"Words Yet to Say" (1/1)
-A possible sequence of events at the Newseum as seen by Toby and Danny. (This came to mind because of the many posts on the WWFanFic Egroup this past week entitled "RE Toby and Danny.")
Disclaimer: I own nothing. I'm just obsessive.
I hear Sam call my name, turn and see him make the motion with his hand.
Oh, God. Thank you!
The relief floods through me and I hold in a sob of happiness. Out of the corner of my eye I see Josh in the walkway below. I call his name and make the motion with my hand. As I do so I recall what I heard Leo had said about it originally, that it looks like a hip-hop move. I laugh at the thought of how people would react if I suddenly "busted a move", as the vernacular goes, right in the middle of the Newseum. The press would think I'd gone mad or were mocking their importance in their own museum. The joy bubbles up in me as I thank the God I've had such close conversation with over the past few hours. My eyes mist over.
I've been given a reprieve. We don't often get second chances in this life, so I feel appropriately grateful. I feel my muscles relax, muscles I hadn't even realized were tensed. And then I stop to listen to the President's wrap up. I feel such pride as I listen. I'm filled with patriotism and awe. Words have a tremendous power over me. I respect them.
Through the window of the press booth I see Leo McGarry step to a spot where President Bartlett will be sure to see him. He gives a signal. I stop and look as relief registers on the president's face. It takes me by surprise. The president received word hours ago that Scott Hotchkiss was okay. We were briefed about it before coming here. As angry as I got at CJ for making me today's poster child of the manhandled (woman-handled?) media, I was glad that the pilot was safe. So, what could this mean?
CJ smacks me upside the head and tells me to follow her. I fight a battle between my annoyance and the tiniest bit of hope. Could it be that she might finally ease up and give me another chance? I search her eyes for the affection I've sought for so long.
She tells me to call my science editor; that she is giving me something before the others.
Where's my phone?
We are walking out to the cars. I feel like I'm floating instead of walking, the burdensome weight of despair gone from my shoulders.
I see Danny Concannon walking toward the press booth. He glances at me and nods by way of greeting. He looks as though he's coming to a sudden realization and asks, "Any word on the 'astronewts?'" I don't like Danny very much. He's too glib and smooth for my taste, especially around CJ. But my happiness over my brother's safe landing is such that I grin in reply. I continue walking past him as he nods his head emphatically, satisfied that he's guessed correctly.
As we leave the building I'm just behind Zoey and Charlie. She is giving him a hard time about something, assuring him that he will apologize to her. My happiness is such that I find their exchange amusing. I hear the president call for me to walk with him and grin in anticipation of the lecture to come. I find lectures far more bearable when I've already realized I will follow the recommended course of action.
I'm going to take time away from work and go see David. Though I'm sure that I was right and he was wrong, I'm going to tell him I love him. Even if he is stupid… and stubborn… he is my brother and I love him. The president makes the now-familiar hand motion, and it does look to me as though he's celebrating hip-hop. I smile broadly. I just can't help it. I thought David was dead and any hope of reconciliation dead along with him.
I have a second chance. I savor it.
The president moves to work the rope line. I love that. That he can't turn away from the people is one of his most redeeming characteristics. Again, I'm awash in patriotism and pride. I'm proud that this man wants me to walk with him. I haven't felt this good since the Mendoza confirmation, my day of Jubilee.
This has been a good day.
There was a yell and noise. Gunfire.
The Columbia landed how many hours late? Doors. Malfunction. No wonder Toby looked worse than usual today! I just thought he was having yet another in a long chain of his normal bad days. Ever since his wife left him he's been a misery to himself and others alike. That's a man who has practiced misery as an art form. We're talking years of it! When I overheard CJ talking about "astronewts" to Carol in a hushed tone I didn't know what to think. Then I heard Sam say something about Toby's brother the astronaut.
This is great. Page one. One for Danny Concannon. God knows I could use it after the way CJ's been shutting me out lately. Not only have I missed her, but it hasn't helped my career any either. A disco tune runs through my head, "Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight!" Man, I hate it when that happens. But I would like to do a little dance about now.
I debate trying to pitch the word "astronewt" as part of a headline and let the idea die the swift death it deserves. I was hoping that CJ was being disparaging of Toby in some way when I first heard it, but then Donna Moss told me that there is a newt that has an inner ear that is remarkably similar to a human being's. Where does she pick up her odd little factoids? In the back of my mind I knew that it all fit together somehow.
