|Ashley Graham|| It's no surprise that Jack Graham and his daughter have one of the nicer penthouse suites that the hotel has to offer. Even if he is about to head back to Washington to tenure his resignation, he is currently still the big ol' POTUS. And for that reason, he and his daughter still get treated well.
Not that they won't be treated well after. The Grahams are still well-off. But there's something about the extra care given when you're leader of the free world (or his daughter) that is special.
That daughter is in the suite now. She's not in her bedroom, but rather in the main area that sports a kitchen with a little eat-in bar, a living room, and a balcony. She's drinking a club soda, having raided the mini-bar but skipped the liquor. Ashley always was a good girl, that way. At least, around her father.
She's dressed for bed in a matching pajama set of periwinkle blue, her hair pulled back in a braid to keep it from getting knotted in the night. She holds the drink in her hand, staring out the window over the city of Denver.
Jack will recognize that stare from his time in the Army, and his time in the Gulf. They call it the thousand yard stare. And now it's a stare his daughter has, who is anything but a trained service member. Absolutely anything but.
|Jack Graham||Jack is sitting at the desk penning his resignation speech with a half empty, mostly untouched by now, glass of scotch sitting not far from his hand. A cigar has smoldered out in an ashtray nearby and while he still wears a suit, the tie is pulled loose with his eyes looking older than his age would otherwise suggest.
The incident in Raccoon City was hard on him, aging him premature, even giving him a few wrinkles that weren't there previous, but he's weathered that storm. Yet there's no clear skies ahead for the soon to be former head of state. A glance at his daughters direction is the only thing that gives him any chance at a smile in these troubled times.
|Ashley Graham|| "Did you say something, father?" It's Ashley's voice that cuts through the heavy quiet. There's no smile on her now, and the weariness in her own eyes is not likely to bring a smile to her father's face. She's 18. Just 18. Been away at college for less than a full term. And yet now she has seen things and done things that give her a look of a war veteran. All she wanted to do was become a lawyer.
She's looking at him now, from her place by the window, the glass of club soda in her hand. "I thought I heard you say something," she admits, turning to look back out the window. From the placement of her eyes, though, he can likely tell she's actually watching him in the reflection. "I still hear things that aren't there," she says. It's only been a few days since she was in Raccoon City, and yet...
|Jack Graham||It's a look that isn't at all unfamiliar to the President. He's seen his share of war vetarans and is one himself, but this is altogether different. The men and women he's led into battle weren't much older than his daughter is now, but they weren't his daughter. To see that haunted gaze focused on him nearly tears his soul down another peg and redoubles his intentions to prevent this horror from ever happening again.
"I was just saying..." He lies with the ease of a politician, "That you're going to make a fine lawyer one day.." His hand reaches out instinctively for the glass of scotch resting nearby for another soothing warm drink of the amber liquid that's become much to regular in the last few months. His other hand reaches for the cigar, turned slowly between two calloused fingers with his eyes fixed on the ashes accumulated over the smoldered amber.
|Ashley Graham|| And that statement from her father chases it all away. Well, most of it away. She's glancing down when he says that, and smiling a soft, gentle 'aw shucks' kind of smile. And his words make her turn away from the window, turn away from her thoughts to look to him, and take a few steps in his direction.
"What made you think of that?" Ashley asks her father, giving him a little smile of her own. He's seen the smiles she used to smile, the broad pearly white ones at the inauguration ball for their first dance, or when he let her go off to college. This is a pale shadow of a smile, but it has some effect, no doubt. His daughter is nothing if not beautiful. "Usually you only call me a 'good lawyer' when I'm arguing with you," she gently teases.
|Jack Graham||Jack puts the cigar between his lips, closing them around the stub to tilt his head towards the glowing blue flame of a butaine lighter. All the while he's watching Ashley from one corner of his eyes, grinning just slightly like he's formulating some great retort. Always the word games, "Stoic in the face of overwhelming adversity is the hallmark of a good lawyer."
The cigar is caught in the curve of his index finger and he leans back in his chair so that he's more slumped than sitting, "Poise in the aftermath of disaster. Smiling at the opposition when they feel they have you cornered." He motions with the business end of his stoogie, "That's you staring into that window right now."
He doesn't overtly mention the darkness she's faced, but he doesn't have to either.
|Ashley Graham|| She smiles again, this time a touch sheepishly under the praise. And guiltily. "I didn't have to be stoic or poised," she says, speaking as though she's a thousand miles away. "Others did all the work for me." She moves then to where he is, turning to lean her rear against the edge of his desk so, while she's facing away from him, she can easily turn her head and regard him.
