Title: Let Me Bid You Farewell
Sam slid into the one of the last rows in the National Cathedral. The service had just started, but getting past security had taken longer than she'd thought. It had taken an Agent Butterfield to give the okay and as he did so, he glanced at her a few times. She made a Secret Service agent nervous and at any other time, that would make her smile. Today she had few smiles to spare.
She couldn't quite recall her age when she met Mrs. Landingham, but she knew it was when her dad was stationed at Pease sometime between preschool and second grade. She remembered the moment distinctly: she had broken her dad's expensive watch while trying to figure out how it worked. She was hiding near the stream that meandered at the back of the neighborhood when the nice older lady across the street sat next to her and said nothing.
Sam remembered how it had been odd for a grown up not say anything and the silence had made her uncomfortable to the point. She started to twitch and then burst out with, "I didn't mean to do it!"
"Do what, dear?" Mrs. Landingham asked.
"Break Daddy's watch."
"Then what did you mean to do with it?"
"Fix it so it would tell time better," Sam said, her voice catching as she imagine how happy her daddy would've been and then thought of how mad he would be now. Mrs. Landingham had just nodded before standing up and offering her hand to Sam.
"Do you think if you tried again you could fix it?" she asked as they walked back towards the row of houses.
"Yes," Sam said.
"Well okay, then," and the matter between them was settled.
It turned out her dad was more upset that Sam had been missing and forgave the broken watch. Mrs. Landingham told Sam's parents, who'd she'd met at a dinner at the Officer's Club, that she'd be glad to take the kids after school as her boys had broken many things that need fixing. So until her dad was stationed elsewhere, Sam and Mark would go over to her house and Sam would diligently tried to fix the broken things.
As the memory drifted away, Sam shifted in the pew as a young man read from the scripture. She guessed it was Charlie Young based on the description from one of their phone calls.
After they moved from New Hampshire, the older lady corresponded with Sam's mother until the car accident. That was when Mrs. Landingham came back into their lives; she showed up for the funeral and didn't leave for months.
Two weeks after the funeral, Sam's dad took off for points unknown, leaving Mrs. Landingham in charge. Sam took advantage of everyone's pity and stopped going to school. She'd spend hours hiding in the local university library or wandering the streets of the town. When asked where her homework was, she'd simply shrug her shoulders and mumble something about the death of her mother. After that, people would leave her alone.
A month after the funeral, Sam was curled up in the most remote place of the university library and reading the papers of recent PhD science grads. She was so engrossed in her corrections and notes, she failed to notice when someone took the seat next her. It was only when her feet were abruptly shoved off the table that Sam looked up. Seated across from her was a furious Mrs. Landingham, arms crossed and eyes narrowed.
"I've given you your space, Samantha. But the school, such as it is, called and said you run the risk of failing this quarter. Is that what you want?" she asked.
Sam curled even further into herself, wrapping her arms around her legs and pulling tight. She just stared at her mother's friend and said nothing, just picked at a loose string on her sweater. Out of the corner of her eye, Sam saw the older woman pick up the paper she had dropped and started to flip through it. Mrs. Landingham murmured a few things to herself before picking up the dropped pen and making a few notations of her own. Occasionally, she'd glance up and look at Sam with a curious expression on her face. When she completed the report, she tossed it on the table between them, leaned forward, and grabbed Sam's hands.
"Samantha, you're a good girl. A smart girl. A very smart girl. And I understand that you are buried by this grief and the complete unfairness of it all. When I lost my boys, I've never felt that kind of anger and I let it consume me for too long. But, my dear, you know God doesn't make car crashes. And you can't stay angry forever because you will lose yourself in the process." Mrs. Landingham picked up the paper and waved it at Sam before continuing. "You are someone that we do not want to lose, my dear. But if you want to spend your time hiding from the world because you think this isn't fair, then frankly, Sam, I don't even want to know you." With that, she stood up and walked out.
The memory finished uncurling from her brain as Sam shifted against the wood pew. She smiled softly as she thought of how proud Mrs. Landingham had been of her when she graduated from the Academy. When Governor Bartlett had become President, they lost touch minus their few phone calls around the holidays.
Then came the phone call about another car accident.
As the coffin was carried past her, she reached out her hand and imagined it wrapping around her mother's… her friend's hand. The senior staff of the White House filed out behind her and as the Chief of Staff walked past, he spotted Sam. His eyes widened slightly before he nodded and gestured with his hand for her to stay behind. She nodded, curious, and once outside the cathedral, she stood aimlessly on the grounds.
Sam made a quick phone call to Daniel to let him know she'd be on a flight home tonight and as she snapped the phone shut, the Chief of Staff walked up to her. He stopped in front of her and she snapped to attention. His lip twisted up before saying, "You don't have to do that, Major. Pretty sure I should be tossing roses in your path and fanning you with palm fronds. It is a pleasure to put a face with the myth."
He offered his hand to Sam and as she shook it, she replied, "Thank you, Mr. McGarry. We're just doing our job."
He chuckled a bit before gesturing towards the cathedral and saying, "It's Leo. While your reports read like comic book adventures, I mean you - the woman, the myth, the legend as told by Mrs. Landingham. She didn't know about what you do, but she was so proud of who you are, and she never let the President forget that she'd leave him in a heartbeat to go work for you."
Sam blinked away tears and stood to Leo's left as the Secret Service milled around. She glanced at the closed doors in curiosity before he answered her unasked question. "He's having a bit of temper tantrum."
The doors swung open and the President stormed out. He marched past Leo and glanced at Sam before snapping, "Who the hell is she?"
"Major Samantha Carter, Mr. President," Leo replied as he fell in step. Sam came to attention and saluted her Commander in Chief as the duo walked past. When they were only a few steps in front of her, the President stopped and looked back at her.
"You're supposed to be smart. She always said you were smart, maybe even smarter than me. Which I doubt as I'm pretty sure you don't have a Nobel. Now I'm supposed to go and tell the world that I have MS and if I'll run again. So tell me, Major, what you do if I were in your shoes?" the President asked, his eyes blank from grief and his body vibrating from anger.
"Sir?" she asked, slightly taken aback at what he was asking her.
"I have MS, Major. But I'm sure you knew that. Hell, I'm sure all those aliens you deal with know I have it. " The President began to walk away, but turned abruptly on his heels and walked up to Sam and waved a hand in her direction. "You'd think with all the…space stuff you lot bring back that you'd bring back something useful to cure people and fix this mess for me."
"We have, sir. But I wouldn't recommend it," she replied, looking him straight in the eye. He stared back at her as a flash of respect passing across his face They stood there in an awkward stand off, but oddly bound together by her.
"What would she say?" he asked, his anger still rolling off him.
For a second, Sam desperately wished Daniel was with her. Daniel would be able answer the man with more than just a flippant "I don't know" or other useless platitudes, and he'd be able to do it in better Latin. But then the memory of when her mom died nudged her again. "God doesn't cause car accidents, sir. And that if you can't face what's hard, she probably wouldn't want to know you. Or at least that's what she told me."
The President slumped his shoulders and turned his back on the cathedral. "Yeah", he said. He lit a cigarette, took a puff, then tossed it to the ground. "Sounds like her."
As the cigarette burned a hole in the grass, he walked back to the motorcade and disappeared into the storm. Sam watched them leave before she stepped on the butt and picked it up.