Notes are in part one. This is the conclusion.
Against The Fall Of Night
C.J. was pacing within a square of sidewalk. Sam still stood by the car, watching her. "I never noticed the scar," he told her softly.
"I like wearing necklaces," she said. "It's strange that there aren't more people out here."
"Weird," Sam said. "Eerie."
She shot him a look. "Yes, Sam, those are synonyms for strange."
"I guess the Newseum doesn't have anything going on tonight that would, you know, pack in the crowds."
"Like an appearance by the President."
"Like that." He moved away from the car and looked around. "Hey. Up there."
C.J. followed his gaze. A plate glass window shone back at them from a nearby building, reflecting the lights of the surrounding city.
"They repaired it," Sam observed.
"I suppose there's no reason why they wouldn't have."
"We should walk around," she said uncomfortably.
They stood motionless for a long moment. Finally, Sam set his jaw and took a step forward. "The cars were over here."
"Not all of them," she contradicted, following him. "There was one there."
"Right. And the rope line was here." He started to take carefully measured steps along an invisible line where the barricade would have been.
"Which is where the President was, because where there's a crowd...." She trailed off and wandered in the other direction. "We came down those stairs."
"Yeah." He studied the building, and the trees that looked unfamiliar without their summer foliage. "There was a crowd over here."
"Toby was here. Leo was standing here." C.J. turned in a circle. "The President was over there."
Sam let his eyes meet hers and began to walk towards her. "And Charlie and Zoey were here."
"Josh was back there."
She opened her eyes and arms wide, taking it all in. "And we were here."
He came to her side. "We were here."
"It's different without everyone," C.J. mused. "You're right. It's eerie."
"I think it would be, even if it was crowded." He hunched his shoulders. "I did think it was bigger, though."
"That's just in our heads. You remember when you first moved out of your parents' house?"
"When you go back to a place after being gone a long time, it doesn't look the same."
"Yeah." He stared down at the ground.
She touched his elbow lightly. "Are you okay?"
"It never looks the same," he said. "When you go home."
* * *
Sam had carried his suitcase from the car. It had been a sweltering California night, and the air conditioning felt wonderful as he and his sister walked into the house.
"We should have gone straight to the hospital," he said.
"Relax. Dad's there. I was there all morning, and then I had to pick you up." Talia sighed. "I hate LAX and I hate what it stands for."
"Los Angeles International Airport?"
"I mean I think it's an evil place. It's got negative energy."
"You sound like Mom," he said, and immediately wished he hadn't.
Talia gave him a dirty look. "Anyway, I wanted to come home and feed the cats, and you can drop off your stuff."
As she vanished into the kitchen, he looked around the living room. "Did you guys do something different in here?"
"New curtains," she called.
"No, that's not it."
"We moved the couch a few inches. Mom's been reading about feng shui."
"I don't really know."
"Okay." Sam sat down on the edge of his father's favorite chair and ran his hands across his face. "So tell me exactly what happened."
She came in, carrying two glasses of water. "Do I have to?"
"Yes. Yes, you do." He took the glass from her without seeing it. "I have to know, Tails."
"I guess." She dropped onto the couch. "It was really late. I kind of heard a sound in my sleep, and I woke up. And then I knew it wasn't in my sleep at all. Mom was in the hall. Crying and screaming and hitting the floor, like that time when I was nine."
"Dad was trying to calm her down, but she just kept getting louder. Then she started trying to throw herself down the stairs, and I went to call 911, and Dad was holding her, and...."
"Okay," Sam said.
Talia sipped her water. "It was really ugly."
He turned the glass around restlessly in his hands. "Do you know what set it off?"
"Do we ever know what sets her off?"
"No," he admitted. "How is she now?"
"Better. She's been resting. She'll be glad to see you." Talia pushed her hair out of her face. "I'm glad to see you, too. This is the first summer you haven't come home."
"I'm home now."
She ignored this. "What's DC like?"
"It's way more humid there. But I like it." He couldn't hold back a grin. "When you get to see how the country is run, and you get to help make things happen -- it makes me feel good. It makes me proud."
"I can tell. Mom and Dad are proud of you too."
"And you. Did you settle on a school yet?"
She nodded. "UCLA. They offered me some money, and Dad says I can have the car if I go there."
"And it's here."
Sam rested his chin in his hand sadly. "I should have been here."
"It doesn't matter."
"She needs me."
"It doesn't matter," Talia insisted. "She's sick, Sam. We can't change that. She needs medication, and she needs the doctors."
