"No One Is Innocent..." by Marie-Claire

Type: Response to first season finale. Action starts a few hours after the events at the Newseum

Disclaimer: All characters, and the tragic events that precede this fan fiction, belong to Aaron Sorkin and/or NBC.

This is my first "West Wing" fan fiction. Feedback welcome. There is (maybe) more in the works!

---- Abigail Bartlet ran through the corridor to the Oval Office. The two secret service agents stationed at the door waved her in immediately.

"Jed...Zoe..." Her husband was pacing the Great Seal, fist pressed against his mouth in a familiar mannerism; their daughter was folded up on herself on the couch. A quick glance, professional by reflex, confirmed that neither of them had been injured - at least not by bullets.

"Mom!" Zoe's voice was halfway between a tear and a moan. "They won't let me go to the hospital to see Charlie."

"Charlie was hurt?"

The President nodded curtly. He had stopped pacing, and Abby hugged him close. Soon all three of them were huddled on the couch, Zoe nestled between her parents, occasionally glaring at the secret service agents that seemed to dominate the office.

"Jed, do they know what happened...? Why....?"

"We think...they think..."

Zoe said, "It was because of Charlie and me!"

Her father said, "We don't know that for a fact, Zoe."

Zoe ignored her father. "Why do things like this happen? Charlie and I aren't doing anything wrong. Why are there people out there who still think we're going against some kind of natural law or something...?" She began to cry and her mother held her against her chest.

"People who don't feel good about themselves, or strong enough for the world, make themselves feel better by making other people out to be worse or less than they themselves are," Abby said. "Prejudice is all about fear. If you tell yourself that someone else is inferior, then you feel superior and you're less afraid."

"What if he dies, Mom? There was so much blood..."

"All we can do right now is pray that he doesn't." She looked a question at Bartlett.

"There's been no word," he said. "He was alive when they got him to the hospital. And he's young, he's healthy, he's a fighter. Those are all things that are going to work for him." He turned to his daughter. "Why don't you lie down for awhile, Zoe honey? I promise we'll tell you as soon as we know anything."

Zoe nodded, and allowed one of the agents in place to escort her to the residence. There was no discussion of her staying anywhere else. Just before she left, she turned and said, "You know, I was the one who asked him out the first time."

"It isn't just Charlie," Bartlet said, after the door closed.

"I didn't think so."

"Three agents were shot - Gina Toscano is dead." His voice broke.

"Oh, Jed, I'm so sorry."

"Toby was apparently trampled by the mob - he has a mess of bruises and a mild concussion....CJ got hurt somehow....Leo took a bullet - I think it was his shoulder - they're not telling me everything, I know that they're not....Dear God, Abby, what have I done?"

She pulled him into her embrace again. "You didn't do anything."

"I chose this. I chose it. What have I brought upon my family, my friends...?"

"Jed, we chose it, too. We chose to be with you on this adventure. What happened tonight was not our choice, but it wasn't yours, either. Some angry, twisted people with guns chose this, and it isn't your fault."

"Isn't it? In some ways, isn't it? I knew the risks. I knew that there are people out there with guns, and some of them will hate...will hate..."

"Will hate. That's right. Will hate someone. Anyone who they think has more than they do. Does that mean no one with a family, no one with friends, no one who isn't isolated from life itself, should run for President?"

"No, of course not."

She smiled. "I would hope not. Hey, we knew what we were getting into. Or do you think your daughters and I are all terminally stupid?"

"Far from it, Dr. Bartlett."

She kissed him and said, "I think I should sit with Zoe for a little while, maybe I can get her to sleep. Are you going to be all right?"

He sighed. "I have to be, don't I?"

----

Danny Concannon used a combination of his press pass and his offbeat charms to get into Walter Reed Hospital, but nothing could get him past the cordon of police and secret service. He tried everything, but no one would tell him if CJ Cregg was among those brought in from the Newseum shooting.

Using his cell phone, he called the paper and filed a brief story with what he did know - a fusilade of bullets fired at the President and his party, the answering volley from the secret service, the panicked crowds.

There had been uncounted injuries, at least three fatalities - not counting two of the assassins, who had themselves been brought down by bullets. One talkative cop at the scene had said they were still looking for at least one, possibly two more gunmen. The President seemed to be safe and en route to the White House.

There. He'd have two bylines in tomorrow's paper, but the more important story was one he'd have given a great deal not to cover. He thought about the look in CJ's eyes when she told him to call his science editor. If only that had been the most important story of the night, the successful landing of the shuttle.

