Title: after the impact
Summary: "It's Christmas time, and he wonders when he started counting time by holidays that aren't his."
The car ahead of him slammed its brakes, buckling into the back of a blue Ford. He watched in amazement as the driver pushed away the airbag that had exploded on impact.
In the corner of his office, CNN is on mute, vapid pictures colouring the background. Cows are being bulldozed into empty pits; a farmer is sobbing in the foreground. Somehow, inexplicably, it is winter again, and his cigar smoke makes unbroken lines against the sky.
From time to time, he thinks he should try and slow down. Try and do something, anything, aside from finishing a day with scotch and taxi rides from her house to his. He's felt out of control for ages, like he has been riding shotgun with a driver who's downed half a bottle of whiskey before getting behind the wheel. Which he has, in a way, because he can't stop the fact that crazies have guns, and Josh hit the ground and never really got up.
He doesn't know why he feels this way, but with all due respect to the President, it has little to do with a public lynching.
He hits the volume on the television, and CNN tells him that more than three million cattle have been culled for the foot and mouth disease. The drunk on his corner once told him that the plague was coming, he just never imagined CNN would be covering it. He laughs to himself, a little, and thinks that he should have know much, much better.
It's Christmas time, and he wonders when he started counting time by holidays that aren't his. It's Christmas time. In the United Kingdom, they dug up airstrips to bury cattle carcasses and in the White House, he filled the lobby with music for a not-his holiday. It's only CJ that mentions Hanukkah to him. The same as it was only CJ who sat Shiva with him when his father died; covering his mirrors.
It's Christmas time again, it's winter again, and they're no better at doing this thing than they were last year. And he's not sure what he means when he thinks that, although he knows it's about more than just he and CJ, it always has been.
When they were reading Mandy's memo, Josh sat next to him on his couch and said, "this year hasn't turned out a hell of a lot better than last year, has it?" This is the first time he has been on a winning team, and he never wakes up like he feels it's a victory.
After the shooting, he waited on her doorstep, and later closed his eyes when she cried as she kissed him. "It can't always be like this," she had said, much, much later. And then they didn't say anything because of the certainty that in their history, it had always been like this. It had always been about things falling apart, and how much easier it was to have someone help put them back together.
He picks up his phone and calls her, telling her about the man in the traffic ahead of him who had struggled with this airbag, pushing it out of the way with a frustration that was almost comical. She laughs, and he hears her say, "nothing, just Toby" to, he presumes, Carol in the background.
"Are you okay?" She says, stopping laughter.
He picks up the remote, and mutes the television again.
"Yeah, I'm almost done."
He can hear her moving papers on her desk, he imagines her moving papers on her desk. He imagines her often, in ways that he never thought he would be allowed to. In ways that have to do with kissing her in her car, and reading notes she leaves when she doesn't want to wake him. That have little, or nothing, to do with tears and winters and summers and springs like these.
"I got a hotdog with Sam, before, but-"
And he wasn't the type of man to make resolutions, because she moans in his bed and he breaks every kind of resolve he's ever had. Next year will be different, he thinks, because they've been shot at and they went down but they're gonna suit up for the next round.
The next year will be different, he thinks, because it can't possibly get any worse.
He shuts off his laptop, and grabs his coat.
He forgets that, after the impact, the airbag may save your life but you can still suffocate to death.