For notes and disclaimer, please see part one.

Previously, on the West Wing: While walking to education breakfast, three reporters give Lisa and Zoey a scare. Lisa sends Zoey on while going back to talk with the reporters. Sam, as soon as he gets back from his trip to Rochester, learns that Lisa was attacked and is in the hospital.

As they waited in the waiting room, Bartlet paced, having called Leo in Boston and canceling the speech he was supposed to have given. Abbey occasionally wandered out to get the latest while Josh sat in between Zoey and Mandy, holding Mandy's hand. None of them said anything. They were each in quiet shock, hoping and praying for Lisa's recovery. They all jumped when the door opened. Abbey got to her feet. Josh squeezed Mandy's hand as Sam walked into the room. He didn't have to say anything; they knew. But he spoke anyway, "She, um..." He drew an uneasy breath. "She's gone..."

"Oh, dear God," Bartlet said under his breath, crossing himself. Abbey did the same as Zoey buried her face in her hands, bawling. Mandy, who had tried so very hard to hold back her tears, allowed them to fall freely. She hadn't known Lisa very long but they had gotten along famously. Josh crossed to Sam—after all, he had known the young speechwriter the longest.

"I'm sorry," he said, placing his hand on Sam's shoulder.

"She's dead, Josh. She promised me she'd never leave me and she just... She just left." Sam had yet to look at any of them.

"She didn't want to. You know she didn't."

"God, Josh, we were supposed to get married in September..."

"She loved you, Sam. I've never seen anyone so much in love as she was with you. She wanted to marry you, you've got to know that."

"She asked me to be a bride's maid," Zoey cried. Abbey sat down beside her daughter and put her arms around her. "We were talking about dresses an-and stuff today..."

"Sam, the state troopers," Bartlet began slowly.

"Sir?" Sam asked, angrily drying his face.

"There will be an extensive investigation into what happened. The people she was last seen with... They were reporters from a conservative fundraising newsletter. Police are already at their offices, tearing things apart."

"She was murdered by the press," Sam said with a forced laugh.

"Sam?" asked Josh carefully.

"They dragged her name through the mud and now they go and *kill* her!" Sam yelled, kicking one of the chairs in the waiting room. The chair spun out of the row it was in and skidded down half the length of the room. Both Mandy and Zoey jumped when he kicked it. Josh noticed Zoey's fretful look and tried to calmly approach Sam.

"Sam, she... She wouldn't want this," Josh tried.

"Wouldn't want what? Wouldn't want her death avenged?" Josh and Bartlet exchanged quick glances: that didn't sound like the Sam they knew. "Damn it, Josh, she tracked you down on the House floor after you went and attacked her bill. She never forgot anything. She never let anyone else forget anything. If she had survived, she'd be lying in that hospital bed yelling at me to check on the progress of the case! She would have hated waking up in that ICU, though. She would have hated it. She hated feeling like she couldn't do anything. She'd want to be up chasing down the bastards herself!"

"Sam—" Josh wanted to warn Sam to keep his mouth in check. After all, there was an already scared and upset girl taking it all in.

"Why?" Sam asked, looking at Josh with pleading eyes. "Why'd she have to die?"

"I don't know," Josh said. Sam's head lolled back. He cried out before slowly sinking to the floor. Josh knelt with his mourning friend as Bartlet slowly crossed to Mandy.

"Go back to the headquarters," Bartlet said, his voice a bit strangled. "Contact the entire staff, tell them what happened. Put the scheduled stops on notice that we may have to cancel at a moment's notice like this Boston dinner tonight."

"You sure—"

"She was one of us, Mandy," Bartlet said, calling her by her correct name for the first time. "We're going to be attending a funeral soon."

"Yes, sir," Mandy said as she stood, drying her tears quickly. She wanted to stop and offer Sam her condolences but Josh waved her on.

Abbey stood and helped Zoey to her feet. "We're going to the car."

"I'll be right there," Bartlet said with a nod as they headed for the nearest door. He crossed to Sam and Josh and placed a hand on each man's shoulder. "The country will mourn your loss with you," Bartlet said. "Lisa was a magnificent politician, a lovely young lady." Sam sobbed louder, causing Bartlet to squeeze his shoulder a bit. "We'll all miss her greatly."

"Thanks, Governor," Josh said seeing as how Sam was in no mood to talk. Bartlet nodded then slowly left the waiting room, taking the state troopers with him.

