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Title: Waiting and Hoping (The Schubertian Remix)
Author: [personal profile] velvetmouse
Fandom: West Wing
Characters: CJ Cregg, Danny Concannon
Rating: PG
Word Count: ~2100
Summary Danny has spent most of his life in dogged pursuit of a story. But sometimes, just sometimes, being a friend is more important. Set during In the Shadow of Two Gunmen.
Original Story: All Human Wisdom by [ profile] rynne. Written for Remix Redux 9
Notes: It is somehow fitting, I suppose, that a nice Jewish girl (with training as a classical singer) spent her Easter Sunday writing this. :)
Thank you, C., for the look-over.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.

CJ's cheek is warm in his hand, a sharp contrast to the icy fingers he holds with his other hand.

"You should get some sleep," he whispers. Her eyes open and he can see the unshed tears, tears that he knows will never fall. Not in front of him, not in front of anyone. Maybe not even into her pillow.

"I can't, Danny," she protests. "I've got to brief in a couple hours, and I still need to get updated on everything that's going on."

"You have time to take a nap. I'll even stay here, and wake you in an hour, if you like," he offers.

"Don't you have news to report?" CJ retorts, but she smiles, the first smile he's seen out of her in how many hours? and it takes any sting out of her words.

"I told you, right now I'm a friend, not a reporter. Let me be your friend, CJ." He is silently begging her not to send him away. They shouldn't be alone now, either of them. Not when Josh is fighting for his life on an operating table.

Apparently, she gets the message, because she nods, gratefully. He scoots over to the end of the couch and pats his lap, inviting her to use it as a pillow.

The music is still playing, softly, in the background, filling CJ's office with Schubert's soaring prayer. CJ lays her head down and closes her eyes with a sigh, and Danny starts stroking her hair, soothingly.

It slips through his fingers more easily than a rosary and almost unconsciously, he begins the prayer that is being sung so beautifully in the background.

Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.

It hadn't taken much searching to find where CJ had disappeared to after the briefing, and he stands outside her door. He pauses before knocking, listening to the faint sounds of classical music floating out from under the door. He tries to steady himself, a difficult task when the whole world seems to have been knocked off-kilter.

"Danny, please don't badger me about the twenty-fifth amendment right now," she says as soon as he enters.

He knows why she says that, but it still hurts. "I'm not here to talk about the twenty-fifth," he says, sitting next to her on the couch. "I wanted to see how you were doing."

"I'm fine," CJ says, and Danny suppresses a huff of annoyance. It's an automatic response from her.

"You sure?" he presses, angling his body to face hers on the couch.

"Yes, I am," she says shortly. "I hit my head, but I don't even have a concussion. I'm fine."

"That's not what I meant."

"Then what did you mean, Danny, because I'm really not in the mood to play games right now," she growls.

"I want to know how you're feeling. Off the record," he adds at her suspicious look, hating that he has to do so, but understanding why. "I'm not here as a reporter right now, CJ. I'm here as your friend. And as Josh's friend."

When it becomes clear that CJ isn't going to answer -- at least not yet -- he tries changing the subject. "Schubert, right? I didn't know you liked him."

"It's actually Josh's CD," she confesses. "I... borrowed it from his office, a few minutes ago. He likes this song."

"Really? I never would have guessed. He doesn't seem the type for classical."

She shrugs. "I caught him listening to it one night. It surprised me too. He's not really one for religion."

"I do know that," he says, and smiles slightly. "I don't think I'll ever forget what he said to Mary Marsh."

"Mary Marsh just really hits his buttons."

"That's not hard to do," Danny replies, with obvious amusement. "But he's a good guy."

"He is," she manages to say, and but he can hear the tightness in her voice. "Danny, I --" She stops.

He puts a hand on her arm. "It's all right, CJ. You can talk to me. I won't tell anyone anything you say. It'll just be between the two of us. Promise." He keeps his promises. And CJ knows it.

"It was a normal night in the beginning, you know?" she says abruptly. "The President was good, up on the stage. He's such a good speaker."

"I agree," Danny agrees calmly. "I was there, too."

"I remember. I gave you the tip about the Columbia," she says. Then she asks, curiously, "What do you remember about...later?"

He swallows hard and describes the chaos from his perspective. He pauses and then adds, "I didn't see Josh."

"I did," CJ whispers, half to herself. "Toby -- Toby was the one who found him. Sam and I ran over when we heard him shouting for a doctor, and there was Josh, lying on the ground." She trails off, obviously lost in the memory.

He reaches out and takes her hands. CJ is not a small woman, but her hands feel tiny in his, and ice cold. "It's all right," he says over and over again. "It's all right. Tell me whatever you need to. It's all right."

CJ swallows and continues in a distant voice, as if she's only half in the present. "I told Leo. We got to the hospital, didn't even know the President had been hurt yet, and there was Leo. I told him it was Josh before he could see, and then he just kept asking what was happening but the doctors were too busy to answer. Josh was hallucinating and Sam was trying to reassure him, so Toby and I told Leo."

There is another pause, but before Danny can figure out what to say, she continues. "You know what's almost the worst thing? His hallucinations -- Josh kept talking about how he had to get to New Hampshire. How he had to get out of this meeting and go be with the Governor."