"I know," he said hesitantly.
"She's sick, and we can't do anything about it. You were right to go to Princeton. You're right going to Duke, and you sound right about Washington too."
"But I shouldn't be so far away. I should come home. I miss you guys."
"We miss you, too." She set her glass down. "But don't make a decision from that."
He scanned her face. "Isn't that why you're staying?"
"No. I like California, and I want Dad's car. That's why I'm staying."
"Really." She looked up at the clock. "We can go to the hospital now, if
"I guess I am." Sam stood up. "You're a good kid, you know."
Talia rolled her eyes. "Don't go getting all big brother on me."
"Sometimes I'm not sure you're not the big one."
"I'm the mature one."
"But I'm the smart one," Sam teased. "I've information vegetable, animal and mineral; I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical."
She picked up her father's keys and tossed them at him. "Sometimes I'm not sure you're not the girl."
* * *
Sam walked a meticulously straight line back and forth as he spoke. C.J. sat cross-legged on the chilly pavement and listened.
"I never knew that about your mom," she said gently, when he was done.
"Most of the time she's all right," he said. "The medication's improved.
"Do you call home a lot?"
"I try to."
"Then you're better than I am." She looked around. "It's so quiet here."
"It wasn't that night."
"I remember." C.J. extended a hand to him.
Sam took it and sat down on the concrete, facing her. "How much do you remember?"
"I remember the noise." She held her breath, then let it out gradually. "I remember everyone was clapping, and I was thinking about the kind of day it had been. And then I heard the yelling, and... and the shots. Although I didn't quite get it. I'd never heard, you know, gunfire. Outside of the movies."
"But you knew what it was."
"Yes." He turned her hand over in his, tracing small circles on her palm with his thumb.
"I was so confused." She was starting to cry. She tried to blink it back, then decided she didn't care. "I wasn't afraid at first. I kept thinking the Secret Service doesn't let that happen to the President."
"They don't," Sam said, trying to sound firm despite a tightness in his throat. "They didn't. We were okay."
"I was so confused. It just didn't make sense, and then I was on the ground. That was when I finally got scared." C.J. looked down and closed her eyes. "You."
"Yes." Sam lowered his eyes too. "You kept trying to get up."
"I did? I don't remember that."
"Even before it stopped. And after. No one was moving, and I didn't know if it was safe. You kept trying to get up."
C.J. found Sam's other hand with hers. "Then what happened?"
"The paramedic came over to see if we were all right. He helped me up and gave me the once-over, and then he saw you. You stood up and you just looked dazed, so he was checking you out. And I went looking."
"I don't know." Sam's eyes were filling with tears, but he didn't notice. "Our people. Like you. I just wanted to know what happened to the President. I don't even remember who told me he was alive. I was just so relieved, I forgot to be scared for anyone else."
"And then you came back here," C.J. concluded. "You were the first one I
"So was I." Sam squeezed back. "We were okay. Toby and Leo, too. It was only Josh."
She glanced at the gate. "And thank God Toby found him."
"Yeah. No one died here, C.J."
"Except up there," she said in a troubled tone, inclining her head toward the
"And to hell with them," Sam said sharply.
"To hell with them," she agreed. "We survived."
"Yeah, we're tough like that." He tried to smile. "Josh has seemed better lately."
"A lot of things have. But we're not... we haven't been..."
"We haven't been aiming at the same kind of heights we were that night."
"That's what I'm saying. You put it better than I was going to."
"Well, I went to Princeton," he replied dryly.
"We have an election to win next year, and we're going to have to aim that high again. And I still have these dreams, sometimes." She leaned back and stared up at the night sky. "It's almost pretty here, isn't it? I mean, I'll never want to come here on a picnic, but it's not as bad as I was thinking."
"No, it isn't," he told her. "We're okay."
"We're going to be better than okay."
"Yeah." C.J. let go of his hands and stood up. "Thank you for coming with me."
Sam got to his feet. "Thank you for bringing me."
They walked toward her car quietly. C.J. stopped at the curb and looked back one last time toward the Newseum.
"Sam? If you ever did need someone, you know, to follow you around with coconut oil and hot towels--"
"I'd be glad to help you look for her."
This time his smile was brighter, and she returned it with equal strength. "I'm freezing here," Sam said. "Aren't you cold?"
"You and your California blood," she said, shaking her head. "Get in. I'll give you a ride home."
They climbed into the car and drove away, leaving Rosslyn behind them in the dark.
* * *
End. Feedback, of course, would be wonderful.