He had come out of the Newseum to find that the world was spinning into chaos - screaming, running, trampling, something out of Guernica", people piled on each other on the ground. Someone - cop? Secret Service agent? - grabbed him by the arm. "There's been shooting, sir. You don't want to -"

"The President?" Danny said the two most obvious words, hating the sound of them.

"We don't know, sir."

Piecing the story together had been difficult, but there was so much confusion that he was no more than a beat or two behind the others. Now he had time for himself, time to wait and see what happened next, time he could use to try to find out more about CJ.

CJ....his time in her doghouse had been long and painful. He had come close a number of times to giving up on the whole idea of the two of them. If she couldn't understand why he chose the integrity of his job in the fuss over Mandy's memo, then maybe she had been right all the times she'd insisted they had no business being together. Not because of the conflict of interest inherent in a relationship between a reporter and a White House press secretary - he thought they could handle that. But maybe she didn't know him well enough. His job wasn't his life, but it was a crucial part of who he was, and he had to do it to the best of his abilities or he wouldn't be Danny Concannon, couldn't be any good for CJ or anyone. She had to trust him to know where the lines were, or they really didn't have a future.

But another part of that truth was that CJ had become another crucial part of who he was, and he knew now, standing in the lobby at Walter Reed, that even if their relationship fell apart before it even came together, she would always hold a piece of his heart.

Even if she was dead....

----

The DC policeman sent to escort them guided Jenny and Mallory through an underground route to an elevator, and then up to the fourth floor at Walter Reed. A crisp, cheerful nurse showed them Leo's room. "Don't stay too long," she said. "He needs rest more than anything."

Leo was sitting up, resisting the ministrations of another nurse who was trying to do something to his dressing. "If you keep poking at it - " He looked up. "Jenny?"

Jenny choked back a lump in her throat. "Let the woman do her job, Leo."

"Yeah," he said absently. "Sure."

The women stood silently for a moment. Leo's eyes kept meeting Jenny's, which still held a trace of the tears that had bubbled up in the cab. Finally, the nurse finished her work and said, "I'll leave you alone with your visitors."

Jenny moved closer to the bed. "What happened, Leo?"

"I - I don't know. We were leaving the Newseum. Je - The President decided at the last minute to work the crowd. I was a little behind. Someone shouted something about a gun. Then there were shots - Ron Butterfield had the President - I felt something - There was shouting - I don't know..."

Mallory went to the other side of the bed. "It's okay, Dad. You're going to be fine. A little stiff-shouldered, maybe, and you lost some blood..."

Jenny nodded. "But you're going to be fine. They'll probably send you home tomorrow."

"I lost sight of the President..." His voice drifted off again.

Jenny's voice was soft, like a caress. "They say he's fine. He wasn't shot. He's supposed to make an address to the nation later."

Mallory smiled brightly. "See. The Secret Service was doing its job."

"They won't tell me anything. I don't know who was hurt, who was killed."

Mallory said, "What if I go out and try to do a little spying for you?"

"Mal, you don't have to..."

"No, I want to. I'll be back in a minute." She kissed his cheek. "Love you, Dad."

"I love you, too, sweetheart."

After Mallory slipped out the door, Leo turned to his wife and said, "I won't quit. I can't, Jenny. This doesn't change anything..."

"I know," she said, her voice still soft.

"But Jenny, I miss you so much."

"I know that, too. And I can't promise anything, Leo. But when Mallory called...when she told me you were hurt...I can't promise anything," she repeated. "But...if you wanted to come over for dinner...after they let you out of here...you can't be getting much home cooking..."

"Would you make that pork thing? With the fruit dressing?"

"I think I can manage that." She kissed the top of his head. He found himself leaning into a kind of embrace.

"Why didn't I see anything?" he whispered. "I should have seen..."

"Shhh..." Jenny stroked the unbandaged shoulder. "Shhh..."

----

Danny was chatting up a nurse he hoped might know something when a familiar voice called out his name.

"CJ!" He jerked around to face her. The first thing he noticed - as he often did - was her legs. This time they were scraped and scabbed, dotted with bandages. He realized he'd never seen her without tockings. The partial cast around her left ankle indicated she'd be going bare-legged for awhile.

"You're okay...?"

"Pretty much." She thought for a moment, frowned. "Yeah, on balance, compared to some others, I'm doing great."

