Characters belong to Aaron Sorkin, John Wells Productions, Warner Bros., & NBC. Standard disclaimers apply. The title comes from a song by Sydney Carter. Please send feedback. Dance, Then, Wherever You May Be Cinnamon & Violet
"Grated apricot sherbet with frozen date mousse, orange sauce, baklava, and rainbow marzipan." C.J. paused for breath. "Everyone got that?"
"What is grated apricot sherbet?" a reporter asked. "I mean, does it have grated apricot in it, or is the sherbet itself--"
"Well, I'm not exactly sure how you'd grate sherbet, Cindy, but I'll check on that for you." She raised her eyebrows and went on. "In addition to President Dogruyusever and his wife, special guests will include Ahmet Ertegun and Neil Sedaka. We're also expecting several of the Senators who worked on the education bill to attend. I have the list here somewhere... yes. Senators Dashowitz, Ford, Grace, Ramsey, Verrien and Wiley. I believe that covers everything?"
"I'm sorry, what kind of mousse?"
"For heaven's sake, Arthur. Date mousse. Apricot sherbet, orange sauce, baklava, and rainbow marzipan. All you can eat." The reporter chuckled. C.J. shuffled her notes and surveyed the room. "I think we're done. Thank you."
As she left the press room, Josh fell into step with her. "That went well."
"In two minutes, I'm going to have someone knocking on my door asking if it's orange sherbet and apricot sauce," C.J. predicted.
"I didn't know Neil Sedaka was invited."
"Well, what kind of party would it be without Neil Sedaka?"
Josh grinned. "Yeah, I might wear a special tux for that."
"Is that anything like your special Joey Lucas suit?"
He reddened. "For the tenth time, I don't have--"
"What's rainbow marzipan?" Sam interrupted, catching up with them in the hall.
"Hey, Sam," Josh said brightly, "Did you know we're going to have dinner with Neil Sedaka?"
"I did, in fact. I'm bursting with excitement."
"The two of you are going to drive me to do something desperate," C.J. warned.
Sam smiled. "Believe me, C.J., if you haven't partied with Ahmet Ertegun, you don't know how to get down."
Toby was waiting for them in the bullpen. "Bad news."
C.J. groaned. "You're going to tell me they really do grate the sherbet."
"The hell? No, C.J., I'm talking about real news."
"We're planning a state dinner," Sam said. "We're not doing real news today."
"We've become the E! network," Josh added.
"What's going on?" C.J. finally asked.
"Six minutes ago, there was a shooting over on the other side of town, at Stanton Elementary School."
The news silenced them, and they stared at Toby. Sam was the first to speak. "Casualties?"
"An eight-year-old boy's on his way to Providence in critical condition. A nine-year-old girl...." Toby hesitated. "Dead at the scene."
There was another pause. Breaking the stillness, C.J. drew a breath, turned, and headed back toward the Press Room.
* * *
Jed opened a door of the Oval Office and entered quickly. "Tell me about this shooting."
Leo was waiting for him. "We don't know much at this point, sir."
"Tell me what you know."
"Two children were shot outside the school." Leo had a sheet of paper in his hand, but didn't need to consult it. "The boy, Daniel Ripley, was shot in the left thigh and the right shoulder; he lost a lot of blood."
"Is he going to make it?" Jed asked quietly.
"It's too early to say."
"And the girl?"
"Single bullet to the head. Bernadette Bryson was her name."
Leo nodded. "Toby's preparing a statement. You'll be on the air in an hour."
"Do we have people at the hospital?"
"What about the shooters?"
"Last I heard, they didn't have anyone in custody."
"Do they have any ideas?"
Leo frowned. "They're fairly certain it was another student."
"A child in elementary school."
Jed shook his head and began walking around the room. "Charlie!"
After a moment, he appeared. "Yes, Mr. President?"
"Get me information on Bernadette Bryson and have her mother on the phone after the security briefing." Jed turned to Leo, and they followed Charlie out of the office. "Walk with me. About the state dinner."
"What about it?"
"There's something that I need you to explain."
"Good morning, Faith." Leo maneuvered around a staff member. "Well, sir, I don't know what I can tell you. Neil Sedaka is a very boring man."
"I'm not asking you about Neil Sedaka, Leo. I wanted to ask you about the menu."
"What in hell is grated apricot sherbet?"
"Honestly?" Leo looked at Jed. "I have no idea."
* * *
Toby strode purposefully into C.J.'s office. "I've got--"
She was on the phone, and held up a hand to quiet him. He waited, half-listening to her side of the conversation. "He's not. You're sure? Okay. No, I'll call you back." She hung up the phone and looked at Toby. "What have you got?"
"Nothing. It was just a scare, and that was years ago."
She stared at him. "Did you just make a joke?"
"Yes, I did. I've got your advance copy of the Stanton statement." He dropped it on her desk. "Extend our sympathy and prayers, and so on. Read it."
"Hang on, I'm still back on you making a joke." She smiled suddenly. "It was funny."
