See part one for notes and disclaimers.

Dance, Then, Wherever You May Be
Part Four

Jed closed the folder on his desk and stretched his arms above his head. Allowing himself to yawn, he sat back in his chair and pondered the events of the day. With a heavy sigh, he glanced at his watch. Jed tapped the face of it several times, but the hands weren't moving. He unfastened it from his arm and began striking it against his desk. "Mrs. Landingham!"

"Yes, sir?" She stuck her head into the Oval Office.

"What time is it?"

Mrs. Landingham blinked. "I believe you're holding a wristwatch, Mr. President."

"Yes, I am holding a wristwatch, but I can't read it."

"It's not a digital watch, is that the problem, sir?"

"It's broken, Mrs. Landingham." He looked at her impatiently.

"Well, why don't you take a look out the window? I'm sure you could figure out the time by using the trees as gnomons."

"Mrs. Landingham--"

"They didn't teach you how to do that in New Hampshire?"

"I would hate to have to fire you."

She glanced briefly at her own watch. "It's six-thirty."

"Now, was that so hard?"

"You have to ask, sir?"

"Mr. President?" Charlie stepped up next to Mrs. Landingham.

"Hello, Charlie. I hope you come to me bearing good news."

Charlie shrugged and stepped into the office as Mrs. Landingham went back to her desk. "What did you have in mind, sir?"

"Oh, I don't know." Jed pounded the watch against the desk again. "Do I have another watch?"

"You have several in the residence, yes, sir."

"Good to hear, Charlie." Jed tossed his watch into a drawer and focused his attention on the young man. "What can I do for you?"

"Actually, sir, I wanted to ask you a question."

"Okay."

"I'd like to visit Daniel Ripley." When Jed didn't respond, Charlie went on. "He's the boy who was shot this morning, sir."

Jed's voice was soft. "I know who he is, Charlie."

"I'd like to visit him. I thought I could take him a stuffed animal and sit with him for awhile."

"That sounds like a wonderful idea."

"I thought he would like a visitor."

"That sounds like a wonderful idea, Charlie." Jed stood and walked around to the other side of the desk. "Is there anything else?"

Charlie shook his head. "No, sir. I just wanted to make sure I could do that."

"Oh, you can do it, Charlie." Jed reached out and squeezed the young man's shoulder. "You can do it."

"Thank you, sir."

"I have to go get dressed now." Jed slipped into his coat. "I'm escorting my wife to the State Dinner."

"I'm sure she'll enjoy that, Mr. President."

"Yes, Charlie, the First Lady is a big fan of Neil Sedaka."

"Is that right?"

"No." With a smile, Jed set out towards the residence with Charlie behind him.

* * *

"I feel like Scarlett O'Hara," C.J. complained through clenched teeth.

"Shh. Hold your breath," Carol ordered, and managed to zip up the back of C.J.'s eggplant-colored evening dress. "There. You look great."

"Thanks." C.J. exhaled slowly. "Now all I have to do is be careful not to make any sudden movements."

"You'll be fine."

"You know what's going to happen? I'm going to walk into the East Room, step on my hem, spin around, fall out of my dress--"

"And smile for the cameras," Danny finished for her.

She eyed him over her shoulder. "What are you doing back here?"

"You know, I was just -- I was gonna ask you a thing."

"A thing?"

Danny grinned. "Yeah, and also I thought I'd see if I could catch you with your clothes off."

C.J. rolled her eyes. "Carol, call Security."

Carol snickered as she slipped from the room. "I didn't really have anything to ask you," Danny said.

C.J. put a hand to her cheek, pretending to be shocked. "You don't say."

"You look very nice."

"Thank you." She smoothed her hair into place. "Now I have to go eat baklava with a gaggle of Senators and the President of Turkey."

"I'm going to go home and sit around in a sweatshirt and eat cold pizza." He grinned. "Jealous?"

"Uncontrollably. Now leave."

"'Kay." He started to obey her.

"Wait."

"'Kay."

"Why'd you tell me you knew about Todd Verrien's wife?"

"I knew you weren't going to put it out there."

"And you didn't ask about it today."

Danny looked at the floor. "I didn't feel it was appropriate, what with the other events."

C.J. sighed. "I wasn't going to put Katrina Verrien out there. I think it's inappropriate, and I think it's a lousy story, not to mention it's going to look like an act of personal retribution by the White House."

