rynne: (sorrow CJ)
[personal profile] rynne
Okay, so I'm finally ready to post this thing. Let it be known that I hate trying to think of good titles. :p

Title: All Human Wisdom
Author: Rynne
Fandom: The West Wing
Rating: PG
Word count: ~3700
Summary: During In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, CJ is determined to do her job, and Danny is determined to be her friend. CJ/Danny friendship, slight UST.
Author's notes: Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] thistlerose for the awesome beta! Also, I have no medical training and couldn't make sense of anything I looked up on the subject, so there's a detail or two that I decided on solely based on other fics; I hope it's not too jarring.


All human wisdom is summed up in two words — wait and hope.
--Alexander Dumas

--

It was after midnight.

CJ had worked past midnight before, of course--after a year and a half in the White House she was well-acquainted with the concept, and even before that she'd always had to be on top of things in the campaign, no matter when something came out--but. But. This was her first after-midnight briefing, because never before had one of the White House crises-of-the-day been important enough to warrant a roomful of reporters staying awake all night.

She still felt the adrenaline running through her veins, pushing her to stay awake, be watchful, and for God's sake don't fall asleep and miss something important, but she felt exhaustion hovering on the edge of her senses, and she knew that the minute she let herself, she was going to go out like a light. But she couldn't afford to go to sleep, even for a nap. She had a job to do, and even if her head was hurting and her heart was aching and her memory was fuzzy, she would do her job.

"Most of the injuries tonight," she began, standing behind the podium, wearing glasses instead of contacts and trying not to touch her throat where her necklace should be, "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."

There was silence in the room as they waited for her to continue, and she took a deep breath. She thought about taking another one, but that might lead to taking more, and then she'd be hyperventilating, and that was one of the last things she should do while on national television.

"Special Agent Ron Butterfield," she said, deciding to get the easier of the names over and done with first, "head of the President's security detail, was shot in the right hand. He is undergoing surgery now, and is expected to make a complete recovery, with full use of his hand restored."

And now for the hard name, the name she didn't want to say because there was something about announcing it on television that made it so real--too real. But his blood had been on her hands and though she washed it off, she couldn't deny that it had once been there, much as she wanted to.

"CJ, the other name?" Arthur prompted, and CJ came back to herself and realized that her pause had gone on just a breath too long, and now the entire press corps could probably tell that this was going to be bad. Briefly, she caught Danny Concannon's eye, and somehow that gave her the courage to go on.

"Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman was shot in the chest," she said, and immediately wanted to close her eyes and sag, because there it was, now the world knew. But she stood straight and tall and kept her eyes open, because she still had a job to do. "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 called out, she didn't even care who, because this was a question she did not want to answer.

"His doctors give him a twenty-five percent chance of surviving the surgery," she replied, heavily, and watched as the press corps absorbed that. All of them knew Josh. Even when they weren't gleefully reporting his many public relations blunders, surely they all remembered the disaster that was his sole attempt at briefing them. And now the guy who amused the hell out of all of them with his secret plan to fight inflation was in the middle of a fight for his life, a fight that the odds said he would probably lose, and suddenly CJ wanted nothing more than for that bullet to have hit her instead.

Josh was far too vital and alive to go out this soon, and such an active man that there had been nothing more unnatural than seeing him sprawled out unconscious on the pavement with nothing she could to do wake him up.

She answered a few more questions perfunctorily, though none of them were anything new. No, we don't have anything for you yet on the identity of the shooters. Yes, the President is doing well, and should be coming out of surgery within the hour. It's still policy not to discuss protection procedure, and no, Danny, there isn't anything new for you yet about the twenty-fifth!

As soon as the briefing was over, she left the room as quickly as she could without seeming like she was fleeing. A couple of reporters looked like they wanted to catch up to her, but she tried to look busy and foreboding, and she managed to escape without having to talk to anyone.

She'd meant to go straight back to her office and close the door behind her, but she couldn't help but stop right outside it, and look out at the Operations bullpen. Josh's bullpen. The people working there were quiet, with pinched, white faces. CJ caught a couple of them looking at Donna's empty desk--Donna, who would have been the epitome of grace in the midst of this crisis, an example for staffers to look up to, if she hadn't been staying as close to Josh as the doctors would let her.

