Cold Blast - Part 26

By Cathy

 

 

"Hello?"

"CJ."

"Ma'am, I'm on my way! I promise," CJ laughed.

"CJ, there's been an accident. Get to GW now."

"Oh, God Abbey! Who?"

"Sam. I've got to go, CJ. I'll see you there."

The phone went dead and CJ's heart sank. There were no reassuring words telling her that it was nothing. No talk of spinning the 'Sam equals klutz' equation that had long ago been established. She looked down at the silly, plush, green alligator bag Sam had given her for Christmas and smiled. Sam just had to be all right because she wouldn't stay in a 'Samless' West Wing. He drove her insane on a daily basis, but they shared an out-of-the-loop bond, that truth be told, had long ago surpassed her friendship with Toby. CJ grabbed her car keys and purse and was out the door. She was in the car before she realized that she had totally forgotten to put on her coat.

******

Mara hadn't said a word since Abbey had ushered her in to the Presidential Limousine and it was breaking Abbey's heart. Mara sat rigidly, twisting her engagement ring back and forth. Jed had finally noticed it in the car and looked up at his wife who confirmed his suspicion.

The car pulled in to the ambulance bay and the First Family and Mara were hustled in to an empty emergency ward. There was something so eerie about being in what was usually an bustling emergency ward and the sight of Secret Service agents every twenty feet brought Zoey right back to the day her Father and Josh were shot.

Mara and Abbey were talking to the nurse at the desk and Jed almost didn't recognize Dani come up beside him, dressed in scrubs. He looked her in the eyes and opened his arms. The young woman sunk in to them and started to cry.

"Sweetie, what happened?" Jed asked in a gentle voice.

"A car lost control and was heading right towards me. Sam... pushed me out of the way. When I looked up, he was falling down. I couldn't stop his head from hitting the curb. Oh God, Jed. There was... blood... so much blood," Dani said, her voice straining as she started crying again.

Mara turned around, eyeing her sister. She walked straight up to her. She didn't want to think of the reason why she was wearing scrubs or what had happened to her own clothes, so she decided to pretend she didn't notice.

"Are you hurt?" she asked, matter of factly.

"No, just a bruise on my hip. Mara, I'm..."

"Save it, Dani! I swear to God, if Sam... Just get out of my sight before I say something I'll never be able to take back. You just couldn't listen, could you?" Mara spat.

"Mara!"

"What Abbey? If Missy had listened, we'd be sitting around the tree singing and having fun, not wondering if Sam is going to live or die? It's all her fault!" Mara spun around and walked away, her heavily footstep echoing the rage that was boiling inside her.

"Dani, you know your sister doesn't mean..."

"No, Abbey. She meant every word and she's right, it was my fault. I had to have it my way."

"Are you OK?" suddenly asked a newly arrived CJ.

"Yeah, Sam pushed me out of the way."

"What is it with Spanky pushing ladies to the ground? Does he have a white knight complex?" CJ added with a forced grin, trying her best to alleviate the moment.

"If he hadn't pushed me out of the way, I would have been hit instead. It should have been me."

"Danielle! Stop that this instant! Don't you dare say that! Now calmly tell me what happened?"

"I was walking a step or so ahead of Sam when I heard the squeal of tires and saw this car come out of nowhere, spinning towards me. Before I could even move, Sam pushed me to the ground. He tried to get out of the way, but he slipped and lost his balance. The car hit his legs. He fell and cracked his head on the curb. There was so much blood, Ceeg. I took my coat off and tried to stop it. I really did. I didn't think the blood would ever stop gushing."

"Your clothes were full of blood?" CJ asked, pointing out the borrowed clothes Dani was wearing.

"Uhuh. Sam's blood," she added with a strangled whisper.

"How about I drive you back to the house so you can change?"

"No, Mar is going to need you and she told me to stay out of her sight. Just give me your car keys. I'm going to go and pack, then head to your place."

"Dani, Mara will come around, she's just..."

"Mara won't come around until Sam is fine and out of danger. You'll call me the second you hear anything?" CJ gave Dani a big hug.

