TITLE: May Day
AUTHOR: Luna (lunavudu@a...)
ARCHIVE: Coming soon to http://www.geocities.com/spark_fanfic/violet
SUMMARY: Those were the rites of spring.
NOTES: They're not mine. Major thanks to Robin and Leslie for the title and
its associations. Also, the White House, Google, and jedbartlet.com. Props
to Jess, what, you think I sold 'em all? Please send feedback.

"May Day"
Part One

"You're going to ruin your back that way."

C.J. raised her head slowly, struggling to make her eyes focus. "What?"

Leo stood in her doorway. "Sleeping hunched over your desk like that.
You're going to pull it out of alignment. And the New York Times is not an
adequate pillow."

She pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes and rubbed them gently. When
she pulled them away, she frowned at the remnants of makeup smudged across
them. "I forgot to take my contacts out," she muttered, blinking rapidly.

"You haven't been evicted, have you?" Leo wondered.

"What? No."

"You have working heat and running water where you live, right?"

"Of course."

"Then you don't have an excuse. Go home."

"No." C.J. sat up straight. "I can take a shower downstairs. Carol can
swing by my apartment and get some clothes for me when she comes in."

"Or you could go home."

"I have too much to do," she said adamantly.

Leo shook his head and walked away. C.J. yawned for a long moment and
awkwardly got to her feet, massaging her neck with one hand. Wincing at the
sunlight, she paced around her office. She trudged out into the hall, and
was promptly knocked down by Josh and Donna.

"Sorry!" Donna helped her up. "See, Josh? Further evidence."

"Sorry, C.J." Josh rolled his eyes at Donna. "You're overreacting."

"I'm a freak."

"You're not--"

"A freak, Josh. I am. I should go join the circus."

"Right behind you," C.J. murmured, leaning against the wall.

"You're overreacting," Josh told Donna again.

"When I die, Michael Jackson can buy me at an auction and display me next to
the Elephant Man."

"Why do you think you're a freak?" C.J. asked.

"I didn't recognize Tom Unger yesterday afternoon."

Josh scoffed. "He's a freshman Representative from Ohio, Donna, not a movie
star."

"I thought he worked at J.C. Penney's!"

C.J. pinched the bridge of her nose wearily. "You thought Congressman Unger
worked at J.C. Penney's? Did he have one of those little nametags on?"

"No." She sighed miserably. "I'm a freak."

"You are not a freak." Josh put a hand on her arm and guided her down the
hall. "You just made a mistake, that's all. It happens. And for God's
sake, you're going to outlive Michael Jackson."

"You think so?"

"I know it." He turned around. "C.J.?"

"What?"

"You have newsprint on your face."

C.J. put a hand to her forehead. "Lovely."

Sam came up behind her. "Definitely."

She jumped. "What are you doing?"

"Agreeing with you," he said. "This is a lovely morning. The sun is
shining, flowers are blooming... you look like hell."

"Yeah, that's really lovely."

Sam regarded her suspiciously. "Did you even go home last night?"

"Not as such," she admitted.

"You shouldn't do that. It's not good for you."

C.J. rolled her eyes. "Why is it that when one of you guys sleeps in the
office, it's par for the course, but I do it once in a great while and
everyone's all a-twitter?"

Sam paused. "Okay, I really don't have an answer for that, so you know what?"

"You're going to change the subject?"

"She knows me so well," he announced to no one in particular. "I need you to
talk to Maury Barth today."

"Maury Barth hates me."

"Yes."

"Why do I have to talk to him?"

"He hates me more."

"No, I mean, why does anyone have to talk to him?"

"He wants a private interview with the President," Sam explained. "And he
keeps misquoting things I write in his column."

"This is not fair," C.J. told him.

"I know. But you'll do it?"

"Yes."

"You're a pearl," he called, walking away.

"I'm a diamond in the rough," she replied.

"C.J.?"

She turned. "Carol. Thank God."

Her assistant looked her over. "You need a change of clothes?"

"Please. Also, could you pinch me?"

"Pinch you?"

"There's a pretty good chance this is all a crazy dream, right?"

Carol clicked her tongue sympathetically. "I can't help you there."

"It figures." C.J. yawned again. "I'm going to take a shower."

