TITLE: Ice

AUTHOR: Kasey

SERIES: Elements 1

RATING: PG-13, ESF, EJF, EMF, S/M

SUMMARY: Sometimes, new challenges confront us...Sometimes, we confront them.

DISCLAIMERS: I don't own these characters. Please don't sue me. This is the first in the series I'll be calling the "Elements" series – each fic will be from a different PoV and the next one should come out...whenever I write it. That's specific, eh? ::grins::

It's amazing how some words have the power to make grown men fidget, the power to make some people get teary-eyed, the power to literally take the breath out of people's lungs.

That's just when the word is being said. Let alone when it's said in connection to you and your well-being.

Being a writer, these are the things I notice and think about.

Especially when it's been said so much that I've gotten sorta immune to it.

Immunity? Or shock at hearing it said again after so many years?

Hard to tell.

I stood, thanked the doctor, and left.

It wasn't along drive back to the White House – I sorta wished it was; I needed to think or at least...figure out how to say it out loud. The president wouldn't wanna be the last to know, but I didn't want to tell the story to everyone separately, so I'd have to say something at the staff meeting in the Oval Office.

An intimidating word in an intimidating place.

Or I could've just...not said anything. Except that Josh knew about the appointment that was a few days ago and had already started bugging me...plus I'd need time off, as much as I didn't want it.

I got back to work with about a minute to spare before the meeting.

Y'know the worst part? I knew how everyone would react. Toby would sit there blinking and trying to speak for a few seconds before mumbling something. CJ would try not to start crying. Leo would look shocked, then look to the president, who would try to be sympathetic and go see Abby as soon as he felt it would be appropriate. Meanwhile, Josh...

Poor Josh, the compulsive fixer...my best friend...he wouldn't take it well at all. Maybe put his hand through a window again.

I was the first one into the Oval Office, followed closely by Josh, Toby, and CJ. Leo entered from his office, and we began with business as usual.

I couldn't look any of them in the eye, couldn't pay attention to any of it as I quickly constructed a speech in my head to no avail.

"Anything else?" I distantly heard Leo ask, and I snapped back to reality.

"Yeah, actually, I-...I have a thing. Not a work-related thing but a...a thing I was gonna mention." I hesitated. "I'm going to need some time off."

"Why?" Leo asked.

"I'm-...I'm sick," I finally whispered.

"How sick?"

"When I was a kid I had leukemia, I was in remission for 23 years but now it's...it came back."

Yes, indeed, that scary, scary "L"-word had its effect on everyone just the way I thought.

Toby's mouth opened and closed a few times before he mumbled something unintelligble. "H-how bad is it?" CJ asked. "Is this-...y'know, is it...is there some kind of prognosis?"

"It's not bad...they make leaps and bound sin treatment all the time, so there's...there's a good chance I'll be fine." I gave a sort of hopeful smile – the best I could manage.

"Anything you need, Sam, be it time off or...anything. Let us know."

"Thank you, sir."

I saw Josh's fists clenching and unclenching, his jaw set, eyes darting nervously, frantically, then he leapt off the couch and hurried from the room. I was about to go after him, but Leo said "Let him go for now."

"Yeah...Leo, I..." I hesitate.

"Mal doesn't know yet?"

"I found out 20 minutes ago and came straight here..."

"Okay."

"I should- can I go call her?"

"Yeah, Sam, go ahead."

"Thank you, Mr. President," I said quietly, suddenly exhausted as I left the room. Closing the door behind me, I leaned back against it and sighed.

"You okay, Sam?"

"Yeah, Charlie, just...fine." I walked slowly to my office, not looking forward to what I had to do.

It was starting to really hit me. Everything at once was...I slumped down in my desk chair, closing my eyes for a couple minutes before picking up the phone and dialing Mallory's cell.

"Hello?"

"Hey, it's me, what are you doing right now?"

"Leaving school, why?"

"Go home, okay? I'll meet you there."

"Okay...what's wrong?"

"I'll tell you when I get there, okay? Bye."

