OK - so, this is inspired by all the final episode stories I've read, but espcially Refiner's Fire and Something To Talk About. In the latter I was especially struck by the fact that if CJ were conscious she'd probably want to do the briefing about the shooting herself. And then this week I re-watched Celestial Navigation and the President says 'CJ if you have blood gushing from a head wound you have just recieved from a herd of stampeding bison (probably not how you spell that) you will do the briefing.' And I thought OK. This is that story - sort of.
TITLE: Through This Dark Night
AUTHOR: Morgan firstname.lastname@example.org
SUMMARY: In the aftermath of the shooting.
DISCLAIMER: The West Wing belongs to NBC et al. I'm not quite sure why I'm doing this, I just am - but its for entertainment purposes only - no disrespect is intended.
Through This Dark Night - part 1
The thunder had ceased, the hail of bullets that had exploded into her existence seemed to have ended, over the roaring in her ears she could hear frantic shouts for help and the wailing of sirens. Cautiously CJ Cregg lifted her head and observed the scene of carnage around her. At the sight of Sam's bloody, unmoving body lying just in front of her, she almost buried her face in the ground again. She was not sure she could do this.
Her legs were shaky as she stood up; she lurched forward and would have fallen again had a secret service agent not appeared at her side with a steadying hand.
'Ma'am, are you all right?'
'I'm fine.' There was blood on his shirt and for a moment the sharp, scarlet stain was more real that the face before her. She looked away and saw that people had crowded around Sam's body; 'The President?'
'He and Miss Bartlet are on their way back to the White House, they're unharmed.' She was relieved and confused, how could this have happened, how could they have walked out of a meeting and stepped blithely into destruction? Even now she could her the soft thuds of the first bullets, the screams, see the ground come hurtling towards her as she went flying.
'The rest of the staff?'
'Its bad.' She couldn't remember the agent's name, why couldn't she remember his name? She was certain she'd known what he was called yesterday.
As she moved around the cordoned off area she stumbled upon groups of agents, bystanders and paramedics working on the bodies of people she knew. Charlie was sitting up, although there was a blood stain at his shoulder. He looked dazed and she whispered,
'Someone should let him know Zoe is OK.' But she wasn't sure that anyone heard her.
By the time she reached Leo he was being moved to the ambulance, he was conscious, although he looked gray and ashen. She gripped his hand for a moment and leaned over him as his lips formed his daughter's name. She nodded to let him know she'd understood - she'd make sure someone contacted Mallory.
They were still working on Josh and she couldn't get close enough to even hazard a guess about how bad it was. But from the number of paramedics, and the urgency with which they moved she could speculate that it didn't look good.
This was a nightmare, surely to God it had to be - and any moment now she'd wake up and... Toby! Where the hell was Toby? She looked around her, frantic now that the fog in her mind had clarified into one terrifying thought. She needed to find him urgently. She tried to recall where he had been when the shooting had started but the images wouldn't quite come together, almost as though her mind was refusing to allow her to revisit those memories for fear of the damage they would do.
'CJ!' She'd know that voice anywhere, under any circumstances and her sudden, single priority became to find Toby, to prove that the sound of his voice was not a stray memory or a ghost.
He's caught sight of a flash of her hair through the crowd of bodies and one of his greatest fears had vanished, although that didn't seem like much in the face of such trauma. He'd seem Sam, Leo and Josh - knew they were fighting for their lives and the fact that the President had survived, that he and CJ were still standing did very little to control hs anger.
By the time she reached his side Toby was more than ready to give into the rage burning inside of his. He even started to speak, to try to express his shock, his outrage, his shame that this could have happened. But her words stopped him.
'We can't get into this now. We need to focus. We have a job to do.' It was difficult to imagine what use their battered and bruised bodies could be, but at least it stopped the stream of venom he would have hurled forth. Instead he lifted his hand to her forehead and ran his fingers over a large, jagged cut, she winced at the touch.
'Are you all right, Did you hit your head when you fell?' She frownded, trying to remember, but it was all too foggy. 'CJ - were you unconscious?'
'I can't remember.'
'You need to go to hospital.'
'No!' She touched his arm, 'Toby I'm fine, we can't do anything for the others, we'd just be in the way. But we have a job to do.' It sounded like an argument he should be making, but he wasn't sure he had the energy.
'I can handle the press, you should get checked out properly.'
'The President said if there was blood gushing from a head wound I'd just received I still had to do the briefing.' Toby frowned, trying to place the memory, knowing he'd heard Bartlet say something like that once, but it seemed as though it had happened in another lifetime, to a different set of people.
'He didn't mean this.'
'Its my job. Its what I need to do. Please.' He wanted to send her to hospital, he wanted to guarantee that she at least, was safe. But what happened to CJ was just one more of the many things he couldn't control - nothing had made that clearer than the events of the last few... minutes. She could make her own decisions. And he knew with a sickening certaintly how much it had cost her to add that final, poignant plea.
'All right.' She nodded, relieved that she had not had to argue to convince him, it would have wasted the precious reserves of energy she was operating on right now - and it wouldn't help any of their friends if they took their fears and pain out on each other. 'I don't know how we're going to get through the next few hours.' It was chilling to realise that Toby was as vulnerable as she was, especially when she was acutely conscious that she was just about holding herself together. She needed him to be her rock right now and she suspected he needed that for himself.
'We'll get through it together - because it's what Sam and Josh and Leo would want.'
She was unprepared for the sudden burst of intensity her words provoked in him. He pulled her close, holding on tightly, she fought back tears as he said,
'All right, we're in this together. We need each other, we can get through this together. Nothing else matters right now.'
To Be Continued