"I'm an endless source of hilarity. Read."
C.J. picked up the statement and sighed. "We have a problem."
"Somehow I'm not surprised."
"Senator Verrien rejected the invitation to the dinner."
Toby blinked. "He rejected the invitation?"
"I just spoke to his office. He's not coming."
"I know what 'rejected the invitation' means. Why did he reject his invitation?"
"You'll love this. He has a personal engagement."
"Well, that sounds like complete bull--"
"You think maybe he objects to the rainbow marzipan?" she wondered wryly.
Toby grimaced. "Could we please get off the damn food?"
"What, you're the only one who gets to make jokes?" She quickly skimmed the papers he'd brought her. "This is good."
"We're going to have to meet with Todd Verrien."
"Oh, yes, we are. I'll set it up."
Toby nodded. He lingered just inside C.J.'s door for a few seconds, long enough that she looked up at him again.
"Showtime in twenty minutes," he said, leaving. She tilted her head thoughtfully and reached for the phone again.
* * *
"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming. The President will be out shortly." C.J. stepped from the podium and noticed Sam beckoning her from the hallway.
"What's the deal with Verrien?"
"Ask me again after I meet with him." C.J. stood next to Sam but faced straight ahead, watching the President take the podium and give his statement.
"...Profoundly shocked and saddened this morning. I've asked the Attorney General and the Secretary of Education to stand ready to assist local law enforcement, as well as the community, in this time of terrible sorrow." Jed's voice was quiet and powerful.
"That's good," Sam murmured.
"At this time," Jed continued, "we do not know the exact details of what happened this morning, nor do we know the identity of the person or persons responsible for this very violent act."
Sam wrinkled his nose. "Very violent? As opposed to what?"
"I think he added that himself." C.J. consulted her copy of the statement. "Speaking of, are you finished writing his remarks for tonight?"
"And the toast?"
"Is it going to be funny?"
"No." Sam looked at her. "Do you think it should be?"
"I'm going to talk to Leo. I think we need a humor consultant on staff."
"Hey, guys." Josh stepped between C.J. and Sam. "I just saw Todd Verrien walk in."
"Was he alone?" C.J. asked.
"He had two aides with him. What's going on?"
C.J. looked at Josh. "What are you doing in ten minutes?"
"Yelling at Donna?"
"Come to this meeting with me."
Josh's eyes lit up. "You got it."
"As parents, we must reach out to our children, and as Americans, we must reach out to each other."
"That's good, too." C.J. fingered her necklace self-consciously. "On the upside, this will certainly lend weight to any gun-control arguments we want to make in the next few months."
Sam nodded. "Yeah, between this and the President taking a bullet...."
"Not to mention my near-death experience," Josh added lightly.
They heard Leo sigh behind them. "Do you really think this is an appropriate conversation for you to be having? And, for God's sake, don't you people have any work to do?"
"C.J. and I were just on our way to meet with Senator Verrien." Josh grabbed her arm and they began walking quickly down the hall.
"And what about you?" Leo looked at Sam.
"I'm working on tonight's toast."
"Well, go do it!" Leo watched Sam retreat. He hesitated for a moment as Jed wrapped up his speech, then made his way back to his office.
* * *
"Don't be nervous," Josh admonished C.J., as he hurried her along.
She stopped short. "Why do you do that? You know I hate that."
"You tell me not to be nervous, and that makes me feel like I should be nervous, and then I completely lose my concentration."
Josh looked askance at her. "When I tell you not to be nervous, that makes you more so?"
"You're really perverse, you know that?"
She rolled her eyes. "Let's go in."
Josh opened the door to the Mural Room, and C.J. went in ahead of him. "Senator."
"Miss Cregg." Todd Verrien stood to greet her and indicated the two staffers he'd brought. "This is Rick Pomerantz, Gillian Hastings--"
"You know Josh Lyman." C.J. inclined her head towards him as he stepped into the room.
Verrien seemed slightly dismayed that her support outranked his. "Yes. What can I do for you?"
C.J. folded her hands. "Frankly, Senator, we're disappointed that you've declined to attend tonight's White House dinner."
Verrien smiled falsely. "I believe Gillian already spoke to you on the subject. I have a personal engagement."
C.J. nodded. "Due respect, sir, your personal assistant informally confirmed your attendance a week ago."
"She should have spoken to me first."
Josh sat down on the couch. "Senator, you crossed party lines to support the Russo-Silverberg education initative, and the President appreciates it."
"It was a good bill," Verrien said. "I would have backed it, no matter which side of the aisle it came from."
"You were part of the fight," C.J. countered. "Why wouldn't you want to be part of the celebration?"
"Think back four months."
C.J. glanced at Josh. "I'm not sure I understand."
The young aide raised his head. "The Supreme Court decision."
"The Supreme Court decision," Verrien said bluntly. "They struck down a partial-birth abortion ban in my state. The decision went five-four. Without Mendoza...." He shook his head. "Five-four. The people of Nebraska believed in that law, and I believed in that law."
