Disclaimer: The republicans are mine. Everybody else belongs to the great Aaron Sorkin (who should *not* pair Ainsley and Sam. If Sam's gonna be with anybody, it had better be Mal… That, or he can write a character for me to play). Any similarity to event or person living or dead is purely coincidental. No copyright infringement is intended.

Thanks to Kerry and the Admiral Kasey who were both kind enough to beta-read this for me. You guys are both great and I appreciate all your help. *g* See you at the party. ;)

Author's Note-What happens when you test your White House Press Corps IQ? Well, if you're like me you do pretty bad but you get inspired. *g* All your journalists out there, check the October AJR for your IQ.

Also-this isn't a Sam/Mal, this isn't a Josh/Crys. You should be very proud I'm spreading my wings a bit in the genre.

Spoilers-Mandatory Minimums, In the Shadow of Two Gunmen I & II

Archive-Just let me know where and I'm a happy camper.

Feedback-Appreciated.

Tradition-When all else fails, fall back on tradition.

~

"Hey, C.J." She looked up from her desk, behind the boxes of her belongings as the Democrats took over the White House from the retiring Republican administration.

"Jimmy. Hello," she said, standing to greet the former White House Press Secretary.

"Overwhelming, isn't it?" She nodded.

"A little intimidating, yeah."

"Well, I just wanted to stop by for a second, to give you this." He held a brown bag out to her. She looked at it quizzically.

"It isn't living, is it?" He shook his head. "It hasn't previously lived, has it?"

"Take it, C.J."

"What is it?"

"Tradition." With that, he left the bag on her desk amid the packing boxes. She watched him go before peeking in the top of the bag. Curiosity getting the better of her, she pulled out what had been inside: a bulletproof vest. Her jaw dropped open in shock for a minute.

"Hey, Josh!" she called as soon as she found her voice again.

"Yeah?" he called from his office-right next to hers.

"You've got to come here." A moment later, Josh appeared.

"What?" He noticed the vest. "What's that?"

"Jimmy Newton gave it to me."

"Jimmy Newton? President Donaldson's Press Secretary?" C.J. nodded. "Why?"

"I wish I knew." She looked in the bag and pulled an envelope out of the bottom. "Hold this," she said, pushing the vest off on Josh, who held it as far away from him as possible.

"Well?" he asked, noticing her reading. "What does it say?" She held the index card up. Only one word was written on it.

"Tradition."

"Okay," Josh said, quickly handing C.J. back her vest. "Jimmy Newton is weird."

~~~

It would be a year and a half before C.J. would really understand, before she would come to believe heavily in tradition. She could have used that vest. More importantly, Josh and President Bartlet could have used it. As she sat in her office, watching the news reports of the tragedy that had occurred a few short hours ago, Josh was fighting for his life. Bartlet had made it through surgery but was still in recovery.

A knock at her door made her look up. She sighed, drying her tears when she saw Danny. "No comment."

"I know you don't want to discuss this but…"

"I'm working on an answer for you on that `who's in charge' thing, Danny."

"You're sitting in your office crying."

"Danny," she said warily.

"You've been through a very troubling experience. It's only natural that you'd be-"

"`Distant and aloof'… `Reserved'… `Obviously shaken,'" she quoted from various reporters.

"It's okay, C.J."

"No, it isn't!"

"Why isn't it?" She turned from him. "Off the record, C.J. It's obvious you need to vent."

"I'm not exactly sure what everything… Tonight has been…"

"What, C.J.?" She struggled to come up with a word for a moment.

"Traditional."

"Traditional?"

"Yes," she said with a sigh. "Out you go. I have work to do." Danny looked at her questioningly before leaving. C.J. drew an uneasy breath. `It's traditional for people to disagree, to be strongly opinionated. It's traditional for press secretaries to have strictly professional relationships with the reports she deals with. And,' thought C.J., `it's traditional for me to mess up when everything hangs in the balance.'

She had stumbled when the White House needed to be strong with the Federal Election Commission. Both Leo and Danny had called her on that. She could have helped save either Josh or the President some pain had she suggested the vest. Of course she herself had never worn it, never really given the thing a second thought. She didn't have psychic abilities, no matter how nice that could have been, and therefore couldn't have seen it coming. Now if she could only remember what happened *during* the ambush... She knew, though, that she would pick herself up and dust herself off like always. After all, that was part of *her* tradition.

End.

 

 

 

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