Very brief spoiler of ITSOTG II. I forgot at the beginning... It's not the shooting, it's from one of the flashbacks considering It's Not Over Till It's Over certainly didn't follow the vision of AS. Okay... ~Flip
For disclaimer and notes, please see part one.
Previously, on the West Wing: The trio of CIA agents make it to the boarder but Crystal has to break away from the pack in order to get the two across safely. Mallory enlists a hung-over Josh to find a missing Sam, who isn't dealing with Crystal's possible death very well while negotiations are going on for a peace deal. Crystal finds an old friend who lets her rest.
Lian let Crystal borrow her shower and a set of clothes. She tried to prevent Crystal from leaving before a hot meal and a brief nap but Crystal would hear none of it. She had to get back to the States. "Do you have any money?" Lian asked as Crystal started for the door wearing an embroidered blue silk suit.
"I don't need money," Crystal said. "I can do fine on my own." Lian shook her head and pulled Crystal back into her house.
"You don't have papers, you'll need to bribe somebody."
"I can bribe with words, Lian." Lian moved a worn rug off the floor and pried up a floorboard. Crystal shook her head. She had made that particular upgrade to Lian's humble abode on her first trip to China.
"I'm not going to take your money, Lian." Lian placed the folded bills in her hand.
"Listen to me, Crystal. You've got a boyfriend waiting at home and, with no word from you, he won't wait forever. You have no passport, no ID. You'll need something other than your good looks and silver tongue."
"Thanks, Lian. I'll pay you back."
"Send me pictures of the kids. That's all I ask." Crystal shook her head and hugged her old friend and ally.
"Take care, Lian. Don't take this the wrong way but I hope to never see you again." Lian smiled.
"Ditto. Watch your back."
"Yes, ma'am," Crystal said, looking in the woman's eyes one last time. "Bye."
"No crying," Lian scolded. "You've got that political fellow waiting." Crystal smiled faintly and left without looking back. Lian watched Crystal go with tears pouring from her eyes, like she was sending a lamb to the slaughter. Crystal knew she had miles to go before she could sleep.
"There he is," Josh said, pointing to a guy sitting on the banks of the Potomac.
"Thank God," Mal said as she pulled her car off the road. She and Josh dodged traffic and raced down to him. "Sam!"
Sam turned slowly, seeing Mallory and Josh. He looked back at the water. It was still tempting, to join the calm, but there was a greater pull to stay with his friends. He stood as Mal ran to him, throwing her arms around him. He held her close, crying. "Mal."
"I'm sorry, Sam. I'm so sorry about Crystal." Josh stood back, looking at the tender embrace. He had been able to put the sadness and pain out of his heart as he and Mal had searched for Sam. But there was Sam, healthy and relatively okay. Josh no longer had a purpose. Sam glanced over at Josh as Mal's hold on him started to loosen.
"Josh?" Josh glanced at him. "Did you get the letter?" He nodded slowly as Sam walked to him. "You gonna be okay, buddy?"
"No," said Josh.
"I bought a skylight for a house that doesn't exist." Mal was thoroughly lost. Sam placed a hand on his shoulder as Josh started to cry again.
"C'mon," Sam said. "Let's go get something to eat. I don't feel much like it but I know I need something to munch on." Josh nodded as the three trudged back up to Mal's car.
"The bombing and shooting has stopped, at least for now," announced the news anchor. "The United Nations worked out a tentative cease fire between warring India and Pakistan. We go now to Dana Rogers at the White House. Dana?" Josh turned off the TV in his office. It had come three days too late. If it had come a little earlier, Crystal might still be alive to come back to him. Instead, he sat in his office with an engagement ring in his pocket. He thought briefly about his father, looking at a framed photograph on the wall.
"I came close, Pop," he said. "First step towards those grandkids you always wanted."
Crystal dusted off the silk suit as she approached the guard post at the White House gate. "Hi," she said, deciding not to even venture a guess at whether it was afternoon, morning, or evening for that matter. To be quite truthful, she was not positively sure what day it was or how long she had been gone.
"Can I help you?" asked the guard skeptically.
"Oh, tell me it hasn't been that long," Crystal said.
"How are you, Dennis?" she asked.
"You look... Different."
"Yeah," she said with a frail smile. "May I?" He handed her the clipboard to sign in.
"Thanks," she said with a grateful smile. "It's wonderful to be back."