I should have put it together sooner. Idiot! "Do a little dance…"
Oh, this is good story. The words flow for me. Not exactly confidence building, but interesting and it ends well. I suggest to my editor that he write something about the sorry state of American aeronautics. He laughs and says that I have a devious sense of humor and to keep it up. Yes! "Get down tonight!"
This is a good day.
What? What is that noise? I drop my phone as it registers.
I feel the bullet cut into my body. Oh, God. I should have thought to get down before they knocked me down. I sink to the ground in front of the barricade. I can smell the smoke of the bullet. I can smell my blood, feel it running out of me. I still hear shots being fired. Blood is running down my side and along the ground. I'm shaking all over.
The Secret Service are all over the president. I can't tell if he's been hit or not. They are shielding him with their bodies. The noise seems very dull to me all of a sudden. People are leaping over the barricades and running in all directions, fleeing the bullets. I'm being trampled.
PAIN. I raise my hands up, trying to protect my head? Trying to protect my hands? I'm not even sure which it is. I feel bones breaking, hear them breaking from inside my head. What a horrible noise! I hate that noise!
Why would you let this happen? I don't mean that disrespectfully, of course. I wish to show you all due respect, especially if I'm about to die. But this I do not understand.
Everything seems to slow down for me. I'm pleased with most of the things I've done. I'm proud of my work, the many words I've crafted into powerful rhetoric. I'm glad I saw CJ show Leo what she was made of today... especially since she chose Danny to so appropriately deceive. I'm glad I lived to know that David had returned from his flight safely. I'm glad I served at the pleasure of the President.
I should really stop cataloging my life. It's… tempting fate.
Is this my fate?
I RUN. Most people run away from the gunfire. I run toward it. A man stands by the door, shaking from head to toe and gasping for air. Uncharitably and impatiently, I shove him aside as I slam the door open. Everything that makes me the man I am pulls me to the scene. Every instinct… reporter, friend, lover, patriot, curiosity seeker, adventurer, person who has to know. I have to know. I have to be there. My instincts are stronger than any fear, they are the reason I am the man I am.
Who's been hit? Who's been hit?
I hear people shouting those words over and over, frenzied. I see the Secret Service slamming shut the door of Bartlett's limo. The other limo is already closed tight. Over to the right I see Josh Lyman up against a fence, hanging on to the rails with both hands.
Two questions slice through me at this moment: who just tried to assassinate the president, and where is CJ?
A Secret Service agent fires one more shot and I see a figure, wearing a striped shirt, go down in a 2nd story room across the way lit by an Exit sign. That's it. This is over. Or this has just begun. Over for him at least…
Who's been hit?
Over to the left I see Leo McGarry shakily getting to his feet. Looks like Secret Service knocked hell out of him getting him down. I'm glad to see him up. The agents run him to the limo and shove him in just before it takes off away from the Newseum.
And then in front of me I see them. Sam brushes glass off his face and body. He's really torn up. He reaches out and offers a helping hand… to CJ! She rises to her feet and I nearly cry out at the sight. She looks so beautiful, vital, alive. She's cradling her arm and is scraped and bruised. I start to call to her when I see her face twist in horror. She cries out,"Toby!"
She and Sam run over to the left. That's when I see Toby Ziegler, crumpled in front of the barricade.
It's all fuzzy now. Am I dying? I don't want this to be my fate.
What about the things I haven't done? I wish I had spoken to David… and told him that even though he is stupid and stubborn, I love him, such simple words. I wish that I had made Andie happy. I wish I had a son or daughter. I wish that I could see CJ do "The Jackal" one more time, or laugh, or tease us all with her wicked intellect.
Leo was to the president's left just before the rope line. Where is he now? He should be somewhere nearby. The limo is pulling away. I hope the president is unhurt. If John Hoynes becomes president I may want it to be my fate to die in front of a museum dedicated to the news media. Or maybe not.
The shooting has stopped. They must have gotten the assassins. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit murder. Either way I'd say I'm against people shooting at other people… at least at me. My head hurts. The world has run me over and I find myself without the ability to speak up and protest. I see irony in this. My ability to speak seems to have been stepped on along with the rest of me… except for the part that got shot.
