Category: J/M
Rating: Probably R, and bring a flashlight – this one's pretty dark.
All characters copyright the Evil Genius, Aaron Sorkin, et al. Title/lyrics
embedded thereof copyright whoever owns Jenny Labow's catalogue.
(Jenny Labow is an independent artist: she's fabulous!! Go on Napster. Get her
stuff. Do it now. <g>)
Major props to Sabine – this was partly inspired by your newest. The
relationship between Josh and Mandy has always been something I've wanted to
explore. Your story just got me thinking, I guess. Thanks. =)
Also a big kudos to my beta RL. Thanks for helping me make sure I struck the
right chords at the right times.

Author's Note: Josh POV.

Running away wasn't just another dream
There she could escape the never-ending scene
Everyone looked up to her
Yeah, it's funny how you never know what people figure...

I've just sat down at my desk that morning when I hear Donna raise her voice.
"Josh, get out here right now."
She doesn't talk to me that way, unless there's an angry senator waiting at her
desk or something. "Coming."
However, there's nothing when I get out there. "Donna," I say, putting my hands
on my hips involuntarily, "what's the big hurry?"
"Nothing." Donna avoids my gaze, which means something's wrong, or at the very
least she doesn't want to talk about it. "I just thought you might want to see
this." She hands me a small envelope.
I look at it quizzically. It's got familiar penmanship, but the title is all
wrong. The woman who wrote this has never called me 'Joshua Lyman, Deputy Chief
of Staff' a day in her life.
Accompanying it is a small box with the same handwriting on the card. I open it
and find it to be a woman's silver necklace, with a dangling pendant. Blind
Justice. I recognize that necklace; I gave it to her on Inauguration Day.
I know instinctively that I have to read this, and quickly. "Thanks, Donna.
Hold my calls for a while, will you?" Holding the letter and box, ignoring the
rest of my mail, I walk back into my office and close the door.
Once alone, I rip open the envelope to reveal several, tightly written sheets
of paper, and smile to myself in spite of the bitterness that has suffused my
outlook. Why am I not surprised that she'd have a lot to say?

* * *

Dear Josh –

Forgive the salutation. You're not exactly dear to me right now, but I can't
think of any other way to open this letter without sounding really fucking
I'm writing this to tell you that I'm going away for a long while – probably
permanently. I need to get the hell out of here. Quickly. And never come back.
Now, I don't know why you'd care, but you were the only one I could think of
that might at least be able to use the knowledge to their advantage. That's all
I've ever been to you, isn't it? Useful.
But at any rate, I just wanted to tell you that, and to apologise to you for
everything I've done. Really. I thought that I was doing the right thing but I
realize that all I've done is fuck everything up, in my own inimitable way. Also
I remembered that I probably owe you an explanation.
The campaign was one of the best things I've ever done. It was really fun.
Especially when we were together. Remember all our arguments about policy? We
were as happy as two people can get being forced to spend months in unremitting,
close proximity. That is, you acted like you had a baseball bat shoved up your
ass, and I chewed you out like a hedgehog with PMS.
But that was our way of showing we loved each other. Besides, you know what they
say about making up. Josh, I want to say in no uncertain terms that you never
lacked in that part of our relationship!
Still... I can't quite say what it was. When we got the nomination, it was like
something was lost. It felt like there was nothing left to fight for. Even
though I know there was. But not for me. I don't know. I guess I'm one of those
people who thrives on conflict. I know I always enjoyed arguing with you. It's
not like I don't like harmony. It's just that... so often I'm RIGHT, and people
don't see that. I have to convince them. That often results in fights.
When we got to the White House, though, I knew that we were on the outs. You
and me, I mean. We just didn't connect like we used to. And that's everything,
right? I'll tell you, the Sarah Wissenger thing was just kind of the excuse I
used. We weren't right for each other anymore. I don't know. Who are you dating
now? That Lucas woman? Must be difficult dating someone who's deaf. I mean, how
would you know if she's enjoying herself. And don't tell me you've learned sign
language. You don't have the attention span to do it.
But anyway. I didn't write to insult you, as fun as it is. I wrote to explain.
You want to know why I left the administration? Not because I wanted to, as the
papers so nicely said. Leo fired me.
I just got sick of it all. I got sick of acting like a Washington bigshot when
there was no confidence to back it up. I didn't want to do it anymore. While the
rest of you were out saving the world, I'm stuck there asking photographers to
take nice publicity shots. It's all so goddamn *fake.* And no one even gave a
flying fuck what I had to say. So I told Leo to fuck off, and he showed me the
door. Quietly. As is his wont.
I won't do myself the credit of assuming you've followed my career post-White
House, so I'll tell you. Thanks a whole fucking lot, by the way. We dated for
that long and you haven't called me since the filibuster. I really appreciate
it. But at any rate, in case you care, I bounced from consulting firm to
consulting firm to fake political job after I was fired. Even Senator Russell
wouldn't take me back. Guess I wasn't any good to him if I wouldn't put out,
Still, I couldn't stay at any job. You know why? Cause I kept acting, in the
words of one of my bosses, 'like I was saving the goddamned world.'"
Guess it's my own fucking fault, huh? Aimed too high, then nothing was ever
good enough.
Still, I just wanted to write and say goodbye. And thought you'd want the
necklace back; maybe it'll be something to remember me by. If you feel like it.
Well, hell, I don't know how to end this letter, so I'll just write my name.
Mandy Hampton

