Comfort through Trials - Homecoming
Sam and Lisa # 21

Archive: If you want it, take it. Just let me know where it's going.

Rating: PG -13

Spoilers: Little ones for the Pilot, and 20 hours in LA, and in spirit
for Noel.

Author's Notes: Sequel to "Comfort through Trials - Boris and Natasha."
This is part of a series I am working on.

Disclaimer: They're not mine, I just borrow them to play with.


I don't think I thought this one through. I haven't been back to see my
parents since my junior year of college. Sarah said my mother came to my
graduation the next year, but I didn't see her. If mom hadn't told me how
proud she was when she saw me up there during my Mother's Day phone call,
I wouldn't have believed she came. Not even Sarah made it to my law
school graduation though. At the time I was walking across the stage, she
was making me an uncle. I was mad for the longest time, because she
didn't call me, but mom and dad were there, and I suppose she had to make
choices. My sister chose to have mom and dad there. I think she was
trying to protect me, but it would be a few more years before I'd
understand that part.

Josh is snoring. Not loudly, but just enough that I know I'm not falling
asleep. Of course, I don't think I'd fall asleep anyway. I just...... I
always thought that someday we'd make it all better. I wasn't expecting
declarations of everlasting love, or some cheesy father-son moment, but
just..... just something. We shouldn't have left things the way they
were. We shouldn't have, but now they're stuck like that. The last time I
ever saw my dad, we yelled at each other. Him, because his only son
wanted to work in politics instead of take over his business. Law, law
was bad enough in his mind, but at least I could do that and work for
him. Politics was just foreign to him, and..... And I'm making excuses
just like Sarah tells me I do. An hour after that little discussion, she
was holding my hand at St. Elizabeth's and they were wiring my jaw shut.

A year and a half later, my jaw was fine, and my heart wasn't that great,
as a matter of fact, it stayed broken for a lot longer than my jaw. Then
I met my own Saint Elizabeth. I'd only been in DC a few months, and my
only experiences worth mentioning were getting lost in the tunnels, and
getting ripped to shreds by some guy from the whip's office on a regular
basis for things I'd never heard of, let alone been involved in.
Apparently, one day our office did something stupider than usual and
again left me out of the loop, because in the middle of October, I found
myself being yelled at not by some lackey from the whip's office, but by
his Chief of Staff. I must have redeemed myself, because at the end of
the week, he offered me a job. Told me I was too smart to stay in
Hessington's office, told me I shouldn't be surrounded by idiots. When I
agreed, he invited me over to work through some issues I'd be covering.

We were halfway through our discussion of world labor statistics for the
trade bill, when we hit a snag. I wanted to have the whip's speech
tomorrow to be strong. Real leadership. Josh wanted to duck and cover. I
probably would have lost if the door hadn't opened midway through Josh's
best point. Josh's face had caught my surprise, and he stood up to
introduce us. He needn't have bothered, because I was already sitting
there with my jaw hanging open like an idiot. She was pretty, and by
pretty, I mean absolutely stunning. Her hair was up in some twist thing,
and her suit still looked pressed, whereas Josh and I looked like we'd
just survived being trampled, and she smiled at me. Of course, even with
that idiot grin on my face, she was professional. She introduced herself
as Elizabeth Lloyd, Leo McGarry's Chief of Staff, and Josh introduced her
as his roommate. Right then, I made some really dumb comment about having
a girl for a roommate, and if I ever remember what it was, I'll apologize
to someone.

We made small talk, and Josh ordered Chinese later while she changed
clothes. Dinner conversation was heated, mainly because Josh Lyman is a
stubborn pain in the ass who thought he could win an argument on labor
statistics with someone who helped run the department of labor. Now, I
work for the President of the United States, but I can't remember ever
hearing a debate that intelligent or that heated. Toby and Josh arguing
is a close second, but it's not quite there. So I sat there quietly, and
watched Elizabeth Lloyd batter Josh to death with his statistics and with
the whip's speech, while Josh argued the political climate and the
leadership deadlock. When she was finished, she put down her chopsticks
long enough to pat me on the shoulder, say she agreed with me, and order
Josh to listen to me more.

