The ball is round. The Game lasts ninety minutes.
Can't argue about that. Anything else is pure theory.
~ Herr Schuster, 'Run Lola Run' ~
The file was sent out on a Tuesday.
It’s the voice of reason.
“We really… shouldn’t do that… here.”
Sadly, he finds, it’s hard not to succumb to the pressure of her hot and hungry open-mouth kisses.
She is breathing heavily, fumbling with the buttons of his uniform. “I’ll take that under advisement.”
At least, as far as he can see, they’re not in Garrity’s closet. And he almost feels a bit relieved. For that really would have been awkward, regardless of how inappropriate that whole dream was in the first place.
Inappropriate and an endangerment to the integrity of the office.
But then, so were other things going on in this room.
The noise from the soccer ball sweeping McNulty’s desk clean of files, folders and felt-tip pens was too overt. Pretending he was still asleep on the couch would have exposed him as an even worse than usual liar. However, his fake yawn goes unrecognised.
“Damn it, Pierce!” McNulty grumbles. “Must you gloat so loudly?”
There’s a pertinent probability the Colonel will always miss the box on top of the cupboard he is aiming for.
“Wasn’t aware I was gloating, sir.”
She bites back a smile and sometimes JT wonders whether she just had a lot of practice doing that or it was her particular sense of humour.
“What’s this?” he says, a little distracted while picking up some files he’s quite sure he has never seen before. “There’s… did we review this? Australian military asks for assistance regarding a hostage situation in East Timor. Indonesian partisans have captured three of their men.”
With irritation McNulty grabs hold of the file. “What the hell?” he scoffs. “That damn file is dated two days ago!” Under his breath more curses are ejected as he skims through the folder again.
“Morons on that fucking island. What do they have there anyway apart from rats big as Volkswagens?”
“Oil, natural gas, bauxite,” JT offers, leaving McNulty with an even more sour face than before.
“Damn it,” he says and grabs the remote. “Call Ms. Liston, see if there is legal ground for a rescue operation. You never know with those pesky UN mandates.”
Minutes later he is back in the office. No success with the phone call. But it appears that she is expected back from a meeting on the Hill any minute now.
“Left a message,” he says when McNulty grabs his arm and guides him towards the TV set.
Words are lost in a chaos of distorted screams and flickering images from the screen. And he is staring helplessly.
Blood soaks her white blouse. Dark gunpowder garlands the rim of the entry wound. Sonny has already fallen. While the guy stands there, gun in hand and cold sweat on his forehead.
It’s a mishap following an act of insane desperation. There is nothing reasonable about it.
But he starts running away.
You don’t want her… you don’t want her to go. Stop!
She’s not dead yet.
It’s impatience talking here. And he knows it.
“You’re a terrible actor, son.”
So much for pretending to wake up just in time to catch that damn soccer ball before it could move the chaos on McNulty’s desk to the floor.
“Yeah. But in my defence? I got good reflexes.”
“Doesn’t mean you’ve got everything under control though,” McNulty says then frowns, as JT looks doubtfully. Obviously this will need more explaining. “You purred in your sleep, kid.”
A hoarse laugh escapes JT’s throat. “That’s one hell of a malicious accusation. I might have been snoring, but…”
“Pierce,” McNulty yells for assistance. “Tell Major Tisnewski what he did!”
“With all due respect, sir. I’ve got no intention to be drawn into this…”
Her voice trails off and a tormented look crosses her face as both men stare at her expectantly. Not too careful to hide her annoyance, Pierce exhales. But she still has to hold back the urge to roll her eyes.
“Confirmed, Major. You made a sound that could have very well been described as purring,” she states, brushing JT’s protesting look off with an apologetic shrug. “Colonel, Larry Kincaid is on the phone. He wants to know when we’re going to comment on the East Timor situation.”
“What situation?” McNulty asks, truly confused.
“That’s what I said, sir. I called Cooper’s office. Apparently they sent us a file on this two days ago. Australian soldiers were captured by Indonesian partisans. Our sources in Dili say, an escalation of the border conflict is very likely at this point.”
“Let me guess,” McNulty rubs his hand with glee. Or better, a unique yet strange mixture of pride and sarcasm. “They want our help on putting together an extraction team because we’re so damn good at it.”