They looked at Donna's empty desk, but she caught no glances at Josh's empty office. The door was halfway open, the lights off, the room silent as it never was when Josh was actually in there. And before she'd even thought about it, CJ crossed the distance from her office and slipped inside the darkened room. She left the door half-open, but she turned on the lights, and just looked at it for a moment.

The chair behind the desk was gone, and CJ vaguely remembered Donna laughing about that earlier that day, how Josh was so absorbed in what he was doing that he didn't even notice he didn't have a chair until he tried to sit down. Her eyes passed over the clutter on the desk, moving over to the filing cabinets before they stopped, suddenly, at the silhouette of a target on the top. Her breath caught in her lungs for a moment at the sheer irony, and she just stared at it for long, stretching seconds. She was so engrossed that when someone knocked softly on the door, she barely suppressed a shriek, and she did jump a little and turn so quickly that the intruder looked startled, then embarrassed.

"Sorry, Ms. Cregg," he said quickly, and CJ recognized him as one of Josh's assistant deputies, though she didn't know his name. "Just, I saw the light on, and for a moment I thought..." He trailed off, and shrugged.

"That I was Josh," she finished, sympathetically. She completely understood; despite everything, she was finding it hard to believe Josh wouldn't just come strolling into the office, gaping bullet wound or not, and immediately set to work. Listening to him hallucinate in the hospital, talking about how he had to get to New Hampshire... Ruthlessly, CJ tore her thoughts away from that, and focused on the young man in front of her.

"It's stupid," he said, voice just above a mutter. "We all watched your briefing, and even before that, there were those rumors about the senior White House staffer who was seriously hurt. None of us wanted to admit it, but I know I certainly thought it was--I mean, you know Josh. He'd be here, working harder than all of us combined, unless there was something stopping him."

"He would," CJ agreed. It was strange, she thought absently, but she'd never before realized how much Josh's staff cared for him. There was Donna, of course, but Donna was--well, Donna. The earth would probably quit spinning before Donna stopped being devoted to Josh. And CJ's own staff always took care of her, as Sam's did for him, and even Toby's for him, but Josh was--difficult. He yelled all the time, was impatient, sarcastic, and tactless, and made a career out of annoying people. He had trouble relating to anyone less intelligent than he was. Of course, Toby was the same way, and Leo had his moments, but Josh was just...more obnoxious about it. He was one of CJ's best friends, but she wasn't blind to his faults, and she certainly wouldn't want to work for him. Frankly, sometimes she was surprised that his department didn't have a higher employee turnover rate than it did.

But this young man, at least, clearly respected him and cared for him, and CJ was suddenly immensely reassured. If--no, when--Josh pulled through this, he was going to need his staff to take care of him. She was glad that more than Donna were going to be willing to do it.

There was silence for another moment, then the young man sighed. "I'd better get back to work," he said with a half-smile. "Josh would yell if he found one of us just standing around."

She nodded, and returned the small smile, and he slipped out and closed the door behind him, leaving it open just a crack. Though she too had work to do, CJ wasn't quite so willing to leave.

She drifted further into the office, over to the stereo and the stack of CDs, and remembered another late night here, though the crisis had been more personal. Almost absently, she flipped through the CD cases until she found the one she was looking for, and pulled it towards her.

She'd been surprised, that night, to find Josh listening to Schubert. He was practically an atheist, and even if he wasn't, he was still Jewish, and Schubert's song was a prayer to a woman in whose significance Josh had never really believed, even when he had been more observant. Religious music was pretty much the last thing she would ever have expected him to listen to now. She'd been even more surprised to hear genuine love for the piece in his voice, and to notice how it comforted him, after all his agonizing over being the only one of their group of friends to get an NSC card.

She shook her head slightly, then turned and left the office, CD still in hand, turning the lights off and closing the door behind her. No one bothered her before she got to her office and shut the door, and she was glad of that. She wanted some time to be alone, without people interrupting her thoughts, and she hoped they would respect the closed door.

She looked at the CD, then briefly shut her eyes. She didn't have a rosary with her, but... "Hail Mary, full of grace," she murmured, then put the CD in her stereo and hit play.