"Due respect," C.J. repeated, "that law wouldn't have held up under the previous Court."
"And I can virtually guarantee you that the topic will not come up over dinner tonight," Josh added.
"We're talking about the wholesale murder of unborn babies." Verrien's voice was icy. "I have a wife and two daughters who agree with me that choice is not the issue here. I am open-minded on the topic of education. I compromise on the budget. This is non-negotiable. And in two years, when my party's in the White House, I'll say so to the President. For now, don't offer me your respect--" he glared at C.J. "--and don't expect me to break bread with you."
Verrien turned and walked out briskly. His aides followed. "He has an interview with the Times this afternoon," Gillian informed them, as a parting shot. "I expect the topic will come up."
C.J. shook her head in disbelief. "Wholesale murder?"
"That was messy," Josh agreed. "At least you didn't seem nervous."
"Unprepared, but not nervous."
"Thanks," she said sarcastically, starting for the door. "Hey, next time, let's just make it simple and not invite any Republicans to the party."
Josh's eyes twinkled. "Pun intentional?"
She looked back at him over her shoulder. "No."
* * *
Sam sat nervously on the couch in Josh's office, watching as Donna perched on the edge of Josh's desk and scanned a sheet of paper.
"It's... it's not bad."
Donna smiled unconvincingly. "Yeah."
"Yeah?" Sam tapped a pencil against his knee. "You don't think it's too light-hearted for the State Dinner?"
"Light-hearted?" Donna read the toast again, then looked at Sam. "Is this supposed to be funny?"
He placed his head in his hands. "That was the idea."
"Well, you might want to work on that." Donna hopped from the desk and handed him the paper. "Good luck."
"Donna, find out when Leo has a minute for me." Josh entered his office, removing his jacket as he did so.
"What's up?" Sam stood.
"Todd Verrien's holding a grudge about partial-birth abortions."
"Late-term," Donna said from the hallway.
Josh crinkled his brow. "What?"
"Late-term." Donna stuck her head in the office. "You called them partial-birth abortions."
"Well, that's what they are, Donna."
"They are late-term abortions, Josh. That's what they are." She studied him for a moment before slipping from the doorway. "You've got Leo in five minutes."
"Thanks." Josh motioned to the sheet in Sam's hand. "What's that?"
"A rough draft of the toast."
"Very rough!" Donna called.
"Do you have any actual work to do?" Josh gestured to the sheet again. "Can I see it?"
Sam shook his head. "No."
Josh plucked the page from Sam's hand. "It can't be that... whoa. Is this supposed to be funny?" He looked at his friend. "Are you going to touch on the shooting?"
"Toby wants me to talk about human rights and genocide, CJ thinks it should be funny, and you want me to talk about the shooting?"
"It couldn't hurt." Josh grabbed his coat and patted Sam's shoulder. "You'll figure something out."
"It's really not funny?" Sam followed Josh as he walked from the office.
"You remember on 'Full House' when Joey had a pizza delivered to him in the bathtub?"
Sam looked strangely at Josh. "No."
"That was funnier."
"You watch 'Full House'?"
"I caught a rerun the other night."
Sam paused in the hallway outside Leo's office. "That's got to stop."
* * *
"Something he said," C.J. murmured to herself. She meandered through the crowded corridor, engrossed in the file she was reading, and absently bumped into Toby.
He stepped back quickly. "Watch the road."
"Sorry." She reorganized herself. "Hey, you have a minute?"
"No. I have a meeting." Toby kept going as he spoke.
C.J walked with him. "I had Carol pull some background on Verrien."
"He's originally from Cook, Nebraska. Before he was a Senator, he was a district judge in Omaha. He and his wife Trina have three children: Molly, Jason, and Kim."
"And I ask again--"
"He's been a vocal anti-abortion activist for decades; the Nebraska ban was a big plank in his campaign platform." C.J. slowed her pace as she consulted her notes. "It was something he said about his wife."
"I'm sure it's a perfect marriage," he said dryly.
"Right, because the U.S. Senate is the model of -- here we go." She held up a page that was Xeroxed from a magazine. "Katrina Verrien was raped fourteen years ago."
C.J. scanned the text. "I remember reading this during the campaign. She says something here about how her husband 'responded like any normal man would.' She says the way he treated her was wonderful and sensitive. Then she changes the subject."
Toby looked at her quizzically. "Where are you taking this?"
C.J. rifled through the file with a serious expression. "Do you think it's possible that his wife...?" They studied each other, finishing the thought without words. A determined look crossed her face. "I'm going to make some calls."
* * *
Jed dropped the receiver into its cradle and leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes for an instant against the midmorning sunlight that flooded the Oval Office. He opened them again and nodded to Charlie, who motioned Leo into the room.
"Bernadette Bryson," the President said to his Chief of Staff. "I just got off the phone with her stepfather; her mother was too broken up to speak."
"That's the nine-year-old girl?"
"She would have been ten in three months. Made decent grades in school, stayed out of trouble." Jed gazed at the phone. "Sang in church."
