It's a side piece while I work on all my other stuff in progress. This is just a short work that has started to bug me ever since the Short List. It might be called an ESF, but it's mostly just angsty.
TITLE: Just a Kid
AUTHOR Catherine Semerjian
DISCLAIMER I own nothing, don't sue
DISTRIBUTION Just ask
CONTENT: mild language
SUMMARY Zoey Bartlet finds an unexpected confidant
Zoey liked it liked this, There was almost nobody left in the West Wing. It was ten O'clock at night and very cold outside. The snow had started to get bad around eight, so people had started finding excuses to leave before the whole place was cramped. A few people still hung around, muttering about how in the hell they were going to get home in the muck. Those who did notice her gave her a polite nod and went back to their conversations.
Charlie was around somewhere, but she wasn't really in the mood to talk to him. In fact, they hadn't been talking much all week. Her father had been busy trying to rally some votes and Charlie had to be in step with him throughout the whole thing. Gina was somewhere too, but Zoey had managed to ditch her secret service agent for just a bit. Nothing would go wrong in the White House, she just wanted some time to think. The first daughter knew that she could tell Gina everything, in confidence, but it started to get annoying, having someone tag around all of the time.
After a few minutes of wandering, the young lady noticed that there was light coming from underneath the door of one of the senior staffers. Curious to see who would be here so late, she peeked through the door. A small smile came to her face, it was rare that she got to see Sam Seaborn in action. He was typing at his computer, an intense look on his face and his nose scrunched up as he mumbled to himself.
She watched for a while; just because she was seeing Charlie didn't mean that she couldn't look at other people. Sam was a lot older than her, but he was pretty cute and-from what she overheard-the talk of the female population of the White House.
Deciding to have a little fun, the first daughter knocked on the door. She couldn't suppress a giggle when Sam, startled by the noise, nearly fell out of his chair. He looked through the door and beckoned her inside. "What can I do for you, Zoey?" He asked, gesturing to a free chair across from his desk.
That was another reason Zoey liked Sam, he treated her as an equal. People only spoke to her like an adult when she did something wrong. "Oh, nothing really," she replied. "Just hanging out." She leaned forward to sneak a peek at the computer screen. "How about you?"
Sam looked over his handiwork, "truthfully? I forgot about three hours ago."
It was a small joke, so she laughed obligingly, but being so close to him, Zoey noticed that he didn't look all that well. There was sweat on his forehead, as though he'd been out jogging and his eyes didn't look right. "Are you feeling okay, Sam? You don't look too good."
"I thought your mother was the doctor," Sam said flippantly, not liking the turn of conversation. He was trying to get a smile out of her, but the first daughter's lips didn't so much as twitch. "All right, I haven't been sleeping much lately."
"Define lately," Zoey ordered, surprised by her own forcefulness.
Sam shrugged one shoulder and turned back to his computer, "half an hour's sleep in the past four days, give or take an hour."
"My dad told you to go home," Zoey declared. "He said something about it. You and Toby have been working really hard on that Harrison thing."
"Your dad also hates the fact that I'm young," Sam pointed out. "And, as it turns out, that week worth of work is for nothing because now he's going to nominate Roberto Mendoza. Don't get me wrong, Mendoza is the man for the job, but that's a lot more work."
"My dad said he didn't like you being young?" Zoey asked, surprised that her father would let something like that slip.
"Quote 'That Sam is young, drives me nuts too,' unquote." With that statement, he told her the whole story. He watched her reaction carefully. "So I figure by working myself to exhaustion, I'll look older and maybe become more cynical."
"First of all, Toby's the resident cynic," Zoey commented. "We can't have more than one. And believe me, if there's anyone who knows how much being young sucks, it's me."
"Go on," Sam prompted, shutting off the computer program to listen to her intently.
"First of all, I'm the youngest of three girls," Zoey began. "I had to fight for food." Sam chuckled at that and she continued. "I always got the hand-me-downs, got all the life lectures at least four times. Since I'm the only Bartlet daughter still living with her parents, I've become the First Daughter and that means that I have to be little miss perfect all the time. If I flunk history, then the whole world is going to know about it and somebody will use it as an excuse to bomb us.
"It's like I'm not allowed to make a mistake, or it becomes national news. I get yelled at for trying to be Zoey instead of President Bartlet's daughter. Half of the things my friends do, I have to think about first because what I do reflects on my dad and my dad has to be almost perfect. Yeah, I'm young, but I'm not allowed to act like it."
Zoey couldn't believe that she had said all that. Sam was the first person she'd ever said this to, not even Charlie knew how she really felt. Even if she had told him, he wouldn't understand. This was his dream job. Whereas Zoey sometimes felt that she was a prisoner of genetics.
"I skipped a grade in high school," Sam told her. "I was always the youngest one in class and usually got better grades. Some jerks did bug me about it, but most people thought it was cool. Everything I've ever done, Princeton, law school, I've always been the youngest person. And instead of being made fun of, people respected me more. When I worked law, people wanted me to help them because they respected my ability. People don't care about how old you are and quite frankly, I've never seen why. Age doesn't always equal wisdom and youth doesn't always mean inexperience."
"It's like, just because we're younger, our elders need to talk down to us," Zoey summarised. She shook her head, annoyed. "Even Charlie does it. When we first started seeing each other, he was really worried about it. He kept reminding me that it had to be a secret until he was ready. Maybe he thought I wasn't thinking about it! Sometimes, he can be condescending without even trying."
"Those are the worst kind," Sam agreed. "Josh isn't that much older than me, but sometimes, he points things out like I never would have thought of them. Toby does it on purpose just to piss me off. I'm really not that young, but the only person who treats me decently is C.J and she's usually just telling me what I did wrong."
"Ditto," Zoey replied. They talked for some time more. "But at least she lets us act our age."
Sam leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling. "You know what would be funny?"
It was the first non-morose statement either of them had made in quite some time, so Zoey leaned forward with interest. "What?"
"If we acted as young as they treat us."
Zoey opened her mouth to comment, but instead found herself smiling. She placed her elbows on his desk. "You know, Sam, April first is coming up pretty fast..."
"Should we really do this?" Sam asked, feeling strangely giddy at the thought of seeing his co-workers reactions.
Before the first daughter could reply, Charlie opened the door and poked his head through. "Zoey, your mom's been tearing up the residence looking for you. She thought you were already asleep and freaked when she saw you weren't in your bed."
Zoey rolled her eyes at Sam, making him cough to hide his chuckle. The first daughter reached over and grabbed a blank page off Sam's desk. "Tell my mom, I'll be there in a few minutes." As she spoke, she was writing something down. She rose to her feet and handed it to Sam. The Deputy Communications Director took it, then turned to his computer and pretended to start working.
"The President told me that if you were still hanging around, he'd have the Secret Service drag you home and tuck him in." At the other man's startled reaction, Charlie raised a hand, "his words not mine."
With a petulant sigh, Sam turned off his computer. "Fine."
Unable to suppress a small smile, Zoey turned and began to leave with her father's aide. "Goodnight, Sam. See you later."
"Good night, kid!" Sam replied as they shut the door.
"What's so funny, Zoey?" Charlie asked as they began to walk to the residence. He had a feeling he'd walked in on some inside joke.
She pat his shoulder, "nothing, nothing at all."
Sam had slipped on his jacket and was preparing to leave when he remembered Zoey's note. He unfolded it and read the large, hastily written words.
Hell yeah we should do this! We'll talk again later.
Sam grinned and placed the note in his pocket.
It looked like the kids were going to have some fun.