Shades of Grey
Leo sat back in his chair and pulled off his glasses. Why did he think that reading the preliminary report over and over would somehow make it change? He was trying to read between the lines. It wasn't working. The report was clinical, factual, and no help whatsoever.
He wasn't sure what he was looking for. Yes, he was. Something that would tell him Josh and Sam would be fine. Something to assure him both men would be able to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities. Something to tell him his deputy wouldn't need another couple of rounds with Stanley.
There was nothing like that in this report. At the President's request, neither Josh nor Sam had been questioned yet. Not that it mattered in Sam's case; he didn't remember anything anyway.
Leo sighed. What the hell time was it anyway? He checked his watch.
If he left now, he might get four hours sleep.
He put his glasses back on and picked up the report one more time.
His stomach was full, and for the first time in days he was warm.
Mallory had talked him into putting on his Princeton sweatshirt, and he had to admit, he was glad she had. Although it did feel strange having the left sleeve dangle empty, at least he was relatively comfortable.
But as he stood looking dubiously at the setup Mallory had concocted in the bathroom, he wondered at his sanity for agreeing to let her wash his hair.
"You have to sit down, Sam," she said, failing miserably at hiding her grin.
One of the kitchen chairs was set back against the sink, and a rolled up towel perched on the edge of the porcelain.
Sam drew a deep breath, then let it out.
What am I getting myself into...?
With a sidelong glance at his grinning coiffeur, Sam sat down. He winced as he leaned back, resting his neck on the towel. The movement sent a shock of pain shooting from his shoulder to his fingers. But as Mallory began her ministrations, he concentrated on her touch and let everything else fade into the background.
Steam warmed the back of his head and his ears. He sighed and allowed his eyes to close, the tension draining from his shoulders. He felt her lean close, then warm water trickled over his hair. Tiny rivulets made their way behind his left ear and down to the towel.
Her fingers combed through his hair. Her touch was so gentle, so light, it made him shiver with pleasure.
More water cascaded over his head, this time on the right side. Her hand covered his ear as she concentrated on the area where the blood had matted his hair. The warmth felt good. He just wished the stitches didn't itch...
She leaned close to him again, the tiny hairs of her angora sweater tickling the side of his face.
With the pads of her fingers she began to message in the shampoo in gentle circles. She was humming softly - a nameless tune.
A smile tugged at his lips.
"What?" she asked.
He could hear the smile in her voice. She knew why he was smiling. She was being coy.
"Feels nice," he said.
Her soft lips touched his forehead.
He reached up, the back of his hand brushing against her sweater. "I could fall asleep."
"Almost done," she said.
Suddenly, he didn't want it to end.
Mallory smiled down at her charge, absently stroking his damp hair.
His head in her lap, Sam had finally fallen asleep. It had taken awhile for him to find a comfortable position - if you could call the one he was in comfortable. He was lying mostly on his right side, but leaning slightly back so his head could rest at an angle without aggravating the stitches.
She shifted her hips as gently as possible, so as not to disturb him, and leaned against the padded arm of the sofa.
Why did she get so crazy, tingly around him?
Get a grip, Mal. Is it so hard to see?
So why was she so afraid to get too close? What was she so worried about?
Mom and Dad.
She didn't want to end up like her parents. She needed a man who would be there for her.
Sam was a workaholic. He was married to his job. She knew the long hours the Senior Staff put in at the White House. She knew it all too well. Mom had only been able to put up with it for a year.
She tried to tell herself it wouldn't last forever. At worst it would be, what? Six more years? She could wait that long.
Then again, what did they say? 'You can take the man out of the White House, but you can't take the White House out of the man'. Okay, that really referred to former presidents, but still... Who was to say Sam would leave politics?
Did she really want him to?
Mallory smiled. She loved when he got all puffed up on an issue. He stood up straighter, jutted out his chin, and his eyes...
Sam shifted a little in his sleep, and small twitch tugging at the corner of his right eye. She caressed his face, smiling as he snuggled closer to her hand. Her smile faded when she saw the dark spot beneath his chin. She hadn't noticed it before. Tilting her head to get a better look, Mallory traced a finger over small circle. It was a bruise. Not as bad as the one on his cheek, but a bruise all the same. What had caused?
The softly spoken words held a pleading note that wrenched her heart. She pulled her hand away. "I'm sorry," she whispered.
"...please...don't...No!" He jerked away from her touch, lifting his hand to fend off her hand.
Mallory gasped, holding him tighter, realizing he was dreaming. "Shhhh," she soothed, stroking his head.
Sam whimpered softly, then settled into silence.
With a feather-light touch, Mallory caressed his face until the worry lines disappeared. "That's it. Just relax. I'm here."
And I love you, Sam Seaborn.