby." His eyes were challenging Toby to maintain contact.

"Josh..."

"No, Sam. We treat it lightly, we make jokes. And I think that's led *some* people to misunderstand how serious this can be." Josh sat back in his chair again, but his eyes remained latched to Toby's sober face. "He takes the prescription for five or six nights, he gets a touch of amnesia in the first 30 minutes, and he falls asleep like that." Josh snapped his fingers in front of his face. "Has some unimaginably vivid dreams, five hours later he wakes up from a very deep, satisfying sleep, and is rarin' to go. Within a week he's back on a natural sleep cycle, and *you* don't have to hear about it for another eighteen months. What problem could you possibly have with that?"

"Josh." Sam was on his feet, hauling Josh to his. "This is all very sweet, this overprotective thing. But I told you. Toby has been - " Sam turned the full intensity of his gaze on Toby, as still as a Buddha behind his desk. "You've been amazing. You've been great." Turning back to Josh, pushing him towards the door. "I told you, we talked about it while you were gone, he understands." One last glance at Toby, Sam mouthed the word "sorry."

Watching them leave his office, Toby felt a mixture of relief that Josh was back, and clearly prepared to reassert his rightful place as Sam's confidant, and the nagging disappointment that he might not ever find out what Disraeli had been doing in Sam's dream.

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 |

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