blue flamingos

Fear-Based Responses

Fandom: The West Wing


Year/Length: 2007/ ~1828 words

Pairing: Gina/Ellie

Spoilers: Commencement arc.

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

Summary: Too far away to do anything, too close not to want to

Series: Companion to Love, Vanished and Renewed, but you can read it without.

Author's Notes: For [info]14valentines Day 1 Women in Academics

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


Gina finally drags herself out of bed at quarter to three in the afternoon, and stumbles into the shower almost without opening her eyes. She still misses Washington for the oddest reasons, and right now it's Zoey's friends who didn't smoke, her hair smelling of smoke even after she washed it when she fell in the front door at four in the morning.

She should have claimed she was allergic, she thinks as she tosses her bathrobe on the floor and steps into the shower, but that's not fair because the Governor's not that bad, and if she knew him a little better, she'd probably just slap Nicotinell patches on his arms.

She massages the shampoo into her scalp hard and wishes it smelt of something that might mask the smell. Although the combination of cigarette smoke and chemical lemon might actually be worse.

"Get a grip," she tells herself firmly. It's bad enough that she can't think of anything to do with her day off other than sleep, there's no need to slide into pathetic, and feeling sorry for herself because it's going to take a couple of extra doses of shampoo before she stops smelling like a seedy nightclub is well past pathetic.

She's got plenty of real things to feel sorry for herself over anyway.

And, seriously, if she can't mope on her day off when it's – she shoves the blind aside to confirm it – yep, raining, again, when can she?

She wraps her hair in a towel and pulls her robe back on, leaving wet footprints on the wooden floor as she pads back to her bedroom. Her cell phone is flashing a missed call, but it's only Alex, probably trying to persuade her to go out, again. Alex is of the opinion that Gina's been a hermit – her word, not Gina's, who prefers loner – for long enough, and that if Alex nags long enough, she'll crack. Gina reminds her, frequently, that she worked for the President's youngest daughter, and if she can withstand nagging from Zoey, Alex has no hope.

Alex usually rolls her eyes and says that's exactly what she means. Gina's learnt to ignore her.

She dresses in old, soft jeans, and a Georgetown University sweatshirt, and goes poking through her kitchen. She really needs to go shopping, but she's not going out in the rain for vegetables that'll probably turn to mush before she actually thinks about cooking them; she's got half a block of Fruit and Nut that Graham sent three weeks ago, and a fridge full of stuff to drink. She contemplates a bottle of wine with a couple of glasses missing, but she can't remember opening it, which probably isn't a good sign, and anyway, she's not reduced to drinking alone at four in the afternoon – not yet, anyway.

She grabs a can of Coke instead, and curls up on the sofa with the remote. There's got to be some suitably weepy black and white film on, something that she can pretend not to cry over.

The TV's still on CNN from two nights ago, when she was watching to see if the governor's speech would make the headlines (it didn't), and it comes up in the middle of a news broadcast. Gina's about to flick over when she catches what the anchor is saying.

"... no further news, although sources close to the President say that he is confident she will be returned safely to them. We cross now to our correspondent in Washington for more on the President's recent actions."

Gina catches herself leaning so far forward that she's almost dripping Coke on her carpet and forces herself to lean back. There's no way they can be talking about what she thinks, just no way.

"Thank you." The reporter smiles into the camera, the kind of faux-concerned smile Gina's used to seeing on briefing room TVs during snatched breaks in the middle of crises. It's weird to be watching it from her living room. "CJ Cregg, speaking moments ago from in front of the White House, announced that the President has stood down for the duration of this crisis. As no Vice-President has yet been appointed in the wake of the departure of Vice-President Hoynes -."

Gina flicks the channel urgently. She doesn't care who's standing in for the President, but he's never done this, not even after the Newseum when *he* was shot. Her heart pounds with fear.

The next five channels are all talking about the President standing down, and how there's going to be a Republican in the Oval Office for the duration of the crisis, but none of them have anything to say on what the crisis is. Surely the temporary replacement of the President can't really be more interesting than whatever prompted it.

She's just contemplating going for her phone to ring into work and find out exactly what's going on when she flicks back to CNN, where the studio anchor is just picking up the end of the field reporter's comments.

"Our main headline once more: it was announced this morning that the President's youngest daughter, Zoey Bartlett, is missing, presumed kidnapped, from a nightclub in Washington. A Secret Service agent was also killed..."