As she started up the path to the White House, the guard began talking into his sleeve. "Emerald is on her way in." She nodded to the Marine guard who opened the door for her. Taking a deep breath, she started for the Oval Office. She had no desire to waste her energy seeing if either Josh or Sam was in their offices, especially because chances were high they were somewhere else on the West Wing. They would learn of her return soon enough. "Hey, Mrs. L." Mrs. Landingham looked up at the exhausted picture of Crystal before her.
"How are you, ma'am?"
"I think the more important question is, dear, how are you?"
"Better now, thank you. I'd like to speak to the President if he's not too terribly busy."
"He's just in there with Charlie right now. Go on in."
"Thanks, Mrs. L." Crystal slowly opened the door that led to the Oval Office.
"So, Charlie, never ever fight a water current that-"
"I'm sorry to interrupt, Mr. President," Crystal said. Bartlet had to do a double take.
"Yes, sir," she said.
"My goodness, you-When did you get in?" Crystal looked at her bare wrist, forgetting again that she had used her watch to demolish the CIA HQ in India.
"However long it took me to get through customs and hail a taxi, sir," she said.
"Does Josh or Sam know that you're-"
"Rob Conrad doesn't even know. I have no cell phone on me, no radio, no means of communication. It took every last dime I had on me to pay my cab fare and I still wound up walking three blocks because I didn't have enough," she said, silently blessing Lian's heart.
"Charlie, get Director Conrad on the phone," Bartlet said.
"Yes, sir." He smiled at Crystal as he passed her. "Good to see you again." She nodded.
"You, too, Charlie."
"What's. We were under the impression you had."
"Died?" Crystal asked. "Not quite."
"Sam and Josh are going to be so surprised."
"That's your call, sir," Charlie said, "on line oh-one." Bartlet looked at Crystal, then motioned for her to take the phone.
Josh sat with his back to his door, looking at the diamond ring in the jewelry box. He had been so close to settling down. The weird thing was that he was starting to look forward to the idea of getting home from work and trying to fix a broken sink in a quaint house outside the city. He could see little Josh juniors and baby Crystals running amuck with their mother's mischief and his headstrong tenacity. Filing joint taxes, raising children, growing old and gray next to the woman he loved with every fiber in his being seemed like such a lovely outcome. He closed his eyes and snapped the box closed angrily. He had been so close.
"Hey, Josh," Donna said softly from his door.
"What?" he snapped.
"The President wants to see you," she said.
"He say why?" he asked as he stood and slipped the box into his pants pocket.
"Thanks, Donna," he said.
"Are you going to be okay?"
"I hope so," he said almost too quiet for her to hear. "Where's Sam?" he asked as he left his office.
"He should be getting back from the Hill with Toby and C.J. any minute now."
"I want to see him before he leaves for the night."
"Sure," she said. All the staffers in the corridors allowed Josh a wide wake, him and Sam both. The entire building was downcast after hearing about the last communication with Crystal. Josh was thankful for the space, though he felt empty. Every time he turned a corner, he halfway expected to run into her or hear her laughter float from the Roosevelt Room or the Oval Office.
Josh glanced curiously at Mrs. Landingham's empty desk and turned to where he should have found Charlie. Both were conspicuously missing. He looked into the Oval Office and saw Bartlet talking with a woman who had her back to him. He didn't give her a second thought as he entered. "Josh!" Bartlet said with a large grin upon seeing him.
"Mr. President." The woman turned slowly and looked at him. Josh was taken aback. Shivers tingled up and down his spine. His heart started to race. Her hair was short and her eye color was way off but she looked like Crystal.
"Josh?" She even had Crystal's voice.
"Crystal?" he ventured. He decided he was either crazy or dreaming. Either way, he did not care so long as he had her back. She raced to him, throwing her arms around him. "Are you real?" he asked, astonished, hugging her.
"Very much so," she said.
"Your hair, your-"
"I missed you."
"Yeah. I know. I'm not."
"But... The explosion... The reports..." He held her at arms length to look at her. "Your eyes." She smiled.
"Contacts." She removed them before looking up at him again and slipped them into her pocket. In the short time she had taken her eyes away from his, his eyes had started to water.
"Crystal?" he said as he started to comprehend that she was truly there, in his arms.
"I had to go undercover," she explained. "I didn't ever think I'd have to again. I didn't have time to do anything hardly before I had to leave. I just. Josh." He stopped her with a kiss. Bartlet leaned against his desk, watching the reunion. He tried to stifle his warm chuckle, knowing he was watching something never before witnessed in the center of the Oval Office.
Charlie was eagerly awaiting Sam, C.J., and Toby's return from a meeting on Capitol Hill. "You've got to come with me," Charlie said as soon as the three had entered.