It took three hours for Sam's cries to finally slow down enough where he could speak again, where he could stand. Josh drove him back to the hotel in silence, occasionally glancing over at his friend. Sam watched out the window with his hands folded neatly in his lap. Every time Josh wanted to start a conversation, he chickened out before saying anything. He didn't know what to say that wouldn't sound corny or insincere.

When they arrived at the motel most of the campaign staff was residing in, they got out of Josh's car and trekked up to the sixth floor together. Josh had no intention of leaving Sam alone. The grieving speechwriter fumbled with the keys before he finally got the key in the lock and turned it, allowing them to enter the room he had shared with his fiancée. "C'mon in," Sam said as he walked inside. Josh didn't hesitate.

"You want something to eat?"

"I'm not hungry."

"You should eat something."

"Don't start, Josh," warned Sam as he fell onto the tiny suite's double bed in the far corner of the room.

"Okay."

Sam stretched out with his head on his pillow, pulling Lisa's to him and hugging it close to him. "God, Josh, what am I going to do?"

Josh milled around, glancing at the file folders of information, at the law books stacked in the corner of the room, at the framed photograph of Lisa and Sam looking down from on top of the television set. "I don't know," Josh admitted.

"She told me... She told me we'd spend the rest of our lives together."

Josh studied his friend for a minute, wondering if he should say what was on his mind. He tried to smile at Sam. "She spent the rest of her life with you."

"But I had pictured, y'know, an actual wedding and children and grandchildren later on... I had the whole damn picture-perfect life planned out."

"You can't plan for flukes, they just happen."

"Fluke? You're calling Lisa a fluke?"

"No," Josh said quickly. "I'm calling what happened today a fluke."

"If I had just told Mandy to take her own damn trip to Rochester, I would have been here for Lisa... I would've been able to save her."

"We are not playing the 'what-if' game, got it?"

"Hell, if I had just stayed here with her this morning instead of going into work before she woke up..."

"Sam, no—"

"If I hadn't let her go for six months when I was in New York and she was doing the Maryland governor thing, then—"

"You and Lisa broke up for six months?" asked Josh in disbelief. "Why?"

"I thought I was holding her back."

"You went back to that thinking?" Josh asked.

"She was on the road for Wesley, the guy in Maryland who was a crook. We never saw each other. We never talked to each other. What was the point in being together if we weren't together?" asked Sam.

"What happened?"

"She wound up at my door and after a week we were picking up exactly where we had left off. Y'know, maybe I should've listened to my father and never gone into politics in the first place."

"You wouldn't have met Lisa then."

"And she'd still be alive then."

"What?"

"I got her into the Bartlet campaign. I did. She came because I did."

"Then you may as well blame me because I got *you* to sign onto this campaign," Josh said, walking towards him.

"I never should have gone to Washington, never. I should've gone back to L.A. after Duke."

"Lisa loved you so much," Josh said. "The way she looked at you, the way she... I envied you because of the way she loved you. I'm not saying I wanted Lisa. I want somebody like Lisa to love me like she loved you."

"She's dead."

"I know."

"She's gone forever. Oh, God, her parents... I should call them."

"I'd be willing to bet that Governor Bartlet's got that covered."

"What am I going to do, Josh? What am I going to do? I can't... I've lived with her in my life for so long that... How am I supposed to go on?"

"I don't know."

"Y'know, if she were here, she'd hate this. She really would."

"She'd tell you not to worry too much about it."

"She would not."

"She'd be yelling at me 'cause I'm doing a horrible job of trying to calm you down."

"I don't want to be calm; I want Lisa."

"I know you do."

"God, the way she looked... The cuts and bruises and... How could they do that to her? How?"

"They were monsters, Sam."

"If I ever get my hands on them, I'll..."

"You'll what, Sam?"

"They'll regret they ever touched her." Josh watched Sam's face contort into one of evil, like what had happened in the hospital waiting room.

"Sam, you're scaring me."

"They took her away from me," he said, sitting up to look at Josh. "They took her from me. They'll pay for that."

"Promise me you'll let the police handle it." Sam said nothing. "Sam?" When he refused to answer again, Josh retrieved the picture from the TV set and held it up so Sam could see it. "She wouldn't want you winding up in the same position she was in earlier today. You've got to agree with me on that one," he said. Tears fell from Sam's eyes again.

