Shades of Grey
Part 11

A hand pressed into the center of his back and pushed him past the doorway to the dining room. Josh started to turn but was given another shove. He practically tripped over his own feet, and took a wide step to compensate.

He wasn't being taken back to Rashid. That was bad.

Josh was herded back toward the kitchen, then to the right behind the stairs. Ahead he saw the doorway of a room directly below Sam's. As they reached it, Josh stopped and turned to the guard. "Wait, where's Rashid?"

Either not understanding, or simply not caring, the man pushed Josh backward into the room, then reached for the doorknob. That was when it all came crashing down: His hopes, his plans, everything. What the hell had he been thinking? He had assumed he would be escorted back to Rashid so he could gallantly save the day. Now... Sam. Oh dear God. He'd asked Sam to trust him. If that trust was misplaced...

And yet...

What if Rashid knew what he was trying to do? Had he hit so close to the mark that Rashid could no longer talk to him?

"Rashid?" Josh called, rushing forward as the door closed.

The gun was in his face again.

Josh skidded to a stop, his upper body leaning back from the muzzle.

"Okay, okay!"

As the door slammed shut, Josh pressed his palms to his forehead, then ran his fingers through his hair. When all else failed, goading usually worked...

"Rashid!" he shouted. "You're a coward!"

And he waited.

 

"Want some company?" CJ knew the answer before she asked the question.

"No."

She had walked Toby back to his office, needing his presence as much as she knew he needed hers. But there was a limit to Toby's tolerance. She could see the signs. The rigid stature, the clipped answers. He was ready to be alone.

"I'll be in my office for a while," she said. "Call me if you need anything, okay?"

Toby nodded.

CJ tilted her head to the side, worry lines deepening at the corners of her eyes. She was so good with words. Why wouldn't they come now? A lump was forming in her throat. She swallowed it down.

The Communications Director was staring into Sam's office.

"Toby," she said.

He glanced at her for the briefest of moments. "Thank you, CJ."

It was a dismissal. It wasn't angry or harsh; it was a request to be left alone. CJ had known Toby a long time. She would be there when he was ready. With a quiet sigh, she headed for her office.

The halls were practically empty; most of the staff had gone home for the day. Those she did pass glanced at her with a look that told her they knew. Word had spread quickly. CJ stepped up her pace, wanting to get to the privacy of her office before someone decided to ask her questions. She didn't think she could handle it at the moment. She needed time to prepare.

A small sense of relief touched her when she saw her door just a few feet away. She made it to the threshold and stopped short, her relief replaced with...something else.

In one of the guest chairs before her desk sat Danny Concannon. He looked up, grasping the arms of the chair to push himself to his feet. "CJ," he said.

Throwing back her shoulders, CJ stormed behind her desk. "Not now, Danny," she snapped. "I don't know anything, so don't even ask." When there was no response, she looked up and saw the shock on Danny's face. She immediately regretted her tone.

"You think I came here as Press?"

The surprise and hurt in his voice melted CJ's reserve. Her shoulders slumped and she covered her eyes with a hand. "I'm sorry, Danny."

"Hey, it's okay."

She felt him move closer and lay a hand on her arm. His touch was so light, so tentative. He was uncertain. God, had she sounded that harsh?

CJ let her hand trail from her eyes down to her mouth and finally she met his gaze. He was worried about her. She could see it. She could feel it. Looking away a moment, CJ considered what to say, but again the words wouldn't come. She opened her mouth, but her bottom lip quivered. She pressed her lips together to stop it, then tried again.

"Shhh," Danny soothed. "You're going to have to talk about this at some point. But not now. Right now, you don't have to say anything."

Small spasms shook CJ's body as her fašade began to crumple.

"Come here," Danny whispered, drawing her close.

His touch was no longer tentative. His arms slid around her back and held her, offering her solace without looking for anything in return. CJ gave herself to the embrace, finally allowing her tears fall.

 

 

 

"Toby?"

Toby remained still, his steepled fingers pressed against his lips. He'd thought everyone had gone. He thought he would be alone. He needed to be alone.

"Toby?"

Cathy's voice was quivering. She stepped into his darkened office, and approached his desk as though she was afraid he would leap up and bite her head off at any given moment. He didn't have the strength or the will power. He didn't even look at her. His gaze was unfocused as he stared past her into the middle distance.

Finally she reached the edge of the desk. "Is there anything I can get you before I go?"

"No," he mumbled past his fingers.

Ping.

Toby blinked his eyes into focus and looked at her.

"This really annoys Sam, you know?" Her fingers glided over the curve of the bellhop bell at the corner of his desk.

Toby shifted one hand to his lap, leaned an elbow on the arm of his chair and pressed his fist to his lips. "I know."

"It's funny...even though it really makes him crazy when you ring it, he still answers it every time."

Toby closed his eyes. It had been another of his infamous New Year's resolutions to find new ways of annoying his deputy. He could still see the look of pure indignation on Sam's face the first time he'd used the hop's bell. But Cathy was right. No matter how much it bothered Sam, he answered it every time.

It wasn't that Toby was trying to be mean. Mischievous, yes and...well...okay sometimes he was mean. But it broke up the monotony of having to work on the same speech day after day. Sam understood that. Sam put up with that. He was a good kid. A good friend. And now...

"Toby, please tell me everything is going to be okay."

He was grateful for the darkness to hide the wetness in his eyes. "Cathy..."

"I'm so scared."

Toby swallowed. This was going to be the longest twenty-four hours of his life. "Me too." Dear God, Sam, wherever you are, please be okay...

 

Shades of Grey - 12

 

 

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