Disclaimer-All characters belong to Aaron Sorkin except for Crystal Seaborn and a couple various CIA agents, their allies and their enemies. No infringement is intended. Any similarity to events or persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. "Come Back To Me" is a song by the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. Lyrics belong to Lerner-Lane and the group belongs to Space Age Bachelor Pad Records and Mojo Records. "Sneakers" belongs to Universal Pictures. (Did you know Timothy Busfield is in that? According to the IMDB he is… I’m going to have to watch it again-closer this time.) The Girl from UNCLE belongs to MGM and/or Ted Turner. Mission: Impossible is a creation of Bruce Geller.
Thanks to LauraS. What would I do without you? Thanks to Marie-Claire and Lisa from the list for answering my questions about WW water incidents. :) Plus, to Mr. Know-it-All, Dad-thanks bunches for your information on all things strange. Also, Marie-Claire, I hope you enjoy the ride. :)
Notes-I never figured Crystal would come this far. (And I have two more story ideas I’m playing around with. Heaven help me.) Thanks, everybody, for your comments-you help keep me going. In other words, tired of Crys yet? Lemme know.
ALSO-This story takes place in two vastly different time zones. It may be nighttime in one scene, corresponding to midday in another. I hope it’s not too terribly confusing.
Spoilers-Lord John Marbury, He Shall From Time to Time, Let Bartlet be Bartlet… I think that’s all really.
Archive-Just let me know where it’s headed. Thanks.
Feedback is always welcome.
Come Back 2 Me-There’s a war between India and Pakistan as well as between two deputy senior staffers and the CIA director. Fourth in the Crystal Seaborn series…
Crystal Seaborn removed her glasses and rubbed her tired eyes. She was not sure how long she had been reviewing reports but it certainly felt like it had been forever. Leaning back in her chair, she sighed. It had been an excruciatingly long day. Glancing at her watch, she sat up immediately. "Josh!" She picked up her phone and quickly dialed his cell number.
"Josh, honey, I’m sorry," she said.
"Oh," he said flatly. "It’s you."
"I got so wrapped up in work that I completely lost track of time."
"So you stood me up with a cloak and dagger, huh?"
"Are you still at the restaurant? I’ll leave now-"
"No, there’s not point in that." Crystal sighed. ‘Of all days to forget,’ she scolded herself.
"Can I do anything to make it up to you?"
"Actually, yeah. There is something."
"Just name it."
"You can open your door."
"Get up from your desk, walk to your door, and open it."
"You said you’d do anything." She shook her head as she stood.
"All right, all right." She kept the phone, stretching the cord to its limit as she walked to the door. "I don’t know why you want me to do this. I’ll just end up staring at-" She stopped when she saw Josh standing just outside her door with a bag from their favorite Chinese restaurant, where she was supposed to have met him an hour and a half ago, and his cellular phone. "You," she said smiling.
"Hey, gorgeous." She stood there grinning, amazed he had come to visit. "Can I come in?"
"Of course," she said, retreating to her desk to hang up the phone. He slipped his phone back in his suit pocket and placed the bag from the restaurant on her desk.
"So," he said, wrapping his arms around her from behind. "Working hard?"
"You have no idea."
"Anything we should be concerned about?"
"Other than the fact that India and Pakistan are both looking into blowing themselves up again, no."
"Seriously?" She nodded. "No wonder you’re working late." He kissed her neck. "Do I need to let you go?" She shook her head, leaning back against him and closing her eyes.
"You’d better not ever let me go." She turned in his arms to look at him. "Josh, this… This isn’t gonna be good. Intelligence reports are coming in by the hundreds from all over India, Pakistan, Kashmir, China-everywhere within bombing distance. It’s about to hit the fan again."
"Does the President know?"
"He was informed this morning in a briefing. Since then," she said, pointing to the three boxes of files on her office floor, "we’ve been deluged. That’s only a fraction of it. Robby Conrad has four boxes he’s lookin’ at."
"Good grief," he said.
"The most ever in a fourteen hour period in the history of the CIA. Even through the Cold War, we’ve never had so many reports in that short a time frame until today."
