TITLE: May Day
AUTHOR: Katrina McDonnell
EMAIL: katrina@penman.es.mq.edu.au
SPOILERS: In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, The Midterms, Lame Duck
Congress and vaguely for Noel.
RATING: PGish I guess (some sexual innuendo)
DISCLAIMER: The West Wing and its characters are the property of
Aaron Sorkin, Warner Brothers, and NBC. No Copyright Infringement
is intended. I will put them back slightly disheveled.
ARCHIVE: Sure, but please ask first.
FEEDBACK: Much appreciated...as long as it doesn't involve red pen
and lots of notes (that's my postgrad supervisor's territory).
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is my first West Wing fic...well actually
my second, but the first decided to have kittens and won't deliver for a
while yet. So, I'm more than a little nervous. I just hope I've done the
wonderful characters justice and captured some of their essence.
Secondly, while this could be classified as CJ/D, my intention was to
focus on CJ. After watching 'The Midterms', I was surprised that she
didn't seem to have reacted to the shooting. Hence this story. Danny just
ended up being the conduit.
And lastly, while 'The Midterms' stated that the shooting was in August,
I always felt it was in May (and I believe there is a line in another episode
saying that). So I'm going with May, because 'May Day' sounds better than
'August Day', plus it has the added attraction of a double meaning.
THANKS: To my wonderful editor and friend, Kat (there's just too many
of us!). Thank you for your support and encouragement. And to stop you
asking, I'm posting it right now!
Also to CretKid for post editing.
SUMMARY: One year on, it's time for CJ to deal with her demons.


She wasn't entirely sure how she ended up here. Maybe it was the only
place she was in control, where she set and steered the agenda. Her seat
of power, her dominion.

She needed to feel in control right now. Somehow, after haunting the
silent corridors of the West Wing for the last hour, her journey had
concluded here. Where it had started. One year ago. The press briefing
before they left for Rosslyn.

Her fingertips lightly stroked the podium. She knew every gash and
groove of her worn friend. Funny how an inanimate object was able to
comfort her more than her companions of flesh and blood. This piece
of wood asked nothing of her, its only purpose was to be her support. It
showed her no pity or concern, put on no mask of pretense.

Today had been spent walking on eggshells. Not knowing what to say,
whether individuals wanted to remember or forget. Hell, she didn't even
know which way she leant.

She stepped off the stage and bent her long frame to sit on it. The
only illumination was from the corridors and soft moonlight filtering
through the swaying branches outside the windows on her left. Empty press
chairs waltzed hesitantly back and forth with the shadows. The deep velvet
silence wrapped its dark cloak around her.

She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Uninvited, the reel of that day
began to play on the inside of her eyelids. She'd carefully avoided watching
any footage of the event in the days that followed, but had been unable to
escape it today. Every channel had prepared anniversary editions and played
them ad nauseum. Weren't anniversaries supposed to be about pleasant events?
Why did news producers feel the need to dwell -- One of only three words
beginning with 'dw'...what were the other two?

Someone entered the room. Disturbed air molecules buffeted her,
increasing in speed as the person drew closer, footsteps echoing in the
abyss. A waft of distinctive cologne informed her of the identity of her
visitor. She concentrated on his even breathing as he sat next to her, his
thigh lightly brushing hers. He didn't say a word.

She broke the quiet. "There are three words in the English language that
start with 'dw'. What are they?" She still had her eyes closed, but could
picture the cocked eyebrow and quirky smile.

"Three words starting with 'dw'...dwarf,...ummmm..., dwindle." He
paused. "Dwarf, dwindle, dwarf, dwindle. This is one of the President's
trivia questions, isn't it?"

"How did you guess? Give up?" She challenged him, opening her eyes.
That quirky smile was definitely present.

"Not yet. Do I get any clues?"

She grinned. "I thought your readers expected a little more. I'm sure
they'd expect you to know this."

"Dweezil?"

"That's not even a name. It's child abuse."

"So, I guess we won't be naming our first son, Dweezil."