"Josh, I... It's like my heart died with her." Sam reached out to the photo of Lisa with a trembling hand. His finger traced her face on the cold glass. "I want her back," he said weakly. "I want her back."

"She can't come back," Josh said gently.

"I need her back, Josh. I need her. I can't... I've known her seven years. She wasn't even thirty yet. We had decades ahead of us, a *long* life. But it was cut short. God, what am I going to do?"

~~~

Lisa's funeral was scheduled for a few days after her death down in Tennessee. Sam, Josh, Mandy, and the Bartlet family traveled down for the service in her hometown seeing as how Lisa was going to be buried with her younger brother Ben in a small country cemetery. Visitation was the day before, lasting three hours that night. Sam, Lisa's parents and brother stayed for its entirety. Josh stayed for an hour—the longest of any from the campaign—but he had to leave: too many memories of his sister's death. Plus the fact the open casket at the front of the funeral home wasn't exactly his favorite thing.

As the wake was drawing to a close, Sam walked up to Lisa and looked down at her. Her expression was peaceful, calm. 'Why shouldn't she be?' he thought to himself. 'She's home now.' For most of the day, he had been carrying around the stuffed donkey he had given her all those years ago. Trying to will tears to stay down, he placed the stuffed animal in the casket with her, tucking it under her left hand—the hand that still had the engagement ring he had given her. "If I can't be with you forever," he said as his vision blurred with salty tears, "he can. I love you, Lisa. I will always love you." Edward and Linda Cole, Lisa's parents, walked up to Sam.

"You're welcome to stay at the farm tonight if you want," said Edward, choking back his tears.

Sam considered the offer for a moment. Her bedroom, though, was the first place they had... "Thank you but I had probably go back to the hotel," Sam said slowly. "Governor Bartlet's been kind of protective of me."

"It was... It was good to see you again, Sam," Linda said. "I wish it could've been under different... I wish it could have been different."

"Me, too," Sam said, turning to look at his would-be in-laws. "I-I'm sorry."

"Nothing you could've done, Sam," Edward said, clapping Sam's shoulder. "I take peace in knowing she found someone like you, who loved her dearly... as much, if not more, than we did."

"I wish I could've done more for her," Sam said, glancing back at Lisa.

"You did so much," Linda said. "You made her happy." She hugged him quickly. "Thank you." Sam couldn't say anything. He returned the hug then looked to Edward, who shook his hand.

"We'll see you tomorrow, for the funeral." Sam nodded as Edward and Linda left, leaving him inside the funeral home with only Lisa and the attendants. They let Sam have some extra time with Lisa, milling quietly in the lobby.

"You know, I don't know which would be worse," Sam said, looking down at Lisa. "Burying your child or the woman you love more than anything." He sniffled and smiled, trying to laugh but wound up whimpering. "I'd say it's a tossup. You made me so happy and so proud when you said you'd marry me. You have no idea. It was heaven on earth, my time with you. And I wouldn't trade it for the world. Some moments were kinda touch-and-go but... You were everything to me—you still are. I don't know how I can leave this state, knowing I'm going to bury you in the ground tomorrow. I just... I need you so much and have for years... I never would have made it on the Hill without you. I don't know how I can continue on the Bartlet campaign without you. I feel empty without you... I don't even like saying that—'without you.' I get a bad taste in my mouth when I say it. If you were here—well, if you were here we wouldn't be having this conversation. But if you were here for only a minute, long enough to talk to me, I know you'd tell me to go on, to keep going. You'd tell me to close my eyes and picture myself moving on. Lisa, when I close my eyes, I still see you. I don't ever want to close my eyes and *not* see you. I don't ever want to forget what it was like to kiss you, to feel your arms around me, to wake up and see your face. I know I have to move on, that you'd want me to. I'll do what I can but..." He reached out to touch her hair one last time. Her hair had been styled just right to hide the gash that still gaped on her forehead. When he touched her, he saw the cut again. "I can't," he cried silently, falling to his knees in front of her. "I can't, Lisa. I can't."

