Absentia Causa

by: Montiese

Character(s): CJ, Leo, Toby, Josh, Sam, Donna, Nora, Charlie
Pairing(s): CJ/Leo
Category(s): Drama
Rating: TEEN
Disclaimer: I made up Lesley Blankenship and a few others, but the rest belong to Aaron Sorkin, et. al.
Summary: "They're holding someone I love; now I have someone they love."
Author's Note: This is #1 in the CJ McGarry: Second Lady series. Dorky me, I have been trying to come up with a Latin title for months. I finally have one! Also, these stories will not be in chronological order. I write it as it comes to me.

"Sir, we have a situation."

Five Secret Service agents, followed by Ron Butterfield, burst into the Vice President's office. Leo, Toby, Charlie, Sam, Lesley, and Steph looked around.

"What's happening?" Leo asked. "We're having a staff meeting."

"There is a problem sir."

Another Secret Service agent, Jenkins, walked into the room.

"We're secure sir." He said.

Ron turned to Leo.

"Sir, there is a hostage situation."

"What's going on?" Leo asked.

Ron cleared his throat, looking around the room.

"The Second Lady is being held hostage in the residence."

Leo stood from his chair.

"Excuse me? Ron, what the hell is happening?"

"It seems to be one man, carrying a gun."

"Where the hell are my children?"

"How did a madman get past Secret Service?" Toby asked.

He looked at Leo; the older man looked ashen.

He started a fire in the shrubs to create a diversion. Then he shot three Secret Service agents with a tranquilizer gun."

"Was anyone hurt?" Charlie asked.

"Wait! Another word will not be spoken until I know about my children!" Leo shouted.

"Timothy and Charlotte are in a safe location with their nanny. We have also isolated the Second Lady's staff in their offices. We are going to make contact soon; find out what he wants. Mr. Vice-President, he seems to be alone in the residence with Mrs. McGarry but I don't believe someone could have done this alone."

"Leo, you need to sit." Charlie walked around his desk and helped him into his chair.

"Give us all the information you have Ron." Charlie took control of the situation...everyone else seemed to be in shock.

"Mrs. McGarry is barricaded with the gunman in the Vice-Presidential residence. He has not contacted anyone about demands or ransom. I have Mike Casper from the FBI working with us. We're setting up the phone lines, trying to get a visual from the inside, and putting snipers around the perimeter."

"Were any of Mrs. McGarry's agents killed?" Charlie asked.

Leo looked up at the younger man, grateful he was there.

"Sir, it looks like he went out of his way not to kill anyone. Still, that doesn't mean he does not intend to harm the Second Lady."

"I need updates every 15 minutes." Leo said.

"We should go to the pressroom." Lesley Blankenship said.

"No!" Toby exclaimed. "We do not make a move until we know the Second Lady is as safe as she can be in this situation."

Leo nodded.

"Sir, we have crashed the White House." Ron said. "I think it would be a good idea to put you in the bunker."

Leo looked at Ron, his hazel eyes dark.

"I do not move from this room until CJ is at my side. Do whatever you have to do to accommodate my staff. Get me the President of the United States on the phone."

"Yes sir."

"Oh, and Ron?"

"Yes, Mr. Vice-President?"

"I want my children." Leo said.

Ron nodded, dispatching Agents Evans and Tucker to bring 7-year-old Tim and 6-year-old Charlie to their father.

------------------------------------------------------------

"Why don't you put the gun away?" CJ asked, trying to keep her voice from trembling. "Look, I am not going to run, but I have to be honest and say that it frightens me."

He looked at her and sighed. After a few moments, in which he stood as still as a statue, he put the gun back in the holster on his waist. CJ took a deep breath.

"Did you kill any of my agents?"

CJ thought of Bill, he had been with her for seven years. Sylvie, Mike, Don, and Sabrina. Oh God, if any of them were dead...