"What happens now?"
"I’ll be in to talk with President Bartlet in the morning."
Sighing lightly, he said, "Second verse, same as the first."
"A little bit louder and a little bit worse," Crystal finished, shaking her head.
"I’ll go if you need to work, Crystal," he said. She looked up at him.
"No. Let’s eat," she said. He started to release her when she stopped him. "A year ago today, we met. You hit my car."
"And you jokingly threatened to kill me," he said, smiling at the memory.
"Are you sure it was jokingly?" she asked. He could see the mischief in her eyes.
They enjoyed the Chinese take-out, reminiscing and looking forward, trying hard to ignore the boxes of file folders loaded with information on a possible impending war. "Fortune cookie?" he asked, holding one out to her. She took it and cracked it open. She popped half the cookie in her mouth as she read her fortune. She frowned, chewing thoughtfully. "What does it say?" She swallowed as she looked up at him.
"‘World travels are ahead of you,’" she read. Josh smiled.
"About a year too late, don’t you think?" She nodded.
"What about yours?" she asked before polishing off her cookie.
"Sitting with the woman you love, nothing could be better."
"That’s not what it says," she said, leaning over to get a look at it. "‘In youth and beauty, wisdom is rare.’" She looked at him. "I like the one you made up better."
"Me, too," he said before kissing her.
Josh walked into his office and dropped his backpack on his desk. As he sat down, nursing a cappuccino from a nearby coffee house, Donna entered with a day planner. "You’ve got-"
"Yeah, yeah," Josh said. "Morning meeting in twenty minutes."
"The China trade thing. I’m on it."
"Probably a lot of India/Pakistan stuff," he said. She shook her head, looking over the schedule.
"There’s nothing about India or Pakistan."
"Trust me," Josh said. "Look, before things get really out of hand, could you bring me some information on diamonds."
"Environmental or mining issues?"
"American Chemical Association?"
"No, Donna, just-" Her eyes brightened.
"Diamond earrings for me?"
"Why would I buy you diamond earrings?"
"It’s something bosses do."
"I thought they took their assistants to Bermuda."
"Hawaii," Donna corrected. "Though I guess Bermuda would be good, too..."
"No, but you’re getting closer."
"You’re going to buy me a diamond necklace?"
"In your dreams," he said.
"Why do you want to know about diam-" She looked at Josh with a goofy smile. "Aww."
"I get it."
"Get what?" Josh asked innocently.
"You should talk the President into a trip to New York," she said with a wink.
"What’s in New York?" asked Josh, now thoroughly confused.
"Tiffany’s, of course," she said.
"All right," he said slowly. "Donna, keep this low-key, please?"
"Sure," she said knowingly.
Bartlet sighed heavily. "All this since yesterday?"
"Yes, sir," Crystal said.
"At least we have some forward warning on this." She nodded. "What do you suggest?"
"Besides getting the UN on this *now*?" she asked. "I can reassign a couple agents in the hot zones of India and Pakistan. A couple strategically placed undercover operatives and we can get the orders before the generals do." Bartlet nodded slowly.
"Is there anything else I should know about, Crystal?" She shook her head.
"No. Reports from the thing in Australia have calmed down considerably. Everybody wants to see what’s going on with India and Pakistan."
"Any specifics on the operation?" she asked.
"That’s on you."
"Yes, sir," Crystal said, scribbling in a case notebook. Leo appeared at the door.
"I’m terribly sorry to interrupt, Mr. President."
"That’s all right, Leo," Bartlet said. "We’re basically through." He looked at Crystal. "How long will this take to get off the ground?"
"Let me finish about two phone calls and it’ll be in place."
"Mornin’, Leo," Crystal said.
"Good morning, Crystal."
"You up to date on all this India/Pakistan mess again?" Bartlet asked as Crystal gathered her things to leave. Leo nodded. "You know what I’m going to say." Leo sighed.
"Not *again*, Mr. President. Please?" Crystal glanced at the conversation going on behind her.
"He’s the best in this field."