~~~

The funeral was held in the church next door. Besides the pastor of the church, Josh, Lisa's first boss—former congressman and current governor of the state of Tennessee—Richard Rollins, as well as Sam stood to talk about Lisa. Sam's speech was last. He had everything already written out. As he stood to deliver it, he couldn't. He placed the index cards back in his suit pocket and simply spoke, recounting every lesson she taught him that he could remember, ending with this one: "I, uh, didn't have any confidence when I first moved to Washington. Didn't have any whatsoever. It was sheer dumb luck or I suppose the sheer grace of God that I wound up in the cafeteria on the Hill my first day when she was there. She told me she'd help me out—out of the CBO." He laughed softly once but Josh was the only other person in the church to get the joke. "I didn't know then that I had just met the most amazing woman ever, that I had found my best friend in the world. I could tell her anything, things I didn't even want to admit to myself. She never judged me, she never... She pushed me when I needed to be pushed and she stood back and let me soar when I needed to fly. And I can only hope that she felt the same about me. Now I guess she's standing back so I can fly again." He turned to look at the casket; it was closed this time. "Thank you for everything, Lisa. I don't think I would've survived this far if it wasn't for you. I'm going to remember everything you taught me and I'm going to try so hard not to let you down."

With a final prayer, the service was over. Those in attendance were paying their last respects to Lisa and passing along their condolences for the family and Sam. When the Bartlets reached Sam, Zoey hugged him tightly, crying into his shoulder. "I miss her."

"Me, too," Sam said.

"I never figured out how to build a house of cards."

"Maybe I can help you out when we get back to New Hampshire, huh? I'm not magical like she was but... Maybe I can help." She nodded. As she slowly released him, he smiled at her and dried her tears. "We'll figure it out." Zoey nodded slowly before walking over to Josh and Mandy, who were standing along the wall having already gone through the line. Bartlet was still consoling Edward and Linda as Abbey walked up to Sam. "Dr. Bartlet, ma'am."

"That was a beautiful speech, Sam," Abbey said, shaking Sam's hand.

"I didn't write it. I mean, I said it but I didn't... I didn't write it."

"Sure you did," she said. "You wrote it with your heart."

"Thank you, ma'am." Abbey did her best to smile at him as Bartlet walked up to him. "Governor."

"Sam... I don't know what to say."

"There's not much left to say."

"I doubt that. I think we could go on for quite a while about Miss Cole." Sam nodded. "I seem to recall being on Capitol Hill years ago and watching her verbally berate a certain young floor manager."

Sam glanced at Josh quickly. "Really?" he asked with a smile and a laugh. That story always managed to bring a smile to Lisa's face.

Bartlet nodded. "She'd be proud of you, Sam. She was. I could see it in her eyes."

"I hope so."

"Sam?" Sam looked up to see Jimmy, Lisa's brother, motioning him over. Josh was already on his way. Along with two of Lisa's cousins and her father, they carried Lisa to the back of the hearse. Mandy cornered Josh as soon as they were through, saying she was under orders to take Zoey back to the hotel; the teenager was not up for watching the burial. Mandy drove Zoey in one of the rental cars while Josh and Sam climbed into another one. The Bartlets rode with Rollins in an SUV with tinted windows.

"Governor Bartlet was right," Josh said as he started the car and slowly followed Jimmy's pick-up.

"What do you mean?"

"Lisa was proud of you." Sam shrugged. "And he was there for the whole escapade on the House floor." Sam laughed softly but it soon died as they pulled into Lisa's sleepy hometown traffic. He watched out his window for a few moments before looking out the front windshield. Josh was too focused on the road in front of him to notice.

"Josh."

"Yeah?"

"Look," Sam said, pointing out the window. Josh glanced over and saw what Sam was watching. Cars were pulling over and stopping. "Those people probably don't even know her, never even heard of her," he said quietly.

"They probably don't know that the Tennessee governor and a former governor turned presidential candidate are about six cars behind us either."

"She was so right," Sam said.

"Who was right?" asked Josh. "About what?"

"Lisa. Respect."

"What?"

"Don't you remember the first time we came down here together? And there was the funeral and we stopped and we didn't know why?" Sam asked, spewing out his words quickly.

"Yeah..."

"I understand now."

"You understand what?"

"She opened my eyes. How did I ever see before her?"

"Sam?"

"She may be dead but she'll never die in my heart, in my head, in my life. Those people don't know who died and yet they're showing her respect in hopes to get it back one of these days. The golden rule still applies. Simple kindness still exists. Grassroots politics, man," he said, smiling as tears streamed down his face. "Thank you, Lisa."

 

 

Sam will return in When the Fire Goes Out: Ashes to Ashes

==

 

 

 

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