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20 August 2010 @ 01:14 am
Clarity  
Title: Clarity
Characters: CJ Cregg, Danny Concannon
Rating: Harmless
Notes: Season 7; Post Institutional Memory
Disclaimer: All credit goes to Sorkin, Wells, & NBC/Warner Bros.

Winter in DC feels like fall does everywhere else. It’s all about change, change, change –heavier coats and heavier hearts as one President leaves while the other swoops in, wafted, it seemed, by the fluttering thermals of the fading Marine-not-quite-One. Although, no, that wasn’t quite true, cause fall came every year, but that, the transition that soared above any shuffling of Senators following a nasty round of midterms, above any shedding of leaves or cherry blossoms, took four falls –sometimes, this time, eight –but never just one.

She’s probably wrong about that. There’ve been deaths and assassinations, after all, along with resignations and Lord knew what else. Odds were she was wrong about the change thing, too. About how walking through Washington on a night like this, where the falling snow seared damp against her skin, sharp as the reminder that the world was changing in six days time was in her heart, made her feel as if this was, well. It. The end.

It wasn’t, though. And she fought to remind herself of that as she struggled to gain traction on the snowy, sloping walkway leading up to the Washington Monument. January was square one. The beginning. Month one. Moment one in a new existence because, let’s face it, California’s sun and laid back routine might as well have made it a new planet, what with the way it’d stand in relief against the hurdy-gurdy life that swirled around her in concert with tonight’s hundred thousand backlit snowflakes.

“Jeez, CJ, slow it down. Not all of us were ice ballerinas in our youth.”

The thought of Danny, scruffy ex-reporter extraordinaire, gliding around in the series of spangled ultra-short skating costumes she’d owned over the years is enough to force all apocalyptic thoughts out of her along with a rising gale of laughter. She stops to wait for him, not even trying to smother her giggles, as he fights up the path, shaking snow from his shoes all the while.

“Sorry,” she apologizes, but she’s still laughing by the time he manages to draw even with her.

“Mike’s gonna be pissed.” Danny cautions. He’s right, but CJ shrugs it off, offering instead:

“He is already.” This is true beyond dispute. Mike –poor, tired, Mike –who’d landed the crap job of escorting her home was still, as ever, ten feet behind them, trying not to slip and struggling not break his Secret Service front by stopping to flick snow out from his wingtips. CJ feels bad, but…no, she doesn’t. She feels like she needs this, more than she’d needed dinner with Toby and, somehow, more than she’d needed to press her face into Danny’s sweater and breathe that night, after the dinner and after the conversation that, even now, out here on a hill surrounded by the open grid of the city, made her feel claustrophobic.

Maybe that was unfair. Since that talk –no, since after that talk, when Danny’d tugged her to him and she’d pressed her face into his shoulder, the bleak compression of her life ending-ending-ending had started to let up, unwinding ever more each evening when they slid into bed together, her cheek resting against his chest and their arms wrapped around one another’s ribs. Still, that didn’t mean she was ready to go back to those moments when she’d stared at his door, waiting, and oh-so-sure that she’d killed the whatever it was between them that’d managed to survive ten years, two campaigns, assassinations, nuclear threats, cold shoulders, and the conflicts of interest that managed to span oceans and continents, even when months went by without a word exchanged.

They were making up for that now, speaking in paragraphs rather than sound bites. To tell the truth, she wasn’t adjusting well, but the fact that she was trying –that he could tell she was trying, was enough for Danny. Over the years she’d gotten so used to seeing him as an adversary that she’d all but forgotten that he worked the same as Toby, winding words in ways that made people exhale in a kind of reverence that demanded pause, demanded thought. So unlike Toby, though, was the way Danny’s words lived off the paper, how they vibrated out of him as these complete, living things that she still didn’t know how to react to.

Also unlike Toby, and also what she had yet to get used to, was the way he used these word-beings to describe her in ways she didn’t think she was worthy of, catching her off guard as she brushed toast crumbs from her blouse or when she tied her hair back to wash her face of warn-off makeup. He could be powerfully sweet, sometimes, romantic and wonderful, and it made her sad that she couldn’t think of anything to say to him beyond that.

Which wasn’t entirely true. There was something that she could say to him –and had said, though she wasn’t sure if it counted, seeing as he’d been either out of the room or asleep on the past four occasions she’d worked up the nerve to string the three words together out loud. For now, though, she settled for this:

“Don’t break your neck.”

