Chapter 26

"Hey you two!  Wait up!" CJ called as she trotted down the hall after them.

"You need to be more specific regarding The Presidentís stance on foreign aid to the Russian government.  It still sounds like The President is suggesting that we send arms to aid them against the rebels," Josh delivered in greeting to her as she moved up alongside of them.

"Thank you, Josh.  Iíll file that in my "no shit" folder," she replied in an irritated tone.

"I thought you did a nice job at the briefing," Sam added as a peace offering.

"Whatever, Sam.  I flubbed the statistics on guns and completely screwed up the answer on tax cuts to middle income families. Plus the little thing that Josh was so kind to blurt out in public," she said with a sour look on her face.

"Whatís wrong with you?" Josh asked impatiently.

"Oh, I donít know.  I just led the major news organizations to believe that middle income families are going to get an 18% tax cut instead of an 8%, I accidentally told USA Today that The President hates Mexican food, Iím throwing up every morning, and nobody will talk to me about getting Toby back into the White House," she said, wearing an exasperated expression.

"Calm down, CJ.  Weíve had a rough couple of weeks.  Things are just getting back to normal," Josh urged.

"Youíre throwing up every morning?" Sam clarified.

"He should come back," she said softly.

"Itís only been a week," Josh replied. "The polls say weíre not ready.  45% of all Americans still think there are questions left unanswered about his involvement in her murder. Give it some time. Besides this is good for him.  He needs the rest."

"Do you have a fever?" Sam inquired persistently.

"Do you hear from him?  He doesnít return my phone calls," CJís eyes looked haunted.

"Heís been in New York.  Thatís all I know," Josh replied.

"I know there was a virus going around in the National Security office.  Have you been hanging out with those guys?" Sam suggested.

"I just want to know that heís okay," she said in a voice filled with concern.  "And I want him to know that we support him."

"Iíve left him messages myself, CJ.  Trust me when I say that Toby Ziegler will be back," Josh assured her.

"My mom always used to give me saltines and 7-up.  Have you tried that?" asked Sam seemingly unaware of his place in this conversation.

"He wonít talk to me," she said.

"Let him heal a little.  I canít even imagine the torture heís been through.  Give him some time," Josh counseled.  He gave her arm a supportive squeeze.

"I hope that helps," Sam concluded.

"With what?" CJ inquired as she acknowledged Sam for the first time.

"Your flu?"

"Oh, yeah, that.  Thanks," she said with a strange look on her face.  She stopped as if trying to remember something else, but when nothing came, she gave them a shrug and headed back down the hall.




"I love Saturday morning meetings in the Oval Office," Josh announced sarcastically as he strolled in looking for a place to collapse.

Leo gave his President an eye roll.  Neither one of them felt much like tackling a surly Josh Lyman this early in the day.  CJ followed him into the room.  She started to greet The President when her stomach lurched. She thought better of it, and hurried out of the room. 

"What the hell was that?" Leo asked aloud.

Sam had made room for her as he was coming into the office. "She seems to have some sort of virus.  Sheís blown every morning this week.  It really is a persistent bug," he informed them knowledgeably as he moved past.

"Did he just say what I think he did?" Jed inquired in an aside to his friend.

"He canít be that much of an idiot," Leo replied in a low tone as they regarded Samís naivete.

"Are you going to talk to her?"

"Are you nuts?  Iím not touching it with a ten foot pole!" Leo exclaimed in an excited whisper.

"Well, you donít think Iím going to say anything, do you?" replied The President with big eyes.

"What are we going to do?"

"What is it you alcoholics say?  Oh yeah. Letís just take this one disaster at a time," Jed said firmly.

"Close enough," Leo said offering his President a glare.

"Shhh!" Jed hushed him as CJ re-entered the room, this time with a plastic smile pasted on her face.

"Okay, everybody!" The President said as soon as they were all seated.  "I know itís early on a Saturday, but I need to share some news with you."

They all exchanged puzzled looks.  Leo had led them to believe that they were having a staff at 7 in the morning because of The Presidentís schedule.  The look on Leoís face indicated that he had thought the same thing.

"I know you thought we were going to talk about the trade bill, and we will, but I had a call last night, and we should talk about that first," Jed said cryptically.

"Whatís going on, Sir?" Josh inquired with some impatience.

"Toby called me last night.  We talked for a good, long time," The President replied.

"Is he okay?  Nobodyís talked to him in a week," CJ said with a look of relief on her face.

"Heís been through a lot.  I can still hear the strain in his voice."

"Do you want to go ahead and bring him back?  If there are opinion problems, I say we bring him back and ride it out," Leo said with conviction.

"Have any of you heard of Nathan Shenandoah before?" The President said ignoring Leoís statement.

"No.  I was surprised that Lionel came up with him.  I was expecting Toby to get a much bigger name," Josh said.

"I was surprised too.  I did a little checking on him.  It turns out that Shenandoah is actually quite a big name in the public service field," explained Jed.

"Iíve never heard the name of Shenandoah in politics before," said Sam with a confused expression on his face.

"Not government service, Sam.  Shenandoah is a big name in the non-profit field, international relief organizations and the like."

CJ started to feel something in her stomach again.  It felt different than the nausea that had been plaguing her.  It was a feeling of unease that seemed to grow with each statement The President made.

"The whole Shenandoah family has been involved with good works for generations.  Are you sure none of you have ever heard of the Shenandoah name?" Jed inquired again.