"No, ma'am, all the agents are alive. I had to shoot some of them with tranquilizer darts."

Tranquilizer darts. What the hell was going on? In all of CJ's worse case scenarios in which someone snatched her and/or her children it was never like this. There were ski masks, chloroform, vans, and blindfolds. The best technology garbled voices, and she had already been beaten and raped. This kid didn't look older than 20, fresh faced and corn fed, and no foreign accent. He also didn't seem to be demanding a damn thing.

"You're shivering ma'am. Maybe you should turn down this artificial air."

"Look, I don't want to seem uncooperative, but what are you doing here with a gun pointed in my face? You just became America's most wanted."

"I want the President to pardon my father and brothers. They have been in Leavenworth Prison in Kansas for a decade; serving a life sentence for three murders they did not commit. It killed my mother to see them like that...she had a stroke 7 years ago. I took care of her the best I could but she's been dead for five years. Now my father has cancer. He is not getting the care he needs in that hellhole. They're holding someone I love; now I have someone they love."

Oh God, this wasn't going to end anyway but bad. CJ's mind started spinning with all the hostage situations during her tenure as Chief of Staff and Press Secretary. The idea of the FBI and the Secret Service crashing into her home, guns blazing, made her stomach turn.

"Maybe I will turn up the thermostat. Is that alright?"

"I have to go with you." He said.

The young man followed CJ into the living room. Then he decided to sit them in the den. It was the only room in the house with no windows. It led out to the sunroom, but if he closed the cherry oak doors, there was no natural light. He was not stupid...he had no intention of being taken down by a sniper.

"I'm the Second Lady; the only people who love me are my husband, children, and friends." CJ said.

"Leo McGarry will do whatever he has to to insure that nothing happens to you. He has the ear of the President. I knew exactly what I was doing Mrs. McGarry. Please try to relax."

He took the gun from the holster and began to slap it on his hand. CJ crossed her legs and tried to pray. As long as her children were safe she could make it through this.

---------------------------------------------------------

"They have not tried to establish any contact with us." Sam said. "It has been over an hour."

The senior staff of the Vice-President and the Second Lady had set up an office in the West Wing. It was Leo's old office when he returned to work after the heart attack. Josh came from his office to keep vigil.

"What the hell is happening?" he asked.

"Mike Casper and the FBI will establish contact with him." Toby replied. "Try to find out what he wants."

"How is Leo?" Josh asked.

"How do you think Josh?" Toby retorted. "He is holed up in his office with the kids."

"It was just a question Toby; he didn't mean anything by it."

Toby looked over at Nora. She was five months pregnant with the Ziegler's third and final child. Nicholas was five and Jules was almost three. Toby wanted a daughter this time.

"I hate this waiting." Donna said. "I just talked to Cliff; they are not letting him back into the building. We are still shut down."

"I certainly don't want to bring this up, but someone is going to have to have the dreaded conversation with the Vice-President." Nora said. "We do not negotiate with terrorists...domestic or otherwise."

Everyone looked around the room, at everything but each other.

"I will talk to him." Toby said. "Soon."

Margaret walked into the room. For some reason all the oxygen left the room. Something was wrong.

"Toby, he wants to see you."

----------------------------------------------------------

"You want to see me sir." Toby stuck his head in the door.

Leo waved him in. Then he asked the agents to leave. They nearly refused, but when they saw his face they knew it was not a friendly request.

"Please drop the pomp and circumstance. Sit down."

Toby sat on the couch and Leo sat across from him.

"In 15 minutes the Secret Service is going to call my house and see if my wife is still alive. They tried to establish a visual, but nothing has picked her up. The infrared hasn't picked her up either. According to Ron...hell, he is doing the good thing, bad thing BS."

"We do not negotiate with terrorists Leo." Toby said in a voice that did not convince himself or his boss. "I have to say that, as your Chief of Staff."