Danny shoots her a reproachful, hur-dur kind of look, so she offers him her hand. They climb over the last portion of the rise together, fingers locking as they step onto the stone circle surrounding the monument and pivot around backwards to get a look at the ever-lit White House, just peaking out between snow-decked trees.

“Hey, look, we can see my house from here,” she jokes, pointing at the residence with her free hand. Danny’s shoulders draw tight under his coat. CJ catches the line of his jaw tightening, not as much as it had during that ill fated lunch break of theirs, but enough to light a flash of remorse in her stomach. It had been the Wrong Thing to say, and as someone who dedicated her life to fending off capital w-and-t slips of the tongue, she hated herself for it. Then, a second later, she hated herself even more, this time for thinking first of a career gaff rather than the feelings of the man she was supposed to be sharing this moment with. The man who she had just hurt, though she hadn’t planned to, by, yet again, one-upping him with work.

“Your hand is freezing. Here –“ Danny grabs her other wrist so that he can push her hands together in a prayer-like gesture. He wraps them in his palms and rubs, then bends his head low to blow warm breaths between her fingers, pausing only to add: “Do you want to borrow my gloves?”

CJ shakes her head, whispers, “No,” cause he’s still bent low when she does. It was his house, too, she amends to herself. Just as much as hers, though in a different way. But he’d paid the same dues as her, worked there just as long –longer, even, now that she thought about it. So what if he hadn’t had the same power, the same influence? He’d had the same love, and that was what mattered most.

Love.

From here, the White House seemed to shine with such purity that the snow looked gray in comparison. CJ loved her job –jobs –and all of the people she’d worked with, worked for. The President and Leo and Josh and Toby and Sam. All her men. Charlie and Will, too. Hell, she even loved Ed and Larry. More than anything else in the world, she loved them. But they were gone now, all of them, in one way or another, except for Danny.

“We should get back,” Danny murmured, so close that she could feel his beard brush against the grooves of her fingerprints. “You’ve got an early day.” She turns to face him just as he pulls back to straighten up. The loss of the warmth of his breath hits her right when their eyes lock. They’re so blue, she thinks. So blue and so clear and so there, right with her at that moment, that they call into question the color of everything else she’s ever seen. California skies have nothing on them, nor does the paintjob on her mustang, or the DC lights, or the White House, or even the fire-bright flare of Danny’s hair.

And that’s when she realizes she was wrong.

“I love you.”

These words, carried on her quiet exhale, are the bringers of more change than a swap of statesmen, than the shifting of seasons. More than anything else in the world, she loves him, and though she’ll always love her men, no matter where they are or what they’re doing, she’ll never again love them like this, because, simply put, she never had to begin with; it’d just taken her until now to realize it.

“CJ –“ Danny’s voice is hoarse, his hands are just as cold as hers now, shaking some, too. She frees her wrist from his grasp, presses her palm flat into the bristles of his beard, letting her fingertips stroke along the curls at his temple.

“Danny.” He stops trying to talk when she says her name, so she uses the silence as a chance to repeat herself. “I love you.”

His eyes flash across her face before locking back onto hers. She smiles then, cause he looks bewildered –stunned, really –like he had back when he’d given her Gail, only a hundred times over. Then his fingers are in her hair and his lips land on hers as the fingers of their remaining hands twine together like they had that first time back in her office all those years ago.

Danny’s loved her like this since that night when she’d tried to carry Gail out the door, only to put her down and run smack into it on the second try. CJ knows it now, sure as she is of anything, and can’t help but feel kind of stupid for not picking up on that teeny tiny detail sooner down the line. Then again, as he’d pointed out, she is kind of awful at this.

Not that it matters. Nothing does, cause it’s snowing and freezing and there’s a complete stranger ten feet away from them, but they’re still kissing and they keep kissing cause it’s romantic and wonderful and so unlike anything else that’d ever happened to her, cause, let’s face it, all her moments tended to end with large bodies of water or holdups in convenience stores.

Not this one, though. This one ends with Danny pulling her so close against him that she can feel his heart beating through his coat as his entire vocabulary vibrates into words yet to be spoken, words worthy of awards and accolades that, for now, are passed over in favor of these:

“I love you, too.”
CLC
 
 
 
tvhipster on August 25th, 2010 03:53 am (UTC)
Loves it. :)
(Deleted comment)
Joana VerssimoJoana Verssimo on July 6th, 2012 11:03 pm (UTC)
omg
So perfect
Super sweet
Love it