Title: Irrelevant Here
Disclaimer: These characters are not mine. They belong to someone else. And I do have respect for those who created them…it just might be a little hard to tell.
Summary: "I was in California. But now I'm not. Now I'm here. I'm in CJ's office, but it's your office, but you're not working and…How did this happen?" Sam and Leo have a conversation.
Note: Written several months ago to relieve some early-season frustration. Edited because Columbia and Colombia are not the same thing, Fitz was an Admiral, and I really should have known all that! Many thanks to those who pointed it out.
"What am I doing here?"
Leo looks up from his book. "What do you mean, what are you doing here?"
"I mean, I…" Sam turns slowly around the room, inspecting the semi-familiar surroundings. "How did I get here?"
"Like anyone else gets here."
"Okay, but see…I was just in a bar…" Sam motions with his thumb over his shoulder, as if to prove his point. Instead, he finds himself gesturing to a large white board positioned next to a blank wall. "Why are we in CJ's office?"
"This isn't her office anymore, Sam. Her office is next door to the President's."
"But…then…" Sam sputters in confusion. "I mean, it looks like her office, but…wait. If her office is next door to the President's, where's your office?"
"Oh, wherever, really. Josh's office, Toby's office, your office. Whatever's empty at the time. Although lately I have been spending a lot of time in hotels. You know, with the campaign and all."
"But we already won the…Leo, why doesn't that calendar have a year on it?"
"Years are irrelevant here."
"Leo, what's going on?"
"What do you mean?"
Sam squints and squeezes his temples as if he has a sudden headache. "You're in CJ's office reading Earnest Hemingway in the middle of the day. I didn't even know you were a Hemingway fan, and even if that is the case, I thought I was in California." Leo looks up and tilts his head. "I mean, I was in California. But now I'm not. Now I'm here. I'm in CJ's office, but it's your office, but you're not working and…How did this happen?" he finishes with a hysterical laugh.
"You got dropped in."
"MmmHmm." Leo tries to continue reading.
"What do you mean, dropped in?"
"Sam, really, it's nothing to worry about." Reluctantly closing his book, Leo continues. "Happens all the time. Especially now. You got dropped out and dropped back in. You shouldn't be concerned. Happens to the best of us. Remember Ainsley?"
"Of course I remember - What do you mean, especially now?"
"It's not like it's anything new, Sam. You remember Mandy, right?"
"Happens to the worst of us, too. One day you're here, the next day you're not. You disappear for a while. Some say helicopters are involved. Life goes on, people get fired, promoted, injured in deadly bombings, and sometimes, if you're lucky, you drop back in again."
"But," Sam begins, determined to straighten this out. "The last thing I remember was sitting with Toby in a bar. I was running for Congress and -"
"-Yeah, that was quite a while ago. You should really move on."
"Move on? I was running for Congress! It was a tight race! The entire administration supported me. They talked of nothing for weeks but that race!"
"Yeah, that really was a while ago, wasn't it?" Leo asks nostalgically.
"But," Sam sputters, "Did I win?"
"Wins are irrelevant here."
"I'm telling you Sam, life is too short for worries. If my heart attack taught me anything it's that-"
"You had a heart attack? When was this?"
"Right after the President fired me."
"The President fired you? Why? Why would he do that?"
"It's hard to say, really. He rehired me right before I quit. Anyway, like I told CJ after she took over for me and inexplicably brought me unhealthy food from a local restaurant, there are-"
"CJ took over for you?" Sam interrupts. "But I really thought Josh or Toby would've -"
"Chain of command is irrelevant here."
Sam sits in silence for a few moments before taking a deep breath. "So, you were saying?"
"I was saying if my heart attack taught me anything it was to slow down and…" He pauses before trying again. "It taught me that family and…" Leo trails off and shakes his head before beginning once more. "That politics are not the…Oh, hell. It didn't teach me anything. Anyway, you should have been there when it happened. There in the woods…so peaceful. Eerily quiet - except for that helicopter. Strangely devoid of all secret service presence…for hours on end…just me and the trees. And my phone…It kept ringing…they couldn't find me…hours on end…" He pauses for a moment before snapping out of the memory. "Anyway. Afterward? Mallory even came to the hospital. At least, I think it was Mallory. It kind of looked like her, but she was very quiet…"
Lighting up at the name, Sam asks, "Mallory? How is Mallory?"
"Oh, she's doing great. Got a little one of her own." Leo smiles proudly. "Maybe even a job in Tanzania! Isn't it great!" He hands Sam a photo from his desk.
"Leo, she's holding an empty blanket."
"Well, it's possible the baby isn't photogenic."
"She got dropped back out before we really knew much about it."
Suddenly, they're interrupted by a knock at the door.
Sam squints as a familiar face pokes in. "Leo, can we meet at three instead of two?"
"Sure. No problem. You have the latest on that Canadian invasion thing?"
"Yeah. See you then."
After deciding to ignore the complete implausibility of a Canadian invasion, Sam finally finds his voice. "Leo! Is that…who I think that is?"
"The Republican?" Leo nods. "But why is he…here?"
"He got dropped back in a while ago to replace Josh. Don't worry. I'm sure he'll drop out soon enough."
"Josh? You mean Josh got dr-"
"No, no. He's just running Matt Santos's Presidential campaign."
"He's running a campaign…He doesn't work here anymore?" Sam seems disappointed at the defection of his best friend.
"Neither do I, Sam. Neither do a lot of people. You, for example. Things change."
"I thought I got to come back if I lost California."
"That was mentioned at the time."
