If Anything Ever Happened to You
Authorís note: All characters of "The West Wing" are property of Aaron Sorkin, NBC, et al. No profit is being derived from the use of the characters on the part of the author. New characters: Lauren Forbes and Jonathan Stewart are the property of the author.
Category: General, crisis
Rating: PG-13 (for language)
Archive: Anytime, anywhere (just let me know where and when and give me credit)
Summary: Everyone is up in arms after Charlie disappears.
(This takes place shortly after "The White House Pro-Am" and before "What Kind of Day Has It Been".)
Jed was pacing again. He had been doing it for the last two days.
"Sit down, Jed," Abby said for the hundredth time.
"We should have heard something by now."
"I know," she answered, "but youíre going to wear a hole in the carpet."
He didnít respond. He just shot her an angry look that she simply ignored.
"What does the FBI say now, Leo?"
"Same as before, Mr. President." Leo hadnít slept in the last forty-eight hours. The strain in his voice was evident.
"Dammit Leo! Iím the President of the freaking United States! Iíve got billions of dollars in technology and brain trusts and investigators and you mean to tell me they canít find a twenty-one-year-old kid for Godís sakes?"
Leo was ready to explode, but to do so would do no good. He massaged his temples and responded wearily, "Theyíre doing everything they can, Jed."
Leoís use of the Presidentís familiar name was telling. Jed sighed and sat on the couch next to his wife. "I know," he said sadly, "I know."
The door to the Oval Office opened. Zoey Bartlet walked in. Her eyes were puffy and red from crying. Her normally ivory skin was pale and blotchy.
Abby went over to her unsteady daughter. Supporting her around the younger womanís waist, she eased the girl over to the couch. "You should be sleeping, Zoey."
"I couldnít sleep, Mom. The sedatives didnít help."
"Oh Zoey," Abby said with concern in her voice.
Zoey turned to her father. "Any word yet?"
Jed looked at his baby girl. It was tearing his heart into pieces to see her so distraught, but he knew he couldnít lie to her. "No sweetheart, nothing."
"So thatís it the. Heís dead."
"God, Zoey! No! Donít even say that!" Jed exclaimed.
"Itís true isnít it? You were thinking the same thing."
Leo moved and sat across from his Goddaughter. Placing his hands on her knees, he looked the young woman in the eye. "Zoe, no one is giving up here. No one. We all believe that heís okay and weíre not going to stop until we find him." ĎOne way or the other,í Leo thought to himself.
"Give me a break, Leo. We all know about the threats. You heard the message. There have been no demands, nothing. Even the FBI admits that after forty-eight hours, the likelihood of finding a missing person alive is next to impossible. The trail is cold and the longer heís missing the less likely heíll turn up. Itís been almost three days," Zoey wailed.
"That doesnít mean anything," Leo said. "Charlieís very resourceful. He can handle himself in any situation."
"Donít patronize me, Leo." Zoey was angry now. "We all know that in this country, itís possible to make someone disappear and the body is never recovered."
"But that doesnít mean -" Abby began.
"Please, Mom. I heard you and Dad talking. The people who are making those threats are more than capable of murdering someone and disposing of the body and they will never be caught." She looked to her father for confirmation.
Jed didnít flinch from her penetrating gaze. In the beginning, he had made the mistake of not being up front with her. He wasnít going to try being evasive with her now.
"Youíre right," he said slowly. "Iím not going to lie to you. It doesnít look good. But we have everyone out right now trying to locate Charlie. But, if something has happened to him, I promise you Zoey, I will not rest until those responsible are caught and punished."
Zoey nodded. She curled up next to her father and laid her head across his chest.
Jed put his arm around her and held on. "Leo, why donít you go and get some rest. You look like hell."
"With all due respect, sir, you donít exactly look like the picture of health yourself."
"Jedís right, Leo," Abby countered. "You havenít slept and Iíd wager you havenít eaten much since all this started." Leo started to protest, but Abby waved him off. "Donít argue with me, McGarry. Iíve taken the liberty of having a meal sent up to the residence. Mallory brought you some things from your hotel room. Shower, eat and try to sleep for a couple of hours. If anything breaks, Iíll send someone for you."
Leo turned to his best friend. Jed shrugged his shoulders and gave him a look that said, ĎWhat do you expect me to do about it?í Defeated, Leo stood up and stretched. He looked down and noticed that Zoey had drifted off to sleep in her fatherís arms. He kissed the top of her head and turned to leave. He fought back the tears in his eyes. He was as afraid for Charlie as everyone else. He was also afraid that if they didnít hear something soon, he was going to be the one who would break his Goddaughterís heart. He hugged Abby and left quietly.
Abby was about to suggest sending Zoey upstairs. Before she could speak, Jed said, "Let her stay." He eased his way from under his daughterís sleeping form and laid her down on the couch. He took a blanket and draped it over her. He couldnít bear to watch her sleeping so peacefully, knowing how much she was hurting inside. He was grateful that the sedative had finally kicked in, allowing her to rest her body, if not her soul.
Jed went over to a window and stared outside. Abby came up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her head on his shoulder.
"Sheís right, you know," he stated simply.
"Charlieís probably dead."
"Jed, no!" Abby exclaimed.
"Come on, Abby. Letís be real about this. There have been threats. Heís been missing for three days without a trace. His family has all but disappeared. And weíve seen for ourselves the evil that men can do."
"We canít give up on Charlie, Jed. For Zoeyís sake, we canít give up until we know for sure."
"And then what? If he turns up dead, how do we deal with that? How do we help her survive that?"
"Whoa, Jed. Letís take this one step at a time."
They were silent for a few moments. Then Jed sighed deeply. With a voice etched in more sorrow than Abby had ever heard before, he said, "How did this happen? How the HELL did this happen?"