She punched him in the arm. "You can name *your* son anything you
want. Just don't be surprised when he grows up to be a nasty little man
who likes to dress up in furs and live in vats of flour."

He rubbed his arm. "Ow! No fair. And you really need to explain that
last sentence to me."

"You give up?"

"It's dwell. Dwarf, dwindle, dwell." He placed his right hand over her
left, which was stiffly clenching her knee. "You're dwelling."

She spread her fingers, capturing his between them and then closed their
joined hands into a fist. "I'm dwelling on dwindling to a dwarf." She moved
their hands to a more relaxed position on her thigh.

"I was wondering whether those three words could be used in a sentence."

"I don't remember a lot about that night." Her voice was a whisper, as she
stared at her shoes.

Danny replied in a soothing tone, "Sometimes that happens."

She snorted. "Why remember when I can relive it watching CNN and
Fox News and their one year retrospectives." Anger entered her voice.
"Do they ever think about what that does to the survivors?"

He squeezed her hand. "How's Josh doing?"

"He's doing better than any of us. He was forced to deal with his demons,"
she answered hesitantly.

"The rest of you keep them hidden in your closets."

"Something like that."

He moved his left hand to her face and levered her chin upwards. She
leant her cheek into his hand and looked directly into his eyes.

In a gentle, low voice, he offered his services. "I'm here for you, if you
want to talk. Personally, I think you need to talk. It's time to exorcise
those demons. You might even end up with some extra closet space."

"Or maybe we could just exercise them, so they're too tired to bother
me."

"CJ."

She smiled sadly. "I know. You're right, Danny. But if I don't do it now,
I'll just find other excuses to avoid it."

"Well, we're here, right now. Or do you want to go somewhere else?"

"Here's fine. Neutral territory. It's late, no one's likely to come in." She
nodded and pulled her hand away from his, before standing. She strode
to the press seats and sat facing him, putting a measurable distance between
them. She leant forward with her elbows on her knees and her chin resting
on her clenched hands. He mirrored her pose, bringing a slight grin to
her lips.

She breathed in deeply, hoping the influx of air would flush out the moths
currently performing the macarena on her stomach wall. The Moth Ball
switched to a spirited tango instead.

"It's funny--"

"Funny ha-ha, or funny peculiar?"

"Funny peculiar, like you." She glared at him. "If you want me to talk,
you're going to have to shut up."

He mimed zipping his mouth.

"Much better."

"And here I was, thinking you liked my open mouth." He raised his
eyebrows.

"Only when I'm doing the opening." She watched him blush. Flirting
with Danny was way too much fun, she'd missed it. "Now, keep it shut."

This time he locked it and tossed her the key.

She started again. "It's funny. I'm trying to forget something, an instant
that I don't actually remember. If I don't remember it, did it ever happen?
I know it happened. I've seen the results. But, how can I process it, deal
with it, when I don't remember?" She saw the questions in his eyes. "No,
that wasn't a rhetorical question, and, yes, you may answer." She threw him
back the key.

"What do you remember?"

"The President's speech, smacking you in the head..."

He rubbed the spot, wincing in memory. "You have a good arm."

"I work with many stupid men."

"True."

He smiled. Another thing she missed. In the past year they'd spent a lot
of time avoiding each other.

"After that?" he prompted.

"Not much. Flashes here and there. Walking out of the building, being
pushed down. What I know and what is actually part of my memories
are two different things. I know we were shot at and I know Sam was
the one who pushed me down. But I don't remember it. I remember
after, a paramedic checking my head. I picked up my things and as I got
up, I saw the police car window was shot out." An involuntary shudder
coursed through her body as she subconsciously stroked her neck.
Danny was kneeling directly in front of her in an instant, pulling her
hand away from her neck and holding both tightly. Her fears and terrors
were reflected in his eyes.

She could barely continue, "If Sam hadn't been there..."

"Remind me to thank him," his voice cracked.

