TITLE: Crumble
SUMMARY: Delayed Reaction
DISCLAIMERS: They don't belong to me. I'm not on enough drugs to be Sorkin.
Oh - and at one point I sorta pharaphrase a line from Sports Night, which is
also Sorkin, those of you who know SN will know it, other than that it's not
too major, just know I don't mean infringement and have no money which would
be worth suing me over.
SPOILERS: Two Cathedrals, and minor ones in passing for other eps (especially
the final four of the second season and episodes with Mallory in them)
THANKS: To my betas, wonderful eternal.



It was very late when he got home, so late it was early. He knew there would
be no sleep in his future for a couple days, but at least he could shower and
shave, watch a little TV even, if he was lucky.

Mostly, the reason he had gone home was so that he could have a little time
away from anyone else. Away from Josh and Toby and CJ and Leo and the
President. Away from being the one who had to keep it together. Who had to
fight to keep control over his own body and emotions, the one who had to
fight the hardest. Him and CJ, because they had to be the most in control,
almost like a rite of passage, because CJ was a woman and he was the
youngest, they had something to prove somehow, showing that they could stay
calm and collected in the face of all that had happened.

And it was so much which had happened, too. First finding out, then Mrs.
Landingham, and the President deciding on the spot to run again. My God, Sam
thought. Leo had been right - as much as he wasn't sure whether he wanted to
be or not, he had been right.

He closed the door of his tiny apartment behind him and leaned against it,
sighing. Too much - it was all too much. All the strength he'd once
had, he'd always been the strong one before, but now he was too tired. Too
physically and mentally and emotionally spent to put up a front. He didn't
have to - he was in his own home, with no one around. It had taken
everything he'd had not to break into sobs at the funeral or tears of
jubilation when the president had said "I will absolutely be seeking a second

Alone in his home at last, away from anyone he needed to hide from, he put
his head in his hands and sobbed like a child. Slowly, he slid his back down
the door until he was sitting on the carpeted floor, back against the door,
elbows resting on bent knees as he covered his face and cried, open gasping


He jumped seven miles at the sound of a voice.

"Are you okay?"

He looked up and saw he'd been right in his guess about the owner of the
voice. "M-Mal," he whispered, embarrassed. "What are you doing here?"

"I figured you might need someone to... anyway. I came over after the press

"Then you've been here a long time."

She shrugged. "I fell asleep waiting for you…"

"I-…I didn't realize anyone was here."

"And that's the only reason you felt it was safe to cry, wasn't it?" she
asked quietly, feeling as though she'd intruded on something she shouldn't

He nodded meekly.

She sat down beside him, her back partly against the door and partly against
the wall beside it. "It's okay," she murmured.

He normally would've waited for a sign or asked permission or something - for
it was still in that stage of the relationship, made more so by Sam being Sam
and having very little self-confidence where women were concerned - but
instead of asking, he immediately swept her up in his arms, holding her
tight, clinging to her in hopes that she might not also slip away as had
everything else recently - everything he thought he knew, thought he could
depend on, thought was the truth. Every person he had trusted had turned out
to be not quite who he thought, and it scared him to the core, much more than
he would ever admit even to himself. He'd lost too many friends in the past
year, and come too close to losing a couple of them to even think about
without shuddering.

He soaked Mallory's shoulder with his tears, but she didn't say a word.
There was nothing to be said, so what good would it do?

And by the time she thought about the fact that there was silence, her tears
were soaking Sam's shoulder as well. She hadn't known about the MS until
she'd been trying to watch "Ed" and found it was pre-empted by a Dateline
Special with the President. The family-like ties she'd once had to the
President were apparently gone, she'd realized then for the first time, and
that scared her almost as much as the fact that the President was sick. Her
"Uncle" Jed was sick.

They were living in fractious times - professionally, socially, mentally,
emotionally, and they needed each other badly. More than ever before.

And as the rain beat down against the glass windowpanes and the tears fell,
the world continued to spin just as it had the entire time, just at it had
kept spinning when the shots rang out at Rosslyn, just as it had when he'd
gotten the phone call from his irate mother, just as it had when the
president had called him into the Oval Office and said "Sam, I have MS". The
world kept turning - for that's what it did. It kept spinning, kept
changing, kept progressing.

And that's how Sam knew it would all be okay eventually.




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