Part 2a of my mission accomplished. 2b would be telling her...I hated to, but I couldn't, y'know, *not* tell her. We'd only been going out again for about 5 weeks, there was no implied obligation for her to stay – which I would make very clear.

Something I tried to figure out how to say on the drive to her place.

She lived – well, she still lives – in this cute little house in the suburbs; She rents the top floor. A better neighbourhood than where I live – not that I live in a bad neighbourhood, but hers is...peaceful.

When I arrived, her car was already in the driveway, so I went on up. As soon as I knocked on the door, she opened it and pulled me inside, shutting it behind her. "What's going on?" she demanded.

"Mallory-"

"You give me a cryptic phone call then expect me not to worry all the way home?"

"I'm sorry."

"What's going on?"

"Let's sit down."

"Fine." I led her to the couch and she sat down. "What's going on?"

"I had a doctors appointment a few days ago."

"Yeah..."

"Remember when you asked about my childhood? And I didn't say much?"

"Yeah, I didn't either, I figured it was for similar reasons so I'm trying to figure out where this is going because you don't drink much and you don't smoke much so I don't know-"

"I'm sick, Mal," I interrupted and she fell silent. "I have leukemia."

She blinked. "What?" she asked quietly.

"I was diagnosed when I was 8, went into remission when I was 10, went for my yearly checkup for 23 years with no changes and all of a sudden..." I trailed off. "Listen, Mallory, I know this is a big bomb to drop and we haven't been dating again for very long, so if you don't wanna-...I'm saying if you don't wanna stick around I'll understa-"

"Please leave," she murmured.

"I don't blame you for-"

"This isn't me saying I don't wanna be with you on this, it's...I need some time to let it sink in."

"Okay," I said quietly before I left and drove home.

I parked my car and as I got out, I saw a figure in a dark coat sitting hunched on my stoop. As the car door slammed, Josh – formerly known as the figure – looked up. "Hey," he said quietly. "I'm sorry, if you wanna be alone I'll...go, I just...I wanted to-..."

"It's okay."

"I left pretty quickly and I didn't want that to be misconstrued as being-"

"You were shocked. Don't feel bad about it."

"How can you be so...blasse?"

"Because it's been my life since I was eight years old, Josh. Because after a time, you get immune to the effect of the word."

"But for 23 years-"

"Yeah...talk about lying in wait," I said with a faint smile at my own macabre joke. "Josh, it's freezing out here – you mind if we take this inside?"

"Is it cold? I didn't...I didn't notice." He was shivering and his cheeks were rosy like a kid who's been playing out in the snow. I held out my hand to him to help him up and his hands were nearly frozen stiff.

"Jeez, Josh, how long've you been here?"

"I came here after I left the Oval Office...Leo's not mad, is he? I...I didn't mean to leave without permission, I just..."

"It's fine."

"Yeah. So I...I've been here since...what time is it now?"

"Almost 5."

"I got here...I don't know when."

"Yeah."

"Where've you been?"

"Mallory."

"You told her you-...How'd she take it?"

"She told me to leave so she could let it sink in."

"You've been dating, what? 5, 6 weeks?"

"Yeah."

"She's prob'ly calling Leo by now."

"Yeah," I said with a very faint smile.

"Doesn't it scare you?"

"My girlfriend talking to my boss? Absolutely."

"I meant-"

"I know what you meant." I sighed. "Honestly?"

"Yeah."

"I'm terrified." I looked toward the street, hands jammed in my pockets. "It scares me to death."

"Hey...listen..." He was getting a little sentimental, which was unusual for Josh – he was usually the jovial one. But he was hit hard by all this and that was understandable. "We're gonna fight this thing."

"Yeah," I muttered.

"And you're gonna kick it's ass."

"Yeah," I laughed.

"Seriously." He turned me to him and hugged me tightly – in a strictly manly way, of course. "'Cause if you die on me...I'm gonna have to kick *your* ass."

I burst out laughing. "Well that's incentive to stick around."

"Good." He tried to smile. "So. Let's...y'know...go inside."

"Yeah," I responded, turning toward the house. "It's freezing out here."

"Icy."

Just like the knot in the pit of my stomach.

 

TBC

 

 

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