"What's going on?" asked C.J.
"Something you're going to have to see to believe," said Charlie.
"Could you be any more cryptic?" asked Toby.
"I got your letter," Josh said as they stopped for air. She nodded. "I like the haircut." She laughed. "I thought I had lost you forever," he said, turning serious.
"Crystal, there's something I've wanted to ask you for a while now."
"What?" she asked. He dried her tearstained cheeks.
"These past few days without you, Crystal, have been unbearable. I can't... I can't live without you now or ever." Realization started to set in on Crystal. Bartlet had not seen it coming either but he put together what was going on. He looked at Leo's closed door and wished he were watching, too. "I want... I need you with me. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more important to me than you."
"Woah, hold it," Charlie said quietly, preventing C.J., Sam, and Toby from entering the Oval Office. The four watched curiously.
"Who's Josh talking to?" Toby asked. Sam's jaw dropped.
"Crystal," Sam muttered.
"What?" asked C.J.
"Shh!" Charlie said.
"I mean, I always figured I'd end up the consummate bachelor, you know? I don't want that. I thought I did, but I don't. I want to wake up in the morning and see you next to me every day for the rest of my life. I want to spend Saturdays mowing a yard or painting a room or trying to build a doghouse, even washing windows. I want children," he said. Crystal started crying again, harder than before. "I want to wake up at three in the morning to change dirty diapers and complain about spit up on my coat before going into work. I want us to drive the kids to soccer practice or go to mind-numbing piano recitals where we'll have to carry aspirins or else die of migraines." She laughed lightly. "I don't care what we do. I just. I can't stand being without you. I'll even quit working for President Bartlet and join the CIA to follow you on missions if you want. We can both be in the middle of ground zero and it won't matter to me just so long as I'm with *you*. I'll do anything for you, anything. Crystal, I honestly don't remember how I ever survived without you."
C.J. started to get teary-eyed, watching Josh speak so passionately. Sam wound up sitting on the floor; his knees could no longer support him. Toby was in silent shock. Charlie was taking mental notes, hoping he could remember some of Josh's lines to use when he got around to settling down. No one noticed the audience multiplying in the open doorway. Bartlet was too caught up in the soap opera being performed in front of him. Josh and Crystal were completely lost in each other that everything else just disappeared.
"I know now that I can't go on unless you're with me. I thought I had lost you in India. Ask anybody. I didn't know what to do with myself. I just went crazy. I can't go through that again. I love you, Crystal. I love you more than anything in this world. You're the best thing to happen to me as far back as I can remember." Josh slowly knelt down in front of her, which subsequently caused all the female staffers watching at the door to give a collective sigh. He pulled the engagement ring from his pocket and opened the box. "Crystal, will you marry me? Will you make me whole?" Crystal knew that Josh's eloquent speech could be summed up neatly with one little word, though it seemed awfully inappropriate. How on earth could three letters answer such a powerful request? She did it anyway.
"Yes." The cheer from the peanut gallery finally brought the happy couple out of their bubble. Josh and Crystal could hardly believe the gathering they had attracted. Josh looked up at Crystal, memorizing her expression of pure joy, before slipping the ring on her hand. "I love you, Josh," she said as he stood up.
"I love you," he said, kissing her. Leo, who had joined the crowd, caught Bartlet's eye. The President shrugged before starting for his deputy chief of staff and his new fiancée.
"Congratulations," he said, shaking Josh's hand.
"Thank you, Mr. President. I didn't mean to-" Bartlet grinned.
"You did just fine, Josh. Just fine." The group that had gathered to watch started to disperse. They were still in the White House of all places and had work that needed to be done. C.J., Toby, Sam, Leo, and Charlie entered the Oval Office to offer their congratulations to the couple as well. Sam and Josh broke into laughs as they hugged.
"Hey, 'cuz,'" said Josh.
"Just because you're marrying Crystal doesn't mean I have to accept you into the family," Sam said, laughing so hard he could barely get the sentence out.
"You're going to be up there with me, right? Best man?"
"Wild horses couldn't drag me away." He turned to Crystal. "You sure you want to marry this bum?"
"I've never been more sure of anything," she said. Sam picked her up in a hug.
"Thank God you're alive," he said. "Thank God you're home."
"I didn't mean to scare y'all," she said as Sam set her back on the ground. "That was never my intention," she said, looking at Josh.
"Doesn't matter," Josh said. "You're here now. Nothing else matters."
"So," Bartlet said, clapping his hands together. "What's next?"
End. For now. ;)