* * *

"Sweeps month," Josh said, walking into Leo's office.

Sam followed him. "Also, April showers bring May flowers."

"Good call."

Leo looked up. "What are you two talking about?"

"The spring," Josh told him. "We're revelling in it."

"I'm thinking of making some New Year's resolutions," Sam added.

Josh glanced at him. "On May first?"

"I have my own fiscal year."

"Good," Leo said. "Now, if you two can refrain from finding a maypole and
skipping around it with ribbons, we can get back to the real world. Josh,
you're going over the new numbers today."

Josh pulled up a chair. "Haven't we established that I'm not a math guy?"

"I'm not asking you to do calculus, I'm asking you to read down a list."

"I can do that."

"I hope to God you can, because I'd hate to have to fire you."

"I wouldn't," Toby said, striding into the room.

Josh chuckled. "You can't fire me."

"I can fire Sam, and that would make you cry."

Sam wrinkled his nose. "Astonishing to me that I just got brought into this
conversation."

Toby ignored this and spoke to Leo. "I'm working on India. Second draft."

"How close is it to being finished?"

"Close enough," Toby said vaguely. He looked around. "Where's C.J.?"

"I hope she didn't fall asleep in the shower," Sam said.

Josh's eyes twinkled. "We could go check."

"I know seven ways to kill a man with my bare hands," C.J. informed them
ominously as she entered the office.

"Really?"

"Do you want to take that gamble, Josh?"

Leo looked at them ominously. "Yeah, because it's not as if we have actual
work to get done today."

"Point taken." Josh stood up. "I have numbers to read. Firing Sam would
make me cry?"

"I've moved on," Toby said dismissively.

"I think we all have." Leo pushed his chair back from his desk. "Let's light
a fire under this day. C.J.?"

"I have the morning briefing and then Maury Barth."

"Looking good."

"Not really; I hate Maury Barth."

"He meant you," Sam put in.

"Oh." C.J. smiled for the first time that day. "Thank you."

* * *

"Charlie!" The President hailed him as he walked into the Oval Office. "Did
you say 'rabbit, rabbit, rabbit' this morning?"

The young man blinked. "No, sir."

Jed shook his head reproachfully. "You should have said 'rabbit, rabbit,
rabbit'."

"I'm sorry."

"You should be." Jed circled his desk and sat down.

Charlie stepped towards him. "May I ask why?"

"Ah," Jed said sagely. "I was waiting for that, you know."

"I know, sir."

"It's a tradition -- some would say a superstition -- passed down to me by my
grandmother. When you wake up on the first morning of a new month, before
you speak any other words aloud, you're supposed to say 'rabbit, rabbit,
rabbit'." Jed looked at him expectantly. "You never heard that?"

"No, sir."

"Abbey claims she never heard it either." Jed frowned. "Is it possible my
grandmother made it up to see if she could make me look ridiculous?"

Charlie raised his eyebrows. "Well, Mr. President, I don't know your
grandmother, but..."

"That's what I thought." He put his glasses on. "What do we have going this
morning?"

"You have a security briefing in five minutes, followed by greetings to a
group from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and a phone conference with the
President of Lebanon. And C.J. needs a minute when you have one."

"Okay. And I'm assuming there's still a health crisis in sub-Saharan Africa,
a power crisis in California, disaster conditions in Kansas, recurrent
violence in Jerusalem, and the endless arguments about what to do with the
tax money of the American people."

Charlie nodded. "Don't forget you have the budget remarks tonight at
Crawford High School."

"Of course. It's a light day."

"Yes, sir."

Leo came through the door. "Good morning, Mr. President."

"Good morning, Leo. Did you say 'rabbit, rabbit, rabbit' this morning?"

"No, sir. You know why?"

"Why?"

"Because I'm not your crazy grandmother." He tilted his head. "Security
briefing's about to start. You ready?"

"As I'll ever be." He took his glasses off and stood. "Let's go."

* * *

"Nine o'clock in the morning and we're already screwing the people," Josh
announced.

"What now?" Donna asked from her desk.

"NASA." He emerged from his office, gesturing with a file. "I don't know
what we're testing the flow-rate of ketchup for, but apparently it's very,
very expensive ketchup."

"There are people who test that?"