"Yeah, Sweetie. I will. There's pizza and vodka in the fridge."

"Dani, I'll have Frank drive you back to the house. I don't want you driving," Abbey ordered and took the car keys out of CJ 's hand.

"Yes, Ma'am," Dani replied, knowing that she pretty much didn't have any saying in the matter.

CJ gave Dani another hug before she left. She then made her way into the waiting room where she found Mara. She opened her arms to give her a hug just as the Doctor and Abbey entered.

"Ambassador Whitford, I'm Doctor Richards. I was on call when Mr. Seaborn was..."

"How is he?" Mara asked impatiently, cutting the doctor off.

 

"We've stabilized him for the moment and...."

"For the moment?" Mara's voice rose three octaves and Abbey knew the doctor was about to be on the receiving end of Mara's rage if she didn't step in.

"MARA!" Abbey shouted until she had her attention, knowing it was the only way to get it at this point. "Let the doctor finish!" The doctor nodded once Abbey's words sunk in and Mara seemed a little more in control of her emotions.

"As I was saying, Mr. Seaborn is stable. He sustained several badly bruised ribs and he lost quite a lot of blood from the head injury, but we've sutured him up and given him a transfusion. His ankle also sustained a bad break and will require surgery."

"Is that where he is? Is he in surgery right now?" The doctor looked at the First Lady, as if seeking permission to continue. He sighed heavily before continuing.

"No, no yet. We did a head CT, and unfortunately, there is some swelling of the brain and a slight scull fracture. With this type of head injury, it's difficult to ascertain when a patient will wake up and we won't be able to assess the extent of the injury until he does. Right now though, our main concern is the injury to his ankle. The break caused some bleeding inside his leg and the longer it goes untreated, the chances of him going it to shock increase due to the added loss of blood and the displacement of body fluids. Given the gravity of the head injury, we're hesitant to operate, but if he goes into shock, that will only make matters worse "

Mara was speechless for a moment, her gaze drilling a hole into the Doctor.

"What are you trying to tell here? Are you saying that..." She was unable to continue, the words tripping over themselves, blocked in her throat.

"Ms. Whitford, we are taking everything in consideration and nothing is being neglected. Mr. Seaborn's welfare and our top priority right now. I've gone over the test results and the x-rays, and I have my recommendations in regards to the next steps. Dr. Bartlet has informed me of your relationship with Mr. Seaborn and asked me to bring you up to speed on his condition." Mara nodded, but nonetheless remained as worried as she was before.

"What is your recommendation?" she asked the doctor softly.

"That we perform the surgery now. If there are complications that arise, we would be better suited for it without having to worry about him going into shock. I'm not saying that the risks involved aren't as great, but considering everything, it's the best route to take at this time."

"What's involved in this surgery?"

"Well, we will know more once we get in, but due to the location and gravity of the break, we are going to have to use surgical pins to reset the bones. The muscle and tendons also appear to be damaged, so, we will have to determine the best way to rectify that once we can actually see the injury, but it's not a debilitating injury. He'll have to stay off it for a while and require physiotherapy afterwards, but nothing invasive."

"Abbey, what do you think?" she asked, turning to the person she trusted the most in the world.

"I went over the x-rays and results with Dr. Richards and I have to agree with him. . If they don't stop the bleeding, Sam will likely go in to shock. And the damage to the bone, tendons and muscles is bad and needs to be repaired and the sooner the better. The reason why the surgery is risky right now is in his condition, the reactions to the anesthesia are unpredictable at best and when a patient is unresponsive, it difficult to determine just how much is not enough or too much to give." Mara knew that she could trust Abbey's judgment. She had never steered her wrong before. Without saying a word, Mara nodded her head, thus putting Sam's life in the Doctor's hands.

"He's being prepped right now. The surgery should take about three to four hours and I'll make sure that you get updates every hour or so," Doctor Richards said as he quickly made his way down the hall, returning to his patient's side.