"I don't know, Danny. Am I talking to a friend, or a reporter?"

He sighed. "CJ..."

"Sorry. Here, help me with these stupid crutches, and we'll sit down for a minute."

"How about a cup of coffee in the cafeteria?"

"I really should get back to the White House."

"Fine. I'll drive you."

"You mean I'm not going to get a lecture about going home?"

"Nope. You're all grown up. And I figure you're right. You've got work to do. I'll take you home later."

She smiled. "You're really very sweet sometimes."

In the car she said, "I wouldn't have left, but they won't let me see anyone."

"Anyone? As in...?"

"Charlie was shot in the chest. As far as I know, he's still in surgery..."

"That poor kid. First his mother..."

"Yeah, the Young family is pretty much a poster for gun control right now." She sighed. "Leo took a bullet in the shoulder, but he's going to be fine...Dave Wilkins from the President's detail was hit, not too bad, but still...and Barry Kent and Gina Toscano from Zoe's detail...Gina's dead, Danny."

"Oh, God, I'm sorry."

"Me, too. They think Zoe and Charlie were the focus of the attack."

Danny let this all sink in. CJ continued. "Toby got scraped up like me. Plus a concussion. But, being Toby, he insisted on leaving. They call it Against Medical Advice."

"Sounds like Toby."

"I'm assuming Zoe's alright. And the President."

"God, I hope so."

"No, really, I think they must be." Her voice drifted away.

"What about Josh and Sam?"

"Josh is ok, I think. He was on the other side of the barricade...Sam...Sam..." She started to cry. "Oh, Danny..."

Danny pulled over to the shoulder and put his arm around her. "What is it, CJ? What happened to Sam?"

"He pushed me down. That's how I did my ankle. And he...he..he was shot. He took a bullet. In the back. He took it for me..."

"CJ..." He held her close. "CJ..."

"What am I going to do? He did it for me. What if he doesn't make it?"

"He will, CJ...he will." He held her and whispered it over and over, like a mantra, all the while thanking God for Sam Seaborn, and for the woman sobbing in his arms.

----

The President of The United States had never felt more powerless in his life. His personal aide - who also happened to be the man his youngest daughter loved - was in surgery, and not only could he not visit the young man and thank him for his courage and devotion, but he couldn't let his daughter stand vigil by him. Until the Secret Service was satisfied that all the Newseum shooters had been accounted for, none of the First Family could leave.

There was some cause for relief. He had spoken to Leo, and his friend and right arm would be fine, barring a shoulder that would now be able to forecast the weather. Moreover, he was sure he'd heard Jenny's voice in the background. That might be the best medicine for Leo. CJ was on her way in, determined, despite a sprained ankle, to handle the press and stand by for the statement he'd have to make soon. Toby, too, had returned, defying his doctors, reluctantly accepting regular check-ins with the First Lady as the price of staying in the West Wing, working on that statement.

Jed Bartlet was in awe of his staff. Neither Toby nor CJ could be unaware that Sam was in surgery - the gruff Toby looked on his young deputy as a brother - a strange, annoying brother, to be sure, but on top of the crisis with his real brother on the shuttle, Toby had more than enough on his own emotional plate, plus a concussion, plus the trauma of the shooting itself. But he was there. CJ, too.

Abby slipped into the Oval Office. They kissed, as they had each time she'd come back into the room. "I gave Zoe a sedative, and she's finally sleeping. Toby seems ok. He told me to tell you he'll have the statement in a little while. CJ has you scheduled for an hour from now. And I saw Donna - she came in awhile ago, and she says Josh is in his office.

"Did anyone tell you you make a great aide-de-camp?"

"Thanks. But I don't feel the need for a career change."

"Any word from the hospital?" She shook her head. "I'd give anything to be there for them...the way they were for me."

"Anything but risk your own life, Jed. That's one thing none of us wants from you."

"Sometimes I think this is a terrible world we live in, Abby."

"No, you don't, Jed."

There was a pause and then, "No, I don't."

----

Toby Ziegler put the finishing touches on the President's statement. It was succinct,strong and vivid. God, he wished Sam had been there to mess it up with flowery metaphors and a lack of action verbs. Crazy Sam, pushing CJ out of the way of a bullet. Probably hadn't even seen it coming. Fluke. Pure fluke. Damn you, Sam, didn't your Princeton education teach you how to stay clear of bullets?