"This guy gets whatever the hell he wants as long as CJ gets back safely. We don't know who he is or if he is alone. Something is sticking in me about the fact that he didn't kill any of CJ's agents."

"That interested me too. We should know more in 15 minutes. Did you speak to the President?"

"He is still in Istanbul but he offered his support and prayers. We have to get her back safely. I promised her Toby, I promised her that the next four years were going to be decoration. Now some madman has a gun to her head and I have no idea how to save her."

"I feel just as helpless. Can I tell the staff it's going to be rolling in 15?"

"Yeah. Toby?"

"Yeah?"

"You love her."

It was neither a question nor a statement. Toby stared at the Vice-President, his friend and boss for a decade.

"I'll let the staff know." Toby replied.

"Yeah."

Taking a deep breath, he walked out of the office.

-----------------------------------------------------------

The ringing telephone made CJ jump out of her skin. She clutched her quickly beating heart. It rang five times and then stopped. It was going to voicemail.

"It was for me Mrs. McGarry." The gun-toting stranger said. "You can't answer on the first call; they'll think you an amateur."

"No offense, but you made it past six people who could probably kill you from 90 feet away. Amateur, you are not."

The young man smiled as the phone rang again. Fifteen minutes later it rang again. He picked it up.

"My name is Daniel Joseph Altman, and my only demand is that my father, Robert Joseph Altman, and my brothers, Scott and Josh, be released from Leavenworth Prison. They have rotted there for a decade for a crime they did not commit. As long as you hold my loved ones, I will hold yours. You have 12 hours to release them."

"Mr. Altman, this is Special Agent Casper from the FBI. We need to know that Mrs. McGarry is alive and unharmed."

Daniel handed CJ the phone.

"Hello?"

"CJ, baby, are you alright?"

She started to cry. God, she did not want to do that in front of the man who held her life in his hands. The sound of her husband's voice just triggered something...she could hear the fear underneath the bravado.

"Leo? Are the kids safe?"

"They are in the White House with Mitch. CJ, did he touch you? Are you alright?"

"I'm OK. I love you so much. Tell Toby, Nora, Sam, Josh, Charlie, Donna; make sure they know. I love them all, if anything happens to me."

"Don't talk like that baby."

"Mrs. McGarry, please give me the phone."

She handed it over without question. Now CJ realized what unnerved her so much. He was so rational, calm, and very polite. How long would it take him to fly off the handle?

"I love you too CJ. CJ, baby...?"

"12 hours, Mr. Vice-President. I will do what I have to after that."

He hung up, waving a handkerchief in front of CJ's face. She refused it, feared chloroform or worse.

"Do you keep booze in the house?" he asked. "Wine perhaps?"

"My husband is a recovering alcoholic." CJ replied.

"C'mon Mrs. McGarry, so was my father. Mama still kept that smuggled bottle of Jim Beam in the laundry room."

When he smiled it both calmed and scared CJ.

"I keep a bottle of Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon in a wine rack in the kitchen."

"Good. You'll have a glass; it will calm your nerves."

"Is that an order?" CJ asked.

"Yes, it is."

-----------------------------------------------------------

"She's alive and..." Leo couldn't finish the sentence. He could not and would not say she was safe until he had his arms around her.

The combined senior staffs sat and stood in the Vice President's office. They all looked shell-shocked.

"Who is this guy?" Josh asked.

"His name is Daniel Altman and he is holding Mrs. McGarry in exchange for the release of his father and brothers from Leavenworth Prison." Ron said. "He's alone, at least in the house, and he repeated over and over someone I love for someone you love."

Donna got up and ran from the room. Josh wanted to go after her, but he found his feet were glued to the floor. Nora got up from the couch and walked out.

"What's next?" Leo asked.

"We are digging up everything we can find on Altman, Mr. Vice-President. This kind of plan doesn't come to form in a day or two. We are also looking into the Altman family in prison. He gave us 12 hours."

