Fade to Black
All disclaimers and notes may be found in the introduction.
I've been dealing with the platform people all morning, but between the
ruckus on the floor, and the quarreling in the conference rooms, I'm
starting to think I missed my vocation as a referee. I had thought we
were all playing for the same team, but apparently, there are enough
people willing to put personal vendettas ahead of politics to derail the
entire morning's plans. There were supposed to be speeches. Wonderful,
fabulous speeches that told the viewing audience and the press about the
marvelous things that have happened under the Bartlet administration. It
I've never actually been in the middle of a floor fight, not surprising
considering 1998 was my first one, and I'm not sure what I'm supposed to
be doing. Josh keeps running past me, trying to poke, prod, and blackmail
the delegates into adopting the platform as is. I'm just getting blown
off, and the Wisconsin people even said they weren't going to be
threatened by the President's speechwriter. If I weren't already annoyed,
I would be pretty damn annoyed.
Where the hell's Josh? There's so many deals going down in the shadow of
the stage that Josh could literally be ten feet from me, and I wouldn't
see him. God, I hope this isn't what the crowd's like when the President
gives his acceptance speech. I don't remember it being this bad last
time, but I wasn't down here doing this. Lisa and Josh and Leo were all
over the place, but I was just...... Just here.
Lisa should be here. I ought to go steal CJ away from the gaggle of
reporters in back, because Josh and I are getting laughed down in between
spiels of feminist junk. Look, I am not anti-woman just because the
President would prefer to keep the pro-choice plank off the platform. If
you've met my wife, you realize I am not allowed to be anti-woman. My
wife can kick my ass, so stop looking at me like that. Where is she
anyway? She didn't call or come back to the hotel last night, and if
Jamie hadn't called to say they were still working, I probably would have
panicked. Now, we won't mention how unhappy I was when Jamie mentioned he
was calling from his hotel instead of the crime lab, but that's neither
here nor there.
"SEABORN!" Douglas, you have no idea how happy I am to see you. "We'll
back you guys in exchange for the gun control plank, as is. No assault
weapons clause." No, Doug, you'll back us because Jed Bartlet is
President of the United States, and it's the right thing to do, and if
that's not a good enough reason, then you'll back us because Josh Lyman
is a very hard man to live with, and if you screw us on this, he'll be
yanking you around the hill for the next four years. Now if that's still
not a good enough deal, then you better be prepared to watch the DNC yank
all that soft money right out of your campaign coffers. "Am I making
myself clear?" Great. I knew you'd be in a hurry to give us your support.
Now you're going to find Alice Richter and share the joy that is Bartlet,
and if you do, it's just possible that the President will remember your
name when he's thinking about people to lend his coat tails to.
Someone bumps into me, and I turn around, only to realize that the odds
of finding Josh in this sea of people are pretty slim. We could be going
to war right now, and here, in the middle of this thing, this living,
breathing, political machine, I would have no idea. Honestly, I also
don't know how to get from here to the conference room, but I'm giving it
an A+ effort.
Josh is in perpetual motion in the conference room. There are no fewer
than thirty phones in this room, and I thought Lisa went overboard when
she made the arrangements. Right now, they're all either ringing or in
use, and I grab the nearest one to find myself launched in a conversation
on plank 39, line 12. I don't even know what plank 39, line 12 *is* and
I'm arguing about it. This is insane. Can't we be like normal people and
adopt the platform by acclamation?
"Unbelievable!" Well, we're down to twenty-nine phones now, because the
one that Josh just threw will not be coming back to life. "Where's Lisa?
Havversen is going nuts, telling me about Dogwoods, Richmond, and
Virginia pride coming before anything. How the hell does this concern his
Virginia pride?" I shake my head, and grab another phone line. Leo's
trying to figure out the President's schedule. I yell at one of the
girls, Carol, to fax him an updated copy, and at Cathy to hunt down Lisa
and drag her here if necessary. I want to know what's going on. I want to
know what's going with her and Jamie, and I want to know what's going on
with the investigation. The next time, I answer two phone lines at once.
"Hoynes is a jackass. He can't even keep his own people lined up!"
I open my mouth to yell back at Josh, but I get hit in the head with an
orange. An orange? Lisa's standing in the doorway, carrying Josh's
knapsack, and her own briefcase. "Left this yesterday, smart guy." He
doesn't stop ranting about Hoynes, but he takes the bag from her, and
grabs the orange off the floor. I almost regret not catching it when I
realize Cathy's carrying a box of food. Real food, not the vending
machine junk we've been living on since we got here yesterday.
"Lisa, call Havversen." She picks up the phone without asking why, and it
takes almost 10 minutes before she gets the Senator on the line. She
looks exhausted, and I only hope it's because she was up working all
night. Sam, listen to yourself. Paranoia is a symptom of something. I
shake my head. Fine, I'll go back on the drugs when I get back to DC, but
first, Alice Richter. I don't even bother with my jacket. Most of the men
on the floor are down to shirtsleeves by now anyway. I kiss her cheek as
I leave, and she offers up a wan smile. Whatever she and Jamie were
working on last night, she's not happy. "Senator Havversen, let me tell
you something about President Bartlet and Virginia pride......"
