blue flamingos

Traveling On

Fandom: The West Wing

Category/Rated: PG

Year/Length: 3769 words

Pairing: Gina Toscano, Zoey Bartlet

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: Ron Butterfield asks her, when he puts her in charge of Zoey Bartlet's security detail after the bar incident, why she wants this post.

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.


Ron Butterfield asks her, when he puts her in charge of Zoey Bartlet's security detail after the bar incident, why she wants this post.

"I want to serve the President," she tells him, still awkward in her suit and practical but smart shoes. She misses her uniform, even though it's been months.

"Most of us do," Ron says, smiling a little. Gina finds it easy enough to relax around him, even in his office, his desk between them. He reminds her of her older brother a bit, even though they're nowhere close in age. "But why Zoey?"

She could tell a half-truth, that she wanted an assignment and it seemed like Zoey's was the most likely, with her going to college, but Ron's been doing this for years, and she knows he'd know.

"College is weird enough, without being followed everywhere by a six foot two guy who works out every morning and carries a gun," she says instead.

"It's not just as weird for it to be a woman who works out every morning and carries a gun?" Ron asks, dry and amused.

"Only if I was six foot two as well," Gina says, grinning. She's not ready to explain to her boss how even women like Zoey, independent and clued-in, get crushes on the guys whose job it is to jump in front of a bullet for them, and how much easier this will be if they remove that part, especially when she's pretty sure he already gets it.

"Okay then," Ron says, and that's that.


She meets Zoey for the first time in an office in the West Wing, which wouldn't have been her first choice, but apparently it was the President's idea. Before he knew he had to fly out of state, presumably.

"You look like an agent," Zoey says doubtfully, looking her up and down. "They said you'd blend in."

"I will," Gina assures her. She waits for Zoey to sit down again, then sits in an armchair opposite her. "These are my White House clothes."

Zoey smiles like she's not sure whether Gina's trying to be funny or not. Gina's used to that. "Okay," she says, still doubtful. "What are you going to wear?"

Gina wants to point out that she hasn't been out of college so long that she can't remember how college girls dress. Instead, she says, "Jeans, boots. A shirt. Things I can move easily in."

"All right," Zoey says.

"I've got a leather jacket I don't get to wear much," Gina adds. "It hides my gun."

Ron makes a sound like he's trying not to laugh, and Gina doesn't blame him. She's sitting down the hall from the Oval Office, discussing her wardrobe with the President's youngest daughter. Her life's gotten pretty weird.

"That sounds good," Zoey says, and Gina doesn't know how she knows, but she knows she's seeing approval from Zoey, for more than her clothes.


Zoey's first day of class, they walk across from her dorm together, Beth and Terri in front and behind, not looking like they're with them. Zoey clutches her empty files to her chest, keeps scanning the edges of the walkway, accidentally catching Gina's eye because she's doing the same thing.

"Will you tell people you're my protection?" Zoey asks.

"It's up to you what you tell them," Gina tells her, not for the first time. "You know I think you should."

"So they know to be scared of you."

"So they know not to mess with you."

"Great," Zoey says, rolling her eyes. "Hi, nice to meet you, I'm Zoey Bartlet, yes, that Bartlet, the President. My friend? Oh, she's not my friend, she's my secret service agent, she's here to shoot you if you look at me funny."

"Well, only if they look at you really funny," Gina says. "Look, I'm not here to make your life difficult, I'm here to keep you safe."

"That's going to be such a comfort when I'm alone in my dorm room because no-one wants to be friends with the girl who goes everywhere with an armed agent," Zoey says, sharp and upset.

"This is Georgetown," Gina points out. She feels for Zoey, really she does – she remembers her first few days at college – but she's not going to have Zoey turn into one of those protectees who does her best to slip away from her security. She's heard the horror stories from Eleanor's detail. "This won't be as weird to everyone as you think, trust me."

Zoey sighs, lapses into silence as they weave between kids. They're only a few years younger than Gina, but she feels ancient next to them.

"I didn't want this," Zoey says after a while. "All these extra agents, all these people worried I'm going to be killed."

"I know," Gina says. "But at least you'll have someone to sit with at lunch."

It's not the most reassuring thing she could have said, but that's okay. It still makes Zoey smile.


"I have a question," Zoey says, walking into Gina's dorm room and dropping down at the foot of her bed. Gina pulls her feet out of the way, closing the file with the latest letters before Zoey can see it.

"If it's about your Journalism homework, I can't help you," she says preemptively.

"It's not," Zoey says. "Lucy's going to meet me for lunch tomorrow to go through it."

"Okay." Gina makes a mental note to that. One of the nice things about routine is that Zoey's made her friends now, pretty much, and she doesn't have background checks coming out of her ears any more.

