Homecoming- Part 6
"Not make a big deal. How can you sit there and say that to me?! Mrs. Landingham! Get Leo, Josh, Sam, Toby, CJ and Mandy in here now! Also find my wife and tell her we need to see her right away." The President bellowed into his intercom.
Caitlin sat on the couch upset, yet in a way relieved that this secret was now out.
Within minutes, everyone was piled into the Oval Office wondering what had happened to cause the looks on the faces of the President and Caitlin.
"Jed?" The First Lady inquired looking worriedly at Caitlin.
"Mom, I'm fine." Caitlin said walking over to her mother. "Really I am" she continued looking at the group. She took a deep breath and plunged into her explanation. "About three weeks ago I started receiving threats from an unknown source in Oxford."
This caught the attention of everyone in the room, as tension filled the air.
"What kind of threats?" Sam asked watching her closely.
"At first just notes in the mail. Nothing that explicit. Saying things like 'watch your step, you are always watched'. I didn't think it was serious. Like a chain letter, some kid having fun with paper. I wasn't even sure they were for me. The notes weren't addressed to anyone. And I had two roommates so it was possible it was meant for one of them." Caitlin paused under the intense scrutiny she was receiving. "One day I got a phone call, saying that I was going to die for my country's evil capitalist acts. Or something like that. And the person knew my name. It was then that I realized that it *probably* wasn't a general prank. I went to see a detective at Scotland Yard, and considering who I was they put their best investigators on the case and put a guard on my apartment."
"Why didn't you tell us?" Abby asked putting her arm around her daughter to assure herself she was safe.
"Because it still might have been nothing, hollow threats. And the investigators agreed for their own PR to keep it quiet and discreet. It would make it easier to catch the person responsible, and they didn't want it getting around that the President of the United States' daughter was receiving death threats right under their noses. So at my request, they agreed to keep the victim anonymous on all paperwork to the extent that they logistically could. Plus I felt if I told you or Dad, he would send the airforce out there to get me. I argued hard when I started school to not have a Secret Service detail until I returned home. The last thing I wanted was the 82nd airborn flying a rescue mission."
"I knew it was a mistake to send you there without protection." The President said, arms crossed over his chest, eyes raised to the ceiling, still trying to get his anger in check that despite the fact that he was supposedly the most powerful person in the world, his daughter had been in danger and he hadn't known about it.
"Why didn't you tell one of us then?" Josh asked. "I know that Sam and I alone talked to you at least 4 times each during this past month."
"I didn't..." she stopped, getting frustrated. "It would have had the same results. What would you have done? What if I asked you not to tell my father, would you have?"
"No we would have flown out there and brought you home ourselves." Sam answered.
"Why did you come home? What made you realize that this was something serious?" Toby asked.
Caitlin walked to one of the windows and looked out knowing the reaction she was about to get. She turned back around and began. "I was walking home early one evening from a restaurant and some guy jumped out from a bush and grabbed me. Luckily I was still under the discreet police protection so the police were on him in seconds flat before he had time to do anything but shake me up a little. He was taken into custody and confessed to all of the threats. He was acting alone. So end of threats, end of story." She rushed through hoping they would leave it at that.
Leo asked the question that no one really wanted to know the answer to "Did he have a weapon?"
Caitlin paused looking down. She rasied her head, "Yes" she answered "A knife".
The room was silent. No one really knowing what to say, Threats were a part of this business, they all knew that, but they were angry that Caitlin didn't tell anyone. That she tried to handle this alone.
"You really should have told us Caitlin." CJ said.
Caitlin looked away getting agitated. "I just did"
"Where do we go now?" the President asked his staff.
"I can brief the press that although there was an incident, it was handled. Caitlin is home and safe and then quickly dispose of any questions they may have." CJ said already starting to write a statement.
"Downplay the fact that the White House did not know about the incident. We don't want unfounded rumors getting started about tension in our relations with England or tensions within the First Family." Toby added.
"Be sure to emphasize Caitlin's courage during the ordeal. How she mirrors her father in strength and ability to handle tough situations." Mandy said, her expert political mind running a mile a minute.
Caitlin stood there watching as control of her life was taken from her for the second time in a month: first by her stalker, now by the people in this room. "I know, how about I go to the press conference myself and discuss the "ordeal" *again* so the whole world can know and feel sorry for me. And then I can whip out my convenient new scar" she angrily yanked her collar away from her neck to reveal a bandage she had managed to keep hidden. "It'll really add to the sympathy factor." Everyone stopped and looked at the bandage, realizing how close she had come to disaster. "Yeah, we can probably garner at least 5 poll points by turning -my life- into a god--damn--media--circus!" she turned away from the group, holding back the tears that threatened to spill.
The room was quiet at Caitlin's outburst. They spent so much of their time this past year trying to handle crises, that sometimes they forgot that these crises happened to actual people and not just for the sole purpose of making their jobs difficult.
"We know..." Sam tried to begin.
Caitlin turned back, her eyes blazing. "No you don't know. It was *my* life that was threatened. *My* throat that knife was held to. *My*...body..his hands were on." A sob escaped her. "Not yours. You don't know!" She cried. She slowly sank to the couch as she let herself feel for the first time. "I just wanted to come home and forget." She put her head in her hands.