"It's nothing but a tragedy," Leo said.
"Yeah." He sat up straighter. "I have a photo-op in five minutes with Dogruyusever. Speaking of which, why did Senator Verrien decline his invitation for tonight?"
Leo looked at him, startled. "How'd you hear about that?"
"I pay attention to things that go on around here," Jed said knowingly. "I have my sources. I listen. I watch. I infer."
"Who told you?"
"Sam. So what's going on?"
"Josh says he's still throwing the Supreme Court ruling back at us."
"Verrien has a pretty definite opinion on abortion."
"Yeah, I'd say his mind's pretty much made up."
Jed hesitated. "I'm not sure mine is."
"It would probably be a bad idea to say that with anyone else in the room."
"If nothing else, I'd like to come down on the side of freedom," Jed concluded, as Charlie approached silently. He handed the President a folded note and stood aside, waiting. Jed put on his glasses, read the note, and looked up at Leo gravely. "They apprehended the shooter."
The smile left Leo's face rapidly. "It was a kid."
"What's his name?"
"Melissa Tompkin." Jed removed his glasses and ran a hand quickly over his face. "An eleven-year old girl."
"Son of a bitch."
"I've got this photo-op." He stood up, and Leo followed suit. "Charlie?"
The President drew a breath and let it out slowly. "Get a hold of Melissa Tompkin's parents for me."
As Leo started for his own office, Jed walked to the main door. He shook his head and spoke softly. "A little girl who liked singing in church."
* * *
Toby's office door was closed.
C.J. lifted a hand uncertainly, dropped it, then made up her mind and knocked.
"Yeah," he said, but his tone was forbidding.
She opened the door. "Am I interrupting something?"
He was sitting at his desk, a hand on his forehead. "Doesn't matter."
"Are you sure?" She edged into the office. "If you're busy--"
"I'm reading background on the shooter."
"Oh. Anything I need to know?"
He had already memorized the basic information. "Melissa Tompkin. Fifth-grader at Stanton. Parents, Julie and Roger -- a two-parent family, which is unusual enough in itself. She told the cops she got the gun from her cousin."
"Were there any...." C.J. repressed a sigh. "This is going to sound stupid."
"That doesn't usually stop you," Toby said, but there was no real harshness in his voice.
C.J. paid no attention. "Were there any warning signs?"
"Nothing in the school counselor's files, no previous police record. The parents are in shock."
"Nothing to show she was anything but an ordinary adolescent girl."
Toby picked up his coffee mug and held it without drinking. "Ordinary adolescent girls don't kill people."
"They want to," C.J. told him. He looked up sharply. She held up her hands. "I'm just saying, Toby. Girls that age -- this was probably only a matter of time."
He held eye contact with her for a beat, then broke it. "What do you need?"
She considered the question carefully before making a reply. "I'm not sure. I talked to some people in Nebraska."
"An old neighbor, a disgruntled former employee. Not your most reliable sources, but their stories are the same and it's starting to sound solid. And I think I was right."
"Well, I couldn't prove it in court." She leaned forward slightly, her fingertips touching his desk. "Trina Verrien had an abortion after the rape, Toby. I'm pretty much convinced."
Toby toyed with the cup in his hands, letting this sink in. "What do you want to do with it?"
"I don't know that I want to do anything with it. This is highly personal information."
"Maybe we just point the dogs toward the scent," he suggested. "Sources inside Personnel?"
"It's her choice, isn't it?" C.J. said. "To tell her story, I mean. If she wants to keep her experiences private--"
"Then she shouldn't have stayed married to a United States Senator," Toby argued, half-rising from his chair. "The man's loudly and publicly snubbing the President, not to mention he's on a crusade against personal freedom. Don't we have a responsibility to point out to the American public that he's a hypocrite?"
"She's not a public official. She's just his wife. You don't think she deserves to keep her secret?"
"It won't stay a secret. You know that. I'm surprised no one broke it during the last campaign. And we're going to look weak for sitting on our hands when this hits the news."
"I don't want to sit on it. I just...." She trailed off awkwardly and drew back. "Don't tell anyone about this yet. I've got to keep looking into it."
Toby lowered his eyes to his desk. "I have to finish all this."
"When they ask at the afternoon briefing, tell them the district attorney hasn't given us word yet on how the girl's being charged."
C.J. watched him, doubtful. He fought the urge to return the gaze. As she left, she pulled the door shut behind her. Toby sat back in his chair, took a sip of his coffee, and made a face. It had gone cold.
* * *
"Hey." C.J. looked up from her desk and saw Donna standing in her doorway. "What's up?"
"Do you want to go to lunch?" Donna gestured with her thumbs, pointing them towards the hallway.
In response, C.J. held up a partially eaten roast beef sandwich. "Another time?"
Donna nodded. "Sure." She paused, then walked into C.J.'s office and shut the door behind her. "I saw the article."