Surrounding herself in the music, CJ let herself fall backwards onto her couch. She thought first about calling the hospital and getting an update on Josh and the President, but she didn't really want to move. Then she thought about taking a nap--but no. There was too much going on, and she needed to be ready to deal with it. She probably shouldn't even be taking this much of a break.

There was a knock on the door, and CJ muffled a groan. Though she may have felt guilty for wanting a break, she had been hoping for a longer one. She sat up on the couch and called out, "Come in," but she made no move to turn off the music.

She almost groaned again when she saw who it was. "Danny, please don't badger me about the twenty-fifth right now," she said, and couldn't hide the exasperation in her voice. She understood why Danny and the other reporters were thinking about it, but that didn't mean she had to like it, and anyway, the President was going to be all right and would be taking up at least some of his duties again as soon as he woke up, so what was the big damn deal about three hours with no official leadership?

"I'm not here to talk about the twenty-fifth," Danny said solemnly, stepping into the room and closing the door again before he sat next to CJ on the couch. "I wanted to see how you were doing."

"I'm fine," CJ said automatically. And she was. Yes, she was tired, and her head hurt, but she was still perfectly capable of working. She wasn't in the hospital.

"You sure?" Danny pressed, angling his body to face hers on the couch.

"Yes, I am," she said 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 almost growled. She did genuinely like Danny, when he wasn't being a reporter, but sometimes he took forever to come to the point.

"I want to know how you're feeling," he said, apparently unperturbed, then at her suspicious look added, "Off the record. I'm not here as a reporter right now, CJ. I'm here as your friend. And as Josh's friend."

That's right, Josh and Danny were actually friends. CJ glanced at the goldfish bowl sitting on her desk, Gail swimming around completely without concern, and remembered that Josh was the one who inspired Danny to give her the fish in the first place, with an utterly charming misunderstanding. Danny really was very sweet sometimes.

And she did consider him a friend. He was trustworthy, for a reporter, and she knew he genuinely cared for her, and was clearly willing to listen to her if she wanted to rage about the unfairness of what happened tonight.

Still, she didn't talk about her feelings very often, and was glad when, as the silence stretched on, Danny changed the subject. He cocked his head towards the stereo and said, "Schubert, right? I didn't know you liked him."

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

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

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

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

"Mary Marsh just really hits his buttons." That really was sorta funny, in hindsight. At the time it'd been a complete headache, and she still thought Josh's retort was stupid--indicted for tax fraud, of all things--but at least the President had managed to put her in her place.

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

Her throat closed for a moment. "He is," she managed to say, and even to herself, her voice sounded odd. "Danny, I--" She stopped.

He put a hand on her arm. "It's all right, CJ." His voice was low and soft. Almost soothing. "You can talk to me. I won't tell anyone anything you say. It'll just be between the two of us. Promise."

That was a reassuring promise for a reporter to make, and she knew Danny kept his. That was one of the things she liked about him. And she could trust him, she knew that.

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

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

"I remember. I gave you the tip about the Columbia," she said, then asked, curiously, "What do you remember about...later?"

"We were behind you, and got caught behind the gate when all the shooting was going on. By the time we got to the street, the President was already gone. I walked around and asked a few questions, but I didn't meet anybody seriously hurt." He paused, then added, "I didn't see Josh."

CJ breathed for a moment, then said, "I did. 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 felt sick a moment, remembering. Josh on the ground, his hands looking like they'd been dipped in blood. The look on Toby's face as he held Josh's head in his lap and his hands on Josh's chest. Sam's panicked pleas for Josh to wake up and talk to them. The feel of the hard concrete beneath her as she fell to her knees and tried to help Toby staunch the blood. The paramedics wordlessly shoving her out of the way and immediately getting to work, cutting away his clothes, trying to get him to breathe...

She came out of the memory to the feel of Danny's hands, warm around hers. He looked into her eyes, then squeezed her hands and kept holding them. "It's all right," he kept saying. "It's all right. Tell me whatever you need to. It's all right."

CJ swallowed. "I told Leo," she continued, her voice low. "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." She could still see the stricken look on Leo's face, could hear the murmured, "Noah, I'm sorry." She hadn't envied Leo the task of telling Josh's mother, and was glad she wasn't going to be the one to tell the President. Leo had been hard enough.