Abby moved next to her daughter and pulled her into her arms. Caitlin allowed herself to relax in her mother's comforting arms and begin to release her pent up emotions. President Bartlet kneeled by his wife and daughter feeling helpless. Everyone else felt intrusive, yet didn't want to disturb the family by making sudden movements to leave. Caitlin pulled away from her mother and wiped her eyes, embarrassed by her breakdown. The President moved his hand to the bandage, not wanting to think about what may have happened.
"it's not that bad." Caitlin said, her voice thick from her tears. "Just a small prick. He jerked when the cops grabbed him."
"They grabbed him when he was still holding a knife to you?" Josh asked angrily, in disbelief.
"It wasn't exactly a hostage situation. He intended to kill me, they had to move fast." Caitlin finished wiping her tears and stood. She walked to her father's desk as everyone watched her closely, not sure exactly what she needed them to do. She turned back to the group and smiled at their concerned, hesitant faces. "I'm not made of glass, I won't break. And I won't spend the next 3-7 years being afraid because my father is President. I really am ok. I needed to cry and scream and get it out. And now I have. Unfortunately you all suffered the brunt of it." She said with a laugh.
The staffers smiled at her, relieved that she really did seem to be ok.
The President walked over to his daughter and took her hand. Then he turned to his staff, who sat there waiting for instructions, willing to do whatever he felt best. "Josh, please call the Scotland Yard and ask them for the full report and an update. Leo, I want to see the profiles for Caitlin's Secret Service agents. Toby, Sam, and CJ, please prepare a statement for the press in case this story does indeed break. Until we are forced, we will follow Caitlin's wishes and keep this silent." The President instructed understanding why Caitlin had kept this a secret. She had felt violated and he knew that unnecessary press coverage would only deepen that feeling. She looked at him gratefully. "Mandy, we won't be turning this into some political maneuver. I know this goes against your training, but if it'll make you feel better, I'll bring the press along next time I go shopping for birthday gifts." he said, hoping for his daughters sake, Mandy will drop it.
Mandy looked at the President and Caitlin sympathetically. "I understand, sir. I have no intention of manipulating this particular situation. But I'll hold you to that shopping trip."
"Well, I did kinda like the part about my courage and taking after my Dad and all." Caitlin said, then looked at Mandy with a smile. "It's better than being called somebody's groupie."
Mandy smiled back, as everyone slese shared a soft, much needed laugh.
The President took a deep breath and continued. "Thank you all, now could I have a moment with my wife and daughter."
"Yes sir" the group answered collectively and got up to leave. Caitlin thanked them as well. They responded with hugs and and words of support. They left the room as Sam and Josh hung back. Sam slowly walked over to Caitlin as she watched him curiously. When he finally reached her, he found he was unable to say anything so he just pushed an errant strand of hair behind her ear and let his fingers lightly linger over her band aid. He watched her, trying to communicate his thoughts and read hers at the same time. She smiled and took his hand to assure him that she truly was fine. He then held her tightly before he made his way out of the office.
Josh then walked over to Caitlin. "You and I need to have a long talk later."
She smiled at him and said, "You can always buy me dinner."
"I think you should buy me dinner. You are the Rhode's Scholar after all." He replied with a fake British accent. "Mr. president, Mrs. Bartlet" Josh then left the room.
Caitlin turned to her parents. "I am sorry that I didn't tell you. I didn't want to tell you over the phone. I didn't know how to. Then when I got here, I just couldn't. It felt so good to be with my family and friends that I really was almost able to forget. So with everything else, I didn't feel that I needed to unecessarily worry you."
The President walked to Caitlin and put his hands on her shoulders. "Nothing is more important than you and your sisters are. Not this job, nothing. I didn't give up being a father when I became President. You don't have to keep anything from us, no matter how old you are, ok?"
"Ok, I promise, if you promise not to overreact again." Caitlin said regaining some of her defiant spark.
"I did not overreact."
"Dad, you called in your *entire* senior staff, when the crisis has been over for days. You don't consider that overreacting?"
"I don't" Abby said authoritatively.
Caitlim smiled and hugged both of her parents. "Well now that that's over with, I guess it's time to start to reestablish my life here. I'll be apartment hunting if you need me." She finished nonchalantly as she turned and headed for the door.
"What? Wait a minute, get back here." Caitlin turned back to her father. "Are you sure? Isn't it a little soon?" The President asked worriedly.
"I'm not moving out tomorrow, Dad. Just looking, trying to have a normal life. Or as normal as my life can be." She paused and softly continued. "I meant what I said before, I refuse to live in fear of what 'might' happen. I know I still need time to completely heal, but I'm not going to stop living either."
"I understand that." The President paused. "But you just got here and now you're rushing to get away" He said taking on a hurt tone.
She smiled at her father's attempt at guilt. "It's nothing personal Dad, but I am 24 and I haven't lived with you full time in 6 years. I don't know if I can handle it. I've been through a lot lately you know." she replied jokingly.
"Oh, thanks. Excuse me for wanting to spend some time with my daughter, Caitlin." The President said.
"Actually Dad, I know of a way for you to see me everyday." She said to him seriously.
"And what would that be?" he asked already knowing the answer.
She looked at him with determination and confidence. "You can give me a job."
"Politics is too important to be left to politicians" -John Kennedy Jr.
"Scholarship is good, scholarship is fun, scholarship is for everyone"