"Thank you," Mara whispered, her usual boisterous voice a mere shadow of its former self. She sat back down in the chair beside her, a shock of her own lingering on the edges, and started unconsciously twisting her engagement ring again, her only link to the man she loved.

As CJ approached Mara, her eagle eyes spotted the ring instantly and felt a twinge in her heart as she deduced what it represented. CJ didn't know how to approach the subject, nor what to tell her friend to alleviate some of her obvious pain. CJ wasn't counting on Mara employing diversionary tactics.

"Hey! You're wearing my gift," Mara asked first as CJ sat beside her. She was trying to put up a strong front, pushing her struggling emotions aside.

"Uh, yeah," CJ answered, a little taken by surprise not only by the question, but also by Mara's sudden emotional switch. The mask she was wearing was strong, but it was cracking on the edges.

"So do you like?" Mara continued, this time forcing her lips to form a smile.

"Let's see. A necklace made of white gold, blue topaz, citrine, peridot and garnet flowers with the matching earrings and ring. No, I think I hate it. Of course I love it. I love my alligator bag from Sam too," CJ added, hoping to bring the conversation back to what was really on Mara's mind and hopefully enable her to drop the act and face her feelings. CJ flipped up the stuffed alligator bag and gave it a hug. "I actually think I like it better than your cat."

"You know, Sam wouldn't stop bugging me until he figured out where I bought mine. He was hell bent on getting you a black cat purse too." Looking directly at CJ now, the cracks in her mask finally gave way and shattered. The fake smile disappeared, her body slumped further into the chair, her whole expression conveyed the pain that had invaded her body and heart. "Ceeg, tell me this is all just a horrible nightmare."

"I'm sorry. I wish I could, Mara. I really do." CJ gently grabbed her friend's hand.

"Sam pushed Dani out of the path of an oncoming car and got hit instead," Mara informed CJ, a slight tinge of anger noticeable in her voice.

"I know. But did Dani mention that Sam slipped on the snow after her pushed her? Sam's innate ability to be a klutz is more to blame than your sister. It was no one's fault. It was an accident, Mara. If you want to blame something, blame the snow."

"And I'm the one who wanted snow so bad. I got it, but look what it's cost me. And of course it isn't Dani's fault. It's never Dani's fault! Where is she?" Mara asked, anger taking a forefront. She was obviously harboring some unkempt feelings towards her sisters.

"For your information, your sister is misguided enough to think you hate her and went back to the mansion to pack. She's going to stay with me."

"There's a miracle in itself. She actually listened when I told her to get out of my face," Mara replied bitterly.

"Mara, you should call her and tell her you don't hate her."

"No I can't, because right now, I do hate her. You have no idea how much I want to cause her bodily harm right now, Ceeg. I swear to God if..."

"Mara, I know you have a penchant for being a drama queen, but............"

"No buts, Ceeg. Can you even understand how deeply I love Sam? Have you ever loved somebody so much that it hurts? Every bone in my body is aching right now. My heart is shattered, so don't try to tell me what I'm feeling!" CJ knew she wasn't going to get anywhere with Mara and decided to drop the subject all together.

"Does Josh know?"

"I don't know," Mara answered defeatedly.

"Well, I'm going to find out. Don't move."

As CJ got up, Zoey sat down in the vacant seat and wrapped one arm around Mara's shoulder.

"Mar, Sam will make it. That head of his is pretty darn strong, he takes enough abuse from Toby from what I hear, so this is nothing."

"He's survived me, so you have a point," Mara admitted with a forced smile. "You should go back home with your parents, Zoe. A hospital is no place to celebrate Christmas."

"Home is where the heart is, and right now our hearts are with you and Sam. I'm going to call Liz and ask her to bring dinner here. Maybe we can liquefy your gingerbread and put it in to Sam's IV, that would get him up on his feet fast enough."

Mara looked at Zoey as she left the room and smiled briefly at the absurdity of the thought. Abbey suddenly appeared on Mara other side and sat down, taking the young woman's trembling hand in hers.

"Do you have any questions, Sweetie?"

"A million, but they don't really have to do with the surgery."

