DISCLAIMER: The West Wing and its characters are the property of NBC, Aaron Sorkin and John Wells. Originally written for femme_fic LJ Ficathon for a prompt from ariestess.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Prompt: "Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions." -- Albert Einstein -or- "Don't wait until you are depleted to heal yourself. Renew your spirit as you go." -- Alan Cohen. Not sure if I've answered the prompt and there's a lot less sex than I anticipated.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Four years post-series.
Life's Coming Attractions
In the four years since President Matt Santos had been elected C J Cregg had married, had a son, divorced reasonably amicably and in her spare time become the go-to woman for NGO economic development on a macro or micro scale.
The peace deal between the Palestinians and the Israeli's dreamt up by herself and Kate Harper one alcohol fuelled evening at Camp David had survived the Bartlett administration and two changes of government in Israel. They had been four good years for the Palestinian nation, the Gaza strip and the West Bank had largely been rebuilt, a new entrepreneurial class had arisen, more of its citizens were directly employed within the Palestinian state itself rather than commuting to Israel daily or weekly to work and less than 10% of the population were dependent on food aid compared to over a quarter before the Bartlett deal, each Palestinian child was guaranteed schooling until the age of thirteen, literacy was rising and infant mortality falling. It seemed like the voice of moderation had won.
And here was the culmination of that. The President of Israel and the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority standing side by side as they planted an olive tree in the courtyard in front of the entrance to the new Business and Economics School of the University of Gaza, built and endowed with Hollis Foundation money. And a few feet away, C J Cregg stood with other officials and dignitaries, watching one of her more cherished dreams come to fruition.
Her eyes were drawn to a familiar face amongst the American delegation. Ainsley Hayes. The green eyed blonde looked just as good as she did the last time C J had spoken her, on Inauguration Day when the diminutive woman had brightly told her that she was moving back into the West Wing again: the Santos Administration had offered her a job and C J had told her that she had politely refused a similar request from Santos, was moving back to California to set up and run a charitable foundation for Fred Hollis and was marrying Danny Concannon. C J remembered the fleeting yet poignant expression of loss on the other woman's face. Apparently C J was not the only one harbouring a few regrets over what had or had not occurred between them the last time Ainsley had worked in the West Wing. Their paths had almost crossed a couple of times since, most recently at the library dedication, but C J whilst not actively avoiding the woman because that would well, be stupid and petty had managed to keep any interaction to a bare minimum.
Seven years after their affair ended it still hurt too much to do anything else.
C J glanced around, catching the eye of her security aide who did not look happy. She had two fingers pressed to her ear and was whispering urgently to someone over the radio. Meeting C J's gaze, Kate Harper made the universal gesture that it was time to move things along, her dark eyes betraying the concern that her impassive expression did not show. C J nodded and was about to step forward to bring the ceremony to a conclusion. She glanced across at Ainsley and Ainsley met her gaze and smiled warmly. After a moment's hesitation C J smiled back, unconsciously taking half a step towards the small blonde before the sound of her name being urgently called by another blonde attracted her attention. "C J get down!"
And then the world exploded.
The suicide bomber had been amongst the crowd of local dignitaries. No one knew how she had got through the stringent security checks. Just before she detonated the explosives she broke free of the cordon and ran towards the newly planted olive tree. Security teams were on her immediately and she took two bullets at least before she went down. Her last act must have been to detonate the device. At the same moment security teams came under fire from the perimeter. At least two teams of snipers and more explosions were heard in the distance.
"C J " "C J "
C J had heard of seeing double, never of hearing double. Two female voices calling her name with equal urgency. She was lying on someone's coat in the foyer of the new building. One of the doors was a little off its hinges and there was a lot of broken glass otherwise the building looked to have survived intact. On either side of her Kate Harper and Ainsley Hayes crouched uncomfortably, both looking a little bruised and battered but otherwise okay. Ainsley was holding her right hand in hers, Kate was running her hands over C J's body, checking her for injuries. The air was full of dust, the sound of sporadic gunfire, people running back and forth.
"How bad?" she managed to ask.
"You're going to be fi " Ainsley started to tell her before Kate broke in with what she really wanted to know.
"Two deaths other than the bomber, both security personnel. None of the dignitaries were injured beyond cuts, bruises and shock. About twenty other injured. They're all being taken care of. There's still some fighting at the perimeter, but the security forces have the upper hand. We were lucky. No one's claimed responsibility yet. You got blown off your feet and landed a little hard, but I think it's superficial. You were only out for about five minutes. There's nothing broken or " At the last Kate let her professional mask slip a little. This wasn't the first aftermath of a bombing she had seen. She knew just how bad bad could get. She let her hand cup C J's cheek, her thumb gently wiping away a smear of dust from her cheek. C J felt Ainsley's hand tighten on hers for a moment as she must have realised what she was seeing, then the small blonde carefully released her hold on C J's hand and got shakily to her feet.
"I should check in with the rest of the delegation. I just saw you go down and "
"Thank you," C J said her voice husky. She tried to tell herself it was just from the dust particulates sifting through the air. "I hope there's time to catch up, later. A lot's happened I'm sure since the last time we had the chance "
Ainsley glanced sharply at Kate, whose attentions were still focused on C J. "I'm sure," she said, the wistful expression on her face softening her words. "I'm just glad you're okay." She hurried away, past the knots of security and medical staff working on those not as fortunate as CJ.
C J wondered about trying to sit up. Kate was sure that she had not broken anything but she still wanted the number of the truck that had hit her. She was going to be sore in the morning, hell, she was sore now. Luckily she knew someone who gave excellent massages. As ever, Kate seemed to read her thoughts, bracing her as she slowly eased herself into a sitting position. C J could dimly hear someone talking over Kate's radio. Kate tersely acknowledged the message.
"We've got the all-clear. The cars and ambulances are moving in." She glanced across at Ainsley. "She didn't know "
"We weren't together the last time Ainsley and I talked," C J said. "Though I'm surprised that the gossip mill hadn't ground as far as the White House Counsel's office."
"Gossip is one thing, seeing for yourself quite another," Kate said. "You and she "
"In a different life," C J grimaced as her back and shoulder twinged painfully. A Red Cross medic reached them and Kate rapidly gave her the information she would need.
"We're taking you in for a CT scan just to make sure you're not carrying any internal injuries," the medic said. "We'll have you out of here in just a minute or two, Miss Cregg."
C J could see that Kate was torn between coming to the hospital with her and sorting out the mess on the ground. "Go, do what you need to do," she said gently. "You already saved my life once today."
"If anything had happened to you C J, I swear " Kate looked as near to tears as C J had ever seen her and with a painfully sweet lurch she realised anew just how much the other woman cared for her. And C J realised just how strong her own feelings were in return.
"I know, my love," she said softly. "I feel the same way. But we're both here to tell the tale. Don't go imagining the worst, it didn't happen. We've got a lot of tomorrows ahead of us. Together."
Kate smiled at that, her dark eyes shining. "Together. I like the sound of that." Her radio squawked and she made an irritated gesture. At that moment the medic returned with a colleague and a stretcher.
"Looks like my ride is here," C J said ruefully. "Later, okay."
"Okay," They clasped hands for a moment, Kate's thumb rubbing gently across the fold of skin between C J's thumb and forefinger before she turned away, issuing orders in gunfire rapid Arabic and English mixed. C J surrendered herself to the attentions of the medics and tried not to dwell on might-have-beens but instead on life's coming attractions of which Kate Harper was the most pleasant of all.
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