"About Senator Verrien's wife. I saw the article." Donna began walking around the office. "I heard Josh earlier, and then I went to make a copy, and the article was in the machine." She looked at C.J. "I saw the article."
"Okay." C.J. placed the sandwich on its wrapper.
"Before the campaign...." Donna took a breath. "They made me put on one of those paper gowns. I thought I'd be cold, but the heat was overwhelming. The doctor didn't really talk. At first, he told me to relax my legs, but that was it...."
She stopped pacing and stood in front of C.J.'s desk. "I saw the article and I wanted to tell you."
C.J. slowly nodded. "Thank you." She studied the papers in front of her for a moment before gathering them up and shutting them in her drawer. "Do you want to have lunch tomorrow?"
"Sure." Donna smiled. "Thanks."
* * *
Sam sat amid ruins. Small mounds of crumpled paper littered his office, and several chewed-up pencils sat on the floor by the wastebasket, landing there when he tried to throw them in the trash and missed. He reached for another pencil and made contact with his mug, sending lukewarm coffee cascading into his lap.
"Gaaaaaaaaah!" Sam jumped from his chair and tried to absorb the coffee from his pants with pages from his legal pad.
Josh stood in the doorway, amused. "Have a little accident there, pal?"
"I was multitasking." He rummaged in his drawer and came up with a handful of napkins, cleaning himself up as best he could.
"Unsuccessfully. How's the thing coming?"
Sam waved a hand at the debris on the floor as he sat down. "Judge for yourself."
"That bad, huh?" Josh kicked aside a wad of paper. "Want me to help?"
"You're not a writer."
"I can write," Josh asserted.
"So can your average six-year-old."
Josh snorted and sat down on Sam's couch. "Come on. You welcome the guests, crack a few jokes, make noises about honor and commitment, everybody clinks glasses -- what's the big problem?"
Sam scowled. "The big problem is cracking a few jokes on a day like today. The big problem is it has to be coherent and concise and clever. The big problem is that if you're not careful when you're talking about honor and commitment, you sound like a bad cop show."
Josh smirked and held his hand up in imitation of a two-way radio. "One Adam-twelve. One Adam-twelve. We have whining in progress."
"How do you have time to watch this much television?" Sam inquired.
"I'm a man of many splendors. You're really having this much trouble?"
"I can't write anymore," Sam complained. "I'm useless. Just take me out behind the shed and put me out of my misery."
"We have a shed?"
"It was a joke. Apparently, not a good one."
Josh shrugged. "You'll think of something by tonight."
"Maybe." Sam looked at his own scribbles on a wrinkled bit of paper. "I want to talk about how we have to temper our enthusiasm for the occasion with some thoughts about today's tragedy."
"Temper our enthusiasm?"
"Yeah, that sounds really awful out loud." Sam began to chew on his fresh pencil.
"Hey, if you're stuck, you can just make fun of Neil Sedaka and Ahmet Ertegun."
"To their faces?" Sam deadpanned. "I don't think so. Those guys are dangerous."
"Which one do you think would win in a fight?"
"Street fight or ring fight?"
"I'd put my money on Sedaka," Sam decided.
"Why, is he bigger?"
"I don't know, but I think Ahmet Ertegun's about eighty years old."
"Josh." Donna appeared in the doorway. "You're late."
"Your meeting with Dashowitz and Ramsey."
Josh grinned at Sam. "Which one do you think would win in a fight?"
"I don't know. Dashowitz has the height advantage."
"Yeah, but Ramsey's kind of wily."
"Josh!" Donna tapped her foot impatiently.
"Okay." He shot a parting glance at Sam. "You'll get the toast done."
"Thanks," Sam replied.
"You're gonna change your pants before dinner, right?"
Josh walked away laughing, as Sam folded his arms and put his head down on the desk.
* * *
"What are you up to?"
C.J. raised her head. "There's a briefing in five minutes, Danny."
He leaned against the door frame. "I wanted to--"
"Briefing in five minutes."
"Are you listening to me?"
"Are you listening to me?" She enunciated carefully, as if he was deaf or distant. "There's a briefing in five minutes. Whatever you want to know, can't it wait?"
"Sure." He took an exaggerated step backward into the hall. "Push me away, then. Leave me out in the cold. See if I care. See if I even notice."
"Okay." She pushed her chair back, surrendering. "What is it?"
Danny came back in. "Todd Verrien's not coming to the state dinner."
"That's a real bolt out of the blue there, Concannon."
"He's being very clear about his reasons."
"I really am going to deal with this at the briefing, so--"
He advanced to her desk. "And I know about his wife, and pretty soon so will everyone in there."
C.J.'s eyes widened. She forced herself to sound casual. "What about his wife?"
"You know what I'm talking about," Danny said. "I wouldn't tell you I had it if I didn't think so. It's going to break. Maybe not today, but it's going to break."
Her throat had gone dry. She swallowed. "Okay."
"I thought you'd be glad to know."
"I'm thrilled," she said in a bleak tone.
"Yeah," he said gently. "I could tell that, because of the way your face lit up with gratitude."