"He’s way out of left field," Leo said. Crystal quietly slipped out of the room, undetected by the President and his chief of staff.
"Hey, Charlie," Crystal said.
"How are you?" he asked.
"Dead on my feet already," she said. "How’re things with you?"
"Can’t complain too much."
"That’s good." Donna came bursting into the room.
"Hey, Charlie, do you have-" She stopped dead when she saw Crystal and grinned slowly. "Hello, Crystal," she said in a singsong voice.
"Good morning, Donna. Is Josh in yet?" She nodded. "Great. Have a good day, Charlie. See you around, Donna." Donna could not help but giggle as soon as Crystal left.
"What’s going on, Donna?" asked Charlie.
"Did Zoey leave those jewelry fliers here yesterday?"
"She might have," Charlie said, digging around his desk. "Why?"
"Oh, no particular reason," she said. With one disbelieving look from Charlie, Donna spilled. "I think Josh is in the market for a ring." She pointed to her left ring finger.
"For…" Charlie asked, gesturing to the door Crystal had just walked out of. Donna nodded. Charlie immediately doubled his efforts to find the sale notifications.
As Crystal started though the West Wing hallways, she pulled out her cellular phone and called her boss, Rob Conrad, to report on what Bartlet wanted. As Bartlet had done, Conrad left the particulars of the operation up to Crystal’s discrimination. It was just as well because Crystal already had the mission planned out. She had stayed up for hours after her dinner with Josh to work on it. All it required was getting a hold of a few already placed CIA agents. With one more phone call, her part of the deal was over. Her assistant, Melissa, would make the proper arrangements and get encoded messages to the agents Crystal had picked for the job.
Crystal stopped by Sam’s office, only to find it empty. "Looking for Sam?" asked Toby from his open office.
"Yeah," she said, looking into his office. "Have you seen him yet this morning?"
"Said he had to talk to Josh about something."
"Thanks, Toby," she said. She started to walk away, but changed her mind. "You know," she said, "for a guy who writes speeches for the President for a living, you don’t seem to speak in complete sentences."
"Who are you, my grammar teacher?" he asked. She held up her hands in surrender.
"Constructive criticism." As she started towards Josh’s office, she noticed Donna, Cathy, Bonnie, and Ginger huddled over a desk, talking in hushed tones. She looked at them strangely before walking on. Before she could reach Josh’s door, however, C.J. called to her.
"Crystal, you got a minute?"
"In my office?" Crystal nodded as she followed the press secretary into her office.
"What’s going on?" she asked as C.J. closed the door behind them.
"You sail, don’t you?" She nodded. "Did you ever get… Seasick?"
"Seasick? No," Crystal said. "Why?" C.J. frowned.
"Have you ever been on an aircraft carrier?" Crystal hesitated.
"Maybe," she said.
"I’m not asking for details or anything," C.J. said quickly. "Just… Does one get seasick on aircraft carriers?" Crystal smiled slowly.
"Well, are we talking about while they’re landing aircraft or sailing around or what?"
"In a harbor."
"Nah. You should be fine. There will probably be a little sway but nothing major."
"I take it the President is going to be visiting some Navy guys?" C.J. nodded.
"Later this week, yeah."
"He may cancel the visit all things considered."
"What things considered?"
"India and Pakistan."
"Oh, yeah," Crystal said.
"Well thanks, Crystal."
"Anytime." Crystal left C.J.’s and headed straight for Josh’s office. Donna was pointing out something to Josh while Sam sat across from Josh, flipping through a file folder.
"I took a quick poll," Donna said. "We all like this one."
"We?" asked Josh.
"Yeah," Donna said. "Ginger, Bonnie, Cathy, Carol, Margaret, Nancy-"
"I get the picture, thank you," Josh said. "Why not that one?" he asked, pointing somewhere else. Crystal wondered what they were discussing as she leaned against the doorjamb.
"Oh, Josh," Donna said, shaking her head sadly. "No, no, no. Don’t ever go for something like that."
"Something like what?" asked Sam.