"Yeah, well. Two out of three." He shrugged. "I'm gonna go now. You know, you could still come with me. Cold pizza, beer from the fridge, reruns of sitcoms."

"And waste this dress?"

"Your loss. Enjoy the baklava."

C.J. listened to him walk away, and checked her reflection in the glass of her window, replaying the day in her mind. Something was bothering her, and she couldn't shake it off. She ran a worried hand through her hair, then cursed herself mentally and rushed back to the window to fix it.

* * *

"Margaret!" Leo fastened his cummerbund and bellowed to his secretary.

"I'm not doing it."

"I don't want to ask you again."

Margaret stood with her hands clasped in front of her. "I'm not doing it."

Leo sighed. "Margaret, please."

"No."

"Help me with my tie."

She shook her head firmly. "It's time you learned to do this for yourself."

"Have you been talking to Mrs. Landingham?"

Margaret walked to her desk and called over her shoulder, "One day, you'll thank me!"

"Not likely." Reluctantly, Leo looked in the mirror and fiddled with the tie.

"Leo?"

"This better be good."

Sam stepped into the office. "Do you mind looking over the President's toast? I tried to get Toby to sign off on it, but he just grunted at me."

"Can you tie this?"

"What?"

Leo turned around and pointed miserably at his tie.

"If I tie it, will you look at the toast?"

"Sam, if you tie it, I'll spit-shine your shoes."

Sam perked up. "Really?"

"Just tie the damn thing."

"You know," Sam walked to Leo and began manipulating the fabric. "You really ought to learn to do this for yourself."

"So I've heard."

The men were silent for a moment until Sam stepped back and examined his work. "There." He handed his toast to Leo. "Read."

Leo slipped into his shoes. "I'm sure it's fine." He skimmed it hastily and passed it back to Sam. "That's good, Sam."

"Leo?" Margaret rapped her knuckles on the door. "Toby's here." She
surveyed the room and shot a dirty look at Sam. "He's never going to learn if you keep helping him."

"Will you go away?" Leo glared at Margaret, then shifted his eyes to Toby. "Come in."

"Thank you." Toby stood with his hands behind his back and watched as Leo sat at his desk and tied his shoes. "I was wondering if you had any time in the morning."

"I have a meeting with Kwong and Facklis at nine thirty, but I probably have time after that. Why?"

"I was looking at the budget reports and I found a few things I thought we should discuss."

"Sure, make an appointment with Margaret on your way out." Leo motioned to Toby. "Have a seat."

Toby did, and looked quizzically at Leo. "Okay."

"What's going on with you and C.J.?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Leo shook his head. "You two had some kind of argument?"

"Uh... yes, we did."

"She laid into you pretty good, from what I hear." Toby's gaze fell to the floor and he said nothing, so Leo continued. "I've never known you to back down from an argument, Toby. You didn't leak that story, did you?"

"Todd Verrien is not a friend to this administration." Toby stood.

Leo chuckled. "That's putting it mildly."

"He has no respect for the President."

"I know."

"People have a right to this information."

Leo furrowed his brow. "I don't know about that."

"It's--"

"But you didn't tell them."

Toby's shoulders slumped slightly. "No."

"Why did you let her--"

"She needed to," Toby said simply.

Leo paused, reflecting. "Okay. Are you two going to be all right?"

"I think so."

"Okay." Leo rose from his chair. "You should go get changed."

"Yeah." He walked to the doorway, then paused. "How did you know--"

"It's not what we do."

"Yeah." Toby lowered his head and buried his smile in his beard. "I'll see you."

"I'll be there." Leo watched as Toby walked away, then called for Margaret.

"Do you need help combing your hair?"

He scowled at her. "Get me C.J."

* * *

The two Presidents entered the East Room to the clamor of clicking camera shutters and resounding applause.

Josh nudged Sam as they sat down at their table. "How'd the toast come out?"

"I think I finally got it," Sam told him.

"You think?"

"Well, we'll find out in a minute, right?"

Josh tipped his chair back slightly, reaching out to touch C.J. on the shoulder. "I have a question for you."

She craned her head to look at him. "This is going to be something silly, isn't it?"

"It's important."

"Well, I hope so, buddy, because I'm not in the mood--"

"Which one's Ahmet Ertegun?"

C.J. swatted his hand away. "Third table from the left."

Josh looked thoughtful. "I don't know, Sam. He seems pretty tough."