I look up, sobered. Mandy sounds almost nothing like the woman I used to date.
Oh, sure, the fire is still there. But it's getting low. I mean, she was never
self-deprecating. Not even in jest. 'Guess I wasn't good if I wouldn't put out?'
That's not Mandy. It worries me.
I decide that I'll look her up and call her tonight. The letter's posted from
her Washington address, so maybe I can go see her before she goes wherever she's
going. She sounds like she's had a rough time.
That settled, I sit down just in time to hear a strangled gasp outside my door
and a murmured, "Oh, my God!"
I stand again. "Donna?" Getting no response, I walk out of my office and over
to my assistant's desk.
Donna is sitting there numbly, staring at the front page of the Washington
Post. "Donna?" I say again. "What's going on?"
Donna sniffs away tears. "I never liked her, but... *God.*" She turns her face
"What?" I lean over her shoulder and skim the headlines. The President has
given his support to the new communications measures – written by Danny
Concannon, I note. The Baltimore Orioles have beaten the Red Sox in the season
opener. And right around my left thumb –
Oh, my God. This has to be some kind of sick joke. The paper can't read what I
think it does. And the headshot can't be this familiar.
FORMER POLITICAL INSIDER DIES SUDDENLY, the headline reads. No byline – it's an
AP story.
Hastily, I skim the article. "Madeleine Hampton, 35, committed suicide last
night at her Washington condo, after an overdose of Valium and Darvon. The
former media consultant for President Bartlet and..." The rest of the article
blurs together.
My God.
'Going away for a long time.' 'Nothing ever good enough.' Phrases from Mandy's
letter assault me.
Mandy... why did you do it? Why didn't you tell me?
I know where she's been. I really do. I've felt that way. Like nothing I ever
did was good enough. Like no one gave a shit what I thought or had to say. But I
had people to talk to. Sam, and Stanley, and C.J. and Toby and Leo. But Mandy
was always a loner; she liked things her way and not too many people ever could
adapt to that.
Why the hell didn't I ever call her?
Why didn't she feel like she could call me?
Why did she do this to herself?
I feel so guilty. To think that had this gotten here yesterday I could have
called her. Or I could have done something. I don't know. This will not trigger
a PTSD episode, but all the same I'm getting flashbacks. I wonder if Mandy ever
put her hand through a window.
And yet I'm angry. It's stupid, but I'm so goddamn angry. She knew what this
would do to me – to us – and she did it anyway. It's not fair. Why do I feel
like nothing's fair anymore? Why the hell did she do this to us? It's so
selfish. Incredibly selfish. I somehow feel like this is another plot of hers to
get a reaction, and immediately I kick myself for that thought. That's unworthy
of her.
But still... why, Mandy? For all the fucking reasons I've thought of in the last
twenty seconds, why?
I've got to go tell the President. He'll arrange a funeral for her; one she
deserves and would be proud of. Then I need to tell my mother. She'll
Then I need to cry.
I'll miss her. I really will.
Maybe that was what she looked for. She always did want to be remembered. Well,
she doesn't have to worry.

No one cared to rescue her...
In heaven's light on the avenue
Cars go by without a sound
She's so lost, she can't be found...



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