Someone knocked on his door. Probably CJ checking on the statement, or his concussion, or both. "Come in."

It wasn't CJ. His brother David, an inch shorter than him, with more hair, stood smiling in the doorway. "You had to get the bigger headline, didn't you?"

"How the hell did you get here so fast?"

"Toby, I've got access to some very high-speed stuff."

"Don't tell me you hijacked the shuttle."

"Nah, that's busted." He grinned again. "The police escort from Andrews didn't hurt, either. "There was a pause. Then Toby mumbled something. "I didn't hear you."

"I said, I was going to come and see you. After the Town Meeting. But there was this shooting..."

"Yeah, I heard." Another pause. "Are you okay?"

"Well, considering that there was an assassination attempt on the President, and a couple of my friends got busted up pretty badly, I guess I'm holding up."

"Good for you." David cleared his throat. "Are you going to ask me in?"

"You're in." He looked down, then up again. "I really was going to -"

"I know."

"So...."

"So." The brothers looked at each other. "Busy day."

"That's fair to say." Toby stood up. "David...what the hell were we mad about anyway?"

"I honestly don't remember."

"That's crazy."

"I know. Care to fill me in?"

"Love to. But I don't remember either."

"Must have been important, then. So, why don't you finish up what you're doing and I'll buy you a drink."

"Can't drink. I've got a concussion."

David gave Toby a sharp look. "Concussion? You really are an asshole."

"Yeah." And they were in each other's arms.

----

Mallory found out about Sam by accident. After reporting everyone's status to her father, she excused herself again and made her way to the waiting room on Sam's floor. She hadn't talked to him since the photo of him and his call-girl friend had hit the papers. The funny thing was, she knew they were exactly what Sam claimed, friends, but she had been infuriated by the photo anyway. Sam Seaborn, she had told herself, was nothing but trouble.

He was flaky, he had way too high an opinion of himself, he was subject to odd whims and crusades, and he was obviously too caught up in the excitement of the White House to be a decent bet for a relationship. I am so over him, she had said, without ever fully admitting that she had ever been into him. "An itch," the First Lady had called it.

Damn him, she thought, striding into the waiting room. An older couple, the man with Sam's dark coloring and bright eyes, the woman with his delicate features and erect carriage, were already there, huddled together. They looked up when Mallory came into the room.

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to - You must be Sam's parents."

The man rose. "Yes. I'm Wally Seaborn, and this is my wife, Carrie. Are you one of Sam's friends from work?"

"No. I mean, I am a friend of his. My name's Mallory -"

Carrie Seaborn said, "Of course, Sam's mentioned you. It's nice to meet you. Would you like to sit with us?"

"I - I don't want to intrude. I was just hoping there was some news."

"You're not intruding," Carrie insisted. "We'd like the company."

She took a seat near them. He's mentioned me to his parents. And we haven't exactly dated yet. And whose fault is that? She remembered kissing him the night of the State Of The Union Address. He'd tasted like artichoke hearts dipped in salty butter. She'd liked it.

Mallory sat and waited. They chatted a little, and she found herself telling about how her father had been shot, less seriously, and she'd come out to give him and her mother some privacy. When he recovers, she thought, I'm going to go out with him for real. And we'll try a few more of those kisses, see if he always tastes like that. When he gets better....

----

Toby introduced his brother to the President. "A pleasure, Dr. Ziegler."

"The pleasure is mine, Mr. President."

"It seems the Zieglers are an accomplished family with a taste for public service."

"I don't know about that, Mr. President," Toby said. "David's an astronaut for the thrills, and I do this because of a streak of masochism in my make-up."

The President smiled and turned his attention to the statement he would read in half an hour. "This is fine, Toby, very good. Why don't you and your brother take off?"

"I might do that, Mr. President. If you can make me one promise..."

"What would that be, Toby?"

"Promise me you won't wing any of it."

"Now you know I can't promise that..."He smiled. "But this looks very good just the way it is. I think we can safely say it will be delivered with all due respect."

"Intact, sir."

"All right, Toby. Intact. You have my word."

"Thank you, sir." And, after David received another firm handshake, and the promise of a special White House tour in the future, the brothers Ziegler left the White House.

Soon after, Abby returned. "The hospital called. Charlie is out of surgery. They got the bullet and the prognosis is excellent."

"Wonderful. We'll call his house and have them tell his sister..."

"Jed, Deena Young is here."

