TITLE: "Against The Fall Of Night"
Against The Fall Of Night
"Are you in or are you out?"
Sam blinked up at C.J. "What?"
She leaned on his door-frame. "I'm going to do something and I want you to come with me."
"What are you doing?"
"I don't want to tell you yet."
"Is it illegal?"
"Of course not!"
"Because if you're planning some kind of bloody coup, I'd feel obligated to call Security."
She shook her head. "I've seen the boss's job and I don't want it. Come on."
"It's just that you sound like you're recruiting for a youth gang."
"Seriously. Are you in or are you out?" C.J. folded her arms and fixed him with a steady look.
"All right." He stood up, quickly shuffling the papers on his desk into order. "But if you have that hydraulic bumpy thing happening in your car, I'm really out."
* * *
"I'll be with him...." C.J. sang.
"I know you will," Sam chimed in.
"On that midnight train to Georgia...."
"I'd rather live in his world... than live without him in mine!"
Sam beamed. "You know, we haven't done that one since the campaign."
"It's the best karaoke song in the world," she agreed cheerfully, turning the volume on the car stereo down as she merged into the Beltway traffic. "You always made a better Pip than Josh."
"Well, it took some practice," he said modestly.
"I remember." C.J. squinted into the late afternoon sunlight. "I think the traffic report lied to me. I think there was an accident over here."
"What makes you say--" He followed her gaze and saw the flashing lights ahead. "Oh."
"We may be stuck for a little while."
"We can handle it. We've survived being on the road together before."
"Barely," she teased. "It was good for us, though."
"Yeah. It built character."
"Right. After about a hundred rounds of Josh's 'Who Would You Rather Sleep With?' game, I was pretty sure I could handle anything."
He chuckled softly. "I guess he took that a little too far, huh?"
"He'll never know how close Toby came to leaving him on the side of the road by the Colorado-Kansas border."
"It was good, though," Sam said. "We were good."
"And we won."
"That too." He lowered his sun visor and leaned back in his seat. "C.J.?"
"I think I know where we're going." She didn't respond, so he added, "I mean, I kind of figured it out by the route."
C.J. did not look away from the road. "Well, you went to Princeton."
"Are you still in?"
It was his turn to pause for a long time.
She watched him from the corner of her eye. "Sam?"
"Okay." He ran a hand through his hair. "Yeah. Okay."
* * *
It was much darker by the time the car pulled over, and the orange streetlights were competing with the cerulean glow of twilight.
"So," Sam said, unfastening his seatbelt.
C.J. exhaled slowly. "So we're here."
"Now we get out of the car."
So they did. She leaned against her door, and he walked around to stand beside her. They stared up at the building.
"It looks..." Sam shrugged. "I thought it was bigger than this."
She nodded. "Me too."
"You think someone could have come along and--"
She glanced at him, bemused. "What, with a shrinking ray?"
"I'm just saying, it was bigger last time."
"Yeah." C.J. hugged herself. "And warmer."
"It was August," he pointed out. "It's March now. Do you want to go inside?"
"No." Sam was wearing a coat, but he shivered anyway. "Why don't we want to go inside?"
"I don't know. Because nothing happened in there." C.J. looked thoughtful. "When we were in there, we were..."
"Safe," Sam said. "And in there, that was the last place we were."
"The last place we were safe?"
He shook his head. "The last place we were. Before."
She forced herself to say it. "Before the shooting."
"Before the shooting." He scuffed one shoe along the pavement. "So we're here."
"Stop calling it 'here'," C.J. said quietly.
"You're right. Rosslyn." He weighed the syllables carefully, the way he did with every word in a speech. "Why'd you want to come here?"
"I've been having this thing." She bit her lip. "This dream. I don't like it. I don't like waking up that way."
"If I could be here...." C.J. sighed. "If I could come back to Rosslyn and see it, and not just have this shadow of it in my mind, I thought maybe that would help."
She looked down at the ground. "I couldn't just ask you."
Sam edged closer to her, letting his arm touch hers. "I understand that too."
"You're not upset?"
"Not at you." He swallowed hard. "Want to walk around a little?"
"We should. In a minute."
"Want to tell me what you've been dreaming about?" he asked, tentatively.
He didn't think she was going to reply, but she finally spoke. "I've only been that scared once in my whole life."
* * *
She had walked out of Chaminade-Julienne High School and into the bright Friday afternoon. Her brother had been waiting.
"Hey, asshole." She hit him lightly on the arm. "You didn't tell me you were coming home this weekend."
"If I'd known I was going to get that kind of welcome, I'd have stayed at school." Thomas grinned at her. "Want a ride home?"
They crossed the lot to his dilapidated car. "So how are the nuns treating you?" he asked.
"They love me," she said, feigning innocence. "I'm thinking of becoming a nun, actually."
Thomas looked at her with blank terror. "What?"
She held the deadpan for a moment longer, then burst out laughing. "I can't believe you even bought that for a second."
"You're going to hell."
"I know." C.J. pushed some books and papers off the passenger seat so she could get in. "How are you?"
"I've been better." He climbed into the car and shut his door.
Thomas took a deep breath. "I'm going to flunk Sociology. My roommate's girlfriend calls him four times a day, and she thinks I'm lying when I tell her he's honestly not there. I have to write a ten-page lab report for Tuesday. And I'm gay."
She stared at him. "Okay. Well. The lab report sounds like it's going to be a pain."
"What do you want me to say?"
"I certainly don't want you to pretend you didn't hear me."
"I heard you." She pushed the seat back to accommodate her long legs. "I just don't care."
"You're surprised?" C.J. spoke very slowly, as if she was trying to explain something to a child. "You're my brother. I don't care. What do you want me to say?"
"Damned if I know." Thomas blushed. "First time I ever said that. To another person. And you don't care."
"He can be taught!" she declared.
He put the car into gear, and they were quiet as they pulled out of the parking lot. "You know what?" he said, after a while. "Mom's going to kill me."
"Yes," C.J. said. "But then she'll get over it."
"She will. It's not like you're insulting her marinara sauce."
He had to smile. "That would be the unforgivable sin, wouldn't it?"
"That would be an abomination."
That was when the other car sped through the intersection, and neither of them saw it until a split-second before it hit them.
It was three days later when C.J. opened her eyes again. She blinked hard to adjust her vision to the daylight, and tried to figure out where she was. She realized she could barely move, and panic rippled through her. Then pain cut through the disorientation; she tensed up and discovered that someone was holding her hand. She turned her head with some difficulty. Thomas looked haggard, but he was smiling at her.
"Hey," she murmured.
"Hey, yourself. You scared the hell out of us."
"That car is a thing of the past." He looked away from her. "It was totalled. I should've been watching the road, Ceej."
"Wow." She tried to sit up again and winced. "I should've been wearing a seatbelt."
"You're going to be fine," he promised her. "You lost a lot of blood, but nothing important was broken. They patched you up pretty good."
"Where are Mom and Dad?"
"They went for coffee."
"I want some coffee."
"No, you want some rest," he said firmly. "They filled you with Demerol. You're still stoned."
Rest sounded good to her. "Okay."
"Good. Hey, I got you something." Thomas held something up, and it sparkled in the light.
"Yeah." He frowned sadly to himself. "The doctor said you might have a little scar, so I thought...."
He pressed it into the palm of her hand. "It's for you."
"Thank you," she said drowsily.
"C.J.--" he began.
"Going to sleep now."
"Okay." And Thomas had smiled at her again as she'd closed her eyes.
* * *
Continued in part two.