"You know what's almost the worst thing?" she said, suddenly, then continued without waiting for Danny to answer. "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." Danny squeezed her hands again, but she didn't look at his face. She let 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 repeated. His thumbs stroked the backs of her hands. "He's strong, CJ. And stubborn. If anyone could make it through something like this, it'd be Josh."

"I know that," she muttered, and angrily fought against the tears that threatened to pool in her eyes. "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 shook her head sharply, as if to dislodge the image. "He's my brother, Danny," she said, her voice cracking despite her efforts to stop it. "He's my brother, and he's dying."

"Shhh," Danny said, 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."

She wished she could be as optimistic as Danny. She wanted so badly to believe that Josh would be all right, but he'd been hurt so badly, and they didn't even know why yet! The shooters were dead, with no ID, and the accomplice hadn't been found yet, and Josh had just been standing in the crowd. Whatever demented reasons they'd had for shooting at the President tonight, Josh had just been an innocent bystander, and now he might be dying.

She leaned into Danny's palm, glad for the human contact, and glad that it was Danny. She'd wanted to be alone, earlier, but it was strange how comforting it was to have Danny here with her, and she wished, not for the first time, that he wasn't a reporter.

"You should get some sleep," Danny whispered, and she opened her eyes and looked into his. When did he get so close?

"I can't," she protested. "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 offered.

"Don't you have news to report?" But she smiled, to take any sting out of her words.

"I told you, right now I'm a friend, not a reporter. Let me be your friend, CJ."

She didn't really even have to think about it before she nodded, gratefully. She did so want to sleep, and it would be nice to have another person nearby. She didn't even protest when he scooted over to the end of the couch and patted his lap, obviously meaning for her to use it as a pillow. Not that she honestly objected.

The music was still playing, softly, in the background. CJ laid her head down and closed her eyes with a sigh, and Danny started stroking her hair, soothingly. Distantly, as she was dropping into sleep, she heard him chanting, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners..."

"...now and in the hour of our deaths," CJ finished, quietly, and together they said, "Amen."

Date: 2007-08-22 07:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lyore.livejournal.com
AGH. You made me cry, and I know that Josh is going to be alright.

Well done.

Date: 2007-09-01 11:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rynne.livejournal.com
Thank you! :)

Date: 2007-08-23 03:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elwing-alcyone.livejournal.com
This was lovely and poignant. It was nice seeing CJ's PoV of that night. The quote and title were very well-chosen too! I know it's a small thing to comment on, but they really added a lot, which isn't always the case.

Date: 2007-09-01 11:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rynne.livejournal.com
Thanks! And I'm glad you commented on the quote and titled, since they were very last minute and I wasn't sure if they were all right. :)

Date: 2007-08-24 06:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] caladria.livejournal.com
here via tww_full_lid.

That was good. Poignant is the right word, really. A lovely mix of despair and hope.

Date: 2007-09-01 11:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rynne.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Date: 2007-09-10 03:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] krazykitkat.livejournal.com
Lovely story. Beautiful end scene.

Date: 2007-09-22 07:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lauraonbway.livejournal.com
Oh my God. That was so heartwrenchingly beautiful. I've always loved explorations into the relationship between CJ and the boys. They're a family and they love each other, and you've done a beautiful piece on that. Danny is such a wonderful man. Love him.

This line just about tore my heart out: "He's my brother, Danny," she said, her voice cracking despite her efforts to stop it. "He's my brother, and he's dying."

Really nicely done.

Date: 2007-09-25 01:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] isawsparks26.livejournal.com
I found your LJ through The National Library and thought I'd drop a comment on how much I liked this. I love the CJ/Danny...I'd love it if you wrote another. :) And I agree with the comment about the title and quote adding a lot to the story! More please. :)

Date: 2011-09-26 08:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mack-the-spoon.livejournal.com
I know I'm literally years late, but I had to comment, anyway. This is beautiful and so very in-character and sweet and sad.
I'm just getting into this show, and I love it passionately, so it's great to find a fic that is worthy of it.

Date: 2011-09-26 08:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] namarie24.livejournal.com
I'm another recent convert to TWW who just found this story. It's absolutely beautiful and perfect for this episode, and I can just see it all unfolding. I love it.

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