Valley of Shadows
Disclaimer: 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. The dialogue in the first sequence of this story is taken directly from "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part II" written by Aaron Sorkin.
Authorís Note: This is my take on the reaction of Charlie and Zoey after the scene in which Jed and Ron tell Charlie about the statement of the signal man captured after the assassination attempt. Feedback is encouraged and appreciated.
Rating: PG-13 (For serious themes)
Spoilers: "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen - Part II"
Archive: Anytime, anywhere (just let me know where and when and give me credit)
Summary: Charlie reacts to hearing the motive behind the assassination attempt.
It was one of those moments that would forever change a personís life. Only Charlie didnít know it yet as he stood in the middle of the Presidentís recovery room. Considering he had survived an assassination attempt and surgery, the President looked remarkably well. All things considered, Charlie was greatly relieved to see him sitting up, awake and alert, already back to business. As Charlie waited, Abby looked to Jed to see how he would proceed. Zoey and Ron stood quietly in their respective corners and waited.
"Charlie," Jed began slowly, "the guy the Secret Service has in custody, his name is Carl Leroy. He gives a statement in which he says that he and the two shooters were members of an organization called West Virginia White Pride."
Charlie knew of the threats coming from the various white supremacists groups against him and Zoey. But to think anyone would be so brazen! Charlie was in disbelief. "They tried to kill the President Ďcause Zoey and I are together?"
Jed couldnít form the words. So Abby looked up and said softly, "No." Jed remained silent, looking at a point behind the younger manís shoulder.
Charlie saw this as confusion creased his face. "Why did-"
Ron, sensing the Presidentís discomfort, spoke up from behind. "Charlie." Charlie turned around to face the head of the Presidentís detail. "The President wasnít the target. According to the statement, the President wasnít the target." Ron would have said more, but he saw the dawning realization in Charlieís eyes.
Charlie nodded once. "Oh. Okay," he said softly. He slowly turned back to face Jed and Abby. Any hope that Ronís statement and Charlieís understanding of its implications was a mistake was shattered by one look at Jedís face. Charlie swallowed, trying to find his voice. "Okay. Well, okay. Thank you, Mr. President." For some reason, Charlie found that to be the oddest thing to say right now. ĎThank you for what? For telling me that IÖí He couldnít finish the thought. He turned and walked out the room, barely hearing the Presidentís muted acknowledgement.
Throughout this entire exchange, Zoey had remained silent, never taking her eyes off of Charlie. Now, as he walked out the door, she was torn. She didnít want to leave her fatherís side, but she knew Charlie needed her. With her mother there, Zoey quickly made up her mind. "Dad, Iím gonna-"
Jed nodded in complete understanding. "Go," he said, and watched as she followed Charlie down the hall. He looked at his wife, with a mixture of guilt and sadness. His words were thick with heaviness. "We donít know what the injury count is yet." Abby nodded and took his hand.
Charlie was barreling through the halls of the hospital, searching for a way out, but he seemed to be running into more halls. He needed to think and clear his mind. The blood in his head was pounding so loud, it was deafening. But it wasnít loud enough to drown out Ronís words:
"The President wasnít the target."
He barely heard Zoey calling his name. She had followed him until she caught up to him. "Charlie! Charlie wait!" she cried. But he kept walking. He finally found his way to the waiting room. Donna was sitting there, wringing her hands in worry for Josh. She sensed someone looking at her and looked up at him. As they locked eyes, Charlie felt the bile rise in his throat. He was the reason she was here; he was the reason they all were here. He finally broke eye contact and headed for the door.
By this time, Zoey was tired of chasing Charlie. She stood still and yelled, "Charlie stop!"
Charlie pulled up in his tracks. He stood still, but didnít turn around. "What do you want?" he asked.
"Charlie, please. Talk to me."
"What do you want me to say, Zoey?"
"I donít- I donít know. I guess I want to know what youíre thinking."
"Trust me on this one, you really donít want to know what Iím thinking right now," he said bitterly.
Zoey was angered by his tone. She lashed out at him, "You havenít said two words to me all night! I needed you - I still need you - and youíre running out on me!"
"Zoey, this isnít the time or the place to have this conversation," he said through clenched teeth.
"Then when and where?" she spat out.
"I donít want to do this, Zoey!"
Now she was hurt. She lowered her voice. "Well, I do." She stepped up behind him and placed her hands on his shoulders. He flinched violently at her touch, causing her to take a step back. "Charlie, please. We have to talk about this. All of this. Itís not like you were alone out there. They were shooting at all of us."
He spun around to face her and Zoey could see the tears in his eyes. "Yeah. But it was me they were trying to kill! Is that what you wanted to me to say? Is that what you needed to hear?" he said coldly.
"They shot your father! They shot Josh! But they were trying to kill me! Thereís nothing else to say!" He turned his back to her and started walking away.
She ran and stood right in front of him. "Donít shut me out, Charlie. Please, donít leave. Not like this."
"Go away, Zoey."
"No. Iím not leaving," she said forcefully, blinking back her own tears.
He grabbed her by the shoulders. His voice was harsh and his eyes were dead. "You need to go back inside. You need to stay away from me."
"Charlie, no," she pleaded.
"Stay away from me!" He shoved her towards the entrance and walked out the door.
Abby had followed behind Zoey. She stood back quietly and witnessed the disturbing exchange between Zoey and Charlie. Watching him leave and fighting through her own churned emotions, Abby went to her trembling daughter and wrapped Zoey up in her arms. She felt Zoeyís tears staining her chest. "Shhh," she whispered. "He needs some time. Give him some time," she said soothingly. She began to lead Zoey back inside, all the time Jedís words ringing in her ears:
"We donít know what the injury count is yet."