Fade to Black
Part 32


All disclaimers and notes can be found in the introduction.

We all cried at the funeral. This morning, the staff, they turned in
their resignations. Tomorrow, I suppose everyone will part ways. Don't
tell Sam, but I'm anxious to leave. Paul and I, we buried our father
yesterday. Today, we stood with the rest of the nation and buried the
President. All in all, this will go down as the worst week..... "Lise,
can I talk to you?" Yeah, yeah, CJ, I think I can talk to you, if that's
what you're asking. "Toby and I, we're thinking about leaving the country
for a while." She fixes me with this look then, and I understand the
question more than I do the rationale. Things aren't any saner anywhere
else in the world.

"Toby has this standing job offer from Robert Laurence, and we
thought....." Her voice trails off. I heard about this offer. Apparently
Lord Marbury and my stepfather raved so extensively about Toby's talents
as a speechwriter that the PM offered him a job, redeemable whenever Toby
decides to take it. It's a pretty good bet. With the current temperature
back home, it will be a long time before Labour gets voted out.

"Do you know anyone in public relations?" Oh. Oh! I didn't realize how
serious CJ and Toby were getting. Sure, I know a couple people who might
want a good PR girl. I'll make a few calls tomorrow. If nothing else, I
know Greenwich and Brown will be looking for someone, because their press
secretary just eloped with Lord Marbury. That poor woman ought to have
her head examined - charming and handsome only go so far to combat a good
size dose of insanity. That man redefines eccentric.

She smiles a little then, and I realize it's the first smile I've seen in
days. Maybe we're pulling ourselves together little by little. Josh
barrels through the kitchen then, and our smiles vanish when he slams out
the back door. He's actually taking this worse than anyone. Politics is
his life, and now, he's been cut out of the loop. Everyone realizes he's
not going to work for Cordova and Klein, and more importantly, they know
that no matter who wins, Hoynes, and by association, Josh, will be
leaving the White House in January.

Sam and I, we're leaving too. Paul decided he wanted to find some
inspiration in Europe. We're tagging along. I've always wanted to see the
great art of the world, and who better for a tour guide. It will be an
escape, at least for a while. Then, I agreed to go to California. His
family is there, and even if I hate the idea of being halfway around the
world from my own family, I love his sister and our nieces and nephews
almost more than my own family. He wants to spend time with them, and his
mother, and I won't begrudge him that. Life is short. I think that's the
moral lesson of the past year.

Every bone in my body aches, and I have to struggle with my crutches to
make it back to the living room. Only Leo and Abby have distanced
themselves from the conversation. Abby I'll excuse, not only because she
doesn't have to be here, but because she and Sam are staring out the
window together. Leo, now that's a different story. Margaret must notice
my attention, because she appears at my side instantly. "He hasn't been
himself. He was more.... Leo-like even at Labor...." She doesn't finish
that thought. We were there. We watched him self-destruct. This is more


Margaret takes him home. It's half for her own peace of mind, and half
for my own. There's only the family left now. Sam and Toby are working
there way through their second bottle of scotch and I know they'll finish
is without any trouble. CJ, Josh, and I have taken to losing Andes mints
in sloppy hands of poker. We might pay more attention if it were money,
but Josh and I would also be broke. CJ's got enough chocolate in front of
her to feed an army.

By midnight, Josh and I are out of food to bet, and Sam and Toby have
abandoned scotch in favor of vodka. Honestly, I don't care a whole lot
about mixing painkillers and alcohol, but when I try to pour myself a
glass, Sam snatches it away. Fine, be that way. Josh and CJ grab a couple
of beers from the fridge, and somehow we start on our traditional round
robin story of "what's the stupidest thing you've done when drunk."
Usually they're pretty funny.

Tonight? Not so much so.

Josh, he muses about harassing Donna's cats. Under the circumstances, it
seems bittersweet. CJ gets halfway through her story before she realizes
that telling us how Bartlet reacted to her slurred rendition of the
Jackal being sung at three am in the Oval Office might not go over well
right now. Sam and Toby eye each other warily before admitting the
stupidest thing they ever did was writing a speech with two
introductions, one for each audience that had to hear it, and expecting
the President to choose wisely. There only defense is Sam's, "It seemed
like a good idea....." "After three pitchers of beer." Toby doesn't even
sound drunk when he says that. Me? I plead the fifth. That's one of the
great things I love about America. Our funny story time leaves everyone
crying. In the morning, we'll blame the alcohol.


Once I'm sure Sam's asleep, I slip out of bed. Tonight, I feel this
overwhelming need to call my mother. The safest time to do it? When Sam
can't possibly put his foot in his mouth. "Sweetheart, you ought to come
home. You know you are always welcome here." I bite my tongue and
suppress the impulse to remind her that Sam would be coming with me. Then
I ask about firms that might be looking for someone in public relations.
I hear the pen scratching lightly, and I know she'll inquire, but that's
not why I called. I called because for once, and I'll never admit it, but
for once, I needed my mother.

When she finally manages to convince me that throwing myself out off a
tall building out of a desire not to screw up again would be bad, the sun
is already creeping over the horizon. Toby and Sam are going to have
hellish hangovers today. Wearily, I climb into bed, and burrow deeper
under the covers until I'm tangled up in Sam's arms. I feel him sleepily
stretch before settling me against him and killing the top of my head.

Toby and CJ are welcome to the guest room, and Josh certainly knows his
way around the couch. As a result, I don't think any of us are going to
make it out of bed today. God only knows we deserve this day....




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