"I asked Charlie out," Zoey says, crossing her hands in her lap but looking at Gina. "We're going to a movie this Friday, the 10.30 showing."

"That's nice," Gina says, not bothering to hide her grimace.

"I know, I know, you hate movie theaters, anyone could be lurking in the dark just waiting to shoot me during the opening credits." Zoey rolls her eyes, smiling, and Gina smiles back, like Zoey's not exactly right. All Gina ever says is 'it's hard to secure,' and Zoey thinks 'anyone could be lurking in the dark' is wild exaggeration. It's easier to let her believe it; Gina wants her careful, not scared. "But most restaurants are closing by then, and you keep telling me I'm too young to go to wine bars."

"You are too young," Gina says.

"Yeah, yeah," Zoey says, waving a dismissive hand. "But I wanted to ask if you have to come with us. I mean, Charlie's kind of nervous about dating me anyway, and he's never going to do anything other than hold my hand if he knows you're watching him."

"I'm not watching him," Gina points out, keeping the thank God silent – she did not sign up for watching her protectee get it on with a member of the President's staff in the back row of the movie theatre. Or anywhere else, come to that. "I'm watching the crowd."

"He doesn't see it like that."

"That's really not my problem," Gina says, as tactfully as she can. "I can explain it to him, if you want."

"Not really," Zoey says, making a face. "Please? Just this once?"

"And that's what I'll say to the President when you get kidnapped from your date – sorry, sir, but your daughter asked me really nicely?"

"I really hate you sometimes," Zoey says, smiling wryly.

"That's not what you said when I showed Tadd Mitchell my gun."

Zoey shudders. "Alice told me he told her that was the hottest thing he'd seen all week."

Gina shudders as well – Tadd Mitchell is in Zoey's Monday morning class, and is every stereotype of a jock frat boy that exists. The idea of him thinking of either of them like that makes her skin crawl, but sadly he's not within her power to remove from Zoey's orbit.

"You'll have to bring him back here," she says, then, when Zoey gives her a look of wide-eyed horror, "Charlie, after your date."

"Oh," Zoey says. She ducks her head, but not before Gina sees her small, pleased smile. "You won't feel the need to sit in the corner and make sure no-one climbs in the window to kidnap me?"

"I'll somehow restrain the impulse," Gina promises.

"Okay then," Zoey says, standing up and grinning at Gina. "Maybe I don't totally hate you."


Apparently, whatever Zoey said or did with Charlie – and Gina really does not want to know – works, because it only takes a few weeks for it to become a regular thing for them to be shut in her room by ten. Gina's pretty sure 'personal protection' doesn't extend to making sure her protectee's boyfriend is using condoms, but she's a little tempted some days to pretend it does, just for the looks on their faces. There've got to be some perks.

One of which is that, with Zoey locked in for the night, she can split her attention more easily between Zoey's door and the files Ron keeps passing to her. Which she needs to – the letters are getting more and worse, something coming, and Gina thinks she can stop them, whoever they are, but she's going to be stopping them on the other side of a rope line, or outside a club, not distant, figures Zoey will never see. She doesn't like it, but these people are oddly hard to pin down.

"Hey," says a female voice at her open door.

Gina looks up to see a young blond woman standing there in jeans and a Georgetown sweatshirt, watching her. "Hello."

"You're Gina, right? You work for Zoey?"

Gina offers a bland smile, the kind that usually deters the curious, but the girl just smiles back. "I work for her father," she corrects. "Can I help you with something?"

"No, I just..." She smiles, shuffles her feet a little. "I'm sorry, I'm Lucy? I live down the hall."

"Sure," Gina says. She remembers now, with the name. "Can I help you with something, Lucy?"

"Can I come in?" Lucy asks. She's still smiling, but there's an odd, hopeful edge to it now.

Gina smiles apologetically. "I don't think so, I'm sorry. There are rules."

"Rules are made to be broken," Lucy says, ducking her head a little. "Or, hey, is it because you have a gun? Are you worried I might shoot you by mistake?"

"It's not because I have a gun," Gina says firmly. "And I'm not worried you'd shoot me, because I wouldn't let you near it. But I have to work."

"It's ten thirty at night," Lucy protests.

"The secret service never sleeps," Gina says. She lifts the closed file a little. "I'm sorry, I have to get on with this."

"Sure," Lucy says, hope sliding into disappointment. "Good night."

Gina waits until she hears Lucy's footsteps trail away before opening the file again, pulling her notes from where she'd tucked them under the edge of the blanket. It's weird to be doing this in the middle of an undergrad dorm, but she's used to college and weird, the way some of her dorm-mates looked at her when she was in her uniform, first time around. At least now she's not supposed to fit, even if the books and the posters are a good faith effort to look like she might.