"Mara, whatever they are, I'm listening."

"How can I be the happiest woman alive and be the saddest two hours later? How could God do this to me? How can I hate my own sister so easily? Why the hell is Sam so cooperative? What the hell was he thinking, leaving me on today of all days? Why Abbey? Why?" Mara started crying again.

Abbey didn't have any answers to Mara's heart wrenching questions. Actually, no one did, so she simply held Mara in her arms and let her cry. Watching the scene playing out in front of her as she returned to the waiting room, Zoey went and sat down beside her Father, who suddenly looked about ten years older.

"You OK Pumpkin?" he asked her, placing his arm around her shoulders.

"Yeah, I'm fine, Dad. I feel so bad for, Mara. Did you see her hand? I first thought Sam had proposed to her, but I guess he didn't since she hasn't said anything."

"He did. And she said yes. I think they were waiting until all the gifts were open to announce it."

"That's why she didn't want Dani to leave. She wanted to make the announcement and bask in the glow with Sam."

"That's what your Mother and I figured out. Who were you calling?"

"Lizzie. She's going to bring dinner to us. I know Mara won't eat unless she is being watched."

"That was a very good idea, Zoey. You want to run the country for awhile?"

"No way, Dad. I would enjoy bugging Josh though, and it might be fun to boss Uncle Leo around for a little bit, but no."

"Ah hell, I better call Leo and let him know what's going on. I'll be right back."

CJ had called Josh then Toby telling them the little information she had. Josh said he was on his way and Toby was going to catch the next flight back from New York. CJ could see that Mara was still crying on Abbey's shoulder and she knew she'd start crying herself if she went back in there, so she sat down at the nurses station and started formulating a plan to deal with the media fall out. She wanted to protect Sam and Mara's privacy at all costs. She has almost finished drafting the press release in her head when a shadow crossed into her light. She looked up and smiled wearily.

"Joshua."

"Ceeg? What are you, changing careers?"

"Yeah, right Josh, I'm nursing in my spare time. Toby said he was going to be on the next plane."

"That's what Donna said too. How's Sam?"

"He's in surgery now to fix his ankle. He's in a coma, Josh."

"Oh God. Where's Mara?"

"In the waiting room."

Before CJ could warn him about the ring or tell him that Mara was blaming it all on Dani, Josh was off. She scurried after him, telling him to wait, but Josh walked into the waiting room, letting the swinging door close in CJ's face. Abbey looked up and smiled gently at Josh.

"Josh is here," she whispered to Mara.

Mara looked up at Josh and just continued to cry.

For a moment, Josh merely stood there and watched Mara cry. He remembered once wondering if her tough exterior allowed her to do that. But that toughness had been softened since Sam entered her life.

Without even realizing it, Josh felt his emotions climbing its way up his throat. He had to remain strong for Mara's sake. He had to be the strong one that she so often was.

Josh made his move and slowly sat down in the seat left vacant by Zoey. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a kleenex.

"Here," he said softly, holding the kleenex in front of her. As she took it, Josh noticed the new piece of jewelry on her left hand finger.

"Is this what I think it is?" he asked before even thinking. He wanted to kick himself for bringing up the subject, but was relieved when a wistful smile came across Mara's face.

"Yeah. Sam asked me to marry him."

"You had to go and say yes I suppose," Josh said, trying his best at conjuring up a smile on her face.

Mara whacked him in the arm. "Of course I said yes, you dolt!" Josh was pleased that his attempt at making her smile succeeded as the corners of her mouth slightly arched upwards. She sniffled into the kleenex and wiped away the tears from her cheeks.

"Sam must have mortgaged the White House to pay for that rock," Josh asked, continuing in the same route, hoping that small talk would help make the time go by faster.

"Actually, he was very sweet about the whole thing," Mara replied, her attention now focused on the ring adorning her finger.

Zoey walked over and examined the ring, realizing the topic of the conversation seemed to have a relaxing affect on Mara.

"Mara, it's breathtaking! You collect Tanzanites, right? Sam must have remembered."

"Well, actually......"

