...If you can get through the twilight, you'll live through the night.
Glancing at the clock on her desk, CJ saved the file she had been working on all afternoon and locked her computer. She stuffed three files she needed to review before morning into her briefcase and grabbed her purse. "Carol, I'm out of here. Why don't you go home?" she called, switching off the desk lamp and pulling on her coat.
Her assistant poked her head in. "You're done? What's the occasion?"
"Dinner with the boys."
"The one from before Christmas?"
"The one that has been planned and cancelled three times? Yeah." CJ checked for her keys before shutting her office door. "I'll see you bright and early."
"Have a good time."
The halls of the West Wing were quiet this late in the day. The people who remained migrated to their desks, finishing enough work to justify going home before midnight. CJ nodded to the few who looked up as she passed, but kept moving toward the Communications bullpen.
"You ready?" she asked Toby, dropping her purse and briefcase on his couch.
"Almost. Donna just called to say Josh will meet us at the restaurant. He got caught in a thing on the Hill."
Backing up two steps, CJ poked her head around the corner. "Hey, Sam. You about ready to leave?" she asked.
"Don't talk to him!" Toby barked.
Surprised, CJ turned to look at him, one eyebrow raised in question.
"He has a speech to rewrite, and I don't want anyone distracting him. He's spent the last three days doing that all by himself."
"He has to finish it now, tonight?"
Toby stood up and moved so he could glare at Sam through the window. "It has to be in the President's hands first thing in the morning which means --" His voice grew progressively louder with each word. "-- It has to be done tonight! Doesn't it, Sam?" he finished at a yell.
Sam did not bother looking up or answering what was obviously a rhetorical question as far as both he and Toby were concerned. Toby turned away, and Sam let out a long, slow breath.
"You gonna come over when you're done?" CJ asked, dropping into one of his guest chairs.
Sam pointed at the draft on his desk. Red ink and cross-outs covered the pages. "I doubt you'll be there when I finish."
"I'll bring something back for you," she offered. "Tell me what you want."
"I'm not hungry, but thanks. Besides, once you're out of here, you shouldn't have to come back."
"You have to eat. Tell you what. I'll order it and make Josh bring it back."
"I ate lunch two hours ago, CJ so I'm really not hungry. I just want to finish this and go home."
He stifled a yawn and then ran a hand through his hair, leaving a few tufts standing on end. Adding that to the crumpled shirt and loosened tie, CJ realized how disheveled and tired he looked -- two words she never connected with Sam. Even in the final days of the campaign when they all had worked twenty-hour days, he had managed to look neat and fresh, and oh, how she had hated him for it. Thinking back over the last few weeks, though, she could not remember the last time she had seen the life she so associated with Sam in those clear blue eyes.
"CJ, let's go," Toby said from the doorway as he pulled on his coat. "Sam has work to do."
She rose to her feet, her eyes still on Sam's pale face. "Are you all right?"
"CJ, let's go," Toby repeated.
Sam's gaze returned to the computer screen. "Better go before he makes you stay after school, too."
"If you had just done what I told you to in the beginning, we wouldn't be having this discussion, Sam."
Sam frowned. "I didn't realize we were having a discussion. By definition, a discussion involves the give -- "
"For God's sake, don't start this again," Toby snapped. "Just write the damn speech!"
CJ grabbed Toby's arm, moving him away before the 'discussion' escalated into something more. Grabbing her things from his office, she steered him through the lobby, staying between him and the temptation of arguing with his deputy.
"What was that all about?" she asked as they walked toward the restaurant.
Toby rubbed his face. "Sam being Sam. Lately it's been enough to drive me to drink."
"I work with the White House Press Corps so I never need an excuse," CJ told him. But as they neared the restaurant, a very real part of her wanted to retrace her steps to the West Wing. Something was not right, something she should have seen, should have known, but somehow in the hurry of her over-crowded days, she had missed it.