"We need to get CJ the hell out of there!" Josh exclaimed. "I could give a damn about this guy and his sob story Ron!"

"Calm down Josh." Sam put his hand on his best friend's shoulder.

"We need to find out who we are dealing with before we burst in like the cavalry, Mr. Lyman. For all we know he could have booby-trapped the residence. We don't know a thing and we don't move until we do."

They all nodded.

"How much time?" Toby asked.

"In an hour I will know how Altman takes his coffee." Ron replied.

"What did you say?" Leo said, looking up from his hands to the leader of his Secret Service detail.

"In an hour I will know how he takes his coffee." He repeated.

Leo smirked.

"CJ said once you know a person is the one if they know how you take your coffee. She says things like that."

They all looked at him. It was happening to everyone in the room...the dread crept over them like a fog.

"Ron, if this man hurts my wife I will cease to breathe. Tell me that you understand that."

Lesley walked into the room.

"Excuse me Mr. Vice-President?"

"Yeah Lesley?"

"I believe it just hit the press."

-----------------------------------------------------------

CJ sipped the wine. She sat at the kitchen counter sipping a glass of red wine, pretending not to stare at the too calm kid with the glock. She'd turned the thermostat up to 76 degrees and now the house was stuffy. He, she knew him as Daniel now, didn't even break a sweat.

"How are you so calm?" CJ finally asked. "You take the Vice-President's wife hostage, and you don't even break a sweat. Oh God, I'm sorry."

"Mrs. McGarry, a man out of control loses focus on the goal. I am not an automaton...I have feelings."

"Oh, I wasn't suggesting..."

"Your beauty, for instance." He cut her off. "I am well aware of what a beautiful woman you are. Television does you no justice at all."

CJ's blood went cold. Please God, don't let him touch me. I would rather have him blow my brains out. Daniel looked at her.

"I can see the wheels turning in your head ma'am. I have no intention of compromising you...rape is a crime of cowards."

CJ didn't know if she believed him or not. It concerned her that his voice was so soothing. Don't believe a word he tells you, she said to herself, he has to be a sociopath. Only someone so crazy that he seemed normal would try a stunt like this in the first place. OK, it was time to go into full survivor mode.

"Drink your wine Mrs. McGarry. I am sure we'll get another call soon."

---------------------------------------------------------

"Are you sure Lesley?" Toby asked.

"There is a buzz. We cannot just let it sit." She looked at Leo. "At least I don't think so sir."

"I am not parading pictures of my wife in happy times on CNN." Leo replied.

"Why don't we do what we did after Zoey was kidnapped Leo?" Sam asked, letting go of their unspoken rule of always calling the Vice-President sir. "She is an FBI file now, as heartless as it sounds. We should at least do a press statement. I could write something."

"FBI and/or Secret Service will have to do a press conference." Toby said.

"Secret Service does not comment on procedure." Ron said.

"The FBI will have no problem in front of the cameras." Lesley said.

Leo nodded, looking at Ron.

"What do you think?" he asked.

"Mr. Vice-President, we live in a world thirsting for news 24/7. If we don't give it to the press, they will just speculate. It may be better to give them something."

Leo called Margaret on the intercom.

"Get Mike Casper in here Margaret."

------------------------------------------------------------

It got crazy during hour 4. It had been pouring all day, with the occasional boom of thunder and streak of lightning. Suddenly the lights went out in the Vice President's residence. CJ was running on pure adrenaline and instinct; she took off running. When Daniel heard the glass break, he scowled.

"Dammit Mrs. McGarry, don't do this."

He pointed the gun in the direction he thought she ran in, firing two shots. Those shots could certainly be heard in the White House.

"Mrs. McGarry, don't make me find you. You will not like the result."

It took him a while to find his way back to the den. When he did Dan grabbed his book bag and his night vision goggles. OK, the sunroom door and front door were still closed. She was scared, had most likely run to the upper levels. Five bedrooms, four baths...this was going to take some time. Time was something Daniel didn't have much of. Damn her! She had changed the game; this was no longer his fault.