"Face just lit right up."
She rubbed her eyes. "You didn't have to give me the heads-up. Thank you."
"No thanks necessary." Danny retreated cheerfully toward the door.
"See you in five," C.J. replied, distantly.
* * *
C.J. did not hesitate, this time, to throw open the closed door. Toby barely looked up. "You saw the briefing," she said flatly.
He gestured noncommittally at the television, playing C-Span at a low volume. "I tuned it out when you started getting questions about people's shoes."
"Well, between haute couture and the dead little girl, you might have noticed a couple pointed questions about Todd Verrien." She glared at him expectantly. "When were you going to tell me?"
Toby stood up and paced over to the window. "No one asked anything about his wife."
"Not yet. Danny has it."
"I know." She circled Toby's desk and stood next to him, speaking in a barely controlled voice. "He told me, which he certainly had no obligation to do. Danny has it, and you know that means Katie's about two phone calls behind him. That means it'll be everywhere in a few days. God, Toby, why didn't you just rent a billboard?"
He frowned. "You knew it wouldn't stay a secret."
"And you knew I didn't think we should--" She stopped abruptly, kneading her hands together in frustration. "Clearly, you didn't listen. You went over my head."
"I told you--"
"You threw Trina Verrien to the sharks without giving her perspective a second thought -- or mine, for that matter. So when were you going to tell me?"
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see that she was actually trembling with anger. It was unnerving. He shifted his focus back to the window, staring into the descending sun. "I did think about your perspective."
"And then you ignored it!" Her voice rose. "I abhor what Senator Verrien stands for, and you know that. But this isn't about discrediting what he believes in. This is an attack on something private, something personal, and it isn't fair or -- or decent to go there. You had no right, Toby. I trusted you on this! I trusted you, and you just...."
C.J. was quiet for long enough that he finally faced her. She was motionless. He reached out cautiously and touched her arm just above the elbow. She tensed and pulled away.
"You didn't even come to me and try to argue your side," she said miserably. "You just went over my head."
She whirled around and hurried out. Toby stood still, grimly looking at the space she'd left, deep in thought. When he turned, Bonnie and Ginger were peering into the office with curiosity.
"Any chance either of you are getting any work done?" Toby called to them.
"No," they replied in unison.
"You fit right in," he muttered, and ignored their irritation as he picked up the police report again.
* * *
Jed closed the folder on his desk and stretched his arms above his head. Allowing himself to yawn, he sat back in his chair and pondered the events of the day. With a heavy sigh, he glanced at his watch. Jed tapped the face of it several times, but the hands weren't moving. He unfastened it from his arm and began striking it against his desk. "Mrs. Landingham!"
"Yes, sir?" She stuck her head into the Oval Office.
"What time is it?"
Mrs. Landingham blinked. "I believe you're holding a wristwatch, Mr. President."
"Yes, I am holding a wristwatch, but I can't read it."
"It's not a digital watch, is that the problem, sir?"
"It's broken, Mrs. Landingham." He looked at her impatiently.
"Well, why don't you take a look out the window? I'm sure you could figure out the time by using the trees as gnomons."
"They didn't teach you how to do that in New Hampshire?"
"I would hate to have to fire you."
She glanced briefly at her own watch. "It's six-thirty."
"Now, was that so hard?"
"You have to ask, sir?"
"Mr. President?" Charlie stepped up next to Mrs. Landingham.
"Hello, Charlie. I hope you come to me bearing good news."
Charlie shrugged and stepped into the office as Mrs. Landingham went back to her desk. "What did you have in mind, sir?"
"Oh, I don't know." Jed pounded the watch against the desk again. "Do I have another watch?"
"You have several in the residence, yes, sir."
"Good to hear, Charlie." Jed tossed his watch into a drawer and focused his attention on the young man. "What can I do for you?"
"Actually, sir, I wanted to ask you a question."
"I'd like to visit Daniel Ripley." When Jed didn't respond, Charlie went on. "He's the boy who was shot this morning, sir."
Jed's voice was soft. "I know who he is, Charlie."
"I'd like to visit him. I thought I could take him a stuffed animal and sit with him for awhile."
"That sounds like a wonderful idea."
"I thought he would like a visitor."
"That sounds like a wonderful idea, Charlie." Jed stood and walked around to the other side of the desk. "Is there anything else?"
Charlie shook his head. "No, sir. I just wanted to make sure I could do that."
"Oh, you can do it, Charlie." Jed reached out and squeezed the young man's shoulder. "You can do it."
"Thank you, sir."
"I have to go get dressed now." Jed slipped into his coat. "I'm escorting my wife to the State Dinner."
"I'm sure she'll enjoy that, Mr. President."
"Yes, Charlie, the First Lady is a big fan of Neil Sedaka."
"Is that right?"
"No." With a smile, Jed set out towards the residence with Charlie behind him.
* * *
"I feel like Scarlett O'Hara," C.J. complained through clenched teeth.
