Strangers In The Night
By S. Allison Schecter
The snow had started to fall around nine o'clock, but everyone had
been so wrapped up in the work that the gathering blizzard had gone
unnoticed. Since dinner, when the group shared pizza, the White House senior
staff had been poring over a speech that President Bartlet would make when he
addressed a joint session of Congress. The Address was the next week, and the
12th draft of the speech had yet again been unsatisfactory to the President.
With discouragement sharp in their minds, Sam Seaborn and Toby Ziegler had
actually begged for the rest of the staff to stay late and help.
CJ Cregg, Josh Lymon, Leo McGarry and even Donna Moss, along with Toby
and Sam, had convened at a conference table around 8pm, and had begun to
review the problem.
"Maybe we should take this little party to the situation room, guys,
because this looks like a total situation‚¶" CJ began sarcastically, looking
with surprise at the text of the speech.
"Sam? Toby? No wonder the President keeps sending this back to you‚¶What's
going on?" Leo asked, trying not to insult the speechwriters.
Josh was less tactful, and blurted, "This speech totally sucks. What have
you guys been doing for three weeks?"
Sam sighed. "We're not sure what's going on. We both having a hard time
writing lately‚¶" He deferred the rest of his sentence to Toby.
"Its some sort of stress-related writer's block, we think." Toby said,
noting the amused look on CJ's face. "What's so funny? You think this is
"Stress-related writer's block?" CJ said, trying to stifle a laugh. "I
think you guys have been playing Nintendo and writing this at the same time."
"With all due respect, CJ, there's no Nintendo system in Toby's office."
Sam said, drawing himself up.
"Aha! The Nintendo's in Toby's office!" Josh grinned. "Thanks
have Super Mario?" He turned to CJ, who gave him a high-five and a huge grin.
Sam and Toby had turned pale and silent as the amused staffers questioned
Leo coughed loudly, irate. "You've been playing Nintendo instead of doing
this speech? You've got a week here, guys‚¶seven days. You're going to need
some serious help getting it together. And I'm going to need to speak to you
both‚¶" Leo motioned for Toby and Sam to follow him.
As soon as Toby, Sam, and Leo were out of the conference room, Donna,
Josh and CJ began to laugh.
"CJ, how did you guys know that they had Nintendo?" Donna asked, twirling
her thin blonde hair around a pencil.
"Josh and I saw a big Nintendo box getting delivered to the West Wing
about three weeks ago‚¶We put in some reconnaissance work, and had narrowed
down the location to either Toby or Sam's office." CJ said, looking at Josh.
"I guess video games are alluring, even to grown men."
"I still can't believe they didn't let us try it out! I'm gonna tear you
up in Super Mario, CJ." Josh gloated.
"Bring it on, Josh‚¶Don't ever underestimate my Nintendo
skills‚¶" CJ said
with mock competitiveness.
"How much money?" Josh asked, looking for a good bet. He was grinning
like a ten-year old boy waiting for a recess fight.
Before CJ could place her bet, Toby and Sam reentered the conference room
without Leo. They looked miserable, and began to loosen their ties.
"We have been ordered to completely start over." Toby said, uneasily.
"And you all have been ordered to help us‚¶"
"Are you kidding? What, and Leo's skipping out?" CJ said, leveling her
eyes with Toby's. He grunted in response.
"So we're going to be here approximately‚¶all night, because you two
idiots got hooked on Nintendo? Let's hope the press never gets wind of this!"
Josh grinned, opening a legal pad and removing a pen from his breast pocket.
"Listen‚¶you guys don't have to help‚¶its our fault. Why don't you
don't know, home?" Sam said.
CJ and Josh exchanged glances, and immediately knew that leaving Toby and
Sam alone near the Nintendo system would produce no speech. With a smirk, CJ
also opened her notebook.
"Donna, can you order some pizzas? We're going to be here a looong time."
Laughing, Donna got up to go to a phone. "Any toppings, guys?" Sam and
Toby immediately started to name every topping imaginable.
"Woah, woah, woah‚¶. Woah there, fellas‚¶I don't think Josh and I
enjoy pineapple-anchovy-olive pizza, and since we are sacrificing our
socially-filled-Wednesday night to help you goons, we'd like a pizza with‚¶"
CJ rolled her yes and looked to Josh.
"Cheese." Josh remarked.