As if from very far away I hear someone call my name. I see Sam and CJ moving toward me. They are both bruised and cut. It looks like CJ's arm may be broken. They look worried. I want to tell them not to worry, but I can't seem to get words out.
"Toby! Toby! Can you hear me?" CJ cries out. "Help!!! We need help! He's been shot!"
She kneels next to me and grabs my shoulder. I wince. Sam says "Toby. Can you hear me? You're gonna be fine."
I finally manage, "CJ, I think your arm is broken. You should have that looked at." It comes out as a whisper since I can't get enough air. Lungs? You there?
CJ looks at me oddly and assures me, "OK, Toby. I will."
Thinking of the call I want to make I whisper, "May I borrow your phone?"
Both CJ and Sam look at me as though I've gone mad.
Things go black.
I can't seem to step forward anymore. I watch CJ and Sam go to Toby's side. He speaks, so that's a good sign, but then he seems to go unconscious. That's not so good. Sam says something to CJ and runs toward Secret Service agents, yelling.
And then it seems to me that the rest of the world fades out and slows down. I watch as CJ carefully sits next to Toby and pulls his head to her shoulder. She doesn't seem to know that anyone else is around. She only sees Toby. There is a tenderness in her movements that cuts into me.
I slowly walk over to them. My reporter's instinct is in independently in tune with the events around me, taking in details and saving up words and phrases for the story I'll write. My breaking heart is involved in an entirely different way. I stop, standing over Toby and CJ.
"Can I help... CJ?" I ask her.
She looks up with shocked, dazed eyes. She shakes her head and looks back at Toby. She moves her hand to Toby's cheek, stroking him softly. I hear her whispering, "Don't go, Toby. Don't go." She continues whispering to him as I stand and watch and feel myself shaking all over.
Through the darkness I'm vaguely aware of noise and warmth. The pain is duller now. My trembling has slowed. I feel something against my face, something very pleasant. I hear a voice calling me back.
It's CJ. "Don't go, Toby. Don't go. Don't let them take you from us. We need you. We need your heart and strength and your moral compass. We need you to guide us when the demons are getting the best of us. We need your brilliance and your sweetness and your gruff way of keeping us all grounded. We need you now more than ever. And I need you, Toby. I need you to challenge me to be better, to be more. I need your quiet admiration. I need your respect. I need you... I need you to come back."
How in the world could I refuse?
I'm so tired that I wish I could, but I can't. I still have things to do. I have a second chance. I have to talk to my brother, not let death steal peace from us forever. I have to be there for CJ and the others. Just the softness in CJ's voice is reason enough to defy mortality. I have words yet to say, words that will help define a better future for our nation. I have to push on and serve at the pleasure of the president. I have too much to live for.
I struggle to open my eyes. I see CJ looking at me, tears running down her beautiful face. I whisper, "OK," and struggle to stay awake. I lock gazes with her and cling to the emotions I see.
As the ambulances leave I take notes and look around at the devastation of this scene. I feel the same level of devastation inside myself.
In all the time I've covered the White House I've never seen a night like this one. Earlier I thought it was a good day. I was wrong. It was not a good day, but it is one that will live on in the conscience of this nation forever. From the clothing and appearance of the young men they took away, one in handcuffs and a police car, one on a gurney in an ambulance and a third zipped into a body bag before being sent to the morgue, I see where this story is headed. Speaking earlier tonight, President Bartlett talked about the first time that the phrase "All men are created equal" was used. He said then that it was odd that it had taken us as long as it did to express it. Now we have proof that we're taking even longer to learn to live it.
So, as a reporter and an American I'm disheartened, sickened. If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, this is not so great a nation as we claim. We have much to overcome in our present and our future. All I can do as a reporter is to try to bring this home to people in such vivid detail and with so much resonance that they will join together and defy the weakness, defy mortality. I hope that I can find the words.
As a man, I'm also disheartened. I've thought all this time that the main thing keeping CJ from me was the circumstance of "conflict of interest." And, frankly, I've resented Leo and Toby and the others for their lack of faith in CJ, their lack of faith in me. But tonight I saw that it's more than that. I saw a tenderness in her towards Toby that I don't even think she knew she felt.
It's been a night that will change all our lives forever.