"Maybe they're checking for differences among the fifty-seven varieties of
Heinz."

Donna stood up and walked over to Josh, reading along with him. "Well, can't
you just take their ketchup away?"

"Not without Congressional approval."

She looked at him with eyes wide. "Do me a favor?"

"If you're going to ask for a bottle of French's Mustard and a ramp, I can
probably get you federal funding."

"I want you to send a note to Tom Unger."

Josh scanned her pleading expression and took a step back. "Not a chance."

"On my behalf, so he doesn't feel insulted that I didn't recognize him."

"You're crazy."

"If it's crazy to think that we should do what we can to avoid alienating
members of Congress, then call me crazy like a fox, Josh. Send him a note."

He crossed back into his office. "Why do I have to be involved in this?"

She followed him. "Because I work for you, and if I look bad, you look bad.
And I'll feel better if you help me out with this, and if I feel good, you'll
feel good."

"You really thought I would buy that?" Josh sat down behind his desk.
"Write him a note yourself, if you want."

"But he already thinks I'm a freak."

"You know, I never thought I'd find studying a list of budget figures so
attractive." He winked at her and turned a page. "You know, when you print
these out, you should include a label that the figures are in hundreds of
millions."

"It's not obvious?"

"It's important to note."

"You think somebody's going to think you want to spend three dollars and
fifty cents on a fighter jet?"

"Donna."

"I'll reprint it." She gave him another beseeching look. "Please send him a
note."

"Go work," he scolded her. She sighed softly and left.

* * *

C.J. walked into the Mural Room with two mugs of coffee. She set them on the
table. "Mr. Barth."

The pudgy, gray-haired man picked up a cup. "Miss Cregg, you are living
proof of de Beauvoir's dictum that women are not born, they're made."

C.J. sat on the sofa opposite him. "I... really don't know what you mean by
that."

"Me neither." Barth sipped his coffee. "You got any hot chocolate around
here?"

"I'm afraid not." She crossed her legs. "So, let's talk about this
interview. Your columns generally fall somewhere right of Richard Nixon."

"I consider myself a moderate conservative, actually, but I'm not surprised
at the stereotype from a liberal administration."

"Why should we grant you an exclusive with the President?"

He leaned toward her, folding his hands. "How can you call yourselves
champions of the First Amendment when you systematically deny access to a
faction of the press?"

"Why do you expect us to give you ammunition to use against us?"

"Why do you answer every question with a question?" Barth grinned toothily.
"Honestly, Miss Cregg. I don't intend to attack the President; I intend to
pose some questions on behalf of the millions of citizens who didn't vote for
him. Now, don't tell me the President's scared of a couple little old
Republicans with typewriters."

"He can give you twenty minutes at six o'clock this evening," C.J. said
grudgingly.

"Well, I suppose I'm grateful."

"Provided you stop misquoting his speeches in your columns."

"I have never done so intentionally." Barth assumed an offended tone. "It
would go against my journalistic integrity."

"Sam Seaborn doesn't see it that way."

"That's right. We're all out to get you."

Toby opened the door and caught C.J.'s eye. He inclined his head toward the
hall. She stood up. "My assistant will show you out, Mr. Barth."

"And I'll see you in a few hours." He shook her hand. "Call me Maury next
time."

C.J. withdrew her hand and followed Toby out of the Mural Room. "Dear God,
turn me into a bird, so I can fly far, far away from here."

"Barth is that bad?"

"You mean you can't see my skin crawling?"

"I'm really not paying any attention." They rounded a corner. "We have a
situation."

C.J. groaned. "Who did what to whom?"

"They've been in the Situation Room for fifteen minutes," Toby informed her.

She stopped in her tracks. "Fifteen minutes? And you just now came and got
me?"

Toby shrugged. "I have no more to tell you now than I did fifteen minutes
ago."

"It's the principle--" She gave up and started over. "What do you have to
tell me now?"

"Nothing."

"Great."

"We're waiting for Leo." He led her into the Roosevelt Room, and they sat
down at the table.

"Does anyone in here know what the Appalachian Regional Commission does?"
Josh asked as he walked in.

"It develops the Appalachian Region," Larry volunteered.

"Somewhere along the line, someone's going to ask why they need a hundred
million dollars for that."