"Yeah, I think there might be some fight in him."

"Will the two of you ever shut up?" Toby growled from his seat.

"No," Josh said.

"Yes," Sam said at the same time.

"Well, only because we want to hear the President," Josh concluded.

The room went quiet as Bartlet stood up. He flashed a tiny smile at his wife before he spoke.

"Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. I'm proud to welcome President Dogruyusever, Mrs. Dogruyusever, the entire Turkish delegation, and our other distinguished guests to the White House." He turned to the foreign leader. "Before I say anything else, sir, I wanted to personally commend your actions in dealing with the earthquake your nation recently suffered. It takes strong leadership to guide a country through a natural disaster, when you are powerless to control the crisis."

Across the room, Leo raised his eyebrows questioningly at Sam. Sam shrugged, but his expression of concern faded to relief as the President continued.

"Our nations have shared common interests and a deep friendship for decades, in times of turmoil as well as times of peace. Now, how we use our friendship will do much to define the years ahead. We have the opportunities before us to establish peace, to foster tolerance, and to encourage the success of young democracies. We are standing on the horizon of a new world, which will be shaped by what we do together.

"More than two hundred years ago, as delegates signed the United States Constitution, Benjamin Franklin stood up and pointed to the President's chair, which had a sun painted on it. He remarked, 'I have often looked at that without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.' On a day like this one...."

Bartlet paused, looking around the room. "On a day like this one, we must subdue our celebration in recognition of tragedy. We cannot ignore these events. Instead, they should remind us to renew our commitment to the future. Let us take note of where we stumble, at the same time as we remember that our sun is rising, and as we turn toward a future that we can only build together." He raised his wine glass. "It is an honor to have you here. And I now ask all of you to join me in a toast to the President and the First Lady and the people of Turkey."

Glasses clinked. Jed shot an approving look at Sam, who beamed. "I knew you'd nail it," Josh declared, thumping him lightly on the back.

"Yeah. Thanks." Sam turned to C.J. "I'm sorry it wasn't funny."

"It was better than funny," she assured him.

Abigail Bartlet touched her husband's arm as he resumed his seat. "That was very impressive."

"You liked that?" He shook his head. "You think Sam and Toby will be disgruntled because I went off-text at the beginning?"

She laughed. "Sam and Toby know what's good for them, or they can take it up with me."

"It would hardly be a fair fight," Jed said dryly. "It's been a hell of a day, Abbey."

"Yeah." She sipped her drink. "So what's next?"

His eyes brightened, and he extended a hand to her. "I think I know."

Leo crossed the floor to the table where the senior staff was seated. "Josh, come with me."

"What have I done this time?" Josh asked.

"When I find out, I'll think of a suitable punishment," Leo promised. "In the meantime, I've been informed that one of our guests is interested in meeting you."

"Who?"

"Neil Sedaka."

As his words sank in, Josh burst out laughing. "Can I bring Sam?"

"If you must. But if you can't control yourselves--"

"We will," Sam promised, jumping to his feet.

"Yeah," Josh agreed, as they followed Leo. "It's just that we're such big fans."

C.J. stared into her glass momentarily, then straightened up. Tentatively, she edged her chair closer to Toby's. He said nothing, waiting for her to speak. They watched the President stand, leading his wife away from their table.

"Leo told me," C.J. said at last.

Toby did not look at her. "Yeah."

"Danny got the story from outside."

"Yeah."

"You just stood there and you let me--"

"Yeah." He gave her a small, sheepish smile.

She shook her head wonderingly, as Jed conferred briefly with the orchestra. "That's amazing."

"The President?"

"Well, him too." As a song started up, C.J. tilted her head and studied Toby. "Do you want to dance?"

He laughed, surprised. "No."

She nodded in understanding. "Neither do I."

They sat together in companionable silence, watching as the First Couple crossed the floor together. Abbey slid her arms around her husband's neck. "What's the latest on the kids?" she asked.

"Melissa Tompkin's being charged as a juvenile," Jed informed her solemnly. "The boy in the hospital's in stable condition."

"Well, that's something, at least. It was a long day."

"Yes."

"But it's a good night." She leaned back to look into his eyes.

A smile spread gradually across his face. "It's shaping up that way," he said, and drew her closer. The music lifted, and they danced on.

* * *

The end. Any feedback, any at all, is highly encouraged.

 

 

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