SYNOPSIS: Three women with a man in common learn to bridge what separates them.
ARCHIVE: Sure. Just let me know where. HTML version available.
DISCLAIMER: One of these characters is mine. The rest belong to the Evil Genius and his minions. I do this for fun, so please don't sue me.
Sam Seaborn was fast asleep, dreaming of coconut oil and hot towels... until a ringing phone woke him.
"Sam Seaborn," he said into the receiver.
"Sam," Leo said.
"I thought you were in New Hampshire," he responded.
"I am. Listen Sam... are you OK?"
"Yeah, I was just asleep. 'T's up?"
"It's Mallory. She's in the hospital..."
* * * * *
Sarah Cooper was in the longest, dullest meeting of her life, surrounded on one side by computer folks and on the other by hospital folk, and the Vice President was at the end of the table, trying to stay awake. The meeting had droned on since a little after 1, with absolutely no useful conclusions reached. Hoynes looked at his watch, and cut off discussion with a wave of his hand.
"I don't think we're getting a lot done here," he began. "Sarah?"
"Sir, we have some real compatibility problems, and I'm not sure that the user interface will work for healthcare providers. I'd advise another round of RFP's. Maybe we can lure somebody out of the woodwork who would be able to give us solutions instead of work-arounds."
"Ok, then, everybody, that's it. Janeane will be in touch about our next get-together."
The Vice-President rose and started off to his own office. At the conference room door, he stopped and turned back toward the assembly. "Sarah? A minute?"
She followed him into his office, watching as he took off his dark blue suit jacket and loosened his tie.
"I saw the alarm bells you were sounding," he said, smiling. "Somebody trying to pull my leg?"
"Yes, sir," she answered. "The software vendor is trying to pawn the compatibility problems off on the hardware, and vice versa. They think you just came into town on the turnip truck."
"I did," Hoynes answered, "at least as far as this is concerned. But _you_ didn't."
"No, sir. And that's why you hired me." She grinned up at him.
A rap at the door announced the Vice-President's secretary. "Sarah?" she asked. "There's a call for you. It's Mr. McGarry."
"You can take it here if you like," Hoynes said.
Sarah rolled over to the big mahogany desk and picked up the blinking line.
"Leo?" she asked. "What's wrong?" She knew he wouldn't call her at work unless there was a problem.
"It's Mallory. She's in the hospital. Something about her brain. I'll be there as soon as I can..." His voice broke. "Sam's on his way, he'll come get you."
"Did you call Jenny?"
"Oh God," he responded, "no, I didn't think..."
"I'll take care of it," Sarah said.
"But you two-"
"She needs to know. Do you have her number?"
"It's in my Rolodex. Margaret- Damn, I gave Margaret the weekend off. Josh will know-."
"It's OK, Leo. I'll get it. And listen, don't get any ideas about flying yourself home. You're in no state."
"It'll be tomorrow sometime before I can get there-" his voice trailed off into a quaver.
"It'll be all right. You just worry about getting back here in one piece. I'll see you tomorrow." She hung up the phone, and turned to see Hoynes regarding her with questioning eyes. "It's Leo's daughter," she said. "She's sick, I have to go."
"Not serious, I hope."
"I don't know, sir. May I... ?" she nodded toward the door.
"Of course, Sarah. Let me know if there's anything I can do."
"Thank you, sir."
Sarah tore back to her own office and called Josh Lyman's.
"Josh Lyman's office," she heard Donna answer.
"Donna, it's Sarah Cooper."
"Hi Sarah! How are you?"
"I'm fine but I need something in a hurry. Somebody told me- Do you have Jenny McGarry's number?"
"Yeah, hold on a second."
Sarah wrote the number down, grabbed her briefcase and headed for the elevator.
* * * * *
Sam's car was waiting by the time she got to the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance. He parked in a red zone and helped her in, stowing her chair in the back seat.
"Sam, you got your cell?"
He had to work at paying attention to traffic, because all he could think about was Mallory. Lying on a gurney. In a hospital. Hadn't there been enough of hospitals this year? Sam had almost lost his best friend, and now...
Something broke through his consciousness; it was Sarah's voice.
"Mrs. McGarry? My name is Sarah Cooper, I'm a friend of Leo's."
The brick in his stomach got bigger; he'd forgotten that on top of everything else he was going to have to face Leo's ex-wife. She'd had it in for him since- Well, since a long time. She'd never approved of his relationship with her daughter. It had been Leo's encouragement, however backhanded at times, that had given him the courage to pursue Mallory at all.
"She'll meet us at the hospital," he heard.
"You know she can't stand me."
"Let's not worry about that right now. You have something very important in common, and for the time being anybody who loves Mallory is a friend of hers."
"Is she OK?"
"Hard to tell, since we've never met, but I'd say it's a safe bet that she feels like she just got kicked in the gut."
They pulled into the hospital parking lot.
* * * * *
Jenny McGarry had no idea how she had gotten to the hospital, only that she was there. All she could think about was her daughter- The nurse escorted her into a cubicle in the Emergency Department. Someone was talking to her, but she didn't hear. All she could hear or see was her little girl, lying there flushed and still. And then _they_ came in... that Seaborn fellow who had tried to pick her up at a party... and a woman in a wheelchair. She wondered if that was Leo's "friend".
"Hello, Sam," she finally said.
"Mrs. McGarry," he responded, keeping his distance.
The woman in the wheelchair spoke. "Mrs. McGarry, I'm Sarah Cooper. I wish we could have met under better-"
"It would have suited me fine had we not met at all. Do you know when my husband will be arriving?"
"He's in New Hampshire, ma'am," Sam answered. "It may be tomorrow morning before he can get here."
"Typical," Jenny said. "I shouldn't have expected anything else."
A red-haired woman in scrubs walked up to the group. "Are you Mrs. O'Brien's family?"
It took Jenny a minute to realize that the woman was talking about Mallory; it had been so long since she heard her daughter called "Mrs. O'Brien". Finally, she shook her head. "I'm her mother. What's wrong with my little girl?"
"Perhaps we could sit down in the family room," the newcomer said.
Jenny planted her feet firmly where she stood. "Perhaps you could tell us what the problem is."
"Ma'am, your daughter has West Nile Encephalitis. It's a brain infection."
* * * * *