"Shh. Hold your breath," Carol ordered, and managed to zip up the back of C.J.'s eggplant-colored evening dress. "There. You look great."
"Thanks." C.J. exhaled slowly. "Now all I have to do is be careful not to make any sudden movements."
"You'll be fine."
"You know what's going to happen? I'm going to walk into the East Room, step on my hem, spin around, fall out of my dress--"
"And smile for the cameras," Danny finished for her.
She eyed him over her shoulder. "What are you doing back here?"
"You know, I was just -- I was gonna ask you a thing."
Danny grinned. "Yeah, and also I thought I'd see if I could catch you with your clothes off."
C.J. rolled her eyes. "Carol, call Security."
Carol snickered as she slipped from the room. "I didn't really have anything to ask you," Danny said.
C.J. put a hand to her cheek, pretending to be shocked. "You don't say."
"You look very nice."
"Thank you." She smoothed her hair into place. "Now I have to go eat baklava with a gaggle of Senators and the President of Turkey."
"I'm going to go home and sit around in a sweatshirt and eat cold pizza." He grinned. "Jealous?"
"Uncontrollably. Now leave."
"'Kay." He started to obey her.
"Why'd you tell me you knew about Todd Verrien's wife?"
"I knew you weren't going to put it out there."
"And you didn't ask about it today."
Danny looked at the floor. "I didn't feel it was appropriate, what with the other events."
C.J. sighed. "I wasn't going to put Katrina Verrien out there. I think it's inappropriate, and I think it's a lousy story, not to mention it's going to look like an act of personal retribution by the White House."
"Yeah, well. Two out of three." He shrugged. "I'm gonna go now. You know, you could still come with me. Cold pizza, beer from the fridge, reruns of sitcoms."
"And waste this dress?"
"Your loss. Enjoy the baklava."
C.J. listened to him walk away, and checked her reflection in the glass of her window, replaying the day in her mind. Something was bothering her, and she couldn't shake it off. She ran a worried hand through her hair, then cursed herself mentally and rushed back to the window to fix it.
* * *
"Margaret!" Leo fastened his cummerbund and bellowed to his secretary.
"I'm not doing it."
"I don't want to ask you again."
Margaret stood with her hands clasped in front of her. "I'm not doing it."
Leo sighed. "Margaret, please."
"Help me with my tie."
She shook her head firmly. "It's time you learned to do this for yourself."
"Have you been talking to Mrs. Landingham?"
Margaret walked to her desk and called over her shoulder, "One day, you'll thank me!"
"Not likely." Reluctantly, Leo looked in the mirror and fiddled with the tie.
"This better be good."
Sam stepped into the office. "Do you mind looking over the President's toast? I tried to get Toby to sign off on it, but he just grunted at me."
"Can you tie this?"
Leo turned around and pointed miserably at his tie.
"If I tie it, will you look at the toast?"
"Sam, if you tie it, I'll spit-shine your shoes."
Sam perked up. "Really?"
"Just tie the damn thing."
"You know," Sam walked to Leo and began manipulating the fabric. "You really ought to learn to do this for yourself."
"So I've heard."
The men were silent for a moment until Sam stepped back and examined his work. "There." He handed his toast to Leo. "Read."
Leo slipped into his shoes. "I'm sure it's fine." He skimmed it hastily and passed it back to Sam. "That's good, Sam."
"Leo?" Margaret rapped her knuckles on the door. "Toby's here." She surveyed the room and shot a dirty look at Sam. "He's never going to learn if you keep helping him."
"Will you go away?" Leo glared at Margaret, then shifted his eyes to Toby. "Come in."
"Thank you." Toby stood with his hands behind his back and watched as Leo sat at his desk and tied his shoes. "I was wondering if you had any time in the morning."
"I have a meeting with Kwong and Facklis at nine thirty, but I probably have time after that. Why?"
"I was looking at the budget reports and I found a few things I thought we should discuss."
"Sure, make an appointment with Margaret on your way out." Leo motioned to Toby. "Have a seat."
Toby did, and looked quizzically at Leo. "Okay."
"What's going on with you and C.J.?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Leo shook his head. "You two had some kind of argument?"
"Uh... yes, we did."
"She laid into you pretty good, from what I hear." Toby's gaze fell to the floor and he said nothing, so Leo continued. "I've never known you to back down from an argument, Toby. You didn't leak that story, did you?"
"Todd Verrien is not a friend to this administration." Toby stood.
Leo chuckled. "That's putting it mildly."
"He has no respect for the President."
"People have a right to this information."
Leo furrowed his brow. "I don't know about that."
"But you didn't tell them."
Toby's shoulders slumped slightly. "No."
"Why did you let her--"
"She needed to," Toby said simply.
Leo paused, reflecting. "Okay. Are you two going to be all right?"
"I think so."
"Okay." Leo rose from his chair. "You should go get changed."
"Yeah." He walked to the doorway, then paused. "How did you know--"
"It's not what we do."
"Yeah." Toby lowered his head and buried his smile in his beard. "I'll see you."
