Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
Thanks to my beta, HarmonyLover!
Sam stared at his television, unmoving. He'd been about to turn the set off and go to bed when the news had broken. He listened as the CNN anchors spoke in stunned, disbelieving voices.
A massive police response at a Washington, DC-area nightclub…Reports that President Bartlet's daughter, Zoey Bartlet, is inside…We are getting reports that the Secret Service cannot locate Zoey Bartlet…We are now getting reports that a Secret Service agent has been shot…
Based on the reports we are getting, it appears inevitable to conclude that Zoey Bartlet has been abducted.
Sam grabbed his phone and dialed Josh's number, then Toby's, then CJ's. In each case he got recordings saying their mailboxes were full. Of course they were. Getting through to anyone in the administration in the midst of a crisis like this was an impossible proposition. And even if he could have, it was unbelievably arrogant and absurd to imagine they'd have the time or mental energy to talk to him right now.
CNN flipped over to live footage of the scene outside the nightclub, taken from a news helicopter with a powerful zoom lens since no one on the ground was able to get near the scene. He was startled to catch sight of Josh standing amid the sea of flashing lights, looking stricken as he talked to Charlie, who looked inconsolable. Sam started to worry about his friend. In the midst of the chaos, would anyone think to keep an eye on Josh, to make sure his PTSD wasn't being triggered by the crisis and see that he got help if it was? At least he had Donna, but would that be enough?
Sam slowly sank down into his couch, his mind swirling. Zoey Bartlet had been kidnapped. Warm, friendly, smart, flirtatious Zoey. The girl who hadn't blinked at the prospect of facing down white supremacists with guns in order to date the guy she liked. The girl who was so trusting and naïve that it hadn't occurred to her that she should take her panic button when she'd walked up to the counter at a bar. Had something like that happened again, only this time she'd run into people more dangerous and malicious than the drunken jerks who'd harassed her before? Where the hell had the Secret Service been? Wasn't it their job to protect her?
And then he thought about the agent who had been shot, and began to feel dizzy. This was no random event. It had quite clearly been planned out. And you didn't attempt something as difficult and risky as kidnapping the daughter of the President of the United States unless you had a reason. An agenda.
He shuddered as he thought about what President Bartlet must be going through now, and worse, what he might be faced with in the coming days and weeks. Was he going to be asked to choose between allowing his daughter to be murdered and using his office to commit some unthinkable act? If he didn't cave to the terrorists' demands immediately, what would they do to Zoey to up the ante? Torture her? Rape her? Send the President pictures of her brutalized body?
Sam groaned audibly, burying his head in his hands. Amidst the horror of the situation, one thought pushed through with devastating clarity.
He should be there.
The decision to leave the White House had felt so right at the time. It had taken getting out of the DC bubble for a month or so for him to realize how exhausted he was: how tired of the constant battle, of living and dying by the polls, of knowing the enemy was waiting to pounce on his every stumble. Of having to think of fellow Americans and public servants as enemies just because they happened to be Republicans.
And he'd finally admitted to himself how angry he still was with the President for lying about his MS. Just acknowledging that anger, and allowing himself feel it once he was in an environment where being angry with the President wasn't considered almost blasphemous, had been enough to help him let it go. Presidents were only human, even this one, despite the superhuman expectations that were routinely placed on them. President Bartlet had made a terrible mistake in hiding his medical condition, and he'd paid dearly for it. It had nearly cost him his presidency. But it didn't negate all the good he'd done in office. He was still the decent, honorable man Sam had always known him to be; it had just turned out he wasn't immune to the instinct for self-protection.
It had been bittersweet for Sam, listening to the President deliver a magnificent Inaugural Address that he'd had no hand in writing. And in the wake of Hoynes's stunning resignation just a few weeks ago, he'd felt a range of conflicting emotions. "Thank God I'm not working there anymore," he'd glibly commented to his colleagues, even as he'd inwardly felt a twinge of regret. Something about a crisis made him want to be there, to be with his friends, working his heart out in service of the administration and the country, however ineffectual it might ultimately make him feel when the limits of presidential power, and of his power, were made all too clear to him.
He glanced around his luxurious, immaculate condo, so much nicer than the one he'd been able to afford in DC. He thought about his swank corner office at the firm, with its sweeping view of downtown LA. He'd always told himself he didn't care all that much about that kind of thing, and he really didn't. Moving to Los Angeles and taking this job hadn't been primarily about the money, but he had to admit it felt nice. Nice to have the material luxuries, and nice to get home from work early enough in the evenings that he could enjoy them. It was nice to actually have weekends off and finally have time to date, although he hadn't yet met anyone he could picture himself with long-term.
But now it all seemed empty. The Bartlet administration was facing a crisis that made the MS scandal look utterly petty and insignificant. One that perhaps even Rosslyn paled in comparison to. A crisis with implications arguably as frightening and far-reaching as any administration in American history had ever confronted. The President was only human, and that humanity was likely to be tested in unfathomable ways before this was over.
And he, Sam Seaborn, would be watching it on television.