"You went to war, Father," she says, as a statement of fact. "How do you do it? At least ten men died trying to get me out. And," she says, beginning to say something. But instead of finishing her thought, she bites on the lower right corner of her lip - a common habit for Ashley when she's thinking. "And after you resign, it'll be like they died trying to save just another random girl." If she sounds a bit sullen about it all, she is.
|Jack Graham||"I use to know this old Delta force seargant named Hoot..." Jack says with a little wave of his hand through the bellowing smoke of his cigar, still leaning in his chair like it's an over stuffed recliner, "Back in Ranger days.." Mid ninties, "He said, Sarge, you don't get to chose who falls out of a helicopter or who gets shot.. it aint up to you. It's war."
It's a simplistic answer to an otherwise difficult question, "That's why the call it a ''burdon'' of comand, baby girl." He leans forward and pats her forearm, "I've sent countless troops into battles knowing full well that a large portion of them were probably going to be hurt or killed.. and every day I think about what I could have done differently." His cigar flares with a long puff, thoughtfully watching the smoke rise up from the end.
"So long as you can sleep comfortably knowing that you did everything you possibly could to make those odds smaller.. that you acted honorably, respectfully, and with due deligience expected of someone in your position and station... then the sacrifice those men and women made was for a noble cause. Which will do nothing to lighten the weight of those decisions..."
The last has him frowning slightly, "They would have done it willingly, Ashley. Without hesitation. Those men, those soldiers, they were trained for that kind of opperation, but none of us could have known what they'd face there. Their sacrifice will never be in vain... don't you ever think otherwise."
|Ashley Graham|| "But I /don't/ sleep comfortably," she points out to him, turning to look at him when he pats her arm. Poor girl, she's got every internal conflict written all over her face. "I just screamed when the first Secret Service team died. And I ran away when the SEAL team died," she expresses, a bit of frustration leaking out in her tone. She huffs, and sighs, and shakes her head. The glass of club soda is her solace, now, so she looks to it with a frown.
"Leon's the only one who came for me who didn't die," she says with a bit of a sigh. "And even because of him I still don't sleep comfortably. I've woken up every night terrified, looking for him." She looks over at Jack, as if looking for his approval or something. Anything to make it better. "And I did things, Father. Horrible things, while I was in the city. I understand it's a burden. I understand survivor's guilt. But I still feel it and I can't make it go away. And I don't know how to."
|Jack Graham||"You weren't a soldier, Ashley." Jack says with a sympathic frown, holding to the cigar as he watches his daughter struggle through these things on her mind, "You never had to deal with this kind of adversity before..." Nobody ever should, to be honest. This isn't just war, this is something far more terrible.
"That feeling wont ever go away... at least I hope it never does. It'll just get easier to deal with. The moment you stop looking at people as people and only see pawns on a chess board, you've lost your respect for life...." Then she mentions having done things, terrible things, and his frown deepens. "You survived. The will to survive is an instinct, humans are coded to struggle their way to the top and sometimes that means doing things that civilization and society might not, strictly speaking, agree with... which isn't forgiving you your guilt. I cannot undo or unmake those regrets, I can only promise you that you're not alone in feeling them.. and you're not weak for it either."
|Ashley Graham|| Ashley turns and looks at Jack, giving the man a soft, gentle, but sad smile. "Thank you," she tells him. "For saying it's alright to be a guilty party. I still feel bad about it, but at least I know there's not something wrong with me for feeling bad for what I've done. That I deserve to feel bad for what I've done." She heaves a heavy sigh, one beyond her years, and looks ahead again, swigging from the club soda.
"So what happens now?" she asks, turning to look at him, and the paper he's writing on. "Once you resign, I mean. Where do we go, what do we do?"
|Jack Graham||Jack looks at his speech and shrugs in a heartfelt manner, "I honestly don't know. All I do know is that I failed the Union.. and I cannot in good conscience continue to act as the head of state after what happened to Raccoon City." He sets the cigar down once more and drains the remaining contents of his glass, "I might reenlist... I've tossed the idea around for a few days."
He's not ancient by any stretch of the imagination and has always kept himself in great physical condition.
"There's other options, I hear the U.N. is meeting to put together a task force to head off any future outbreaks. I think my expertise could be invaluable to any global response." Ultimately he shrugs, "But I have to make it through tomorrow first. Press is kind of tearing into me pretty hard." A smirk, because he's never given one spit what the press thought of him.
|Ashley Graham|| Ashley sets her soda down and comes around to hug her father around the shoulders from behind, setting her chin on his shoulder and giving him a good, affectionate squeeze. She hmmms softly at the reassuring feeling of having her only parental figure there, in her arms, after everything.
"You didn't fail anyone," she reminds him, as she's said previously. She's already made it clear that she doesn't agree with his resignation. "But no matter what you do, I'll be right there with you," she promises, and gives him a kiss on the cheek. With that, she plucks up her club soda again and begins heading for her room.