She struggled to keep the tears contained, her voice wavering. "Then
Toby found Josh. He..." The dam overflowed.

Danny pulled her down onto the floor and into his arms. She buried
her face in his neck and as the comforting cocoon enveloped her, began
to sob. He gently rocked her, rubbing her back in rhythmic circles.
Her arms were wrapped around his neck and she felt her shoulder grow
damp from his own silent tears.

The too long restrained sorrow and tension of that night was released.
They comforted and soothed each other, the tears eventually slowing.

Danny rested his left hand on her cheek and she placed her right hand over
it. She turned her head and kissed his palm. She felt the vibrations in his
chest as he began to speak.

"This is what I wanted to do that night. I just wanted to hold you and make
the world disappear."

She kept quiet and listened. He had his own demons to deal with.

"I was on the phone to the science editor about your peace pipe when I
heard the shots. They wouldn't let us out of the building. All I could
think of was, 'CJ can't be dead, she can't be'. Not the way things had been
left between us. I couldn't get any information, except that the President
and Zoey had been driven away from the scene within a minute. No one
could tell me if you were okay. They ended up bringing the press buses
around the back and drove us here. We got word that one of the senior
staff had been hit and I was so terrified that it was you." His voice caught
on a sob.

She sat up and looked into his tear-filled eyes. Gently wiping his cheeks,
she pulled him towards her, resting his head on her chest. She kissed
the top of his head and leant her cheek against it. She'd never thought
of how it must have been for him, left in the dark. Those hours of waiting,
not knowing. At least she'd been at the hospital and possessed some
knowledge.

"I'm sorry, Danny. I didn't even think to let you know I was all right. I
wasn't thinking a hell of a lot of anything."

"Don't be sorry. I know how much pressure you were under." He looked
up at her and stroked her cheek. "You've never looked so gorgeous as
when I saw you at that first press conference."

She punched him in the arm.

"Ow! What is it with you hitting me?" He rubbed his arm as he pushed
himself to a more upright position.

"I looked horrible and I was totally out of it. I have no recollection of
it, thank God, but I've seen the tape."

"You were beautiful and amazing." He moved in and pressed his lips to
hers in a chaste kiss. "No one else could have handled it the way you
did."

She chuckled. "You're smooth." She leant her forehead against his.
"And I only hit the people I like."

"So, what, you kiss your enemies?"

"I seem to recall kissing you a couple of times."

"I think my memory needs refreshing."

"You're impossible." CJ shook her head.

Danny arched his eyebrows up and down in a Groucho Marx impersonation.
"But undeniably irresistible."

She grabbed his tie and pulled his lips into contact with hers. "One
refresher course coming up," she whispered.

"I hope it's not the only thing coming up."

"Don't push your luck, buddy."

"I'll take whatev--"

She cut him off as she moved her lips against his. Definitely a good way
to shut him up. Though her actions would be a little hard to explain
during a press briefing. Tongues tasted and lips tangoed as bodies yearned
to entwine. She had forgotten how good this felt with him, how he made
her body come alive. She hadn't been joking when she'd told Josh that
she could pass a class in abstinence. She would still have no problems.
But, if she followed this through, she could bump that grade down to a fail.
They wouldn't make it back to either of their apartments and the press
room was just a little too public. Could they make it to her office?

A passionate whimper broke the spell. Damn the thinking! But she
couldn't ignore it once it started. She gently untangled limbs and lips,
eliciting a groan from Danny.

"Your logic centre just kicked in, didn't it?" he breathed heavily. Danny
looked as flushed and aroused as she felt.

"Yeah."

"Could we please have it lobotomized?"

"It's the only thing keeping us out of trouble and in our jobs." She stood
and offered her hand to help him up.

He blushed as he declined her assistance. "I just need to sit here for a
few minutes." She grinned. "Don't laugh. This is what you do to me."

"You know, it was much easier when I was mad at you."

"Well, I don't think Mandy left any other memos lying around."

She snapped her fingers. "Damn."

"And I'm not really fond of you yelling at me."

