TITLE: Through This Dark Night
AUTHOR: Morgan firstname.lastname@example.org
SUMMARY: In the aftermath of the shooting, will CJ and Toby make it through the night?
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 5
'CJ,' she looked up at the sound of her name and managed a small smile of greeting at Mandy as she stepped into the office. 'How are you doing?' That wasn't a question she even knew how to answer - what could she say? "My head's killing me, I was shot at tonight and I'm scared to death for my friends." She didn't think that was anything Mandy needed to hear.
'Well, I've been better. Is there any news?'
'No,' Mandy looked frustrated, 'surely we ought to have heard something by now? I mean how does it take?'
Another question she couldn't answer. They both knew that the length of time it would take them to hear something depended on how many casualties there were and how seriously they were injured.
'I don't know. Toby and I are going to go to the hospital later - you should come with us.'
'Do you think I'd be welcome?'
'Mandy; this isn't the time to revisit old arguments - or who did what to whom. None of us are going to get much rest until we know how our friends are.' They lapsed into silence until Mandy asked,
'Are you ready for the briefing?'
'I think so.' She'd spent a very rapid ten minutes looking through the notes, trying to guess what the press would ask - an exercise that didn't take much imagination under the circumstances, although trying to find the answers to those questions was a little more challenging.
'Have you decided what you'll say if they ask you why we're waiting until tomorrow to put the President on television?'
'The President is with his family at this time, he and the First Lady are extremely concerned about all those who were injured tonight and they are being kept informed of the condition of all the wounded. Before the President makes a statement he wants to have a clearer idea about who was responsible and we expect him to address the nation tomorrow morning.'
'The Director of the CIA arrived while Toby and I were in with him,' CJ informed her, 'Mrs Landringham says he's seeing the Head of the Secret Service, the Attorney General and the Director of the FBI in an hour. I can't believe this Mandy - I mean how the hell did this happen?'
'I don't know.' More silence and then Carole knocked on the office door.
'CJ - its time, shall I tell the press?'
'I'll be there in a few minutes.'
'CJ' Toby stepped into the office, he looked even more tired than he had when she'd last seen him 15 minutes ago, 'you ready?'
'Yes.' He nodded and then said,
'Mandy - can you give us a few minutes?'
'Sure.' He didn't speak until Mandy had closed the door behind her and then he asked softly
'You have all the information you need?'
'I think so.'
'And you still want to do this?'
'Its a little late now if I don't,' he hadn't been looking at her but now he lifted his head to look her straight in the eye as he told her,
'No, it isn't. If you don't want to go up there tonight you only have to say the word.' He meant it, she had no doubt about that, despite what he had told the President about trying to convey a sense of normalcy. He was treading a fine line between clearly wanting to spare her feelings while at the same time being understanding of her need to do something, to do her job even in the midst of chaos. It was an extraordinarily difficult and sensitive role he had given himself and she was extremely grateful that he was here to help her through this.
'Toby, I appreciate the gesture, I really do. I know you're trying to help but I can do this.'
'OK.' He surprised her, reaching out and squeezing her hand, uncharacteristically affectionate. 'Its going to be fine, Carole and Mandy will be in there with you.'
'You're not coming in with me?'
'I don't think that would help.'
'OK,' she was a little disappointed but she wasn't going to say so. There was no reason why he should go into the press room with her, no reason at all.
'I'll be able to watch the briefing.'
'You should get going.'
'Yes,' she took a breath and handed him her cell phone, 'this is the number Mallory and Donna have - if there's any news...'
'I'll tell you as soon as the briefing is over.'
'Are you going to wait here?'
'If that's OK with you.'
'Toby,' he looked so worried that she wanted to be able to tell him that everything would be all right, that Sam, Leo, Josh and Charlie would be fine, but she couldn't bring herself to offer him false hope, couldn't bring herself to offer him something she was far from certain of herself - and besides she knew him well enough to realise that he wouldn't believe her. 'Thank you.'
'You're welcome.' As she reached the door his voice stopped her, 'you know I couldn't have got through tonight without your strength don't you?'
'I'm not going anywhere,' she pointed out, 'whatever happens, we're in this together.'
To Be Continued