Fade to Black
Part 31

All disclaimers and notes can be found in the introduction.

I can't even pace the halls of the hospital in peace. Margaret called.
She's called several times to be honest. Actually, she's called every
fifteen minutes since I called the hotel. That's nineteen calls and it's
not even midnight yet. The first dozen calls were to tell me as people
checked in - the one part of our emergency plans that went the way it was
supposed to. I guess we learned something from Rosslyn after all. The
thirteenth call was to tell me that the First Lady and Zoey had been
given sedatives and tucked into bed. The next was to ask how Charlie and
I were. I assured Margaret that Charlie had his cast and was on the way
to the hotel, and I had a couple stitches. No big deal. Call number
fifteen was to let me know that Elizabeth and Eleanor Bartlet were on
their way to the White House.

My head spun after call sixteen. Leo announced his retirement, ordered
Margaret to take all the alcohol out of his room, named me acting chief
of staff, and locked himself in his hotel room. Bad news came with
seventeen and eighteen. Lisa's father had been found - in front of the
stage with the Secret Service agents. The woman Sam had shot, she killed
herself at the police station. The last call had been only moments ago.
The Secret Service had arrested a white male, in his mid thirties, a
lawyer with a military background, outside the hotel earlier this
evening. He had been waiting for us. The thought alone chilled me.

I glanced at my watch again, and then, I swallowed my pride, and our
pain, and dialed my phone. I had no problem being put through to the Vice
President..... the President.... Oh dammit, to Hoynes. "Josh. I'm in the
dark back here. Is it true?" You know, it's sort of ironic that I was
forced to tell the Hoynes he wasn't being nominated and now I have to
tell him all the gory details. Irony. Great.

*

Sam is sitting in the chair, resting his elbows in his knees. I open my
mouth to tell him about Margaret taking charge and Leo retiring, but his
eyes are closed and his breathing steady and I hope, for his sake, that
he's managing to sleep. Somehow, I think in the coming days, we'll need
our strength.

"Josh." Nope, guess sleep isn't on the agenda. "Have you heard anything?"
There's something in his voice, something akin to desperation that tells
me he doesn't care about Leo or Margaret or anything but Lisa. Of course,
that's the one person I know nothing about. "She'll be okay." I stop
myself before I spout any more useless platitudes. Neither or us believe
them, and it's a waste of oxygen right now.

When the door opens, I almost expect it to be the troops, but the thought
slips away in the rustling of a white lab coat. "Mr. Seaborn?" Sam looks
up sharply then, and there's this feral look in his eyes. He needs
information more than he needs air or food or water. "Perhaps we can go
to my office. It would be more private." Sam and I both instinctively
glance around the room. There's the two of us, and there's a couple guys
from the FBI that Sam knows, friends of Lisa's. The doctor must sense
Sam's confusion, and mine, because he's quickly says 'never mind' and
sits in a chair across from us.

"Mr. Seaborn..."

"Sam."

"Excuse me?"

"Sam, my name is Sam."

When the doctor refers to Lisa as Mrs. Seaborn, it's my turn to insist
that he use her first name, and when he then calls her Elizabeth, Sam
jumps all over him. I think this is our way of stalling. The doctor, he
humors us though, and when we've established our names, he starts in with
her injuries. There are broken bones from hitting the wall, and she's
been in and out of consciousness, probably due to some sort of head
injury. I close my eyes then, and try to block out the image of her blood
dripping down the side of her face. No one seems to have any questions
beyond the obvious, and Sam asks first if she'll live. When the doctor
smiles and says of course, the entire room celebrates with him.

Then he tells us she's being moved to a private room. Room 423. I throw
my arms around Sam and we jump up from our seats in order to bounce
around the room hugging anything that moves. You know, I think there's a
lot of reporters who'd love a picture of two White House staffers and
five Feds in a bear hug - laughing, crying, and jumping up and down like
pogo sticks. Something had to go right today. This is it.

Then my phone rings. This will be Margaret.

*

Sarah arrived twenty minutes ago. As soon as she heard, she left Michael
with the kids and caught a red-eye to New York. I think she knew Sam
would need his sister to look out for him. Between the two of us, we
managed to send him back to the hotel to clean up. It only took a little
sisterly arm twisting, and my solemn vow to watch over Lisa 'til he got
back. The only bad part is that I can't seen to force myself to go in the
room.

I know when I go in there, she's going to be wrapped up, hooked up to
machines, and poked full of needles. I've seen this before. We've all
seen this before. The senior staff, my entire circle of friends, we seem
to have this thing for hospitals - we insist on being patients a little
too regularly.

Taking a deep breath, I steel myself for whatever reactions I face when I
walk in. I wasn't ready for this. She's sitting up in bed, staring out
the window. "Hey." "Hey yourself." She smiles softly, and I know no one
would have told her anything. I just wish I wasn't the one to do it.

"The President?" No, no the words aren't there. Instead, I shake my head,
and her shoulders slump back against the pillows. I've known her for over
a decade. I know what she's thinking right now - she's thinking this is
her fault. This woman, this woman does a better job with guilt trips than
I will ever dream of doing. I don't think that's healthy right now.
"Anyone else?" She knows about the Secret Service and I don't have a
number for her yet. Then it occurs to me, she doesn't know about her
father. She cries then, and I realize I haven't seen her do this all that
often. Cry, I mean. We don't talk after that, I just sit next to the bed
and hold her hand as she cries. When she's exhausted herself, she slips
into a restless sleep.

TBC

Fade to Black - 32

 

 

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