"I don’t see what’s so wrong about it," Josh said. Sam stood and leaned over the desk to take a look for himself.
"Which one?" asked Sam. Josh pointed again. "I don’t know. I kind of like that one, too."
"Men," Donna sighed. "Trust me, Josh. This one."
"What are you guys talking about?" asked Crystal. Sam nearly fell over, Donna yelped, and Josh hid whatever it was they were looking at. "Good morning to you, too."
"Hey, Crys," Sam said. "I’ve got a thing." He quickly ducked out Josh’s other door. Donna smiled at her.
"Me, too." Josh watched them leave.
"Do you have something else to do, too?" Crystal asked.
"Josh, staff meeting?" Donna reminded quickly, poking her head back into his office.
"Apparently so," he sighed. He turned to his assistant. "Thank you, Donna. Yes." She glanced cautiously at Crystal before leaving.
"Am I growing a third eye?" Crystal asked. "What?"
"What do you mean?" asked Josh.
"Never mind," she said as she flopped onto the chair Sam had recently vacated. She dropped her attaché case on the floor and ran both her hands through her long brown hair.
"Tired," she replied with a yawn.
"Are you going to Langley today?"
"That is where my office is, so yeah," she said. "Why?"
"Okay, I feel welcome."
"Why don’t you stick around for a little while? This meeting may last longer than usual, but feel free to use my office," he said as he stood up, holding several file folders in his hand.
"No guarantees," she said. He crossed to her and placed a hand on her shoulder, rubbing it gently.
"Not even if I asked nicely?" She exhaled slowly. "Stay," he said. "Please?" She nodded. "I’ll be back as soon as I can." He kissed the top of her head and whispered, "I love you." Smiling faintly, she watched him go.
Josh caught up to Sam quickly. "I still can’t believe you’re thinking about this seriously," Sam said as they neared the Oval Office.
"Thinking about what?" asked C.J.
"Nothing," Sam said as Josh said the first thing that popped into his mind, "Skylights." C.J. glanced at Toby, who appeared to be indifferent to the whole thing.
"What do you think?" C.J. asked.
"I was afraid of that." Toby opened the door and led the posse in. They chorused their greetings to Bartlet, who was sitting on one of the couches, grinning at Leo, who was stewing on the other. Josh smiled.
"This can only mean one thing," said Josh, referring to the staring contest on the couches.
"And what might that be?" asked Bartlet.
"You’re calling in Lord John Marbury."
"Heaven help us," Leo muttered.
"He’s such a great guy," Bartlet said.
"Wait," Sam said. "Lord John Marbury?"
"Isn’t he that Pakistan guy? Or was it India?" asked C.J.
"Actually, he’s British," Bartlet said.
"What’s going on?" Toby asked, taking a seat.
"India and Pakistan want to permanently remove each other from the map… again," said Josh.
"How’d you know?" Bartlet asked. "This isn’t anywhere on TV or-Oh," he said, answering his own question. "Never mind."
"Is this as bad as it was last time?" asked Toby.
"Depends," Leo said. "The good news is the CIA actually *knows* what’s going on *beforehand*. Bad news? They’re much more serious about getting rid of each other from what we’ve heard."
"Has there been troop deployment from either side?" asked C.J.
"No," Bartlet said. "Not yet."
"What about the talks his lordship started last time?" asked Leo. "What fell through?"
"Computer virus," Bartlet said.
"What?" asked Josh.
"Talk to Crystal," Bartlet said. "Lord Marbury started talks with India to keep the peace with a computer infrastructure."
"Even we’re not immune to hackers," Toby said, vividly remembering Margaret and the White House e-mail disaster. Bartlet shrugged. "Let me get this straight. India and Pakistan are going to *war* over a hacked computer?"
"And we went to war over taxes in the seventeen hundreds?" Bartlet asked.
"What should I tell the press?" C.J. asked.
"That we’re monitoring the situation," Sam said. Leo and Bartlet nodded.
"We’ll keep them up to date," Leo added. C.J. suppressed a laugh. ‘Like last time, Leo?’ she thought.