"I didn't yell at you." She waggled her finger at him.

"'Kay. Screamed at, then." He continued on before she could reply.
"Though I did wonder whether kissing you would stop you."

"Why didn't you try?"

Danny stood and walked over to her, placing his hands on her hips. His
warm breath caressed her face. "Carol kept on interrupting." CJ laughed.
"I swear that woman has a passion radar gun fixed on me. In fact, I wouldn't
be surprised if she walked through that door right now." He quickly
kissed her on the lips and turned to look at the door. "She's falling down
on the job."

"You do know you're a nut, don't you?"

"Yeah, but a nut you love."

She stiffened and pulled away. She bit her lip as she saw the look of
confusion turn to sadness on Danny's face.

"I shouldn't have said the 'L' word."

"I really should go." CJ headed towards the exit.

He grabbed her arm. "Don't. The exorcism isn't over yet."

"I never should have started kissing you. It was a mistake." She extracted
her arm from his grip and took several steps back. "I can't think properly
when you touch me," she whispered, raising her arms to ward off his
advance. One hand went to her neck and began rubbing.

"You do that a lot."

"What?"

He pointed at her neck. "It's become a nervous habit since that night. I
can always tell when you're upset or worried."

"I don't even notice." She pulled her hand away and clenched both into
fists.

"You need to see someone, CJ. Did you people have any form of counseling?"

She studied the carpet. "Josh did."

"Yeah. When it was nearly too late. Apart from right now, have you
reacted in any way?"

"I don't know." She shrugged. "I'm not sure what you mean."

"Toby went off on a rant for months, doing his best to circumvent the
First Amendment. That's how he reacted. What did you do?"

Her brow furrowed. "I did my job."

"Exactly."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean, Daniel? I did what had to be
done. I came back here to feed the clamouring hoards. And let me tell
you, you people have terrible table manners." Her voice was rising in
both volume and pitch, and a knot had just implanted itself between her
shoulder blades. "If I remember correctly you took several bites yourself
over the Twenty-fifth. I wanted to be at the hospital with my friends. I
wanted to be there for Josh and the President. But, no. I had to come
back to give you vultures your taste of blood." She poked him hard in the
chest, but he stood his ground. "What did you expect me to do? Start
crying? I can see the headlines. 'Press Secretary weak and ineffectual;
can't cope in crisis.' Well you can go to hell. I did my job." She
punctuated the last four words with a jab.

"You might just want to see me as one of the vultures, but Josh and the
President are my friends too. You didn't have the monopoly on worrying
and caring about them. But I also had my job to do. If you so loathe
dealing with the press, what are you doing here?" He gestured to the
room.

CJ faced Danny, neither moving, neither wanting to capitulate. She finally
gave in, turning to thump the podium. Closing her eyes, she sighed. "I'm
sorry."

"It's okay." His hands found the place on her back where the local Boy
Scouts troop were earning their badges in square knots. "You are tight."

She arched back into the massage, the magic fingers generating tingles
across her nerve endings. "I bet you say that to all the girls." His breath
on the back of her neck sent the tingles off in a mad frenzy, racing towards
the regions of her body she had only regained control of a short time
ago. She needed to put a stop to this -- what was that? Either the West
Wing had adopted a feline, or one of them had just purred. From the
reaction of the man behind her, she got the distinct impression it was her.
Must stop this right now! Only cats and cars were allowed to purr. Cats
rubbed against you, cars have leather and back seats...could abstinence
make you crazy? How else could she explain wanting to strangle Danny
one second and shove him up against a wall and have her wicked way with
him the next? Well, she knew one thing for sure. Abstinence makes you
horny.

That thought spawned a silent giggle, which quickly multiplied until her
body began to shake.

"CJ. Are you all right?" Danny asked in a worried tone.

She couldn't answer, her eyes were starting to weep from the effort of
keeping the laughter contained. He turned her around to face him.

He saw the tears. "What's wrong, CJ?"

