Smoke by MelWil
Category - General
Rating - G
Summery - When a foreign policy deal goes wrong, someone has to pay
Archive - Just let me know where
Disclaimer - They are not mine. I just like having them do what I say.
Feedback - Yes Please! lina_wilson@hotmail.com
Author's Note - The song lyrics are from the Ben Fold's Five song Smoke. Thanks to Mirilil for beta-age.

"Leaf by leaf, page by page
Throw this book away
All the sadness, all the rage
Throw this book away."

They watched him silently from the doorway. He didn't look that way but he could feel their presence as the box in front of him got fuller. Finally he turned around, intending to tell them to go away. But the stricken looks in their eyes stopped him and he reached for another box to fill.
"Toby." Ginger's voice almost amused Toby. He'd been betting that she would speak up first.
"Yes Ginger?"
"Are you sure Toby?" Ginger's voice had a catch in it and Toby realised that he hadn't seen her this upset since the shooting. Keeping this in mind he let his expression soften.
"It has to happen." He replied.

"The things we've written in it
Never really happened
All of the people come and gone
Never really lived."

They were all crowded into CJ's office. Not because it was overly comfortable or terribly convenient, but because it was the furthest from the massacre they had just attended. And because Toby would be able to find them here.
Josh was slumped on the floor, too shocked to think about dignity. He had understood that it was one of those things, that it was part of politics, but he had forgotten how hard it could be. CJ was typing furiously, trying to think of things to say, realising that nothing would ever sound right. Sam was hunched up in the corner of CJ's couch, looking like a truck had hit him. His eyes were red and slightly puffy and they darted in all directions as if he was looking for a way out of all this.
They had all suspected that this would happen one day, but they had all regarded themselves as more likely targets. So their pain was mixed with relief that they had been left standing and this relief was actually the most painful emotion.

"Where do all the secrets live
They travel in the air
You can smell them when they burn
They travel"

Jed had asked Leo and Abbey to sit with him in the oval office. He felt as if he had fought the world's largest battle and had been badly crushed. The President blamed himself and he knew that Leo felt the same way. They never should have allowed it to go through, never allowed it to become this big, never allowed it to swallow up one of their own.
"It was just a foreign policy deal." Jed said quietly. As Leo and Abbey looked at him he thought he should elaborate. "It was just a foreign policy deal. It happens all the time. Franklin Roosevelt did it during World War Two. Robert Kennedy stopped the Cuban Missile Crisis with it. It happens all the time and it shouldn't have gone wrong.
"Jed." Abbey lay her hand over his. "You're right. It shouldn't have happened. But it will be okay. You'll get through this."
"Will we?" Jed asked slowly, looking towards Leo.
"We will." Leo replied.

"Here's the time we didn't speak
It seemed for years and years
Here's a secret
No one will ever know the reason for the tears."

CJ had faced the press supported only by practice and sheer determination. They had been ruthless; allowing no sympathy for a man whom they thought had screwed America over in front of foreign countries. She had answered few of their questions knowing that it was pointless, the stories were already written. Anything she said could only make it worse.
Josh stood at the back of the pressroom and was so involved in what was going on that he barely noticed Ainsley standing next to him until she spoke.
"Are you okay?" She asked.
"Yeah." He answered, wondering if she had a hidden agenda.
"He shouldn't have gone down." She said softly. "He was right. He spoke to the right people; he said the right things. They ambushed him." She looked away as though she was ashamed. "And then we ambushed him when he got home."
"Who's we?" Josh asked, a little sharper than he intended.
"Republicans, the political elite, the American people." She ticked off the names on her fingers. "Take your pick. The point is that it shouldn't have happened."
Josh looked up to where CJ was refusing to answer another question. "You're right."
Ainsley shifted nervously from one foot to another. "What are you going to do next?"
Josh gestured towards the press. "When CJ is finished with this farce we're going back to her office to sit with Sam."
"Can I come?"
Josh was surprised but he nodded. "Sure."
"Thank you." She replied.

"Here's an evening dark with shame
Throw it on the fire
Here's the time I took the blame
Throw it on the fire."

Toby's life from the past three years was now neatly packed up. It had only taken four hours to clear out the whole office. He looked over at Ginger, who nodded, confirming that she would make sure the boxes got to his car. Then he walked down the hallways, feeling the pressure of curious eyes, until he had reached they place he knew they would all be.
He opened the door and let himself in. Sure enough, Josh, CJ, Ainsley and Sam were all crowded into CJ's office. He let the door close behind him, and just stood there, watching them silently. There were plenty of red eyes and destroyed looks, but Toby hadn't expected anything else.
"It'll be ok." He looked at CJ who was obviously struggling to hold back tears. "It'll be okay." He repeated, more for himself than anyone else.
Silently CJ stood and Toby wrapped his arms around her. "Why did it have to be you?" She whispered.
He didn't answer. She already knew the answer. Silently he hugged Ainsley and Josh before stopping in front of Sam.
"Toby..." Sam began.
"I'll still be around, Sam." Toby said. "Give me a call if you need help finding that elusive verb."
Sam smiled sadly. "I'll do that." He replied.
As Toby walked towards the door, they all stood and followed him. But as he walked out the door for the last time, they could only stand still and watch.

"You keep on saying the past is not dead
Come and smell the smoke
You keep on saying the past is not even past
You keep saying
We are, smoke."

 

 

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