"Cheese!" CJ stated with finality and a smile.
The whole scene had been very amusing, even though Toby and Sam had begun
to worry seriously about their lack of effort on the President's speech. With
forced resolve, the two men conceded to cheese pizza, and silently vowed to
disconnect the Nintendo system in Toby's office.
By ten-thirty, a well structured, intelligent speech was being formulated
over cheese pizza and cappuccino. The West Wing was deathly silent; CJ, Josh,
Toby, Sam, and Donna were the only people besides two security agents in the
"Can we all get a writing credit on this?" Josh joked, sipping his coffee.
"I would definitely agree to that. It's all that dumb video game's
fault." Sam said, leaning back in his chair.
"That was the most ridiculous thing you have ever said, Sam‚¶," CJ said,
beginning to laugh. "If only we could blame everything on Nintendo‚¶"
"The Nintendo manufacturers are all Republicans, I think." Toby said,
biting into his fourth or fifth slice of pizza.
The group had been working more and more slowly as the hour grew later,
and by eleven, the clicking of laptop keys had virtually ceased. The speech
was fabulously better than it had been, and everyone was looking toward the
prospect of actually going home for the night.
"Oh my God, you guys‚¶Come here right now!" Donna called from the
hallway. The four traipsed into the hallway then into CJ's office, from where
Donna had called. Donna's face was plastered to the large window, and she was
pointing outside. "It's snowing."
"It can't be snowing. The weather man on CNN said it wasn't going to snow
until Friday." CJ said, defiantly. Joining Donna at the window, Josh sighed.
"Sorry, Claudia Jean, it's definitely snowing out there." Josh moved away
to let CJ look.
"Great. Freakin' weather man‚¶," CJ mumbled. "We'd all better get
here before we're stuck. It's coming down so hard I can't actually make out
anything." CJ said, squinting in attempt to see actual objects within the
"I don't think we should leave‚¶The TV is saying that there's already 3
and ¬Ĺ feet of snow accumulated out there‚¶." Toby said, having flipped on
TV. "It isn't going to stop until early tomorrow morning."
"Crap. So we're trapped here? With no other people? For a whole night?
With nothing to do?" Sam said. In a flash, his eyes met Toby's and slow grins
began to form on their faces. Instantly, Sam was running toward Toby's
office, with Toby on his heels.
CJ looked at Donna and Josh. "I guess we won't get to try the Nintendo
until they fall asleep‚¶"
With Sam and Toby likewise occupied with games, and Donna borrowing the
couch in CJ's office for sleep, CJ and Josh were alone.
"Don't you want to go to sleep, CJ?" Josh asked. "I mean, I know we had a
lot of coffee‚¶" Josh himself was completely awake, due to the three tall
cappuccinos he had consumed
"No, and its not just the caffeine‚¶To tell you the truth Josh, I've been
having a hard time sleeping lately."
Josh nodded, and the two sat in comfortable silence for a few moments. They
were sitting in Josh's office, with the television quietly on. Every so
often, they could hear shouts or grunts coming from Toby's office around the
"Hey, Josh‚¶why don't we walk around the West Wing?" CJ suggested,
"I don't know if you've noticed, but we do that every day." Josh said,
remaining on the couch.
"Yeah, yeah‚¶ I know! But how often do you stop to take in the beauty of
it? We're so loaded up with work that we could be anywhere in the world, and
not know the difference." CJ said. She grabbed Josh's arm, and pulled him up.
She and Josh started towards to door to the hall, but CJ stopped to remove
"What are you doing?" Josh asked, eyeing her bare feet.
"I've never walked around here with no shoes on. Take yours off, too." CJ
commanded. Sighing, Josh pulled off his loafers to reveal red socks
"Shut up about the socks. I don't even know why I'm listening to you."
Josh said, allowing him to be pulled into the hall.
"You're listening because it's almost 12:30 in the morning, you're wide
awake and stuck here in the White House until further notice. Naturally, we
need an activity." CJ said.
They quietly trekked down the hallway in their socks, making no sound.
Because she had worn pants that day, CJ's legs were free, and so she began to
skate on her socks down the waxed and polished floor. Giggling, CJ skated to
one end of the long hallway, then turned to face Josh, who had still not
"Ok, here I come‚¶" CJ began to skate fast, gathering speed as she flew
towards Josh, her long limbs flailing wildly.