Paul asked, when she transferred to the service, if she'd miss the camaraderie of the army.

"I suppose," she said, since she knew it was what she was supposed to say. Truth was, the idea of being out there, more or less alone, taking responsibility for just one person, easy line of duty, sounded really good. It is really good, even if she is back to sleeping in a narrow single bed and being woken up in the early hours by drunken students. It could be worse.


"Hi Zoey," Lucy says, holding the door for them as they leave the dorm and she walks in. She smiles up at Gina from under her eyelashes. "Hi Gina."

Gina smiles back, not quite making eye contact as Zoey mutters something polite.

"Are you staying here tonight?" Lucy asks, touching Gina's arm.

Gina shifts her weight back, gets her arm out from under Lucy's hand. "I have to get Zoey to class," she says.

Zoey starts laughing as soon as they're out of reasonable earshot. "She's got a crush on you," she says gleefully. "That's so sweet."

Gina doesn't bother pointing out that Lucy's had a crush on her for at least the three weeks since she first came by Gina's room. Somehow, she doesn't think it'll help sober Zoey up. "Yes," she says.

"Yes," Zoey says, still laughing, imitating her. "I think it's the gun."

"I think you put vastly too much faith in the erotic properties of my sidearm," Gina says dryly.

"Tadd, Lucy, I don't think so," Zoey says. She laughs again, then sobers up a little. "So? Do you like her?"

"I'm not allowed to date anyone who you know," Gina says.

"I wouldn't tell," Zoey says.

"I know you wouldn't. But I'm also not allowed to ask you to keep secrets for me."

Zoey falls quiet, walking towards her lecture hall. They're almost at the steps when she stops, looks at Gina very seriously. "I know you just said – about secrets – but you're not asking me, I'm asking you."

Gina knows, looking at her, what she's going to ask. "You're not allowed to ask," she says, holding Zoey's serious gaze until Zoey nods, looks away. "Come on, you're going to be late for class."

"You know you can't actually make me go to class on time," Zoey says lightly, starting walking again.

"Yes I can," Gina says. She waits until she feels Zoey looking at her, then says, looking straight ahead, "I've got a gun, remember."


After the shooting, Gina doesn't see Zoey for eight hours.

By the end of hour two, the part where she put Zoey, frightened and screaming but whole, into a car, is starting to fade. Gina's tired – stayed up late looking at mug shots the night before – and when she sits down for five minutes with a cup of coffee, the world grays out.

She snaps back a moment later, wired with adrenaline, and for a second, she sees Zoey on the ground, bleeding.

"You okay?" Terri asks, sitting next to her.

"Yeah," Gina says. "Have you spoken to Zoey?"

"She's at the hospital with the President," Terri says calmly. "The First Lady's with her."

"But she's okay," Gina presses, feeling like an idiot. She knows she put Zoey in the car. There'd be blood on her hands if she hadn't.

"She's fine," Terri says. Gina ducks her head, trying not to see how Terri's looking at her. "She was sick in the car, but she's fine now."

"Okay," Gina says, and goes back to work.

She asks Peter an hour and a half later, and Terri again an hour after that. Then Ron when he comes back with his hand bandaged, and an FBI agent she doesn't know. She can't stop seeing Zoey bleeding on the ground, or going pale and passing out in the car, like the President.

Can't shake the sense that something happened at the hospital, and they're just not telling her.

She still protests when Ron catches her arm and tells her to get a ride to the hospital with a car that's going over. "I'm fine, I want to stay here."

"There's nothing more for you to do here," Ron says. "Go to the hospital, get checked over, check on Zoey."

"I'm fine," she says again. "You're here, you were shot."

"I'm here because I'm head of the President's security detail and he was shot last night," Ron corrects. "Go. I'd say take the day off and get some sleep, but I don't think there'd be much point, would there?"

"No, sir," Gina says, and gets in the car.

Zoey hugs her at the hospital, leaning into her, pale and tired. "Are you okay?" she asks.

"I'm fine," Gina says, patting Zoey's back.

"I was worried," Zoey says. "Because you weren't in the car, and you said you'd jump in front of a bullet for me – and they said they were shooting at Charlie, and I was worried..." She starts to cry, tears and hitching breaths against Gina's shoulder.

"I'm fine," Gina says, rubbing her back. "I'm fine, you're fine, the President's going to be fine. We'll find the people who did this. They'll go to jail for a long time."

Zoey nods against her shoulder. "I'm glad you're here," she says, and Gina closes her eyes and sees Zoey bleeding out next to the car.


