"Come in," Leo said in monotone at the faint knock on his office door.
Margaret pushed open the door. "Sam's here to see you…"
"Yeah, send him in." Leo set his glasses on the desk and leaned back against his chair.
Sam poked his head in. "Leo?"
"Hello, Sam. Go 'head and come in."
"Okay." He obliged quietly and shut the door behind him. <<"He's in favour of school vouchers, Dad…">>
"Sam?" Leo asked as Sam suddenly went pale and gripped the door handle as support.
<<"Mallory said she always asks her father's permission before having lunch with fascists.">> "Go away," Sam whispered to the memories, not realizing he was speaking out loud. "God, just leave me alone…" He dropped to his knees and doubled over as though he might be sick, slowly rocking back and forth.
The President chose that moment to walk in. "Leo, have you talked to…?" He trailed off as he saw Sam becoming nearly catatonic. "Margaret!" he called through the door. "Get Abby. Tell her to bring the medical kit."
Abby arrived within minutes. "Jed? Are you okay?" Jed just nodded toward Sam. "Dear God," she whispered. "Sam?" she knelt down beside him. "Sam, can you hear me?" He continued rocking but visibly nodded. "I'm gonna give you a sedative to calm you down, then take you to your office and have you lay down on the couch, okay?" Another nod.
"It's like something out of 'Rain Man'," Leo whispered. Of all the messed up people he'd seen, including in the war and after, this unnerved him most of all. The sedatives kicked in a few minutes later, and Abby helped Sam stand, then led him to his office. She waited until he was asleep on the couch before leaving, giving instructions to Cathy.
"I want someone outside the room at all times. Anything odd goes on, anything even remotely strange, I want to hear about it immediately, understand?"
The sky was dreary two days later, as if God Himself was about to cry as the motorcade procession rode through the streets to the cemetary. It was chilly and threatened rain, matching most of their moods.
At the burial, the Senior Staff plus Margaret clustered together, the First Family watched from the middle of a Secret Service pack, and Leo held Jenny close to him protectively, silent tears flowing without shame. All of them were as near to each other as they could be, taking comfort in the sight of each other, silently reminding themselves that, as horrible as their loss was, not everyone was gone.
Sam, on the other hand, stood off by himself, unable to stand the sympathetic, worried eyes of his friends any longer. He noticed a small girl staring at him, but didn't anything of it. With a final "Amen", the burial service ended. Sam started to leave as tears clouded his eyes so badly he couldn't see straight, but the girl caught up with him. She looked maybe 8 or so, but something in her eyes was old and tired-looking. "You work in the White House, right?"
"You gave us the tour and didn't know what you were talking about…"
"Yes. I'm guessing you were in her class?" There was no need to say her name, it wasn't as if it was in debate.
"Yeah. Only at least half the class came. I wasn't going to because I knew it'd just make me upset, but I felt I owed her so much already this was the absolutely least I could do." Her blue eyes with the oldness were downcast, probably adding to the rivers that had already flown down her cheeks.
"Owed her?" Something about this girl intrigued him. He normally was ready to run from kids, but she seemed…different. On nearly the same level as he was. Like someone who'd lived through a war.
"She was the only one who would talk to me at school. The other kids said I talked like I was trying to prove I was smart and used big words to just try to sound superior…But Ms. O'Brian told me it wasn't something to be ashamed of, the fact that I was smart…"
"Kasey! We're leaving!" a woman with blondish hair called from down the sidewalk.
"I've gotta go," the girl said.
"Well, Kasey, it was nice talking to you. I should be on my way as well."
"I, um…" She bit her lip and looked down, then back up at him. "Could I talk to you sometimes?"
Sam was slightly surprised. "I…If you want…Tell you what. Next time you're near the White House, stop by. Tell the guards you're there to see Sam Seaborn and they'll have me okay it and you can hang out with me, okay?"
"Okay." She smiled weakly.
"Kasey!" The woman called again.
"Gotta go…G'bye, Mr. Seaborn." She dashed off toward her rapidly annoyed mother.
Sam stared after her. Yes, there was something very strange about Kasey, very strange indeed. ((And if I had a dollar for every time I'd heard that one…-KMD))
Leo's kitchen held more food than had been served at the most recent state dinner. "Why is it," Sam asked as he got himself some lasagna even though he didn't feel like eating, "that people always bring food when someone dies?"
"Who knows?" CJ asked, eyeing a positively decadent chocolate chip cake. "I think Mom still has food in the freezer from when dad died, and that was almost 7 years ago!" She smiled and moved closer to him. "How you holding up?"
He sighed. "I'm going insane."
"I know the feeling."
"No, I mean…Nevermind."
Leo walked up. "So who was that little girl you were talking to?"
"At the thing? A girl from Mallory's class…Kasey something…"
"You know her?"
"NO - Mal used to talk about her. 'The Old Soul'."
"Really? What'd she say?"
"Kasey's in a coupe of the gifted classes, she's really ahead in everything, but the administration's standard response is that the smart kids should get no special attention. It annoyed Mallory, so she would start giving Kasey extra little things to do, let her challenge her mind, so long as she took the regular tests." Leo smiled fondly, and Sam guessed he was remembering the conversation he'd had with Mallory where she'd said that or a time when Mallory had been in a similar situation. She was so smart, it wouldn't have surprised him…
<<"Don't play dumb with me, Sam.">>
<<"No, honestly, Mallory, I AM dumb, most of the time I'm playing smart.">>
"Sam?" Leo asked. Sam had frozen again. "Sam, c'mon, snap outta it." Sam blinked, tears misting in his eyes.
"Sorry," he said quietly.
"Are you okay? I mean, you keep going completely out of it."
"Yes," Sam replied quickly.
"Sam -" Leo started gently, but was interrupted by Josh.
"Leo? I'm sorry, but Jenny's upset again, the President's trying to calm her down but she's asking for you…"
"Damn," he said quietly. "Keep an eye on Sam, would you?" he whispered to Josh, who nodded, before dashing off to find his wife.
The plan would've worked fine, had it not been for Sam's insistence that he didn't need a babysitter, and the fact that Margaret wanted to ask Josh something. Sam found himself slowly wandering through the house until he came to a room that made him completely lose it.
He could tell by the white lacy sheets, the shelves of books that were only partially empty, and the overall content of the room who it had once belonged to. Mallory had said that her parents never changed the room she'd grown up in, even when she'd left for college, she'd stay back there from time to time. He sat down on her bed and breathed in, and was certain the room still smelled like her favourite perfume. Looking around at the piece of Mallory he'd never seen before, but feeling as though he'd known it forever, he began to break down again. The room still looked like she lived there, even though she hadn't for so long…maybe because the things hadn't been moved out - or they'd been moved back in at some point - and it was still her room, unlike his which had been turned into a study after he'd left home. He suspected that Leo and Jenny would never have the heart to change it now, that the door would remain closed so they wouldn't have to think of packing up what remained of her life and pack it in the attic.
"Sam?" He looked up and saw Toby standing in the doorway. "I assume that I would be right in saying you're not doing too well." Sam nodded and the tears flowed faster. He hurried to swipe them away, but new ones fell. Toby crossed the room. "This was hers?" Sam nodded again. Toby sat down on the bed and Sam continued to sob until eventually, Toby - with an attack of his big-brotherly instinct - put his arms around his deputy and allowed Sam to cry into his shoulder.