I lose her voice just outside the door, in the cacophony of sound that
rises up from the open floor. The delegates look frantic and harried, and
I can't help but wonder what's going to happen over the next four days.
This, this rush is why I love my job. Out of the corner of my eye, I
glimpse the man in a suit wearing the red pin on his lapel. That, the
need for a Secret Service is why I hate it.
She's asleep. I wanted to talk to her about yesterday, and this
afternoon, and she's sleeping. For a moment, I wonder if I should wake
her. I could always use the Lily Mays thing as an excuse to talk, but I'm
not going to wake her just to have a fight about yesterday. Instead, I
lay down next to her on the bed, and debate the worth of taking a shower
and changing clothes, when I know I'm just going to have to do it all
over again in two hours.
I must have fallen asleep. Or else the two hours passed real quick, but
I'm almost certain I slept. I mean, I'm just as tired as when I lay down,
but I'm more rumpled. Lisa's still sleeping and for a minute I just watch
her. She's wearing one of my old tee shirts, and I can't remember the
last time she looked this peaceful. I also can't remember the last time
she wore short sleeves. I can't keep myself from lifting her hand off the
sheets and turning it over. Wait, I do remember the last time she wore
short sleeves..... We went to congratulate Leo when Mallory announced she
and Mr I-can't-find-my-own-puck-if-my-life-depended-on-it decided to get
engaged. I think Leo called her to the mat.... wanted to know where the
scars on her wrist came from. At least, that's the version I got. Leo
looked pretty abashed afterwards, so I probably got a fictional version,
but that was the last time I remember.
Absently, I run my fingers over the pale skin on her wrists. The bones
looked so tiny on the X-ray, and when they said her wrists were crushed,
that hadn't exactly registered with me. I mean, the ribs, the shoulder,
the skull, the knee.... those had all sounded so serious, but they
healed. The little shards of bone in her wrist healed, too...eventually.
But the nerve had been damaged, and what had seemed so little loomed so
large in her mind now. I think she scheduled another surgery before
Christmas..... after the election.
It's already four-thirty, and I have to force myself out of bed. I don't
want to think about what ifs. I want to know what's happening. I want
answers. I can't stand any more questions. I grab my clothes off the
chair, and head into the bathroom for a quick shower. When I finish, Lisa
is awake, and I can hear her moving around, until the door opens, and the
cool air produces a puff of steam. Past the shower curtain, I watch her
pull off my tee shirt, and her panties, tossing them in the general
direction of my dirty clothes. She steps into the shower then, and I
shift around to allow her access to the spray.
She doesn't move though. Instead she places her palms against my chest
and tips her chin up to look me in the eye. "We're doing this all wrong,
you know." My voice sounds husky even to my own ears when I bend to kiss
her lips and ask her what it is we're doing so wrong. The only thing
wrong now is the fact that I have to be in a meeting in twenty minutes,
and I'm almost sure she does too. I know I can work under pressure,
though, so what are we doing wrong?
"I'm not the enemy, Sam. Stop acting like I am." I'm not acting like
you're the enemy! I know you're not the enemy, just some days..... Oh.
"Some days what?" I sort of whisper the last part. Some days, when I have
to listen to Josh missing Donna, or see Lisa struggle to take a pen to
paper, or listen to Toby play Sherlock Holmes.... she's the closest thing
I can find to the enemy. Yeah, I'm doing this all wrong. She's the only
one I know who won't ever be the enemy.
I think I'm getting rewarded for admitting I'm an idiot, or at least,
that's what it feels like. I think I'm going to be late this morning.
Josh and Lisa have been having war room meetings at 6 AM sharp. They're
on time. I'm late. Somehow, I think the world has been turned on it's
head. I've been stuck in a meeting with Alice Richter for the last half
hour, and my ears are still ringing. I didn't know she could make having
a Y-chromosome sound like a capitol offense, but she managed. If we have
to talk to her again, either CJ or Lisa are going to do it. I don't think
she's going to listen to a man talk about the right to choose.
I must have come in just as they finished, because Lisa's just heading
out the door, and Josh is already on the phone. Fine, but Lisa and I are
back on an even keel, and even the delegation from Florida started acting
sane again, so my morning's been pretty good.... well, better than I
thought it would be.
Noon. A full day behind schedule, but we finally managed to get Bartlet's
platform past the delegates. Josh spent the morning reading the Vice
President's people the riot act, and accusing them of everything short of
treason.... well, wait, that might have been in there somewhere. Lisa was
around most of the morning. I know she was, because she spent most of the
time fixing the scheduling nightmare we'd created for ourselves. I think
we're listening to some speeches from the tried and true all afternoon,
and Mrs. Bartlet is going to speech in prime time about the last four
years. I think Andrea's giving the nominating speech tomorrow night, and
Lisa arm wrestled everyone else into cutting their speeches, and giving
them in the late afternoon. I'm not sure what she gave away to get them
to do it, and I'm not sure where she is. I haven't seen her since they
called the voice vote on the platform.
I want to go find her, but 28 phones are ringing again. Josh and I are
starting to master the art of talking on two at once, and when the White
House descends on New York tonight, the only thing I'm going to care
about is the extra hands to answer the damn phones.
Fade to Black - 13