“Not sure about the legal issues at this point,” JT says. “With the UN involved. We probably should seek counsel first, sir.”
“Good thinking, kid. Go get Ms. Liston.”
Every so often it feels as if they, not unlike little furry rodents, run around in same wheel again. There’s always a crisis. There’s always a plan. There’s always a setback. There’s always another plan. And another crisis. And so on and so forth.
Sometimes JT wonders when the wheel is going to stop.
“About that, sir…” Pierce has that reluctant tone in her voice which holds the promise of further and probably far worse news. “Obviously it’s not the only escalation at this point. We have a hostage situation in the lobby. Something about us aiding Australian terrorists occupying Indonesia.”
He runs. He hears shots. He stops and listens.
There’s turmoil in the hall. Screams. The smell of panic. And gunpowder.
One last deep breath.
He starts running again. He runs and runs. Until he sees.
Blood splashes colour her blouse. The guy has already fallen. While Sonny is standing there, hands shaking, her forehead covered in cold sweat.
An act of insanity is ended by a lack of patience. It should be easy to rationalise this.
But do you really want it to end like this?
It was unintentional. Unfortunate nonetheless.
(He has been looking forward to a nap.)
“Pierce, how come we overlooked that file?”
But there is still time to fix this. Australian soldiers captured by Indonesian partisans in East Timor. Just another average crisis on another average day. The question is, however, whether or not there is legal ground for granting US military assistance.
Gladly, they had reached Samantha Liston before she could switch off her cell for a meeting on the Hill.
“Australians want to be the most important regional power. Controlling the region by military force after years of supporting Indonesian expansion politics --” Pierce trails off with a shrug.
“So basically you're saying we should tell them, 'you made your bed, now fuck in it'?”
“That wasn’t quite how I was gonna put it, sir.”
“Of course not,” JT bites back a grin at Pierce blushing before getting serious again. “Look, all I’m saying is, we didn’t cover ourselves with glory there either. Eisenhower didn’t care much for Indonesia’s unity. While Ford did everything to assure it.”
“Rumour has it, Bartlet almost had the Indonesian president thrown out of an airplane by a CIA operative,” McNulty says. “Apparently Siguto bored him to death at the State Dinner.”
“That was an accident.”
Evidently much to his chagrin, McNulty isn’t sure whether Kate Harper, who has unexpectedly appeared in his office’s doorframe, is talking about Bartlet’s faux pas or him shooting the ball and not missing the box on the cupboard for once.
“Commander.” A respectful nod in the Deputy Security Advisor’s direction. Still, JT can’t help but recognise the wound above her right eye. “That was an accident too?”
“I was golfing,” she declares as if it was an answer to everything.
“Mini. I remember,” he says with a smile which is lenient and maybe a bit dreamy. Still that bruise looks bad. He should be -- He is concerned. “You must stop trusting guys who claim to have mastered the windmill shot with the bridge.”
Kate smiles at his frowning. “You were one of those guys.”
JT is smiling back when suddenly he becomes aware that Pierce and McNulty are going to have a ball with this later. In fact, in his mind he can already hear them gloating about how he really should have had the far-sightedness to set up a form to ask all his blonde one night stands whether they were holding a sensitive position within a government agency.
“We kind of have to deal with an urgent crisis in East Timor right now,” he quickly changes the subject.
“Yeah, I know. I'm having a lunch meeting with Murphy on the situation.”
“Lunchtime,” she replies without moving a muscle.
His brows rise in mild confusion. Her working with Toby Ziegler has clearly left a mark.
“Great. Listen, I’m going to catch Ms. Liston in the lobby and bring her up to the situation room.”
The entrance hall is crammed full with security personnel and it takes him a while to find her in the crowd.
Apparently, it had been a matter of seconds and was, thankfully, over before it even began.
As the prisoner is marched off, she is still talking to the lieutenant. Her face is pale and her blouse, soaked in cold sweat, sticks to her breastbone. There’s a gun lying next to her on the ground.
“Look, Sonny,” he says later as they walk back upstairs. “Next time you go terrorist hunting, do it with more than just your purse.”
There is something between concern and amusement in his voice and it makes her smile.
“I’ll take that under advisement, Major.”
Sometimes he thinks she says these words just to spite him.