Gina can't help it – her first reaction is a gasp of relief. Not Ellie, thank God, not Ellie.

Then her throat tightens in fear because it's Zoey, and Zoey was her responsibility for over a year, as close to being her friend as she's ever allowed someone she was protecting to get and now she's missing and someone's dead, someone she probably knew and worked with.

She can't stop the voice in the back of her head *it could have been you, should have been you. If you'd been there, maybe it wouldn't have happened like this.* It's unfair to think this, because God knows, the President's family get the best the Service has to protect them, but she went *everywhere* with Zoey, never even let her out of her sight to go to the bathroom in public.

She flicks the TV off again and downs the rest of her Coke fast enough for it to hurt. Back in her bedroom, her phone is flashing again, another voicemail from Alex. Probably not trying to persuade her to go out. She ignores it, pulling her suit and a dark green shirt from her wardrobe, reaching for a hair tie and her boots. She smoothes on a little make-up with even less care than usual, and dials Alex's number as she goes through the apartment, picking up keys and ID, unlocking her gun from the wall safe.

Alex finally picks up as she's shoving her wallet into her pocket and grabbing a bottle of water to drink in the car.

"Where've you been?" Alex demands. "I've been trying to get hold of you all day."

"Sorry, I was sleeping, I didn't... What happened?"

"Where are you?" Alex asks, instead of answering, and Gina wishes, just for a second, that she had the kind of job where every conversation didn't have to be conducted over a secure phone line.

"On my cell, heading out."

"OK. I'm at the office, we'll talk when you get here." Alex hangs up on her, and Gina concentrates on not breaking any speed limits as she cuts through the start of the rush hour and the pouring rain.

Their offices, when she gets there, are almost an anti-climax. The air buzzes with tension, and there's way more agents there than normal, but nothing's *happening*, just a lot of standing around staring at the TV in the corner, and exchanging worried looks. Someone reaches for the remote when they see her walk in.

Alex grabs her arm before she's taken more than a few steps into the room and leads her right out again, into the empty briefing room. "What's going on?" she asks.

Alex's face is grave, her eyes dark with something oddly like pity that only grows as she tells Gina everything the news wasn't saying, that they think Zoey was drugged, that they've had demands for ransom, that agents are being mobilised in the hunt... that a member of her detail was killed at the club.

"Who?" Gina asks, her voice scratchy. She clears her throat, but suspects it won't help.

Alex frowns. "Molly O'Connor. She was new, they found her body in the alley behind the club."

The name's vaguely familiar, but Gina can't put a face to it. She knows she'll be able to by the end of the day, a face she won't ever forget. "OK. I should..."

"Should what?" Alex asks. She moves closer to Gina. "There's nothing for us to do. They're investigating in Washington, they don't need us."

She says us, but she means Gina. They're investigating on the other side of the country and there's nothing she can do. "Sure. Of course." She takes a deep breath and tries a smile. She's a United States Secret Service Agent, her hands shouldn't be shaking like this.

Alex gives her a tiny smile in return, her eyes far too knowing. She hasn't told anyone why she's here now, and not in Washington, but the Service isn't so big that gossip doesn't spread. "Listen, I've got about an hour more to do here, why don't you hang around and we'll go for a drink?"

"Yeah. Thanks."

Alex goes back into the office, and Gina flicks on the TV, turning it to CNN. She's kind of got used to their anchors by now, though they're not saying anything new.

When they go back for a political update, she mutes the sound and pulls her phone out, scrolling through the phonebook for familiar names. She hasn't kept up with most of her old colleagues, but they understand what it's like to leave behind someone you worked with closely; if they know anything they'll tell her.

She stops, though, when she gets to Ellie's name. She never deleted it, even though she should have done, and Ellie's probably got a new cell since then. It probably won't even work.

She calls the number onto the screen and stares at it. She could just call and... And what? Console her, after two years without any kind of contact? She'll be lucky if Ellie doesn't hang up on her, and really, the middle of her sister's kidnap is hardly an ideal time to be getting in touch with her. She'll be with her family, she won't want to talk anyway.

For a moment, her heart pounds in remembered fear, and she'd give anything to hear Ellie's voice, even if it's just saying hello before she hangs up.

The door to the briefing room swings open and Jack steps in. "Gina? You got a minute, there's a call from the governor's office for you."

Gina flips her phone closed and shoves it back into her pocket. "Sure."

Maybe when Zoey's back.

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