----------------------------------------------------------------

"We lost power in the residence." Agent Booth said. "We have no cameras, nothing. Only one phone is not a cordless sir. It's in the nanny's room."

"Are we certain those were gunshots?" Ron asked.

"Yes sir, two maybe three. Sheridan is 90% positive it is a Glock 9mm."

Leo ran his fingers through his hair. 90 minutes ago Lesley went to the pressroom and told the world that Claudia Jean McGarry was now a case number.

"You had cameras in there Ron?" Leo asked.

Right now only Leo, Toby, and Josh were in the room. No matter what was happening 1500 feet away, the country had to be run. Everyone could be reached in five minutes.

"Mr. McGarry, no Vice-President ever knew this, and I am not going to go into much detail now. There are cameras set up throughout the residence. It is not spying sir; technically it is public property. We do it because cameras you cannot see help us keep you safe while not invading too much of your personal space with agents."

"There are cameras in my house Ron. You think that doesn't invade my personal space!"

"Please don't take it personally sir. We have more pressing issues right now."

Leo nodded. CJ would flip out when she found out.

"One more question." Leo said.

"Yes sir?"

"Are there cameras in my bedroom?"

Ron Butterfield, the man who protected the President of the United States in Rosslyn, and protected the First Family for 8 years, could hardly hide his blush.

"Yes, Mr. Vice-President."

----------------------------------------------------------

"Mrs. McGarry, don't do this. Please just come out."

CJ had her eyes closed as she crouched on the floor of Leo's tiny hall closet. She clutched one of his golf clubs, ready to do what she had to when the time came. Daniel was losing his patience. She could hear him tearing the place apart. How was he moving so fast? Did he know the house inside out? Oh God, he was close. When the door was pulled open, she swung with all her might.

"Dammit! Shit!"

First, he grabbed his thigh; close to his crotch...she missed. Then he was grabbing CJ's hair so hard she thought he would pull it from the root. She cried out in pain.

"Mrs. McGarry, you should not have done that. Things were going so well."

----------------------------------------------------------

"We've got two agents in the house."

Agent Bonnie Marsh came into the Vice President's office.

"Keller will sit in the one of the upstairs hall closets and D'Angelo in the kitchen pantry. Right now they are still navigating."

"Did you guys turn out the lights Ron?" Leo asked.

"Yes sir. We thought Altman would believe the storm caused it. It was the best way to get agents in the house."

"They have not located Mrs. McGarry sir." Marsh said.

"Is this the best idea Ron?" Leo said. "If CJ is hurt..."

"Mr. Vice-President, we have a plan set in motion that should result in zero casualties, including the perp."

Leo nodded.

"When are you going to put the lights on?" he asked.

"As soon as we get the signal from our agents. It is not easy to navigate a dark house; we do not want anyone getting hurt."

------------------------------------------------------------

"Stop! You're hurting me!"

CJ screamed as Daniel threw her down on the bed and straddled her.

"No, no, don't touch me!"

It was so dark; CJ couldn't see her hands in front of her face.

"No Daniel; Daniel please."

She began to fight, fists and hands flying. CJ had to get him off her.

"Mrs. McGarry, gain some control. Dammit!"

CJ fought as hard as she could. He slapped her across the face twice and she tasted blood in her mouth. She was seeing stars. Daniel tried to restrain her arms and push her legs apart with his knee.

"No! Oh God, no! You promised." She was screaming, crying.

"Stop fighting Mrs. McGarry. Stop fighting dammit!"

CJ would not stop fighting. He would have to kill her before he violated her. Suddenly his hands were clasped around her neck. CJ started to wave frantically. She couldn't breathe.

"Stop moving! Don't fight me!"

CJ gasped for air. Oh God, he was killing her.

"Leo...help me." She wheezed as the life slipped out of her.

