Author's Note: This is NOT part of The Masterplan. It's just something I thought of and liked.
Dedication: To my cat, who is always a willing pillow or Kleenex when I need it or not. And who, by walking on my keyboard, helped me out.
Sam paced down the hall of the West Wing towards his office, but not like he normally did. There was a stormy look on his face, and he was, if not outright rude, nowhere near his usual polite self. He turned into his office, slamming the door before anyone could walk in after.
That didn't stop Josh, though. Without knocking he opened his friend's door. "Sam, what's wrong?"
Sam fought to get himself under control. "It's Leo, that's what." He stood and began to pace. "Sorry, I've got too much energy to sit down."
Josh sighed. "Did Leo get in your face again about Ainsley?"
"Yes!" Sam snapped. "He keeps asking me if I'm going to cheat on her with a call girl."
Josh was silent. "That's pretty low."
"I'll say!" Sam's voice lost a bit of its bluster. "I think he's channeling Mallory."
Josh raised his eyebrows. "You think she's still mad at you?"
Sam threw his hands up. "Still mad?" he exclaimed rhetorically. "I've seen her about four times since the Kennedy Center. And she's been rude to me every... single... time!"
"Well," Josh said, trying to be diplomatic, "Leo's been under a lot of stress lately. You know. And with Mallory breathing down his neck he thinks to transfer the stress to you."
"Maybe you're right." Sam sighed. "I just wish Mallory would get over it. That was a bad situation, I admitted it. Why can't she accept that?"
The phone rang in the bullpen, and Sam groaned. "Oh, God, that's probably Leo now. He wants to look over the GDC speech before it's final."
"Well, let me get it, then." Josh grinned. "It could be Mallory." He picked up the receiver. "Sam's office."
What he heard on the other end of the receiver made his face turn pale. Josh went white, and crashed into a chair. "Sam," he said thickly, "it's Leo."
"What?" Sam rose in alarm. "What's wrong?"
Josh stared up at Sam, knowing full well how his friend would take the news. "There's been an accident."
"A what?" Sam whispered.
"An accident." Josh swallowed the lump in his throat; time for that later. "A car with three people in it got stuck on a train track just outside of DC." Sam's face was growing more drawn every moment, so Josh finished quickly. "The car was struck by a freight train. They were all killed instantly."
Josh caught Sam's eye. "Sam, one of those three people was Mallory."
Sam's eyes grew wide for a fraction of a second, and then lapsed into such a depth that Josh was afraid his best friend was catatonic. "Mallory..." he said once. He sat, then stumbled to his feet again and made for the door.
"Where you going?" Josh managed to ask.
"Josh..." Sam's eyes were dead, as dead as Mallory. "Don't ask me why. I didn't love her. But we were just making fun of her, and now she's ..." He could not finish the sentence. "I'm done," he said cryptically. Josh was struck by the hopelessness in his friend's eyes. "I'm just... done."
Without another sound Sam strode out of the room.
He sat at home, with a drawer unlocked. In his shaking hands lay a memoir of happier and more bitter times, a visual chronicle of his folly and his fascination.
The last state dinner. He reposed in her arms, like a cat on an owner's bedspread. It hadn't been love; he knew that. He was too independent; she was too controlling. But there had been an "itch," as the First Lady termed it. On both sides.
He thought of it, and thought of her. Jesus, it hurt so much to realize that she was gone. She'd been the one to hold him down. Mallory, whether mad, teasing, laughing, flirting, had been an anchor of sorts; the one that kept him from his ego, his fear and his righteousness.
Without her he felt doubly vulnerable. Frightened.
In a perverse way she embodied everything he loved about himself. Willingness to argue, to fight, to do anything to make the world better. To hold up everything that was good and precious in the world. She was a tiger for what she believed in; and he'd been under that wing. Until Laurie, until her boyfriends. Until they'd simply grown apart.
And he couldn't cry! He couldn't let loose, and stare at her picture, and moan and cry and grieve until the poison was gone. And it wasn't even the shock. There would be no delayed reaction, he knew. This was it. No crying, no sleeplessness. Just a feeling of gnawing emptiness. It was like he'd gone on vacation and forgotten his camera.
It frightened him.
He knew that Josh was crying tonight. He and Mallory hadn't been that close, but she'd been a part of his life, and Josh was never the same when a part of his life changed, for better or worse. It would be the shock of change more than any missing of Mallory.
It was a slight comfort to know that Mallory was mourned. If nothing else he knew her parents were walking on knives. Though he never spoke much of her, he knew Mallory was the light of Leo's universe. Any father would have been so proud, and Leo was doubly proud because he knew he'd never deserve her.
The President would come to the funeral, of course. And Toby, C.J., maybe even Ainsley. But no one else would understand, would know what a vital effect this woman had on the administration.
He put the photograph away in the drawer, locked it and placed the key in his pocket. He thought of her. He thought of her calling him a moron, of the opera tickets, of the way she looked at the symphony. He saw her hair, her eyes, remembered how pretty she'd looked. He remembered the jolting realization that he did not love her, though he'd tried. But no tears fell.
This was what his job was taking from him. He grew angrier, more at himself than anything. Where was his anger, his compassion, his fucking *decency* not to miss her when she was gone? Was the cynicism of his job taking that much of a toll?
He'd joined the campaign to make a difference, to change the world. And what had he gotten instead? He'd gotten the pain of losing her, of being questioned and suspected. He'd watched his best friend disintegrate into a pile of smoking rubble. He'd watched his father's secret come out.
But most of all, he'd watched himself age, and his best friends age. He'd seen himself lose ideals, hopes, and dreams. He'd watched every one of his idols fall. And he couldn't do it anymore.
Yes, he vowed, this was it. He'd quit. He'd leave the law, find some quiet place somewhere to think and start again. He'd leave it all behind. The pain, the hurt, the disillusionment. Even his friends, if it came to that.
And who did he think he was, after all? Who was he to interject himself into the process, to make a difference between yes and no, right and wrong? It all meant nothing in the end, after all. He was nothing. It was nothing.
"We are all nothing," he said out loud to the dark room, and was shocked at the frenzy of his own words. They bounced madly across surfaces and back to slap him in his own bruised ears.
So fucking invincible. And all for nothing.
He would make it up to her and to himself; he was no ingrate. He would atone for his hubris. Because Something had just shown him that hubris was no defense. He would regain his innocence, and then be defended. He would sleep in a wall of illusions, defended by faith in humanity, as he used to do.
It had to be better than this, after all. Stripped naked and flung into this dark room. Alone with his demons.