After the Storm

(Disclaimer: Not my characters.)

She was hovering over the sofa where Jeff lay, in a little room just off the Senate chamber, her hands twisting into useless knots. Someone had found a doctor, who had been working on him for what seemed like a very long time (too long? Why was it taking so long?).

Watching Jeff's face, white and clammy on the pillow, Clarissa bit her lip. It was a desperate effort to hold back the panic rising in her throat, that might let itself loose at any moment in one long hysterical scream. Wouldn't that be one for the newspapers—her, Clarissa Saunders the Capable and Competent, in hysterics. Yes, capable and competent, all right. So capable and competent, you coached him right into this. If Jeff was—if he had gone and . . . and made himself really ill, she'd never forgive herself.

Then his eyes opened.

Clarissa gasped and almost fell against the back of the sofa as the doctor sat back and exhaled. "There you are, Senator," he said in a satisfied tone. "Nice to see you back among the living. You were starting to worry people." He glanced up at Clarissa.

Jeff followed his gaze, and found her face above him. An anxious, almost imploring look came into his eyes. "Clarissa . . ." he rasped.

"Now, now, no more talking," the doctor ordered. "You've done enough of that for a while. Time to rest that voice." He got up and went to speak to someone at the door about transportation to the hospital.

Seeing Jeff's eyes still fixed on her, an anguished question in them, Clarissa came around the sofa and dropped on her knees beside him. "You did it, Jeff," she whispered. "You won."

Relief dawned on the pale face, a relief so deep that years seemed to drop off him as she looked at him.

"Your name's cleared. Paine admitted everything." Blinking away tears, she took his hand in hers. "Jeff . . . you did it."

His head moved slightly on the pillow as if he would have shaken it. He gave one quick glance in the direction the doctor had gone, then looked back at her with the shadow of a smile. No, he mouthed, squeezing her hand gently. WE did it.

Her tears came in a rush then, but the smile behind them was as bright as sunshine after a storm.