"Here? In the White House?"

"Nancy has her - they're coloring. I thought it would be all right...."

"All right? It's a splendid idea." He opened the door. "Mrs. Landingham? I don't suppose you could find a few cookies for a little girl.....?"

----

By the time the doctor came into the waiting room, Mallory and the Seaborns had become fast friends. She had learned a great deal about Sam, and had found herself confiding in them about her parents' separation. "But I have a feeling that things are going to get better now."

Wally Seaborn said, "Too bad it had to take this tragedy."

The doctor interrupted. "Mr. & Mrs. Seaborn?"

"Yes, Doctor?"

"Your son has come through surgery. We're going to have to wait and watch, and there will be a prolonged recovery period, but barring any new complications, he's going to make it."

"When can we see him?" Carrie asked.

"He's still in recovery, and he won't come to for awhile. Why don't you go get something to eat, come back in an hour, and I think a visit might do him some good."

"That's wonderful, Doctor." Wally put an arm around his wife.

"There is something I think you should know before you see him." Mallory caught her breath, a foreboding coming over her. The doctor continued. "The bullet nicked his spine. At this time we believe there might be some paralysis, but there is a good chance that it will only be temporary."

"P-paralysis? Temporary...?"Carrie held onto her husband, reaching out her free hand to Mallory.

"We won't know until he is totally alert. I'm sorry." And the doctor left.

----

Josh Lyman sat in his dark office, his chair turned away from the door. He was Acting Chief Of Staff until Leo came back, but the title gave him only heartache. There were immediate things to be done, but he seemed incapable of doing them. He had come in because he knew he should, but he did not seem able to move from his chair, or to pick up the phone, or a file, or the cup of coffee that Donna had placed on the desk.

He had stood trapped behind that iron gate, watching the slaughter, powerless to stop any of it. His friends had been shot, trampled, assaulted, and he had stood apart, screaming their names, helpless.

There were reasons. Technically, he wasn't at fault. But there were always reasons. Why were there always good excuses for surviving while the people you loved fell to the wolves?

<"Why weren't you killed, Josh?" "I ran out of the house"

"That's what little boys are supposed to do, Josh.">

<"Hey, Ma, what great timing! Did ya hear? We won Illinois!" "Joshua, I don't know how to tell you this, your father...your father is dead.">

His reverie was broken by the sound of the door opening and the flash of low light.

"Donna, unless it's the President or Leo, I'm not taking any calls..."

"It's not Donna." Josh recognized Kenny Thurman, the "voice" of Joey Lucas. He turned in his chair to face them. Joey made a little wave.

"What are you doing here?"

Kenny said, "Joey was watching the Town Meeting, she saw the shooting, called me and we came down here a little while ago. She thought she might be able to help."

"Fine. Good. Good idea. I think CJ is here. Maybe Toby."

Joey took the chair opposite his desk. Her own voice, dissonantly beautiful, "I came to help you."

"No, I'm fine, I wasn't hurt. Can't you tell?"

Joey's fingers flew. Kenny interpreted. "I can tell. I can see more than most people - you know what they say about deaf people intensifying other senses. And you are hurt. Badly hurt."

"What the hell do you mean? I'm fine. I'm always fine." He bit out the "always" like a curse.

"No. You're not. Because if you were fine, you'd be bounding around this place making sure everything was running smoothly, sticking your head - nose? - into everything, being a royal pain in the neck - "

"Gee thanks. If that was your pep talk, maybe you should take it to Notre Dame."

Joey spoke for herself again. "You're not being Josh! And Josh is who they need right now."

"I don't think so."

"The President needs you. Needs your energy, your craziness, the wierd way your head works."

Josh didn't answer. He looked over at the pictures on his wall. "There was a play by Arthur Miller that my grandfather liked. There was a line near the end, a woman who had survived the Holocaust says, 'No one is innocent they did not kill.' And I understand that line, Joey. I didn't, but I do now."

"You have to put that aside for now."

"I don't know if I can, Joey."

"You have to."

"Why?" It came out like a prayer.

"Because you can. You have to do it for the ones who can't. It's the most important thing you can do." She hesitated, stumbling for words. "You can't let them win."

Josh managed a small smile. "I was right about you, you're a lunatic lady. Can't let who win?"

"The others. The ones with the guns. Not just them, though. The ones with the bad ideas, the ones who want to make it harder on, on, people like Zoe and Charlie."