"I'll be there." Leo watched as Toby walked away, then called for Margaret.
"Do you need help combing your hair?"
He scowled at her. "Get me C.J."
* * *
The two Presidents entered the East Room to the clamor of clicking camera shutters and resounding applause.
Josh nudged Sam as they sat down at their table. "How'd the toast come out?"
"I think I finally got it," Sam told him.
"Well, we'll find out in a minute, right?"
Josh tipped his chair back slightly, reaching out to touch C.J. on the shoulder. "I have a question for you."
She craned her head to look at him. "This is going to be something silly, isn't it?"
"Well, I hope so, buddy, because I'm not in the mood--"
"Which one's Ahmet Ertegun?"
C.J. swatted his hand away. "Third table from the left."
Josh looked thoughtful. "I don't know, Sam. He seems pretty tough."
"Yeah, I think there might be some fight in him."
"Will the two of you ever shut up?" Toby growled from his seat.
"No," Josh said.
"Yes," Sam said at the same time.
"Well, only because we want to hear the President," Josh concluded.
The room went quiet as Bartlet stood up. He flashed a tiny smile at his wife before he spoke.
"Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. I'm proud to welcome President Dogruyusever, Mrs. Dogruyusever, the entire Turkish delegation, and our other distinguished guests to the White House." He turned to the foreign leader. "Before I say anything else, sir, I wanted to personally commend your actions in dealing with the earthquake your nation recently suffered. It takes strong leadership to guide a country through a natural disaster, when you are powerless to control the crisis."
Across the room, Leo raised his eyebrows questioningly at Sam. Sam shrugged, but his expression of concern faded to relief as the President continued.
"Our nations have shared common interests and a deep friendship for decades, in times of turmoil as well as times of peace. Now, how we use our friendship will do much to define the years ahead. We have the opportunities before us to establish peace, to foster tolerance, and to encourage the success of young democracies. We are standing on the horizon of a new world, which will be shaped by what we do together.
"More than two hundred years ago, as delegates signed the United States Constitution, Benjamin Franklin stood up and pointed to the President's chair, which had a sun painted on it. He remarked, 'I have often looked at that without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.' On a day like this one...."
Bartlet paused, looking around the room. "On a day like this one, we must subdue our celebration in recognition of tragedy. We cannot ignore these events. Instead, they should remind us to renew our commitment to the future. Let us take note of where we stumble, at the same time as we remember that our sun is rising, and as we turn toward a future that we can only build together." He raised his wine glass. "It is an honor to have you here. And I now ask all of you to join me in a toast to the President and the First Lady and the people of Turkey."
Glasses clinked. Jed shot an approving look at Sam, who beamed. "I knew you'd nail it," Josh declared, thumping him lightly on the back.
"Yeah. Thanks." Sam turned to C.J. "I'm sorry it wasn't funny."
"It was better than funny," she assured him.
Abigail Bartlet touched her husband's arm as he resumed his seat. "That was very impressive."
"You liked that?" He shook his head. "You think Sam and Toby will be disgruntled because I went off-text at the beginning?"
She laughed. "Sam and Toby know what's good for them, or they can take it up with me."
"It would hardly be a fair fight," Jed said dryly. "It's been a hell of a day, Abbey."
"Yeah." She sipped her drink. "So what's next?"
His eyes brightened, and he extended a hand to her. "I think I know."
Leo crossed the floor to the table where the senior staff was seated. "Josh, come with me."
"What have I done this time?" Josh asked.
"When I find out, I'll think of a suitable punishment," Leo promised. "In the meantime, I've been informed that one of our guests is interested in meeting you."
As his words sank in, Josh burst out laughing. "Can I bring Sam?"
"If you must. But if you can't control yourselves--"
"We will," Sam promised, jumping to his feet.
"Yeah," Josh agreed, as they followed Leo. "It's just that we're such big fans."
C.J. stared into her glass momentarily, then straightened up. Tentatively, she edged her chair closer to Toby's. He said nothing, waiting for her to speak. They watched the President stand, leading his wife away from their table.
"Leo told me," C.J. said at last.
Toby did not look at her. "Yeah."
"Danny got the story from outside."
"You just stood there and you let me--"
"Yeah." He gave her a small, sheepish smile.
She shook her head wonderingly, as Jed conferred briefly with the orchestra. "That's amazing."
"Well, him too." As a song started up, C.J. tilted her head and studied Toby. "Do you want to dance?"
He laughed, surprised. "No."
She nodded in understanding. "Neither do I."
They sat together in companionable silence, watching as the First Couple crossed the floor together. Abbey slid her arms around her husband's neck. "What's the latest on the kids?" she asked.
"Melissa Tompkin's being charged as a juvenile," Jed informed her solemnly. "The boy in the hospital's in stable condition."
"Well, that's something, at least. It was a long day."
"But it's a good night." She leaned back to look into his eyes.
A smile spread gradually across his face. "It's shaping up that way," he said, and drew her closer. The music lifted, and they danced on.