"Well, then, I must have won!" His face lights up at the sudden connection, only to be dampened by Leo's lack of enthusiasm.
"I wouldn't say that."
"So I lost."
"I wouldn't say that either."
"Promises are irrelevant here."
"I'm starting to get that. But, if you don't work here, why are you, you know, here?"
"Oh, I'm running for Vice-President, but I help out on occasion. Design calendars, shred papers, broker truces at the convention…I met with Castro a few months ago. Speaking of that, you really ought to meet Kate Harper. There's something so familiar about-"
"You just had a heart attack and now you're running for office? Don't people have a problem with that?"
"You'd think so, wouldn't you."
"Okay. So let me get this straight. An undetermined number of years have passed since I walked into that bar. In the meantime, you had a heart attack, got fired, got rehired, quit, got replaced by CJ, and became the Vice-Presidential nominee? Did I miss anything there?"
"Not unless you count that thing with Abbey."
"What thing with Abbey?"
"Oh, the time she wouldn't let me in the residence. But who can blame her, really? After Zoey got kidnapped, she-"
"Zoey got kidnapped? By whom?"
"That's still a little unclear. She's fine, and Abbey is too, except for that whole thing with the pills-"
"Good question. Anyway, that's about it for me. Except for the apparent tension between Annabeth and myself, although I really don't see that."
"Blonde. Short. Her job title is a little unclear but she does makeup and briefings. You'll know her when you see her." He stops suddenly and looks around in fear. "You don't see her, do you?"
"Ahh, no. Listen, Leo, I'm a little overwhelmed by all this. Would it be possible for me to see the President. Just to, you know, clarify that I have a job?"
"Oh, I'm sure you have a job, Sam. Or at least some reason for being here. Everyone does. Except for Commander Harper, but that's beside the point."
"Who's Commander Harper?"
"I was really hoping you knew. She's no Fitz, though, God rest his soul."
"Admiral Fitzwallace died? When was this?"
"Not long ago. Car bomb. In Gaza. Thank God Donna and Andi made it out okay."
"Donna was hurt? Why was she even in Gaza?"
"Josh sent her there. She's fine. Got off the crutches just before she quit."
"She went to work with Will in the VP's office."
"Donna and Will are working for Hoynes?"
"No, Russell." Sam shakes his head blankly. "Bob Russell." He shakes his head again. "Bingo Bob?" Still no recognition. "Cowboy boots?"
"No idea, Leo."
"Yeah, well, he kind of came out of nowhere after the Hoynes sex scandal."
"We had a sex scandal?"
"Yeah, CJ was really worried about that one."
"CJ slept with -"
"Apparently. That was a long time ago, Sam. Focus on the present."
"Anyway, we're lucky Santos beat Russel at the convention."
"Just the same, I think I'll head over there and see what the President says. Maybe he can help me…figure this out," he finishes uncertainly.
"You might as well wait awhile. The President usually naps until at least three."
"Right. I'll just head over and see what Toby's working on."
"He's not in his office."
"Where is he?"
"Oh, court, prison, possibly teaching at Columbia, possibly living in Colombia. No one really knows at the moment."
"Well, after the President fired him, he dropped out for a while. He may be back, but you know how that goes."
"The President fired Toby?" Leo nods. "And you?" He nods again. "I don't…Never mind. Why was Toby fired?"
"He leaked classified information about a top secret space program. Possibly because his brother killed himself. Or because of those astronauts. Can't remember if we ever got them down. Of course, that all happened around the time he and Josh got in that fight-"
"Okay. Stop. I don't…I can't…I think I'm in over my head here. Is there anything that has not changed since I was, you know, the drop thing?"
Leo scans the outer bullpen activity through the window. "Margaret's still here. And Charlie. Of course, Charlie isn't the President's body man anymore. He got promoted."
"Something to do with CJ's office. He takes meetings with senators and exterminators. Also swimming tests, apparently. Say, speaking of Charlie, there's someone else who got dropped!"
"Charlie got dropped?"
"No, no. Curtis did." Seeing Sam's blank expression, he elaborates. "Curtis took over for Charlie." He shakes his head fondly. "The only one to witness one of the greatest moments between China and America, and now he's gone." Eyebrows crinkling, he adds, "Maybe it was because of that whole too much tea and wheelchair thing…"
"Don't ask. Curtis and the President were very close."
"Right. You said Margaret was still here?"
"Yeah, that's my girl. Around more than ever. Actually, she's everywhere. She's-" Leo is interrupted by a sudden knock at the door. Margaret's head soon appears.
"I thought I heard my name."
"The door was closed and the window was shut. How the hell did you hear your name?"
"I have extremely sensitive hearing. I may or may not hear private conversations on the Chief of Staff's phone line."
"Don't underestimate the hearing. That's all." She bobs back out of the office.
Leo spins back toward Sam. "You'd never guess she was pregnant even a few months ago, would you?"
"Well, the baby was dropped. So was the weight, I guess."
Further conversation is halted by a sharp rap on the door. A faceless man in a black suit wearing a name tag that looks suspiciously like it says Mr. Wells leans in. "Excuse me, Mr. Seaborn?"
"Mr. Seaborn, your presence is required at the liftoff place."
"Liftoff place?" Sam looks to Leo, who shrugs.
"Yes sir. The helicopter is waiting. Please come with me."
As a dazed Sam gets up to leave, he turns to Leo one last time. "I'll see you in a bit."
Leo waves sadly as Sam climbs into the whirring machine. The noise increases as he murmurs softly, "I don't think so, kid."
Sigh… I miss John Spencer.