Timeline: Three days after "Rest Stop." Two weeks after 2C/ "Angry."
Through it all, she was calm. Had to be. "Katie."
"With the President's decision to run again, what will the impact of the Judiciary hearings be?"
"The President and his staff are fully prepared to comply with the special prosecutor and the Judiciary committee. Campaigning or preparing for a campaign has not affected this in the least. Chris."
"C.J., any word on who the Special Prosecutor will be?" Just the way the woman spoke seemed capitalized.
"Yes. The special prosecutor will be Ann Stark, former Chief of Staff to the Majority Leader." The words held fast and screaming to her vocal chords. "Ms. Stark will have full access to the President, his files and staff, of course. Danny."
"Any word on Hoynes, C.J.?"
C.J. blinked. "As far as I'm aware the Vice President is included in these hearings, and will assist as to the best of his ability."
"No, C.J., I mean the allegations about the split."
"What split?" C.J. shrugged. Deep down inside a needle of fear stitched into the side of her stomach, but outwardly she was cool. "If we haven't confirmed things by now there's nothing to write about."
Another reporter persisted. "There was allegedly a late night meeting in which the Vice President told President Bartlet he was leaving the ticket."
Deep down C.J.'s stomach now began to be ripped apart at the seams. Still, she had to be outwardly cool. "Look. I don't know a thing about it," she said brusquely.
But from the back of the room came a quiet voice. "C.J., um..." It was Danny. Had to be. "I have an official White House memo, issued from the office of the Vice President, citing an unnamed, reliable source. The Vice President is leaving."
The room distorted to a lens of absinthe. Blinking furiously, C.J. did the only thing she could. She grabbed her folder and bolted from the podium. And the vultures still shouted.
Once out in the hall, she made a dash for the Chief of Staff's office. Margaret looked surprised when she came in. "Leo's with the NSA right now, C.J. He really can't be disturbed."
The tone in the Press Secretary's voice swayed her. Margaret rose and walked in. C.J. could hear her murmured apologies to Nancy McNally and to Leo. The latter quickly barged out of the office, demanding, "This better be good, C.J. Why the hell are you getting me out of a meeting with Nancy, who has no time "
That quiet assertion stopped Leo in his tracks. "What?" he echoed softly, look of crestfallen horror falling across his weathered face.
"I'm quitting, Leo." C.J. couldn't look at him. She told him the entire distasteful story that had just played out in the press room. Not *her* press room anymore. It hadn't been for quite some time. "A press secretary who isn't informed is a complete waste to you and to the candidate. I'd be better off going back to PR work I can actually do."
"C.J...." Leo tried to think of something to say. Since his friend's decision to run again things had been crazy, and things had been overlooked. He'd made mistakes, and he'd deliberately kept her out of some things she didn't need to know. But if he told her that right now she'd likely snap.
Finally he said, "C.J., without you this place will self-destruct."
"Oh, they'll be all right." C.J.'s voice was without a trace of mirth.
"C.J., they're your spin boys. They wouldn't know what to do without you."
"They'd do what they always do. Go right on ahead without a thought for anyone else."
Leo sighed. "C.J.," he started. She was struck by how sad and defeated his voice was. "Promise me you won't do anything stupid. Give us notice."
"Oh, so I should keep you informed when you didn't extend me that most basic of courtesies." C.J.'s voice dripped sarcasm. "I'm going to tell Carol." And with that she strode from the office.
Once at her office, however, she found another audience. "C.J.," Josh said gently, "Leo said you were thinking of leaving."
"I am leaving, and don't try to talk me out of it." C.J. barged past him. "I've been ambushed for the last time."
The words Josh spoke were far more effective than anything Leo had said. They were simple, declarative, and right from the heart. "But we need you."
C.J. turned and looked at him, lip trembling. She spoke once. "No."
Josh sighed. "Please, C.J. *Please.*"
"Oh, right." C.J.'s tone was flint. "Stay. And be passed over. And ignored. And kept out of the loop. I've lost all credibility in the press room." Tears spilled over onto her cheeks, leaving tracks in her face powder. But she did not acknowledge them. "Maybe I should go back to LA and just... shill for movie studios."
Josh opened his mouth to speak again, but changed course in mid-word. "You know what, C.J.?" he said. "You do what's best for you." And without another word he left, leaving the woman staring after him.
Once out of her office he returned to his own and dialed a telephone number. "Toby. It's Josh." A pause. "You heard?" Another pause. "Yeah. I'm on it." He hung up the phone. She would not could not get away from them. She couldn't get away from him, and he'd make sure she didn't.