"Oh for pity's sake, I know you want to tell us and we all want to know. Besides, it will help me fill out the forms to get him committed," Josh teased.

Mara stuck out her tongue, and again smiled. The combination of the smile and her red, blotchy eyes creating quite a contrast on her beautiful face. Josh sighed inwardly, relieved that Mara mind able to dig itself out of the dread he had seen when he entered the room. Mara started explaining the conversation she had with Donna in the Bahamas.

Keeping one ear attentive to Mara's story, to which Zoey was intently listening to, Abbey quietly pulled Josh aside.

"Thanks, Josh. Mara really needs to stay positive."

"How bad is it?"

"He's not critical like you were, but it's not good either. The brain is one of the last frontiers in medicine and the doctors can`t give a time frame to when Sam could wake up."

"You mean it could be tomorrow, or in a week, or a month?"

"Or it could be never, Josh. I don't want Mara to know this, but a week is the first bad milestone to pass. Followed by two, then three and a month, and that`s when doctors start getting very concerned, and start giving up hope. CJ knows and so does Jed, but I don't think Mara needs to know about this. At least not now. We'll deal with that if it gets that far. I got Sam's doctor to agree not to mention it in front of her for now as well. So, what this means is that Sam's got two weeks to wake up before the amazing life force that is Mara starts slowly dying, because if Sam doesn't wake up, it will kill her inside."

"Sam will wake up. If I have to be miniaturized like in that 'Osmosis Jones' movie and wake him up myself, I will. I'll go bonkers if I have to be Mara's keeper forever," Josh grinned and Abbey swatted him.

Josh returned to his seat beside Mara and pretended to be totally engrossed in the details of the proposal. He had to admit, from what he had heard, it sounded like the perfect plan. Sam always paid attention to details, while he just bumbled his way through life.(I'll probably just blurt out 'Marry Me, Donna" in a stupid place, with no ring. Oh no, I thought it! There really is no escape. Sam's been right all along! I'm madly in love with my assistant. Sam, you have to wake up! I 'm going to need all the help I can get.)

"Hey, how did you sneak away without me noticing?' Mara asked as CJ put a steaming mug of hot chocolate in her hand.

"I have stealth capabilities, remember?"

"Sam would say it's because you're a witch," came Toby's voice as he entered the waiting room.

"Excuse me, Tobias? What stories are you filling young Samuel's head with?"

"A witch, Tobs? Thanks for being here and cutting your holidays short," Mara said as she gave him a hug and knocked the snow off his shoulder.

"I take it this infernal stuff is your doing?" Toby asked as he shook his head free of melting flakes.

"Yes, apparently among all my skills, I can now channel Mother Nature," Mara replied, sounding a tad irritated.

"Leave it to Robin to get himself in trouble while Batman tries to go on vacation. How is he?"

Mara smiled remembering Sam complaining that Toby forced him to be Robin. "In surgery. They're working on his ankle. They're going to have to use pins to fix the break."

"He'll beep every time he walks into the White House," Jed added.

"There goes his stealth days," Zoey said, making everyone laugh.

"Who said they heard a clang and an ouch and knew it had to be Sam Seaborn?" Toby asked.

"It was Congresswoman Reeseman, and the exact quote was 'I heard the clang and the 'ow' and I figured it must be Sam Seaborn'," Mara replied.

"How the hell did you know that?" Josh asked.

"How does Mara know anything about all of us?" Toby chuckled, looking straight at CJ

"You all amuse me, therefore I amuse Mara. You piss me off, she keeps score."

"As long as it's not state secrets, I don't care," Jed said with a grin.

"You know CJ, isn't my only source. I have several sources of information and anecdotes."

"Great! No where is safe," Josh quipped.

"Mara, how is Sam?" Elizabeth asked as she entered the waiting room.

"Still unconscious and in surgery for his ankle. Liz, you should be at home eating."

"Since you were all here, we decided to bring dinner to you. And after I lugged all of this here, you bloody well are going to eat it."