The safety valve blew and the laughter escaped. Through the torrent she
saw Danny's expression change from worry to confusion to a small
measure of hurt.

"You know, women have never laughed during my massages. They usually
wait till they see me naked," he pouted.

Another eruption resulted. Like all men, Danny need his ego stroked.
Though she'd much rather be stroking other parts of him. Down girl!
This was not helping. Calm down.

She wiped her eyes and brought the laughter under control. "I'm sorry."

"It's not the first time you've laughed at me. You did when I gave you
Gail."

"Yeah. I did, didn't I. But, if I remember correctly, I also did this." She
leant forward and kissed him on the cheek.

He smiled. "That you did. Feel better?"

"Yeah." The laughter had helped release some of the tension. She could
release more by intimate means, but that was out of the question.

"Good."

"Can I go now?"

"No."

CJ emitted a groan. "What do you want from me, Danny?" She saw the
answering glint in his eye. "Apart from that."

"An answer."

"Are we back to that again?" She rolled her eyes.

Danny crossed his arms. "What did you do? How did you react?"

"I've already answered. My job." She mimicked his defensive stance.
"What the hell do you want me to say?"

"You remember Lowell Lydell?"

"Well, that's the type of stupid question I'd expect from a reporter."

"You remember how you reacted?"

CJ raised an eyebrow. "I'm sure you're going to tell me anyway. Don't
let me spoil your fun."

"You went off on a rant on hate crimes. Everyone told you to slow down,
but you didn't. You pushed it. You even tried to convince me by asking
me out on a date--"

"Business dinner," she interrupted.

"Whatever. You were instrumental in the development of the Hate
Crimes Bill."

"Are we in the vicinity of a point here?"

Danny stood in front of her and clasped her shoulders. In a lower voice,
he replied, "The point is you reacted. But you've been nowhere on this.
Some bigoted bastards shoot at your friends, you all could have died. If
Sam hadn't pulled you down, you would have died. And all because some
idiots don't like the fact that two kids are in love. You said you don't
know how to process it. You can't put this behind you until you react.
You've been stalled in the first stages of grief for a year."

"So, you're a psychologist now?" She tried to move away from him, but
he just tightened his grip.

"I think you need to see someone, before this tears you apart. The land
of denial may be comforting, but you can't stay there forever."

"You think I'm in denial? I accepted things a long time ago. I'm fine,"
she stated through clenched teeth.

He shook his head. "You are not fine. Sure, you're doing your job
competently. But your fire, your passion, they're gone. The woman
who tried so hard to convince everyone that we should legislate what
people think. Where is she? Why wasn't she helping Toby? You're
nowhere."

"I've had enough of this." She struggled to free herself. "Let go of me."

"No. Not until you deal with this."

"I don't need Amateur Psychology Hour. Let go of me, or I'll...," she
trailed off.

"Or you'll what? Hit me? Go ahead. At least it's a reaction." The
expression in his eyes backed his words, daring her to do it. "What's
stopping you from reacting? Is it too close to home?"

"Oh, no. My friends being shot at isn't too close to home," she replied
sarcastically.

"That isn't what I meant."

"Then, what do you mean? I'm not a smart reporter like yourself. I need
things spelled out." Watching him intently, it dawned on her. She snorted.
"You have got to be kidding, Daniel. You think this is about us?" She
ended the sentence on an upward inflection.

"I don't know. Maybe. I'm just trying to understand." He was frustratingly
calm.

"You really are full of yourself. It's got nothing to do with us. Apart
from the fact there is no us. How dare you even compare what Zoey and
Charlie went through to us. Charlie was shot at because of the difference
in their skin colour." His hold was beginning to spark feelings of panic
within her.

"And we're having our jobs held over our heads because you're a press
secretary and I'm a reporter. What happened to Zoey and Charlie is as
bad as it gets. But it's the same basic underlying principle. Two people
who -- I'm going to say it, CJ -- who love each other, being kept apart
because of who they are."

