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 6
CJ paused at the door to the press room fighting against the pounding of her head and a wave of nausea. She could do this. She closed her eyes, sseking focus but instead found herself frozen in place with shots exploding around her, the images and sounds of her friends falling in the hail of bullets. She opened her eyes again and found herself looking into the concerned faces of Carole and Mandy.
'You've got to get a grip,' she told herself firmly, 'they've got enough to worry about right now.' She could do this, she would do this, she owed her friends that much, she couldn't let them down, not now.
Squaring her shoulders she nodded at Carole and said with a composure she didn't feel. 'All right, lets get this over with.'
Carole opened the door for her and CJ swept past her, blinkng at the explosion of flash bulbs; an unpleasant reminder of the moment when the shooting had started a little over an hour ago. She pushed the thought angrily to one side as she made her way to the podium and looked out at at the sea of faces before her.
They were waiting expectantly, the White House press corps - a group of people who didn't need her to tell them that they were witnessing the story of a lifetime. Some of them actually looked worried, quite a few of them probably did care about what happened to the President and his staff.
'At approximately 10.27 this evening shots were fired at the President as he left the Town Hall meeting he was attending at Rosslyn. The President was unharmed and was returned to the White House, his daughter Zoe who was accompanying him was also uninjured - although they are both very shocked. However, 25 people were taken to nearby hospitals to be treated for injuries sustained during the attack - the casualties include members of the President's personal staff, several aides and three members of the President's personal security detail, a number of members of the public are also being treated for their injuries. At this time I am not able to issue you with the names of the injured, their next of kin have not yet been informed. I can tell you that at least five people are in critical condition. In additon I can tell you that two men were arrested at the scene and are being questioned at the moment. The President will be addressing the nation at 8am tomorrow morning eastern standard time.'
Toby watched her statement, torn between critical appraisal and an admiration of the nerve it had taken for her to stand up there tonight. It wasn't the most eloquent statement either of them had ever written - but, on the other hand he was quite clear that had he been standing in her place his voice would not have held the same balance of compassion and confidence, and his demeanour would not have indicated great sorrow but at the same time that this administration was still functioning. As she finished her statement the room erupted with the sound of her name, hands waving to attract her attention.
'They're going to ask her about Leo and Josh,' Toby said outloud to the empty room, and as if to taunt his intellect when CJ indicated the first questioner he asked,
'CJ, I have a source that reports that Leo McGarry and Josh Lyman were both hit tonight - would you care to comment?'
'As I said a minute ago Chris I am not prepared to comment on who may have been injured in this incident - we need to ensure that we've contacted all the next of kin before we release those details. Yes, Katie?'
'Is there any possibility that this attack is linked to the rescue of Captain Hotchkiss?'
'I knew they'd ask that.' Toby muttered to himself - but then CJ had known that as well.
'I want to emphasis that everyone is committed to finding out exactly what happened tonight; we hope to have more information on that for you by tomorrow morning, but it would be wrong of me to speculate on who might be responsible. Danny?'
'Is there a reason why the President is waiting until tomorrow morning to broadcast to the nation?'
'Yes - there is.'
It was almost over, CJ had said everything she needed to, she'd taken questions and now she just wanted to go back to her office and call the hospital. Should she take one more question or not - she looked around at the hands raised, 'Dave?'
'CJ - what was it like out there?'
In CJs office Toby sat up a little straighter, neither of them had anticipated that any reporter would actually ask her that question.
CJ faltered, she didn't want to think about this, she didn't want to remember the terror that had gripped her, the way the poeple had started to scream after the first shot was fired. Her hands were trembling, she noticed dispassionately; she was not going to fall apart standing up here.
Toby was in his way to the door, he was going to go in there and get her out himself, but then he heard her start to speak, her voice just a little softer than normal, a little less authoritative.
'It was the most terrifying experience of my life. Our deepest sympathise go out to all those who were injured tonight, and their families. Thank you, that's all.'
As she walked off the podium the cell phone she had left him started to ring. Toby answered it, 'yes,' he paused, listening, 'she's on her way back now, you can tell her yourself.' The door to the office burst open and CJ stormed in, looking upset and angry and looking for someone to harm.
'Here,' Toby handed her the phone, 'take a breath and listen, it's for you.'
'Hello,' she lifted the phone to her ear and then putting her hand over her mouth and blinking back tears she slumped onto the sofa, 'Leo.'
'You did good up there tonight.' Leo McGarry said slowly and carefully into the phone, 'I know how hard it must have been.'
'How are you?'
'I'm not too bad. They're going to operate soon, take a bullet out of my shin, but it isn't too serious.' She thought it was probably more serious than he was making it sound, but she wasn't going to say so.
'Charlie is up and about - I'm not sure about Sam and Josh, Mal is trying to find out.'
'Have you spoken to the President?'
'Just a few minutes ago - he's worried to death about everyone. How are you and Toby doing?'
'We're hanging in there. Shall I put you back onto Toby?'
'Please, I need to fill him in on a few things. CJ, you did well. OK?'
'OK,' she passed the phone back over to Toby and sort of tuned out the rest of their conversation, resting her eyes for a moment until she felt him sit beside her on the couch.
'Leo's right, what you did up there was exceptional - I just wish they hadn't asked you...'
'I know, wish they hadn't too, but they did.' He lifted his hand to touch her face, his fingertips brushing her hair, she inclined her head towards him, seeking the touch and then the loud knock on the office door startled him into pulling away as the door opened and Danny walked in.
'CJ, are you all right?' He took a couple of rapid steps towards her, coming to an abrupt halt as he looked from CJ to Toby and back to Toby again.
'I'll be in my office,' Toby said as he stood up and walked stiffly out of the room. Danny watched him go, his eyes narrowed, almost as though he had detected the odd currents at play between the two people he had just walked in on.
'CJ - are you OK?' He asked again as she pushed herself to her feet and took a step towards him.
'It was terrible Danny.'
'But you weren't injured?'
'Well, that's a relief.' He touched her shoulders lightly, 'you really had me scared you know, I mean one minute we're fighting, the next you're giving me tips and then I'm on the phone to my science editor and you're getting shot at.'
'I know Danny, I was there.' She moved away from him slightly, 'thank you for your concern - but I really am OK.'
'Is ther anything you need?'
'I don't think so.'
'Because if there is I'd be happy to...'
'Danny,' she winced, her voice sounding sharper that she'd intended, 'I'm fine, I don't need anything right now, but, if I do, I know I can ask you. OK?'
'You should get some rest.'
'I will, we have a few things to finish here, can we talk later Danny? I really need to get back to work?'
'Sure, I'll see you later.'
'Yes - thanks.' She followed him to the door and pushed it frimly shut behind him, she just wanted a few minutes of silence to collect her thoughts, that was all. And maybe the painkillers she'd asked Carole for earlier.
To Be Continued