"I don't know if I --"

"You can, Josh. You have to. It's a gift, but it's also a responsibility."

"Yeah...I know." There was a long silence while he looked at her. Finally, he picked up the phone. "Donna?...Yeah, I'm alive. Would you call the hospital and get an update?....Meanwhile, if anyone is looking for me, I'm going over to CJ's office...no, I'm not going to make her crazy...Donnatella, will you for once just do what I'm telling you...? Thanks." He turned to Joey. "Are you and Kenny sticking around?"

Joey exchanged a look with her interpreter. "Yes, he said, as her hands took off again. "With so many people out, I think we might be able to help."

"You're off to a good start." Joey rose, and Josh continued. "Not tonight - too much going on - but one of these nights, maybe we could have dinner and...you know, talk?"

"I'd like to," Joey said, and she and Kenny left.

They stopped by Donna's desk. "Thank you," Joey said in her own voice.

"You're welcome," she said. "Just don't ever tell him I called you."

Joey shook her head, and she and Donna clasped hands. "I think we're going to be good friends."

"I think so, too," Donna said.

----

Despite the late hour, the press room was jammed as CJ made her way, crutches and all, to the podium. "The President will be addressing the nation live in just a moment. He will not take any questions and we ask that you let him return to the residence without any...

"Harassment?" a reporter called out.

"That just about says it," CJ acknowledged. Josh gave her the signal and CJ introduced the President and took her place on the sidelines. Danny caught her eye, nodded and smiled.

The President cleared his throat at the podium. "I promised Toby Ziegler that I would not deviate from the fine speech he wrote for me, but I have to start by thanking CJ Cregg for coming in on crutches to help me with this, and Toby himself, who should have been under medical observation for his injuries..."

In Toby's apartment, the Communications Director shouted, "He did it again!" and David Ziegler laughed.

"It is by the grace of God and the extraordinary men and women of the Secret Service that I stand before you to assure you that I suffered no physical injury in the assault at the Newseum earlier tonight...."

Abby, watching from the Oval Office, dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief and smiled.

".....Tonight, we grieve as a nation for Secret Service Agent Gina Toscano, who gave her life protecting my daughter..."

Zoey slept fitfully in a White House guest room....

"for Metropolitan Police Officer Chad Bristow, and Newseum Assistant Curator Marjorie Tennant, who paid too high a price for their professional dedication and personal zeal....our condolences go out to their families and friends, but that is not nearly enough....we pray for the full recovery of Chief of Staff Leo McGarry...."

Jenny patted Leo's hand as they watched on the hospital room tv...

"...my personal aide, Charlie Young..."

Mrs. Landingham gave Deena Young another cookie, and watched the solemn-faced little girl add more glitter to a pink and gold drawing....

"....Communications Deputy Sam Seaborn..."

In the hospital cafeteria, the Seaborns and Mallory pushed food around their plates and tried to put words to the unthinkable....

The roll call of the injured was extensive, but the President said every name with weight and urgency. Then he said, "There is no excuse for these things happening, but they happen. There is no reason, it can never be made reasonable. I have been told that this is the price of a free society, but it is the very fact that we live in a free society that makes it more unthinkable." He took a sip of his water and continued. "This is the greatest nation in the world. Great because of its freedoms, but also great because we never, as a nation, stop trying, stop growing, stop rethinking the terms of the American dream.

"We are not going to surrender to the worst elements, and we are never going to surrender our right to dream, to aspire, to continue to bring this country closer and closer to the ideals that were set down over two hundred years ago....."

Josh, standing in the wings, took a deep breath and brushed his hand against his eyes, which were unaccountably stinging. Donna stood on his left and Joey on his right. Both were smiling.

"There is more to say, much more. But I'm not going to say it tonight. Tonight is dedicated to the safe recovery of those who were injured at the Newseum....In the days to come, a new national debate will form, one that will begin to determine the next steps of our evolution as a society. Can we handle the responsibility? Can we continue on in the name of those who have fallen? I'd like to think we are equal to the task, but in the end it will be up to you. Thank you."

The press and staff erupted into applause. The President nodded, turned away from the podium and started off. Instinctively, he looked for Charlie at his side.

The work is only starting, he said to himself, then returned to the Oval Office, where his wife would be waiting. They would sit with Zoe, give her the good news about Charlie when she woke, and then take a few hours of rest for themselves. The work is only now starting, he repeated. Make me worthy of it.

End


 

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