She laughed hysterically, sounding foreign even to her own ears. "So,
Romeo. Should I supply the poison? What the hell makes you think I
love you," she hissed.

Her attempt to initiate a reaction from him failed. He was a composed
parent trying to calm a frenetic child. "You can deny it all you want,
CJ. But there is something between us. I'm not going away."

"There's something between us because you won't let go of me. HANDS
OFF!" Her breathing was becoming increasingly rapid, tendrils of
panic squeezing around her heart. Sweat beaded on her forehead as her
stomach dictated its notice of intent to vacate the premises. She was
pulled down and smothered. Explosions echoed in her ears, her head
throbbed. She had to get out of here, find safety, but she was held in
place. She had to break free, fight, strike out. Her fist connected with
something, pain rippling up her arm. It didn't matter, she could move,
flee.

She stumbled haphazardly for several steps before meeting a wall. Latching
onto it, she struggled to breathe as rage mingled with despair. Hurt and
grief, anger and impotence surging through her. She leant her head
against the cool plaster and hammered her right fist into it. The jarring
pain deadened the panic, the physical easier to handle than the emotional.
Thump, breathe, thump, breathe, thu-

A hand enclosed hers, interrupting the rhythm. An arm snaked around
her waist, pulling her away from the wall and back into a warm body. The
panic resurfaced for a moment, but dissipated as a low voice soothed
her.

"Calm down, CJ. It's okay. Breathe deeply. You're safe."

He brought her injured hand back against her body so he could wrap
both his arms around her. She could feel butterfly kisses on her hair
and neck.

"You're safe, CJ. I won't let anyone hurt you." The words vibrated
through her body.

"What's the point?" Her voice was thick with unshed tears.

He whispered, "The point of what?"

"Of caring. Of trying to do what's right. It doesn't stop them. They
still hate." She lost the ability to form coherent sentences as the tears
broke through. Her body shuddered and her knees buckled.

Danny gently eased her to the floor, shifting her sidewards to sit across
his lap. As before he rocked her, weaving a mantle of safety around them.

"Let it all out, CJ."

She never thought it was possible to cry so much. Definitely crying a
river, though she'd probably moved onto an ocean by now. She'd better
stop before she beat global warming in submerging several low-lying
islands.

He handed her a handkerchief to wipe her face. He gently kissed her
right hand. From the stings she suspected she'd broken some skin. She
moved that hand to stroke his cheek, but he shied away from her touch.
Confused, she shifted so she could look at him. The sight elicited a
gasp from her.

"Oh God, Danny. I'm so sorry."

His left eye was a work in progress of blue and red. Some swelling was
already evident.

"I'll go and get some ice." She tried to rise, but he pulled her back
down to straddle him.

"Stay here. It's okay. I've had worse." At her questioning glance he
continued. "Well, actually I haven't. You have a mean right hook."

She feathered kisses over his bruises, her mark. She placed the last
kiss on the ridge of his nose between his eyes, before resting her
forehead against his. "I'm sorry," she repeated.

"Don't be. You got some of that anger and pain out."

"It's just...after Lowell Lydell...I thought we were doing something
good with the Hate Crimes Bill. Then this happened. I'm so stupidly
na´ve sometimes."

Danny placed his hands on either side of her face and moved her head
back slightly. "Don't ever say that. You aren't stupid. And if naivetÚ
means idealism and passion, I wish there was more of it. Those are the
qualities that make you the beautiful, amazing, loving person you are. If
you let them destroy that, they've won."

She graced him with a weak smile. "I just get so tired, trying to swim
against the tide."

"The tide is changing, CJ. Even a cynical old journalist like me can feel it.
You're doing good. There's always going to be bastards and bigots. But
if you can get the rest of the people to care, to think, if you can raise the
level of public debate, you're making a difference. You're doing good."

She silently mouthed, "Thank you."

"I wanted to hold you that night." He pulled her back into his arms, as
she wrapped her arms around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder.
"But I was scared that you would crumble if I touched you."

"I would have. I was only just holding it together."