She has to see the psychologist, they all do, and so she goes. They're mostly routine questions, stuff she remembers from the army. Tell me what happened. How did that make you feel? Do you have trouble sleeping? Eating? Are you jumpy? Do you have nightmares? Flashbacks?

She answers no, truthfully, but when the psychologist says, "Is there anything else you want to tell me?" she hesitates.

"Agent Toscano?" the psychologist – Emma, her name is Emma. A woman, because male agents feel less threatened talking about this stuff to a woman. She's not sure what it's supposed to do for the female agents.

"Sometimes I –" she starts. She knows this will go in the report, where she doesn't want it, but... But Zoey has a new detail at the moment, until they're all cleared to go back, and Gina's not sure she trusts herself to guard Zoey right now. That has to be more important. "Sometimes when I close my eyes, I see Zoey bleeding outside the Newseum," she says to her hands. "I get – sometimes when I'm tired, I'm not sure what really happened."

"Why don't we talk a bit more about that?" Emma says.


It does go in the report, of course, and Ron reads all the reports, so Gina gets called in to see him.

"How're you doing?" he asks, sitting next to her instead of on the other side of his desk.

"Other than having a newspaper clipping about the shooting pinned to my fridge so I can check she's not dead when I wake up in the middle of the night?" Gina asks.

Ron smiles a little. "Other than that, yes."

"Fantastic," Gina says, overly bright. "You know I got referred for counseling?"

"Yes. How's that going?"

"I feel like a fraud sitting there, because I didn't get shot and neither did Zoey, my brain's just gone wacky for a while," Gina says honestly.

"It happens," Ron says, shrugging it off. "I'd be happy to put you back on Zoey's detail when your counselor clears you." He says it almost like a question, and Gina already knows what her answer is. She's had plenty of time to think about it.

"I don't think it's a good idea," she says. "I think – this wouldn't be happening if I hadn't gotten too attached."

"It's natural," Ron says. "You're responsible for her, you spent nearly all of your time together for months..."

"It's going to intrude on her life or intrude on her protection," Gina says. "I'll try to stay so close that she starts ducking protection, or I'll be so worried about doing that, I won't protect her properly."

"You don't have to decide now –" Ron starts, but Gina shakes her head.

"It's better to do it now than keep hanging on." She doesn't add that she thinks, if she's not responsible for Zoey any more, she might stop waking up thinking she's dead.

Ron nods. He doesn't look surprised. "We can reassign you to a field office," he says. "You're early to rotate away from protection, but you've proven your investigative skills with this. You'd be an asset to any field office."

"Thank you," Gina says.

"Any thoughts on where?" Ron asks, scribbling something on the file on his knee – her own, she assumes.

"I was hoping for maybe Montreal," Gina says. "I thought I might apply to transfer over to the Interpol office when my French is good enough."

Ron laughs. "I think it's time I started thinking about my next career," he says. "You'll be out for my job before long."

"Not quite yet," Gina says, smiling back. He's not wrong though.


"Are you being punished?" Zoey asks, when Gina goes to the Residence to tell her. It's not a place Gina's ever spent much time, and she feels awkward there, even in a suit, but it's where Zoey's living right now, and she feels like this is something she owes Zoey.

Something she wants.

"No," she says firmly.

"Because you did a great job of protecting me," Zoey says, standing up, her voice agitated. "You were amazing, I didn't even realize what was happening properly until we were in the car. It's not your fault you didn't catch them in time."

"I know," Gina says. She stands as well, takes Zoey's arm and sits her down again. "I'm not being punished. It's a sideways transfer."

"I can ask my dad to talk to Agent Butterfield," Zoey says, still agitated. It backs up Gina's argument to not tell her the whole truth – she seems mostly fine, but there's still an edge of what Gina thinks might be post traumatic stress under it.

"You don't need to do anything," she says firmly. "I'm not being punished, this isn't a bad thing."

Zoey wilts a little. "Are you sure? I liked having you around."

Gina smiles, looking down so Zoey won't see how pleased the compliment makes her. "I liked being around," she says. "It's normal for agents to rotate in and out of protection. Especially now that this is over, and you can think about whether you want to scale back your protection again."

"I don't think my dad would like that," Zoey says.

"Me either," Gina says, catching the flash of uncertainty in Zoey's eyes.

"Where are you going?" Zoey asks.


"You're fleeing the country to get away from me?" Zoey teases.

"I'm fleeing the country before I have to charge Lucy with sexual harassment," Gina corrects.


Sitting in line at the border into Canada, Gina closes her eyes for a moment. She expects to see the same familiar image, Zoey bleeding on the ground by the car.

Instead, she gets a voice, the President, sure and certain, saying, "What's next?"

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