At the sight of CJ emulating a speed skater, in her socks, Josh began to
laugh, until CJ "skated" into him with a burst of energy.
"FWACK!" CJ and Josh flew to the ground, with CJ landing directly on
top of Josh.
"Oh‚¶my‚¶God! Are you‚¶ok?" CJ asked between gasping
laughter. Josh was
laughing almost as hard, and acknowledged his uninjured state.
"If you run into me again, I may break a few ribs‚¶I wish I'd had a
video of you doing that. It was almost as entertaining as The Jackal." Josh
said, lying on the marble floor with CJ on top of him.
The realization came over the two White House staffers at the same
time, and with twin laughter, CJ and Josh remembered that there were 24-hour
security cameras mounted everywhere in the West Wing.
"CJ, that is going to be a serious blackmail item someday!" Josh
laughed. "It'll show up on Hard Copy someday, and you'll have to explain
"I'll just say I was exercising‚¶," CJ said, cynically.
"Right. In your socks." Josh remarked. CJ had moved slightly, and only
her head remained on Josh's chest. "Uh, CJ you're still on top of me," he
said, noticing a whiff of what he thought must have been her shampoo. The
smell was intoxicating to Josh, and all at once he had the urge to push her
away and pull her closer.
CJ hadn't really wanted to move from Josh's chest, but she was worried
about why. She wasn't sure she had feelings for Josh, but she knew that
trying to analyze them that late at night wasn't a safe idea. CJ thought she
was lonely, and she didn't want to try and take care of that loneliness on
the nearest man.
"I'm sorry‚¶," CJ said softly, picking herself up off of Josh. Her
energy still bursting, she pulled Josh off the floor too, and brushed off her
socks. Skating more slowly now, CJ allowed Josh to take the lead as they
"toured" the West Wing. Surprising both of them, Josh took her hand as they
skated toward the pressroom. They crept into the darkened room, feeling
somewhat like trespassers.
"Gosh, its weird from this point of view." CJ had taken a seat in the
last row of the pressroom's stadium seats. "I always wanted to sit here
during a briefing."
"Well, I'll brief you‚¶Let me take the podium." Josh went to the podium
and turned the microphone on. "HELLO CJ!"
"Oh my God, Josh! They could probably hear that in Tibet‚¶Turn it off
and be quiet!" CJ exclaimed, laughing at the volume of Josh's 'briefing'.
Josh grinned and jogged down to where CJ was sitting. He sat next to
her, in an Indian-style position on the seat.
"Can I ask you a question, CJ?"
"Sure, Josh." CJ's voice was quiet now, and she suddenly started to
feel shy and nervous towards Josh's impending inquiry. She sensed what the
question would relate to.
"In the hallway‚¶before‚¶what was that?" Josh asked slowly, as
he were afraid to acknowledge the moment.
"It was me‚¶knocking you down, Josh." CJ said with a hint of denial.
"Come on, CJ‚¶I feel like an idiot even bringing it up, but I want to
make sure I wasn't imagining that." Josh said, looking down at his fingers.
"And I don't want to say something in early-morning haste‚¶" CJ said,
trying to catch Josh's eye. After a pause she added, "but I can definitely
say that I felt something, Josh."
Those were the only words Josh needed to hear, and he stood up. "Come
on, CJ‚¶We have one last stop to make on our 1 AM tour."
n the hallway, CJ and Josh could no longer hear any noise from Toby's
office, and they assumed that Donna was still asleep. Taking CJ's hand again,
Josh led her through Leo's office and into the Oval Office. The only light
was that coming from the portrait lamps, which were always left on. The
historic room had a candlelight romantic kind of feel, and with the snow
coming down in the background, it was a magnificent sight to behold.
Josh went behind the President's desk, and was fiddling with something
while CJ took a lap around the entire office, noting that the rug was very
soft under her bare feet.
"You know, Josh, this office is a lot smaller than I--" CJ began. Her
voice ceased when she felt Josh come from behind and put his hands on her
"Want to dance?" he whispered in her ear.
"We don't have music, Josh." CJ said, her body tensing slightly.
"Nixon had a recording system under that desk‚¶Bartlet's got CDs." Josh
smiled, hoping CJ wouldn't run out on him.
CJ turned around and wrapped her arms lightly around Josh's shoulders
as he pulled her closer. They began to dance as music began, coming from