That night, when she walked me to the door, I forgot I was supposed to be
at home feeling sorry for myself, thinking that I didn't have anyone in
my life, no real friends, no family, no one. And while we stood there in
the foyer, she reached out, and brushed her fingertips against my cheek.
It was soft, and over too quickly, but for days that swath of skin burned
when I thought about it. I called her Elizabeth as I told her goodbye,
and she laughed. "Did I bite your head off? Was I my usual
congressional-bashing self? Are you scared of me?" I just stood there
shaking my head, wondering what I'd done this time. "Then call me Lisa,
because I only make enemies call me Elizabeth." Then she kissed me.

It stopped hurting so much that day. Not right away, but bit by bit, it
died away, until Josh and Lisa were the family I had lost. With them, and
with Sarah, and Michael, and my nieces and nephews, it stopped hurting
bit by bit, but I just couldn't bring myself to talk about them. Anything
Lisa knows, she knows it from Sarah. I just.... What if she thought I was
like my father? I couldn't deal with that. What if I lost her because of
it?

Sometimes it feels like she's not really mine, like she's just waiting
until she finds someone better, someone smarter, someone healthier,
someone..... someone who can give her the kind of life she should have.
I'm not that person. Some days, I don't think I'm any better than my
father, and other days, I think I'm worse. No matter how bad my father
was, he didn't work 80 hour weeks, he didn't sleep with hookers, and he
wasn't crazy. Yeah, sometimes I think I'm worse, and other days, I know I
am.

*

I can't remember the last time I stood at the baggage claim trying to
spot my suitcase. I guess working for the President has some perks after
all. Josh is closer to my bag when it comes out, and he grabs it, passing
it off to me as he walk towards the line of cabs that always seems to
wait outside airports.

Actually, I think Josh is trying too hard to be strong, I mean, just
because I almost broke down when he asked me about my parents does not
mean I need my hand held, literally or figuratively. When we get settled
into a taxi and the driver asks us were to, I have this moment, where I
want to turn around and get right back on the plane. Josh mouths the word
'hotel' to me, but I don't want to go to a hotel. I tell him to take me
home, and then I give him the address.

Josh is quiet the whole trip, and unlike our last trip to California, I
don't think he's thinking about Joey Lucas. Actually, since he seems to
have developed an obsession with the tie clip Donna gave him for his
birthday, I would feel confidant saying he's thinking about someone
completely different. Now, if only I could get Josh to talk to or about
Donna, I might be able to figure out what else is on his mind.

We pull up to the house, and I barely recognize it. I remember it as a
sunshine yellow, now it's an eggshell blue. I remember trees and ferns in
the yard, now there's landscaping and grass. I remember my mother sitting
on the front porch when I came home, instead, Sarah and Lisa are sitting
there, on the front steps, and when Josh steps out of the taxi, both of
them look at each other and run down the front walk. Lisa gets to the
street first, and I'm barely out of the car before her arms are around
me. I want to talk to her, to tell her I was worried, to thank her for
being there for Sarah, for not lecturing me on why I should or shouldn't
be here, but I can't talk. All I can do is bury my face in her hair, and
remember that she's here and she's holding me, and the only person inside
the house now, is my mother.

When I regain my powers of speech and look up, Josh is hugging Sarah,
paying the driver, and moving our suitcases to the porch without looking
like it's any effort at all. Right now, breathing feels like work, and I
envy him just a little, but Lisa wraps her arm around my waist, and I let
her lead me up to the house. Sarah's at the door, and she's calling for
mom. When my mother comes to the door, I can't believe my eyes. Her hair
is grey, and her face is lined, and her hands are shaking. Mom, I know he
took care of you, and I promise I'll do the same, just don't send my
away. Please.

Lisa doesn't break stride though, and my mother somehow manages to ignore
my sister, the White House deputy chief of staff, and Lisa, as she steps
forward to meet me at the steps. I'm hugging my mother. I think I'm
crying, but I'm not sure. I'm not sure of anything right now, except I'm
home, and dad's gone, and there's this empty feeling inside right now,
but I'm hugging my mother.

*

The funeral won't be for two days, and Josh and I will have to go back
right afterwards, but for now, I am almost happy to be home. Almost,
except it's like there's this ghost hanging over my shoulder, and no
matter how hard I try, I can't manage to shake him. It's getting late,
and the stars and the street lights are the only thing I see. We're out
in the country by a few miles, and not only is the smog almost invisible,
but it's almost peaceful. Almost.