Mara had to admit she was hungry even though she didn't feel like eating. She finished everything on her plate, knowing Abbey would force her to eat it later if she didn't. Toby and Josh were working on their second piece of gingerbread while she played with hers. The door to the waiting room opened and Sam's doctor walked in.

"Mr. Seaborn is out of surgery. It went well. He's in recovery and I'll let you know when he's moved into a room."

"Thanks, Doctor," Mara said flatly, relived that Sam had made it through surgery.

The door opened again and Mara noticed Josh's face light up. She didn't even have to look up to know it was Donna. Josh stood up to offer his seat and Mara felt her shoulders being squeezed.

"My God Mara, your shoulders are like the rock of Gibraltar."

"I know. That's where all the tension and stress rests. Sam use to tease me that he needed a jack hammer to loosen me up."

"How is he?"

Mara turned around slowly, noticing that Donna looked almost as devastated as she felt.

"He's in recovery. The surgery on his ankle went OK. Donna, you didn't have to come."

"Mara, being a thousand miles away from Sam, worrying to death is not how I wanted to spend Christmas. I need to be with my family, and while I love my parents dearly, it seems my family now resides in DC"

Mara gave Donna a long hug. "Think you could stay at the house and keep an eye on Killer for me?"

"Sure, where is the little guy now?"

"In the residence."

"Sure. What happened?"

Mara opened her mouth to respond when the doctor walked in again. He consulted his clipboard and looked at Mara.

"Mr. Seaborn has been moved to room 412. Dr. Bartlet, can I see you for a moment?"

Abbey stepped outside with the doctor and returned a few moments later.

"Mara, come with me."

"Abbey, what's wrong?"

"Nothing, Sweetie. I just wanted to prepare you before you saw Sam. He's still in a coma and on a ventilator to help him breath," Abbey continued to prepare Mara as they waited for the elevator.

Mara's heart broke when she saw Sam. He looked so pale. His skin had a translucent quality to it and it looked like he had two black eyes. Most of his head was wrapped with a tension bandage and Mara lost count how many wires and tubes he was connected to.

"God Abbey, a few hours ago he was full of life, running down the halls of the West Wing, afraid I was going to pummel him to death. Now he looks like death."

"His color will slowly start to come back Mara and as his body repairs itself, his breathing will improve and they can take him off the ventilator. Now, we just need him to wake up."

"Sit with me, Abbey," Mara asked quietly.

Abbey sat down and motioned for Mara to sit on her lap. The first lady wrapped her arms protectively around Mara and sat quietly, praying.

"Ambassador Seaborn has a nice ring to it, don't you think?" Mara asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

Abbey squeezed Mara tightly against her.

"I think it has a lovely ring to it. Sweetie, Sam is strong and he's not going to give up without a good fight. Don't loose faith in him."

"I won't. I promised Sam no more 'what ifs', so he just has to be fine. While I don't appreciate his timing, I know that God couldn't possibly be so cruel as to give me Sam only to snatch him away from me. I could never believe that ours was a vengeful God."

Abbey kissed the top of Mara's head. "Oh baby, just keep thinking that way."

"Ma'am."

Mara and Abbey both looked up in the direction of the voice.

"We need to get the President back before the next shift change. Your detail will stay just outside if you wish to remain."

"Abbey, go back and take Donna with you. I want her to bring Killer home."

"I'll stay, Mara."

"Nah, I'll be fine."

"I'm bringing you breakfast."

"'Kay. Thanks, Mom."

"I'm taking that as a compliment, Brat. Try at least to get some sleep, Mar."

"Easier said than done, but for you, I'll try." Mara got up and hugged Abbey before she left the room.

Abbey rounded the corner and found Donna slowly making her way down the hall. Abbey thought she looked a million miles away and figured she was flashing back to May.

"Donna! Just the girl I was looking for."

"Dr. Bartlet, how can I help you?"

"Mara wanted me to bring you back to the residence to collect Killer."

"Thank you, Ma'am, but CJ was going to run me over. She thought we should pick up the Christmas presents at the same time."