"Look what you made me do. I don't want to hurt you."

CJ opened her eyes slowly. She was still alive, but her head and throat hurt. The lights were back on, dim but on. She gathered herself up against Leo's pillows, taking a long inhale through the nose. She could smell his soap and it was a consolation.

"If you run from me again Mrs. McGarry, I will kill you. Timothy and Charlotte need their mother. This can remain easy, or it can get hard."

"You promised not to touch me." She said, her voice raspy. Her mouth tasted of blood and vomit. CJ began to cough. "I was just trying to protect myself."

"Everything was fine until you ran. I am not going to violate you!" his voice went up an octave. "I will never do that!"

CJ cringed.

"We have to go back downstairs. Get up Mrs. McGarry."

Daniel took her into the bathroom. He told her to wash her face and drink a glass of water. Looking at herself in the mirror, CJ was taken aback by the handprints on her neck. He took hold of her elbow, leading her back to the windowless den.

"I need more water." CJ rasped.

"I shouldn't for how you acted; but I will. Mrs. McGarry, do not move or I will kill you."

Daniel went into the kitchen and returned with a tumbler filled with water. CJ drank half of it in ten seconds. Shit, soon she would have to go to the bathroom. How did she even make it this long?

------------------------------------------------------------------

"What's the plan?" Josh asked.

He was pacing the floor and if he didn't stop soon Leo was going to knock him down.

"Mr. Vice-President, we will create a diversion by crashing into the big window in the sun room. Then the smoke bombs are going in. Once the room fills with smoke we'll get the Second Lady and bring down Altman."

"How can we be sure that CJ won't be injured, or killed?" Leo asked.

"We cannot be sir, but this is the safest way. The smoke will fill the room quickly, dissipating just as fast. Altman will not have a chance to grab Mrs. McGarry."

"When do we do this?" Sam asked.

"20 minutes. Everyone is in place to storm the house."

"I do not want a firefight Ron. When you say storm, how many agents are we talking about?"

"Two Secret Service, two FBI; plus the two agents already in the house. It is truly the best way."

Leo nodded.

"Toby?"

"Yeah?"

"It's the best way." He said.

"Yeah."

They were all quiet for a while.

"Mr. Vice-President, if you permit me..."

"If anything happens to her, I will never forgive you. Never."

They all looked at Toby as he stood and walked out the door. Leo stopped Sam from following him.

"Let him go Sam; he'll find Nora. Let's do this."

Ron nodded, getting on his cell phone.

--------------------------------------------------------------

"I have to go to the bathroom." CJ said, shaking her foot.

"No, I can't trust you."

"Well, at least let me pace. I refuse to piss on an expensive couch."

"Mrs. McGarry, you have gotten mouthier in the last hour. I don't like it one bit...it is neither attractive nor clever."

"I am not the garden flower I play on TV." CJ replied.

"Well please be quiet."

Daniel was getting antsy. No one had called since twenty minutes before the blackout. A blackout he was almost positive had nothing to do with the storm. At least they were safe in the windowless den. If they tried to swarm him he'd be forced to shoot her...it was his only option.

"Daniel?"

"What?"

"I am wearing Armani jeans. How embarrassing for a 45 year old woman to..."

"Shut up CJ!" he snapped.

CJ jumped back. OK, McGarry, she thought, stop it before he gets really angry. He'd already choked her; who truly knew what he was capable of?

"I'm sorry." CJ apologized. "I am a bit antsy."

"You're antsy! My God, cry me a river. Just relax and be quiet."

There was a loud crash in the sunroom. CJ turned toward the closed door.

"What the hell was that?" Daniel asked.

"I don't know. We have a really old tree in the back with crazy long branches."

"I am going to open the door. If you move then I will be forced to shoot you."

If I move, CJ thought, I will pee myself. Daniel opened the door, and the room filled with smoke. Blinding smoke, and then the sound of storm troopers.

