The senior staff boarded Air Force One at ten PM for the flight to LA. The trip was
billed as a lecture swing for the President at several Western universities as part of a
youth politics initiative. It was also a fundraising trip and a chance to woo a few key
Left-coast environmentalist groups.
C.J. was tucked into a window seat when Toby and Sam entered the plane. They were
arguing about the content of a speech. Again, still and always, mused C.J. Sam wrote them
like poems; laced with idealism and beautiful words and calculated symmetry. Toby edited
them to be politically and tactically correct.
Both Toby and Sam wore yesterday's rumpled clothing. The West Wing rumor mill said
they'd been working on the speeches non-stop for days. Apparently they'd had to prepare at
least five different speeches for the different venues. Because of last minute changes,
Sam wrote a speech that would normally require a week overnight. Even Toby had grudgingly
admitted to Leo that he was impressed with Sam for finishing it.
Sam handed the draft to Leo as he passed him on the way down the aisle.
"If it needs anything, let me know. If you want to add a drop-in, let me know so I
can quit now." The words reverberated with quiet ferocity. Sam still seethed over the
drop-in on the GDC speech. Toby and Leo knew that, and had agreed not to cut him out of
the loop again. C.J. had no doubt that he would, in fact, quit, if they went around him
Toby put a hand on Sam's shoulder. "It's good Sam. We aren't planning anything.
Please be assured that if the President adds a stupid joke it didn't come from me, and it
certainly won't be expected to advance our political position."
Leo passed an experienced eye over the two men. "You guys look like hell. When did
you sleep last?"
Sam's reply was delayed and his eyes were dull with fatigue. "I honestly don't
Leo growled, "Get some sleep on the plane."
Toby muttered, "I gave up sleep for lent in college and never picked up the habit
"Toby, you're Jewish." chimed Josh over his shoulder as he boarded the plane
with Donna in tow.
"I was dating a nice Protestant girl at the time."
Leo scowled at him and shooed him down the aisle.
Sam settled into the quietest spot he could find on the plane. It was, of course, next
to C.J. and as far away from Josh and Donna as possible.
"Hey, Sam." C.J. smiled softly at him.
"You look beat."
"Maybe beat up would be a better descriptor."
A few rows back, the familiar, loud banter fest that was Josh and Donna began.
C.J. and Sam exchanged a look. They knew that in a short time, Josh would get irritated
and come looking for Sam to escape Donna. And Toby should be by to bother Sam after he
perused the speeches again, because there was always one more change to be made. C.J.
realized that Sam truly needed sleep.
"Switch places with me and take the window seat so they can't bother you."
"You just want the extra leg room in the aisle." Sam looked pointedly at her
long legs. He paused just a bit longer when he noted that she'd taken off her hose at some
point and her legs were bare. He flinched a bit because he realized it wasn't something he
usually noticed about women in the White House.
"Sam, this is Air Force One. I have plenty of leg room."
"Okay. Thanks, C.J."
He switched places with her and fell asleep within minutes. He didn't stir when the
plane took off a few minutes later.
C.J. read quietly for an hour or so, then fell asleep. Even the President decided to
sleep and wasn't prowling the plane looking for victims to regale with long boring
stories. Air Force One flew quietly, the cabin lit only by the running floor lights.
C.J. woke abruptly to a soft series of movements at her side. Sam, soundly asleep,
thrashed gently from side to side and mumbled softly. Tears flowed down his cheeks and his
face was pale.
She reached for his shoulder and gently shook him awake.
"Sam, come on, wake up. You're having a nightmare," She whispered softly.
He startled awake and looked at her with scared blue eyes. After a moment he took a
deep breath and blinked away the tears. He'd grabbed her arms when she'd startled him, and
now he just held on and studied her face.
"Sam, it's okay, everything's fine, everyone's fine."
His voice trembled, but he whispered his response. "C.J., I was dreaming about
Rosslyn. The car window exploded and I pulled you down. But you hit your head... I
couldn't keep you from hitting your head."
"I'm fine Sam."
He looked at her for a few moments. His forehead crinkled with concentration.
"That's why I was so scared when you were having headaches. I thought it was because
you'd hit your head and could be having problems because of that. You were really not
okay, but we were all so shocked we just kept working that night."
C.J. was silent for a moment as she tried to understand and think what to say next.
"Sam, you saved my life. That was months ago and had nothing to do with the recent
headaches. You know that, Sam."
"I was really scared, C.J." She watched him as the realization of recent
events settled in place for him.
"Do you want to talk about it more?"
"Not right now. I'll go back to sleep."
He looked at her for a moment longer, as if reconsidering, then folded her hand into a
tight clasp. He drew it into his lap, settled the blankets over them and closed his eyes.
The flight continued peacefully for another hour, then Toby appeared at C.J.'s side and
woke her with a gentle shake.
"C.J., I need your take on some things for the speeches-"
She pointed at Sam and motioned for him to be quiet. Then she got up and led Toby to
the back conference area of the plane.
They settled themselves into a sofa and Toby continued. "Apparently they've
changed the speakers at the conference in LA. The President goes after a woman named Susan
Keller. She's a prominent journalist and environmental media consultant. Do you think
that's going to cause any conflict?"
C.J. thought for a moment. "I don't really know what she plans to say, Toby, but I
do know her. She's a straight-shooter. She likes Bartlet and she has no qualms about
saying it. I don't think she'll set anything bad in play."
"How well do you know her?"
"Not that well. But there aren't that many women doing what she does and our paths
have crossed a few times. I can check in with her when we get there to be sure."
"Good." Toby paused a moment then asked, "Sam getting some sleep?"
"Yeah, I don't think I've seen him that tired in a long time."
"He's okay, though?" Toby asked quietly.
"He had a nightmare Toby. It was bad. I think I was almost more scared than he
was. It was like what we talked about before. He keeps reliving the shooting. And-"
"C.J., tell me."
"He said that he was worried that he had let me hit my head when he pulled me down
behind the car."
"You never told us that was Sam."
"Well, he didn't admit it to me at first either. I think he was embarrassed."
"Why would he have to admit it to you, C.J., you were there?"
C.J realized what she'd just said and looked away from his eyes.
"Toby, I didn't remember the events of the shooting right away. I hit my head and
I had a horrible headache and I couldn't remember."
Toby's eyes grew stormy. "You didn't think it was important to tell someone that
you couldn't remember and that you had a headache." His voice grew louder with each
syllable. "You had at least a mild concussion, C.J., why am I just now finding this
Leo's voice startled them both as it flowed from the doorway. "That's why you
didn't want to do the morning shows. You lied to me."
C.J. was startled by his presence for a moment. "Yeah, I guess I'm a better
politician than I thought, or I've been learning from you guys."
Toby looked from Leo to C.J. "How long did it take you to remember?"
"The next morning. After I saw Sam do the morning shows, it came back."
Leo shook his head slowly. "We put our Press Secretary on the air with a
concussion. You guys know this is bad on several levels."
C.J. gave him a small smile. "Well, in retrospect, I wouldn't do it again. And I
hope I never have to even consider it."
Leo thought a bit longer. "That's why Sam was so worried when he thought you were
having headaches? He was making some association?"
"It was a convoluted leap, but I guess that's it."
"Are there more secrets I should know about?" Leo said quietly.
C.J. looked up at him from the couch. "I think that's all you need to know for