"Okay. I'll see you later then. Donna, Josh is fine. This hospital seems to do a pretty good job at patching our men up."

"Yeah, but will they be able to patch Sam up as well?"

"I'm more optimistic than I was earlier, Donna. Mara just said something that made a lot of sense. She said she couldn't believe God would be so cruel as to snatch Sam away from her just after giving him to her. I just hope Sam wakes up sooner rather than later."

"Me too. I'll see you later, Ma'am." Donna wandered down the hall and stopped at the glass window looking into Sam's room.

The blinds were still open, so she could see Mara sitting on the edge of a chair holding Sam's hand. Having been there herself, Donna knew she was pleading with Sam to wake up.

"Oh Mara, they don't listen. You plead, you pray, you threaten and they still take their own damn time to wake up. The waiting is the worse."

Josh appeared out of no where and slid his arm around her back. "I'm sorry, Donna," he said softly.

"For what?"

"For putting you through this. For scaring you half to death."

"I didn't want to break in a new boss. You were tough enough to train. I wasn't alone at least, I had Sam."

"You had Sam?"

Donna giggled at the way Josh questioned her.

"Josh, you make it sound like I HAD Sam. I just meant that he came back to the hospital when everyone else was gone and stayed with me. He was a great comfort."

"Oh. Well, I think you've done more than your fair share of vigils. By the way, CJ is looking for you. I'll bring you back in the morning if you want."

"That would be nice, Josh. I'm staying at Mara's." Donna turned and walked away before stepping back and leaving a soft kiss on his cheek. "Thanks for calling me."

"I knew you'd want to be here. See you later."

Josh watched Donna until she disappeared from sight. He then turned his attention back to the room he was standing in front of.

After twenty minutes, he managed to gather his courage and entered the room, seating down in the vacant chair on the other side of the bed. He wasn't' sure if it was the lack of lighting in the room, but Mara looked just as pale as Sam.

"Hey."

"Hey yourself. Josh, you should get back to your poor mother. She came to see you, not the walls of your apartment."

"She knew I was going to be here for the night. She sends her love."

"That's sweet of her. Josh, you really don't have to stay."

"I'm staying, Mara, and that's final."

She didn't answer him. She merely turned her attention back to her fiancÚ. If Josh had not witnessed it with his own eyes, he never would have believed Mara was capable of staying quiet for hours.

A nurse stopped by a few times to check on Sam, but she did her work without saying a word.

The silence was becoming deafening and Josh couldn't take it for another minute.

"So, what exactly do you love about my best friend, Miss Whitford?"

"Josh, you're just going to laugh at me."

"I laugh at you regardless. So, what's the harm in telling me?"

"Josh...."

"Come on, Mara. It's three in the morning, no one is around for me to share the information with. I really am interested or I wouldn't have asked."

"I love the way he smells. Sam doesn't use colognes, he just smells of what ever soap I happen to leave out. One week it's raspberry ripple, the next ocean. No one would ever notice it, but I do. I love the way he rolls his eyes at me, but still listens to every word of my latest tirade. I love that he never leaves without kissing me good bye in the morning. He thinks I'm asleep, Josh, but every night Ihang on until he kisses my head and tells me he loves me. I love that at the first drop of rain he's on the phone asking me if I'm all right. I love the adorable way that his hair refuses to be tamed in the morning. There is always the same lick standing straight up. I love the passion and integrity that courses through his veins. Sam's first thought is always what is right, not what's popular. He isn't afraid to fight the good fight. Most of all, I love the way that he just looks through the barriers I put up, the verbal warfare I launch at him, the moods and whims and knows what I really need and gives it to me. He understands me, Josh, when half the time I don't understand myself. He loves me, he just loves me. And for that, I love him."

"Mara, I don't mean this to sound as off hand as it will, but Sam marrying anyone other than Lisa is OK with me."

"You really hated her?"

"No, I didn't hate her. I didn't like her though. I didn't trust her and I could see how she manipulated Sam to do what she wanted. She knew he hated big, stuffy parities, but she insisted they go to them. She wanted to be a mover and shaker in New York society and a partner at Gage was her entrance fee."

