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 7
The President of the United States put the phone down quietly and looked over at the bedraggled remnants of his senior staff. He considered himself an intelligent and a rational man, a man not given to emotional outbursts or to revenge - but when he thought about the people who had done this to them, when he thoght about the people who had fired on his daughter, his staff, his friends and countless innocent bystanders then he believed himself capable of anything.
Mandy had her head buried in her hands, he could tell by the dejected slump of her shoulders that she considered herself on the outside here. He had been meaning to do something about Mandy for weeks now, to talk to her, to let her know that in many ways she had done him an enormous favour by precipitating the crisis that had spurred him to fight back, to want to speak now. But somehow he had never been able to find quite the right moment and now he was starting to wonder if it was too late.
He glanced over at the couch where CJ and Toby were esconsed, heads bent together over the first draft of his statement. He had no idea what was going on between them, they'd practically been finishing off each others sentences when they'd talked to him an hour or so ago and now they were sitting so close they were all but wrapped around each other. He wasn't going to think about it too much right now, whatever they had found had kept them thinking clearly tonight and he had needed their focus. He cleared his throat and immediately became the centre of everyone's attention.
'Charlie's been released,' he said quietly, 'he was wounded in the shoulder, but the bullet went clear through and they've patched him up and he's expected to make a full recovery. Leo is out of surgery; the bullet in his leg was removed; they're probably going to keep him in hospital for a few more days - but again they think he will be OK. Sam's awake, he's very groggy and they are keeping him under observation but it looks like he'll be fine.' He hesitated, saving the worst news for last. 'Josh is in critical condition, he has a bullet wound to the chest, he lost a lot of blood at the scene and they've had problems stabilising him. He's in ICU - but he's holding on.'
There was a long silence as they all absorbed the news. As pleased as she was that Leo, Sam and Charlie were all going to be OK, CJ remained terrified that they were going to loose Josh, she couldn't imagine not having him in her life, never being annoyed when he called her by her full name, never listening to his problems and then fighting with him over some stupid remark. She just wasn't prepared to for him not to be around. Looking around her she saw Mandy trying not to cry and Toby looking as though he didn't quite know what to say. A first.
'We should all get some rest,' The President was saying.
'The statement still needs work,' Toby observed quietly.
'And, since I'm sure you won't permit yourself more than three hours sleep Toby, it will probably get the work it needs.'
'Probably sir,' he agreed.
'I'm going to the hospital,' CJ decided, 'I want to see Josh.'
'I'll come with you,' Mandy agreed, 'I need to be doing something I can't just sit here.' They rose together and Mandy moved towards the door, only realising a moment later that CJ wasn't following her. 'CJ?'
As she'd stood up CJ's vision had begun to blur, the room started to spin and she felt as though she had suddenly been been plunged under water, all her limbs too heavy for her to move.
'CJ?' Toby's voice sounded a very long distance away, had he moved or had she? She couldn't remember. Her knees buckled and she was falling again, dodging bullets, people scattering, screaming. She didn't hit the ground this time.
'Someone get my wife,' The President was calling loudly as Toby caught CJ and lowered her carefully to the couch.
CJ struggled against the hands holding her and opened her eyes, she felt an bit shakey and more than a little embarrassed, had she really just done that? She groaned at the thumping of her head and the shocked, worried faces around her.
'What happened?' Abbey Bartlet asked walking briskly into the room.
'CJ passed out,' her husband said.
'I'm fine,' CJ protested weakly, knowing she probably wasn't going to convince anyone. She tried to get up only to have Toby push her gently back into the seat, 'I just got up too quickly and I was dizzy - that's all.'
'She hit her head,' Toby said, ignoring the look CJ shot him.
'No.' The First Lady leaned forward and started to run her hands over CJs head, she probed the bump on her forehead carefully.
'At Rosslyn?' she asked incredulously, 'she hit her head two hours ago and we're just hearing about it now. Did you see a Doctor, CJ?'
'No, we came straight back here.'
'Did you lose consciousness?'
'I don't know, I can't remember.' Straightening up the First Lady rounded angrily on Toby.
'You knew she was injured and you let her come back here instead of going to hospital. Do you have any idea how irresponsible that was? And just so she could brief the press, what kind of priorities do you have Toby? What were you thinking?'
'I'm sorry, I didn't know.' Toby shrank back as if he'd been slapped.
'Well, you should have known.'
'It was my idea - I wanted to come back.' CJ saw the look of pain on Toby's face as he turned away. 'I persuaded him.'
'CJ you are going to hospital right now.' The First Lady announced firmly, 'Jed get a car and a driver - I'll make some calls.'
'I don't suppose I have any say in this?'
'No, CJ, you don't.' President Bartlet took her arm and helped her to stand, 'please don't be stubborn, we all have enough to worry about right now.' She nodded distractedly, concerned about the way Toby had retreated to the other side of the room, the way he was refusing to look her in the eye.
'I'm sorry,' he whispered, 'I didn't know.'
'Come with me?'
In the back of the car with CJ beside him Toby tried not to think about how badly injured she might be, he tried not to think about head injuries and fractured skulls and haemorrages and brain damage - but it was impossible not to. And it was all his fault.
If only he'd been more insistent, if he'd only told her to see a Doctor, made her get treatment. But he hadn't, he'd thought about the briefing and how much he'd needed her and now he was probably going to lose her before he got a chance to sort through his feelings - because he'd been selfish.
'Don't do this,' CJs voice said softly into his ear.
'Don't do what?'
'Don't sit here, not looking at me and conjure up worst case scenarios and visions of doom. I'm not going to die Toby, I haven't developed some life-threatening condition. It isn't your fault - I'm going to be fine.'
'You passed out,' he pointed out.
'I hit my head, its probably concussion, or shock, or both.'
'How did you know what I was thinking?'
'I'm right, aren't I?'
'Yes,' he looked across at her, 'I should have...'
'Stop that, right now. I'm tired and my head is killing me; we are not going to argue about this. You aren't getting rid of me this easily Ziegler.' She leaned her head on his shoulder and shifted forwards so he could put his arm around her.
'Its going to be all right,' he said with a confidence he didn't feel.
The car stopped outside the hospital and CJ lifted her head from her companion's shoulder.
'Let me help you out.' The driver opened the door and Toby slid out of the car and then offered a hand to help CJ out, she hesitated, decided she was a bit too wobbly to attempt it on her own and accepted gratefully.
'Ms Cregg?' They looked up as a Doctor approached them, 'I'm Larry Middleburg, senior neurologist. Abbey Bartlet called me.'
'I guess one of the benefits of being First Lady is that you can find a senior neurologist in the middle of the night,' Toby said drily.
'Actually - we trained together. We're going to take very good care of you.' Toby watched as the medical staff led CJ away, he had seldom felt so completely helpless.
To Be Continued