No knowing what else to do, Danny squeezes her hands again, but she doesn't look at his face. She lets out a short, bitter laugh. "Hallucinating, dying, and he's still desperate to serve the President. Jesus Christ, Danny, that man..."

"He's a good guy," Danny repeats. "He's strong, CJ. And stubborn. If anyone could make it through something like this, it'd be Josh."

"I know that," she mutters. Danny can see the brightness in her eyes and knows his aren't exactly dry either. "I keep telling myself that. Other people have been telling me that. But it doesn't always help -- I just keep seeing him, unconscious and bleeding --" She shakes her head sharply, as if to dislodge the image. "He's my brother, Danny," she says, her voice cracking. "He's my brother, and he's dying."

"Shhh," Danny says, letting go of one of her hands to cup her cheek. "Don't say that. He's hurt pretty badly, yeah, but he's got good doctors, and he's not going to go down without a fight."

"He's lost fights before."

"But he's won more of them. Believe in him, CJ. He's strong and he's stubborn. If anyone can win this, he can. All we have to do is wait and hope."

Ave Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus,

The press room is buzzing, as it always does, but tonight -- this morning? -- there is an undercurrent of fear in the buzz. It is after midnight, but few reporters have left. Everyone knows that someone took a shot at the President tonight, but that's about all the facts they have.

When CJ steps up to the podium, wearing glasses instead of her contacts, and looking more strung out than she ever had on the campaign trail, Danny knows it's going to be bad.

"Most of the injuries tonight," she begins, "were fairly minor, just an assortment of scrapes and bruises, a few first-grade concussions. However, I can tell you now that there were four people with gunshot wounds, including the President. We still have to contact the family of one person, but I can release the two other names and damage reports."

Her hand drifts towards her throat and Danny notices that she isn't wearing her usual necklace. When she brings her hand down again with a jerk, he's certain there's a story behind its absence, and that it has something to do with what happened tonight.

"Special Agent Ron Butterfield, head of the President's security detail, was shot in the right hand," she says after taking a deep breath. "He is undergoing surgery now, and is expected to make a complete recovery, with full use of his hand restored."

That was the easy one, Danny thinks. Who's next?

CJ pauses for long enough that another reporter has to prompt her for the next name. She catches Danny's eye for just a moment and he tries to project calm and strength. C'mon, CJ, he thinks, whatever it is, tell us. Let us help you bear it.

"Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman was shot in the chest," she says, and Danny suddenly feels like he is the one who has been shot. Distantly, he hears CJ's voice continuing: "The bullet collapsed his lung and lacerated his pulmonary artery, and he is entering his third hour of a surgery that should last twelve to fourteen."

"What are his chances?" someone calls out. Danny isn't sure if he wants to strangle that person for asking the one question he doesn't want answered, or thank them for asking what he so desperately wants to know.

"His doctors give him a twenty-five percent chance of surviving the surgery," she replies heavily.

An odd silence settles over the room, as everyone absorbs this. This isn't some distant person that exists as a name, a grainy picture and a 200 word bio. This is Josh. Everyone in the room knows him, has interacted with him, and has probably made fun of him. He's one of theirs, dammit.

The next few questions are asked and answered perfunctorily, as if everyone is going through the motions in some vain attempt at normalcy. Danny manages to ask again about the twenty-fifth amendment, the succession of power when the President is unable to discharge his duties, but CJ gives him such a look that, for once, he doesn't press the issue.

When the briefing is done, Danny hesitates for only a moment before slipping out and going off to find CJ.

nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.

The night started off so normally. Well, as normally as it could ever be while covering the President.

The Town Hall meeting was in full swing, and CJ had given him a tip -- something about the Space Shuttle Columbia. As the meeting wraps up, Danny steps outside to call his science editor.

"Well would you look into it already? … I'm not going to tell you that, you know that … Dammit, Sean, just trust me would you? Get on the phone with your people at NASA and find out what's going on." A flood of people surging out the side door indicates that the President has finished for the evening. "Look, Sean," Danny says over the noise of the crowd, "the President is leaving, I've gotta go. Just make that damned call already, would ya?"

He closes the phone with a snap, and begins threading his way towards the President's entourage. Being the Post's White House reporter does have its advantages and people move out of his way without too much grumbling.

He has just made it up to the line formed by the Secret Service agents when the unmistakable sound of gunshots cuts through the roar of the crowd.

Instantly, Danny drops to the ground, pulling down those next to him as well. He hasn't spent much time as a war correspondent, but some lessons you learn quickly.

When he looks up again, a gate he hadn't noticed before has closed, cutting them off from the street. The situation isn't mass panic yet, but it's teetering right on the edge. One wrong word, and the whole thing will snowball.

He gets up slowly and tries to put himself in a position where he can see nearly everything, but won't get trampled if the crowd suddenly decides to stampede. His reporter's mind is already cataloging the who, what and where. The how and why will have to come later.

Long minutes pass -- or maybe it's hours, or maybe it's seconds -- but no further shots are heard and the crowd begins to relax again. Eventually the gates open once more, allowing the mass of humanity to spill out onto the street.

"Whew, I'm glad that's over with," the person next to him says.

"No," Danny says quietly, as much to himself as to anyone listening, "it's just begun."



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