"And then things just fell apart between us."

There really wasn't anything she could say to that. Their relationship
existed in limbo land. And unless one of them changed jobs, they were
going to end up with horrendous chiropractic bills.

"I've missed you. Just being your friend."

"Annoying me," she laughed.

"Oh, definitely." His tone turned serious again. "Have you had other
panic attacks like that?"

"No."

"CJ?"

She pulled her head off his shoulder. "Not as bad. When I'm out in
crowds, sometimes I feel claustrophobic. And sometimes, for no reason,
I can't breathe and feel sick."

"That's when you rub your neck."

"Probably."

"You need to see someone, CJ. I don't mind being your punching bag,
but people will start to talk. It's going to be hard enough to explain this
black eye."

She lightly traced the outline of the damage. "You can always tell them
I'm frisky."

"I'm sure Leo would be thrilled by that. I'm serious, CJ. I'm so terrified
that you're going to shatter into pieces so tiny, we won't be able to glue
you back together."

His eyes scared her, making her wonder just how close to the edge she
was. And why hadn't she noticed? Was he the only thing keeping her
from taking the plunge? She'd gone awfully close tonight, but he'd been
there to pull her back. What if he wasn't there next time? Would there
be anyone to catch her if she fell? He'd replied to the mayday she hadn't
even known she'd transmitted. How could she just turn him away and
make him watch her crash and burn? She couldn't do that, not to him.

Biting her lip, her hand automatically reached for her neck. She stopped
it and just stared at this appendage with a mind of its own. She clenched
it into a fist, reasserting her control. A mixture of sigh and sob heaved
through her chest. It was time to retake the wheel.

"You know, you can be really sweet sometimes. I'll find out from Josh
about his therapist." She saw doubt flicker across his face. It was now
her turn to assure him. She stroked her palms across his cheeks. "I
promise you. I need to find Claudia Jean again."

He nodded. "Good. I've missed her."

She kissed him chastely on the lips. "Thank you for answering."

"Always." He reciprocated.

She stood and offered her hand. This time he took it. She suddenly felt
shy and awkward, the way too tall girl trying to hide in the corner. "Well,
it's late. Better get going."

"Yeah. Good night."

Their hands were still joined. She reluctantly let go and turned to leave.
One step, two steps, stop, turn back.

"Danny."

"Yeah?"

"I...I...would you...." Ah, yes. She was a fabulous communicator. Just
say it quickly so you don't chicken out. "Please come home with me."

Danny did a double-take. "Are you sure?"

"You understand, there won't be any sex. I...I don't want to be alone
tonight. I want--I need someone to hold me. I want that someone to
be you."

"Of course I will," he replied quietly. He looked as surprised as she
felt. "Just let me get my things."

She watched as he walked to the back of the room, before refocusing
her attention on the podium. One year. A complete cycle, starting and
ending here. And another one starting, same spot.

"Don't worry. You won't be here this time next year." He didn't touch
her, just standing close enough so she could feel his presence.

"You a mind reader now?"

"And a fortune teller. I predict that on this night next year you will be
dining with a handsome red-headed reporter in an expensive D.C. restaurant.
In fact, I'm so certain of it, make a note in your diary."

"So, I'm going to meet a handsome red-headed reporter in the next year?"
She smiled. "A date?"

"No, a business dinner. Bring your notebook."

"Make sure you remind me," she laughed. "Let's go. Just need to stop
by my office."

They headed towards the door.

"Separate cars?"

"We'll take mine. You shouldn't be driving with that eye."

"I normally drive with my hands. What about your hand?"

"I can move it." She demonstrated with some pain. "Okay, not that well.
But your eye will probably be swollen shut by tomorrow. You're not
driving then."

"You can always sit on my lap. Then we'll have three eyes and three
hands."

She elbowed him into the door frame. "And five legs?"

"There you go again. Damaging me. And I must say, you have a filthy
mind, Ms. Cregg."

"Can it, Fishboy. You need to be put on ice."

 

 

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