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.
Mallory wasn't sure where she was, or exactly what she was seeing or hearing. She had been finishing up an after-school conference with a parent when she had a dizzy spell and sat down. After that...?? She remembered hearing people shouting, and a siren, and it was like floating in marshmallow cream.
*Mama?* She wondered if that was her mother's voice. It sounded like her mother's voice... and yet it didn't. *Mama, I'm scared!* Her mother was angry at someone. And who else was that .. Sam? *Sam, I'm OK sweetheart, can't you hear me?* She wanted to reach out and touch him, but she couldn't seem to get her arm to move.
And it was so hot. How did it get so hot in January? She thought it was still January. It had been January when she sat down in her classroom...
* * * * *
Sarah was stunned. She had read about West Nile encephalitis; an outbreak in New York City last year had hit seventy people. But it didn't usually cause this kind of serious sickness.
"Dr... . " she looked for the redhead's nametag. "Dr. Levenson, are you sure? West Nile doesn't usually..."
"Are you a physician, Ms... .?"
Jenny interrupted. "She's Mallory's father's girlfriend."
Sarah knew what the doctor was thinking then - it was common enough to have to deal with several family groups when someone was seriously ill. She remembered one patient who had three women all claiming to be his wife: an ex-wife, a current wife, and a girlfriend. But she didn't care. Mallory had become her family.
"I'm a critical care nurse," Sarah answered.
Levenson eyed Sarah's wheelchair. "You are?"
"I was. And I still keep up. Did you do an LP?"
"Yes, and it's gone out for PCR. But we're pretty sure this is West Nile." Levenson seemed to relax.
Sam put an arm around Sarah's shoulders. "What is she saying, Sarah?" he asked.
The doctor turned to him. "And you are...?"
"Mallory's fiance," he answered.
Jenny shot him a scowl, and Sarah imagined her thinking "Over my dead body." Neither woman said anything.
"Sarah?" Sam said again.
She took Sam's hand. "It's a virus. You get it from a mosquito bite, which is why I'm not convinced yet that it's real, because who gets mosquito bites in January?"
Sam looked down at his shoes. "People who go water skiing in Florida for the weekend?"
"Oh, Sam," she responded. "Is that where you went?"
He nodded wordlessly.
She turned back to Dr. Levenson. "Are you sending her to the ICU?"
"No beds," Levenson answered.
Jenny turned purple. "What?" she cried out. "Do you know who her father is?"
The doctor's voice dropped. "Ma'am, I couldn't get her into the ICU with a request from the President of the United States."
"That's too bad," Jenny responded. "I could get you one."
Sarah interrupted. "Dr. Levenson, where _are_ you going to admit Mallory?"
"I'm putting her on Step-Down."
Sam shot Sarah a confused look. "It's almost Intensive Care. Better than the wards." She turned back to the doctor. "I'd appreciate it if you'd write an order explicitly permitting me to stay with Mallory. That way she'll have what amounts to a private nurse."
Jenny looked down at Sarah. "You'd do that for her?"
"Mrs. McGarry, Mallory has become my family too."
* * * * *
Jenny couldn't quite believe what she had been seeing all night. After sending Sam home with a promise to call if he was needed, Sarah had spent hours sponging Mallory's feverish body, propping her into what looked like a comfortable position, chasing down the nursing staff when something needed to be done that she couldn't do herself. Together the two women had slept in shifts, Sarah waking every couple of hours to take Mallory's temperature, check her blood pressure and her IV, make sure her kidneys were working; then she would doze off while Jenny sat by Mallory's bedside, stroking her hand, singing softly or just talking to her little girl.
During the night the two women had started to talk to one another, as well. They had just turned Mallory over on her side and were propping her up with pillows, when Jenny began to reminisce. "She didn't get the chicken pox until she was ten. She was miserable, so feverish and itchy; she spent hours just sitting in the bathtub. Leo and I-"
Catching herself, she looked over at Sarah.
"It's OK," Sarah said. "It doesn't do either of us any good - or Mallory either for that matter - to pretend that the three of us don't have someone very important in common."
They settled Mallory down onto her cushions and covered her lightly with a sheet.
Jenny nodded. "I still love him, you know."
"I couldn't imagine otherwise," Sarah answered. "And I don't pretend that I have any claim on him that's anywhere as deep as the bond he feels with you and with Mal. He just touched something in me that had been hiding for a long time, and I'm grateful for whatever time we have."
Sarah wheeled out from around the other side of Mallory's bed and came to face Jenny. She smiled as she leaned over to whisper in the other woman's ear. "That doesn't mean I'm not gonna put up a fight, though."
Jenny was taken aback, then started to laugh. The exchange was so surreal that it hit her funny-bone square-on, and the two women both laughed until tears escaped their eyes. Finally, wiping her cheeks with her index finger, she leaned over conspiratorially and said, "Sarah, I'm really glad he's found someone." Winking, she finished, "I just wish to hell he'd waited a little longer!"
* * * * *
Sam walked into Mallory's hospital room just after first light, and he couldn't believe what he saw. Jenny was asleep in an armchair in one corner, and Sarah was covering her up with a thin white blanket, smoothing back her tousled hair.
"Cease fire?" he whispered, kissing Sarah on the cheek.
"Armistice," she responded.
"Nope. Fighting a common enemy is the surest way to bring adversaries together."
Sam shook his head. "How's Mal? She looks better, not as flushed."
"Her fever broke a couple of times during the night, and she's been a little restless for the last hour or so. That's a good sign. I'd expect her to get a little antsy before she wakes up."
Dr. Levenson swooped in just as Sam's cell phone rang. As the physician examined Mallory with Sarah at her side, he answered it.
"Sam, this is the President. You at the hospital?"
"Has Leo gotten there yet?"
"No sir. Sarah Cooper is here, and Mallory's mom, and the doctor just came in."
"Are they taking good care of her?"
"Well, sir, there seemed to be a little confusion last night, they couldn't find a bed for her in Intensive Care. Sarah and Mrs. McGarry spent the night here making sure Mallory got what she needed."
"Why couldn't they put her in Intensive Care?"
"The doctor said there were no beds. In fact, she said she couldn't put Mallory in the ICU even if she got a request from the President of the United States." A broad grin spread across his features.
"Let me talk to her," Bartlet said.
Sam walked over to where Levenson and Sarah were huddled. "Doctor? This is for you." He looked over at Sarah and winked, then took her hand with his free one and squeezed it.
With a confused look, the redheaded physician took the cell phone from Sam's grasp. "Dr. Levenson," she said.
Sam waited for the reaction. It wasn't long in coming.
"Excuse me?... Yes, sir, Mr. President!... Yes sir, she's getting the very best care we can give her... . She's doing much better this morning, sir... . Yes, sir, feel free to call us anytime." Visibly shaken, she handed the phone back to Sam.
"Yes, sir?" he asked, stifling a laugh.
"I trust we won't have any more problems," Bartlet said with a chuckle.
"No, sir, I expect not. Do you want Leo to call when he gets in?"
"Yes, please, Sam. And give Jenny my best."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. President."
Bartlet's end of the line went dead and Sam put the cell back in his pocket.
Levenson was still shaking her head as she left the room, muttering "I thought they were kidding..."
* * * * *