"Rupert," Leo blurted out.  "There was a Rupert Shenandoah in the news a month ago.  Headed up a relief organization.  Was in Chechnya trying to negotiate with rebels."

"Rupert Shenandoah is Nathanís little brother," The President informed them.

"Yeah, I remember.  He and a group from his organization were trying to negotiate the release of a soccer team of girls that had been taken hostage by the rebels.  Young girls, in their teens, I think.  The rebels were calling them, Ďmartyrs to the causeí or something like that," Josh added with a strange look on his face.

"It was craziness.  Chechnya is the most unstable address on the planet right now.  Most of the international organizations wonít go in there right now.  Too many people disappear," Sam said.

"If I remember correctly, thatís what happened to Shenandoah.  He and his group made a trip into the interior and disappeared," Josh said straining to remember the details.

"Their bodies turned up a couple of weeks ago, I think.  We got too immersed in the cigarette nonsense to take much notice.  I seem to recall that they had been tortured," Leo said adding yet another piece to the growing puzzle.

"Sir, begging your pardon, why are we talking about the Shenandoah family right now?" CJ asked with a great deal of trepidation.

"Tobyís not coming back," he began.  "Not now at least."

"Why?" CJís question came out in a whisper.

"Toby called me from Wiesbaden, Germany last night.  He was getting on a plane to Moscow.  This morning he should be on his way to Chechnya.  Heís taking over negotiations for Rupert Shenandoah," The President said in quiet voice.  The room around him got still as everyone tried to digest what he was saying.

"You didnít stop him?" CJ asked like a woman betrayed.

"At first I tried, but he was very determined.  Heís not ready to come back.  Heís been through too much."

"Couldnít you see that he was in no position to make decisions like this?  Heís in so much pain right now.  This is a suicidal thing.  Canít you see that?" CJ cried in angry tone.  She had forgotten where she was sitting and whom she was talking to.  Josh reached over and tried to calm her.

"Toby has no business going to a place like Chechnya," Leo said expressing his own feelings to his President.

Nathan Shenandoah thinks that Toby is just the man to talk to the rebels.  They need somebody with courage to spare," Jed Bartlet explained.  "Toby has lost himself.  He feels like mistakes he made were the stuff of arrogance and carelessness.  He needs to get grounded.  He needs to find a way to believe in himself again."

CJ tried to fight the tears that threatened her eyes.  She didnít want her heart to be on such open display.  Josh sat beside her, holding her hand. He didnít know what else to do for her. 

"I donít like it," Jed Bartlet continued.  "I think it is risky, but Toby has bought in.  He sees these girls in his head.  He wants to bring them home.  Last night I heard more of the old Toby than I have in the last year.  Heís a man on a mission.  He wants to believe in things again.  I canít argue with that."

"When will we know?" Sam asked awkwardly.  Then he rethought his question. "Can we keep tabs on him?  Communications is notorious in that region."

"I donít know, Sam.  Communications are a problem.  The UN has had a devil of a time getting anything to work for very long.  Land is changing hands on an hourly basis right now."

"Can we sendÖ" Sam began.

"No, we canít, Sam.  Our position on this conflict is very clear.  The UN has a mandate for this region," Jed said firmly.

The room fell into a stunned silence.  Jed looked around the room and saw how connected his team had become.  They had been through everything together, sharing a singular, driving vision for the future of this country.  They had sacrificed every thing toward that end, and in the process, they had become a family.

He cleared his throat to get their attention again. "Toby should have said good-bye.  He knows that, but heís a little lost right now.  Heís having a little trouble reaching out to all of us.  He promises that he will be careful, and he urges all of you not to worry."

Josh gave a snort of disbelief.  The President knew Josh would deal with this from a place of anger as he did with so many things.

"He wanted me to pass on a few more things as well," continued The President.  He leaned against his desk with his arms folded.  "Sam, he wants you to stop using your head all of the time, and start using your gut.  Josh, he wants to stop using your gut all of the time, and start using your head."

Leo grinned in spite of himself.

"Sam, he also wants you to know that heís very proud of you.  He knows youíre going to do an excellent job.  And if you donít heís going to kick your ass when he gets home."

Sam took a deep breath and managed a weak smile for his President.

"Leo, he wants you to know that you just have to say the word, and heíll follow you to the ends of the earth."

Leo shook his head and looked at the carpet.

"CJ, he didnít have a message for you.  He told me that you already know everything that resides in his heart."

CJ looked away.  Josh could feel her hand trembling in his and clasped it tighter.

"I donít have anything else right now.  Letís take a break, okay," he said softly to his stunned team.

As they filed out, he reached for CJís arm.  "Please stay," he requested.

"Iím sorry, Mr. President," she said with her head hanging.  "I shouldnít have spoken to you like that."

"Oh, hell.  Why should you be any different from all the other women in my life?" he said treating her to his infamous charm.

He motioned for her to sit beside him. "Please know that Toby is absolutely nuts over you.  And you know him.  He has to go through his annual ĎIím no good for anyoneí craziness.  Heíll be just fine," he assured her.

She nodded at him.  She could think of no words that served as adequate response to what she was feeling.

"Weíll pray for him.  Like we did last week before the harvest moon," he said gently holding her hands in his.  As she bowed her head, another wave of nausea hit her and she winced.

"You okay?"

"I have a little bit of the flu or something," she said uncomfortably.

"Yeah, CJ," The President said in an equally uncomfortable tone. "About that virusÖ.


The End




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