"US Secret Service, drop your weapon and get to the ground!"

"Mrs. McGarry, are you alright?"

CJ ran toward the voice. There were gunshots, lots of shouting, and then a searing pain. Someone screamed, and CJ felt herself falling.

"I'm sorry Mrs. McGarry." Daniel shouted.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Ron walked into the room and everyone stood.

"We've got her Mr. Vice-President."

"Oh thank God. Is she...?"

"She was shot. Through and through in the thigh."

"My God."

Charlie rushed to his side, calmed him.

"She is going to be fine sir. There is an ambulance taking her to GW right now."

"I need to be with her." Leo replied.

"Yes sir. Altman fired into the smoke filled room. The smoke dissipated after 90 seconds. We will take you to your wife."

Leo demanded that Charlie and Toby be allowed to go with him and Ron agreed. He told everyone else in the room that the White House was shutdown.

"Please give CJ our love." Donna said.

"I will."

They walked out of the White House and into the waiting limo.

"It still looks like the young man was working alone sir." Ron said as the door closed. "The only family he has is an aunt and uncle in Helena, Montana. They said he has been in therapy since his mother died five years ago."

"How old is he?" Charlie asked.

"22 sir. A high school dropout but no signs of sociopath behavior other than this. He has been living in DC for almost 6 months...most likely stalking the Second Lady the entire time."

"Is he dead?" Toby asked as the limo pulled into GW.

"No. He was shot in the knee and ankle. He is in custody and recovering here."

"He's here." Leo said, running through the doors with agents in tow.

"Yes sir. Mrs. McGarry is in here."

Leo turned to Charlie and Toby.

"Thank the both of you so much. I have to see my wife now."

Toby gripped the older man's shoulder and looked deep in his hazel eyes.

"Yeah Toby, I know."

"We'll be here." Charlie said.

Leo went into the room. It was eerily quiet and dimly lit.

"Claudia Jean?"

"Leo!"

He rushed to her arms; held her as she trembled.

"Oh God, I thought I would never see you again." She sobbed.

"I love you so much. I was so frightened."

"Don't let me go."

"I won't."

They were quiet for a long time, crying and holding each other.

"The kids?" she asked.

"With Mitch in the White House. They don't know about any of this...I told them there was an emergency and you had to go. I didn't know what else to say. CJ...did he touch you?"

She vigorously shook her head.

"He choked me when I tried to get away; when the lights went out. Is Daniel dead Leo?"

"No. He was shot, but he'll survive. I don't give a damn about him...I only care about you. How are you?"

CJ shrugged as he helped her lie back on her pillows.

"My thigh hurts. I peed myself when I got shot."

"It can happen. It happened to me in Nam baby. I am just so glad that you are alright. I never meant for anything like this to happen to you. I should have never done this to you."

CJ put her finger on his lips to quiet him.

"Stop it. What did Ron say after Rosslyn; this was the act of a madman Leo. He was calm, and so polite...it frightened me and soothed me at the same time. Are the kids really OK?"

Leo nodded, putting his forehead on her shoulder.

"I wasn't sure if I would see you again CJ." He whispered. "I have put you through so much..."

"Shut up. I love you so much."

"I love you too baby. Toby and Charlie are outside. You should have seen him CJ, Charlie. It's only because of him that I didn't have a stroke, or an aneurysm. We were all out of it and he kept his head."

"He always does. Is Toby alright? Is Nora with him?"

"She's still at the White House under lockdown. He told me he'd never forgive me if something happened to you."

"He was just sacred." CJ replied.

"Yeah."

CJ caressed her husband's face and he got his first good look at her neck.

"Oh God CJ, your neck."

"I'm alright. I am alive and that's all that matters to me. My agents..."

"Bill and Sylvie are outside your room. I am sure Toby wants to see you; I'll go and get him."

CJ softly kissed his lips.

"Go. I'm fine."