"I don't get that though. Sam's got ten times the prestige now in his position than Gage or Whitney themselves. She could be one of those women I hate, who hates me back."

Josh chuckled.

"Bartlet was an unknown Governor of a small state. Lisa had never heard of him before. If his name had been Kennedy, she might have hung on a bit longer. Sam's making a tenth of what he use to money-wise. Lisa couldn't have that. The hours Sam puts in? She'd be claiming abandonment."

"I guess. Now I understand her a bit more, but I still don't like her."

"Mara, you annoy me to no end and my thinning hair is entirely your fault. I had a full head of hair until I was sent to Ottawa to met with you, Mara Whitford. You seem to delight in causing havoc everywhere you go. Yet, it's crystal clear to me that you love my best friend with all your heart. You said it yourself, that all you wanted from Sam was his love. Despite all my protests, that's exactly what he gave you. I guess what I'm trying to say is, that even though he picked a sardonic, fire breathing dragon, I'm happy that Sam found his 'real thing.'"

Mara reached over, picking up Josh's hand and left a soft kiss on a knuckle.

"Thanks Josh. That means a lot and it shouldn't be so hard to decontaminate yourself this time." Josh grinned.

"You are still an evil, manipulative shrew."

"Yeah well, you are still an arrogant, self involved, egomaniacal arse," Mara replied with an evil grin before settling back in to her chair.

The room fell quite again, except for the beeping of the machine's and the whooshing sound of the ventilator. Josh hoped Mara had finally fallen asleep Her feet were resting on the rail of the bed, while she leaned back in to the chair with her eyes closed.

He started thinking about how terrified Donna and Sam must have been, watching a barrage of machines keeping him alive because his body was too weak to do it. There was no danger of Sam dying at least and he refused to believe that he wouldn't wake up. He knew Donna hadn't left his bedside, but he had not known Sam stayed with her during the wee hours of the morning those first critical 72 hours until Donna mentioned it earlier.

"I'll take care of Mara like you took care of Donna for me. But did you have to fall for the only women alive more neurotic than Donna?" Josh quietly muttered.

Josh felt Mara take his hand and he looked over at her.

"I heard that and Donna and I are completely normal. You're the one who's neurotic."

"Would you go to sleep, you freak."

"I can't."

"Then get up."

Mara stood up, letting Josh go past her and settle in the chair she'd been in.

"Hey!"

Josh made himself as comfortable as possible and opened his arms.

"Short of suffocating you with a pillow, this is the only other way I can think of to get you to sleep. I'd try real hard, Mara, 'cause if it doesn't' work, I will suffocate you!"

Mara looked down Josh like he had two heads.

"Oh come on, I don't bite. That's your gig, not mine."

Mara hesitantly stepped towards him, not really believing that he was going to let her cuddle up to him so she could sleep. He didn't move so she gingerly sat down in his lap.

"Mara, I'm not doing Santa Claus. Get comfortable and go to sleep."

Mara shifted a few times until she was finally some what comfortable resting her head in the crook of his neck. Josh wrapped his arms around her and a thought occurred to her.

"Oy," she muttered.

"Sorry I'm not more comfortable, your Royal Highness."

Mara chuckled, "No it's not that. Something just dawned on me. You know that deep bond between Donna and Sam that irks you to no end?"

"Uhuh."

"Well it started on a night just like this, in this very hospital when you were fighting for your life. The only way Donna got any sleep was because Sam did for Donna what you are doing for me now."

"So you're saying we've bonded? Nah, not going to happen. Sam and Donna are weak, we're stronger than that. Now shut the hell up and let me go to sleep!"

Mara smiled to herself and let her body relax. She was just about to drift off to sleep when she felt the softest kiss on the back of her head.

"Sam loves you," he whispered softly.

A lone tear made it's way down Mara's cheek before she fell asleep. Josh felt her entire body relax and knew she was finally sleeping. He pushed her hair away from his face and finally gave in to the exhaustion.

Chapter 27

 

 

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