Sam walked up behind Josh and scanned the list over his shoulder. "Somewhere
along the line, someone's going to suggest we take a pay cut."

"Yeah, but I can explain to them why I'm broke. I can't explain the other
thing."

"So refer them to someone from the Appalachians." Sam took a seat. "Does
anyone in here know what's happening?"

"It's not a domestic situation," Josh said. "That's all I've got."

"That clears up a lot," C.J. grumbled. "So some jet pilot stationed in Guam
could have lost his keys, or we could have blown up all of India."

"Guam's domestic," Sam said.

"I know. I couldn't think of a good example offhand."

"So there's nothing we can do right now but wait," Ed concluded.

"That's basically it," Josh agreed. "We could start a round-table discussion
of modern cinema or a game of finger football."

"Or not," Sam replied.

"Why not?"

"I haven't been to the movies in a year, and Toby always wins at finger
football."

"All right, listen up." Leo walked briskly into the room. "Half an hour
ago a Chinese military surveillance plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean."

"That's a pretty big target," Josh murmured aside to C.J. "You'd think
they'd have seen that one coming."

Leo shot a stern look at Josh. "This is funny to you?"

"Which part of the Pacific?" Josh asked.

"A good bit south of Taiwan. Three U.S. vessels were within signaling range.
Rescue efforts started ten minutes ago."

"Wait a second." Toby drummed his fingers on the table. "The plane crashed
thirty minutes ago. Why are they just now--"

Leo frowned. "We don't know."

"Do I need to push back the two o'clock briefing?" C.J. asked.

"Maybe by thirty minutes. We'll have more from the Pentagon by then."

"Leo," Sam said, "Is there any chance that Americans were involved--"

"No," Leo said firmly.

"You're sure?"

"As sure as I can be on very little information." Leo looked around the
room. "That's all for now. Go back to work, but be ready for a military
briefing."

As everyone began to file out of the room, Josh glanced back at Leo. "I'm
sorry for the target crack."

"You should be," Leo said. His mouth crinkled into the slightest hint of a
smile. "But it was funny."

* * *

"...The plane was an HD-5 Beagle, carrying a three-man crew, designed for
low-intensity electronic missions. Rescue efforts are underway, and the
Department of Defense will continue to quietly follow the investigation into
the cause of the crash." C.J. selected a reporter to call on. "Peter."

"C.J., can you tell us anything at all about the investigation? Can you at
least elaborate on the efforts in progress?"

She leveled a steady look at him. "I choose not to elaborate when the
Secretary of Defense has used the word 'quietly'."

"Should've left that one out," Danny said.

C.J. turned toward him. "Danny, do you have a question?"

"Sure. China has been building up missile defenses over the past few years,
especially in the area around Taiwan. Is the United States heading down a
dangerous road?"

"I don't speculate, Danny. All I can tell you is that the words and actions
of the White House are designed to help secure the peace." She scanned her
notes. "That's all I have for you right now. Thanks."

Danny followed C.J. out of the Press Room. "How's your day going, Ceej?"

"It's -- Ceej?"

"I was experimenting."

"Don't ever do that again."

"Okay."

She rounded the corner into her office. "Not ever."

He leaned against the doorjamb. "How's your day going, C.J.?"

"Cloudy with a chance of rotten."

"You didn't go home last night," Danny said.

C.J. whirled around and looked at him. "How'd you know that?"

"I've never seen you wear a skirt with those shoes."

"I fell asleep over the HUD memo sometime after four-thirty in the morning."
She rubbed her temples gently. "I live an exciting life, Danny. Did you
need something?"

"Not really. Except to let you know that the HUD memo is making the rounds
already."

She dropped into her chair. "You have the HUD memo?"

"I haven't looked at it personally. Katie has it."

"What, you and Katie are passing notes in class now?"

Danny looked at the floor. "Kind of."

"Kind of?" She looked at him questioningly. "I was joking."

"We have a kind of a thing."

"I was joking." C.J. took a breath. "I don't want to know."

"'Kay."

"You notice my shoes?"

"It's my eye for detail." He swung out of her doorway. "I hope your day
gets better."

"And I hope pandas will learn to fly," she said, and began to rummage through
her drawers for an aspirin.

* * *

 

Part 2

 

 

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