Leo got up from the bed and left the room. CJ took a couple of deep breaths.

"CJ?"

"Get in here Tobus." She put on a smile.

Toby sat in the chair beside her bed, taking her hand in his.

"Nora sends her love and prayers. I prayed too."

"Did you? Is that all it takes; a gun to my head?"

"Please don't be cheeky or cute. I was...I was sick at the thought of someone holding you hostage. I couldn't..."

Toby just stopped talking. When he looked at her again there were tears streaming down his face. CJ hadn't seen him cry since he told her that David committed suicide, the day he and Josh had the blowout.

"Damn you." CJ muttered as she cried again. "I didn't want to cry anymore."

"I love you so much Claudia Jean. I need you in my life, and I don't say it enough. You know me, understand me, and have been the voice of reason for 25 years. You are my friend and my champion. You didn't let me screw up with Nora...I think I may owe you big for that. I thought if something happened to you I wouldn't be able to move. When Leo told Ron he would cease to breathe without you, I felt the same way."

"I'm OK Toby. I don't plan on going anywhere for a long time. Especially since I will most likely get 2 or 3 new friends in the morning."

"More like 4 or 5." Toby replied. "You are important Mrs. McGarry."

CJ smiled. She had been married for almost eight years and that was the first time he called her by her married name. She held his hand to her lips, kissing it.

"I love you too Toby."

"OK." He stood abruptly. "I have to get back to Nora. I am sure Leo is ready to get back in here. Charlie is outside too...you should have seen him CJ."

"I heard. Tell him to get himself in here."

Toby was almost out of the room when CJ stopped him.

"Did you really tell Leo you would never forgive him if something happened to me?"

"Yeah."

"OK."

---------------------------------------------------------------

CJ had been home for five days. Mitch got the kids off to school that morning to let the Second Lady sleep in. Now she was wandering downstairs in her pajamas. She was surprised to see her husband sitting at the kitchen counter. He was still dressed in pajamas, reading the paper and drinking a cup of coffee.

"What are you doing here Mr. Vice-President?" she asked.

"You'll have me until 3:30. I wanted all day, but there were things I could not cancel. So I pushed everything back."

Leo poured a cup of coffee for her.

"Did you sleep well?" he asked.

"I did. My little shadows wore me out last night."

Tim and Charlie had not let their mother out of their sight since she got out of the hospital. Tim asked her about the bruises on her neck, sensed something was wrong, but Leo made up an excuse. CJ sat across from Leo, reaching for his hand.

"I want to have everyone over on Sunday Leo. Just spend an evening with our family."

"OK. It sounds excruciating...I'm all for it."

CJ smiled, sipping her coffee.

"Do you want the Metro section?" he asked.

"No. I was going to check out CNN. When I talked to Jack the Bear yesterday he said the calls and offers for interviews were still rolling in. We're going to have to talk eventually."

Jack Sosa was a throwback from CJ's old staff. He was now her Press Secretary.

"Yeah. The President thinks print is a better idea, but I told him that you make your own decisions."

"I will go into the office and sit down with staff this afternoon. I think the sooner we close this chapter the better."

Leo nodded. He asked CJ the afternoon he brought her home if she wanted him to call Stanley. She told him she was fine and he would be the first to know if that changed.

"The Sarah Lawrence commencement is in three and a half weeks." She said. "That is a top priority for me. Toby and Sam are working with Daisy on my speech and no one has been injured yet."

Daisy Monroe was CJ's Communications Director.

"How about we skip CNN?" Leo asked.

"Hmm?"

"How often do we get the day to ourselves Claudia Jean? No kids, no staff, no phone calls. Just you and I."

"The whole day? Whatever will we do?"

"Make Claudia Jean scream." Leo replied.

"Play Mr. Vice-President?" she smiled.

"We've got a lot of hours...there is time for everything. I love you."

"I love you too. Take me to bed."

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