Please see Chapter 1 for general info and disclaimers.
The first thing Leo noticed as he approached Sam's office was that someone had drawn the blinds shut. He knew Sam always left them open because he found the hustle and bustle out in the bullpen and hallway inspiring. That left only Jenn as the one behind the deed, and that worried Leo.
Before knocking on the closed door, he pressed an ear against it but heard only silence. So, he knocked and called out, "Jenn? It's Leo. May I come in?" Again there was only silence.
Upon letting himself into the room, he saw Jenn pacing in front of Sam's desk at a frantic rate.
"Jenn, what are you doing?" Leo inquired quietly as he closed the door behind him.
She threw her arms up in the air and clenched her hands into fists. "God, Uncle Leo," she seethed while continuing to pace back and forth, "I am so pissed right now I can hardly…"
"Honey, you need to calm down. I know you're upset, but I promise you that we're going to deal with Durkin in the appropriate—"
"You think I'm pissed at Matt?" Jenn asked as she came to a stop.
"No, I am, believe me, but I'm…I'm more pissed at myself right now." She sighed and leaned against the front of the desk. "I can't believe the things I said about my mom."
"You got caught up in the moment. When that happens, it's next to impossible to censure yourself."
"That's no excuse." Jenn shook her head and pressed a hand against the right side of her face. "I made her sound like such a terrible person. I'm didn't mean to, but he was saying all those things about the President that weren't true and I just wanted him to shut up. Then those words started flying out my mouth and I…" Jenn stopped and bit her lower lip as she struggled to remain composed. "I can't believe I said those things."
Leo moved over to the desk and leaned against it beside her. "You didn't sell out your mother to save your father, if that's what you're thinking you did."
"For as long as I can remember, I've promised myself I would never trade off of my mother's illness. Ever."
"I know," Leo murmured as he put his arm around her shoulders. "I know."
She recoiled from his embrace and asserted, "No, Uncle Leo, you really don't."
"Jenn, I didn't mean to—"
"See, the thing is, I spent so much time making sure I didn't blame my mother for anything that I…" Jenn turned her head and gazed at Leo with defeated eyes. "I wanted her to die. Did you know that?"
Leo stared back at her, transfixed, and found himself speechless.
"It's true," she continued, sounding chillingly detached. "The ironic thing is that I'm not sure I would've felt that way if things hadn't been going so well for us. I'd graduated from college and found a good job. Mom inexplicably started taking her medication regularly and stabilized enough to find a job of her own. For the first time in years, we found ourselves with extra money at the end of each month and opened a savings account. We were happy, the two of us. A year passed. And then another one. It was amazing things were so good. But then Mom started feeling run down. She became really listless all the time, and it was a different kind of listless than when she was feeling depressed. So she went to see her doctor and some tests were done and that's when we found out about the cancer. The next thing we knew, what little money we'd saved got eaten up by tests and treatments and hospital stays. I used up time-off days faster than I earned them, and I…I just got so tired. I was tired of being forced to be the grown-up again. I was tired of having to be the worrier and the caretaker and the dutiful daughter who always had a smile on her face and the words 'it's going to be okay' on the tip of her tongue. I'd just turned 25, was in what many people would consider the prime of my life, and I was miserable.
"I don't remember how many times I fell asleep half-wishing she'd be dead when I woke up so that it'd all finally be over. And then, one day, my wish came true." She choked on the last word and dropped her head as a tear slid down her right cheek. When she raised her head back up and brushed her hair away from her face with trembling hands, Leo saw two large brown eyes full of pain and overflowing with tears. "I miss her, Uncle Leo," Jenn whispered before a sob broke free from her chest. "I miss her so much. I'd give anything to have her back."
Leo felt a tear of his own slither down his cheek as he wrapped his arms around Jenn and held her close. While he stroked her hair and murmured "shh" over and over again, Jenn buried her face in his shoulder and wept. As an ache exploded and radiated throughout her body, she wept for all the times she'd been lonely and scared, for all the times she'd been bitter and angry, and for all the times, in the last four days, she'd wanted nothing more than her mommy.