Sarah is asleep in her old bedroom upstairs, and she's hurting. Lisa
talked to her after dinner, but there's so much she doesn't share with
people. My baby sister wants to protect everyone, including people who
don't need protecting, but I feel better knowing that whatever's on her
mind, she'll share with Michael at home. Leaning back against the porch
railing, I close my eyes to think, but I don't think, I remember.

I don't remember the first time, I was probably too young to remember ,so
instead, I remember a time when I was maybe eight, and Sarah was six. I
know she was six, because it was her birthday, so yeah, I was eight.
Eight and a half, and feeling pretty proud of myself. Dad was home and
mom was buzzing between the kitchen and the living room, where he was
sitting with the family. Sarah was halfway through opening her gifts when
mom went back to the kitchen to put the candles on the cake. At the
archway to the dining room she had stopped, and pointed at me. I couldn't
control my grin. She wanted me to help. I wanted to help. I guess it was
supposed to be a win-win situation.

We put six candles on the cake, and I watched while my mom lit them. When
she was finished, she told me to climb down off the counter and hold out
my hands. Then she set the cake in my hands. We walked back in together,
and I almost made it to the living room, and I almost managed to set it
on the coffee table were the plates and forks were. Almost. It didn't
look so bad. Mom said we could fix the cake, but dad was furious. He just
kept staring at the place on the floor where a dollop of frosting had
bounced off the cake and onto the floor, and at the small bit of carpet
that had been burned when a candle fell.

He dragged me by the arm back up to my room, and I remember wincing when
I heard the key turn in the lock. It was always worse when he said he'd
talk to me later, but he never talked, so I didn't know why he called it
that. I mean, I liked to talk, but I wasn't fond of this. A little while
later, there was this tiny knock on the door, and I probably tensed up,
like I always did, but the door didn't open. "Sammy?" I can still here
her voice, and see the candy bars, the ones she got for her birthday,
being slid under the door. Just sitting here, on the porch, I can feel
myself start to cry again, and even my closed eyelids don't control it.

I remember leaning against the door, the way I'm leaning against the rail
now, and Sarah must have been sent up to her room to play while the
grownups talked, because they didn't call her downstairs. Instead, she
wiggled her fingers under my door, and I ate one of the candy bars while
we held hands. See? She started young, trying to protect me. After mom
came, and took her off to bed, I listened at the door until I heard Uncle
George leave. He was always the last to leave, and right afterwards, I
heard dad coming up the stairs.

Now, I'm really crying, and my eyes fly open at the sound of the porch
boards creaking. "Hey, you. Are you okay?" I can't do more than shake my
head, but Sarah takes that for an answer. She sits down beside me on the
porch, in her nightgown, and I lean my head on her shoulder. I'm not sure
how long we sit there, but she lifts my head with her hand and turns to
meet my eyes. "You don't have to be here alone. You've got me, and you've
got Lisa, and I think you've even got dufus in there, so don't let me
find you crying by yourself again."

Sure, but dufus can't handle his own problems right now, and you..... you
shouldn't have to deal with me anymore. She looks like she's about to
argue with me, but instead she gives this tired sigh, and it sounds like
the whole world is on her shoulders. I should just go inside. Go inside,
and find a place to sleep, and stare at the ceiling for a few hours.
"Sarah?" She reaches out to put a hand on mine, and I know that's my
permission to continue. "Do I ever remind you of dad?"

I expect many things here. I expect her to say yes, and leave me out
here. I expect her to say no, and tell me why. I expect her to say
nothing and let me cry some more. I expect her to tell me dad's dead. She
doesn't do any of those things. She stands up, and pulls me reluctantly
to me feet, and looks up at me. "There's someone sleeping inside who
ought to answer that. I imagine she's more familiar with that side of you
than I am."

That's not the answer I'm looking for, but it's all I'm going to get. My
sister doesn't accept the fact that I'd rather not sleep tonight. Within
moments, I'm standing outside my old bedroom, except now, it's the guest
room. When I open the door, I can only think of two things. Lisa is
asleep in my bed, and I'm tired. Very tired.

 

 

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