Title: Dance like Peonies
Author: Elliott Silver
All Feedback replied to and kept in a little writerís journal.
Timeline: After "The Black Vera Wang"
Summary: The promise of a dance the color of peonies at full bloom.
He came so fast that he didnít knock at the door. In his haste, the agent on duty didnít recognize him and came barreling towards him, gun drawn.
Hogan had asked what it would take to make an agent brandish his weapon. Sometimes the awful truth was that it didnít take much.
"Thereís been a new threat," he said to the agent without slowing. "Let me in."
He heard the laughter first, and then their voices from somewhere deep in CJís house. Hoganís laughter was child-like and silvery, giggles the color of peonies. He didnít hear CJ laughing.
"Heís nice, CJ," Hogan said solemnly.
"Well, thatís an awful thing to say," he heard CJ berate her niece as she broke into a fit of giggles. He could hear the swish of fabric and the creaking of floorboards.
"Alright, heís very cute," Hogan amended as he rounded the wall. "And he likes you."
"How can you tell?" CJ asked and then she looked over at him.
He was used to being stared at by hundreds, even thousands, of people, and he was used to staring at people. But not like this, never quite like this. Hogan and CJ stared back at him, the girl in a pale blue silk dress and the woman in black Vera Wang. They had been dancing, in their bare feet, the long skirts of their dresses swishing around them on the polished hardwood floor of CJís house. CJ had been leading.
"Agent Sunshine," she said at last. Hogan looked from him to CJ and back to him again. He saw it in her eyes, saw the word Rosslyn in black bold letters on her retinas. He saw her asking what the name of it would be this time.
He saw the woman in the black dress wouldnít ask what happened, refused to. It was Hogan in pale blue that spoke up and he knew then he had come all this way to tell them when the last thing he wanted to do was say a word. He wished they could have kept dancing, ineptly, and with giggles.
"Hogan, I need you to go home now," he said, measuring out his tone.
She looked up at him with her big, sensible eyes, trusting eyes, damning eyes. "Do I have time to change?" she asked.
"Iíd rather Ė "
CJ took her arm and dragged her toward what he knew to be her bedroom. "After what we paid for this dress, sheís changing before you go dragging her out there in the rain, Agent Sunshine."
She stopped the way he knew she would.
She stopped the way he knew she would when he didnít call her maíam or Ms. Cregg.
Hogan scurried into the bedroom and came out with an armful of clothes, stuffing them into a backpack.
"Special Agent Rawlins is going to take you home, Hogan," he told her as the agent stepped up from behind him. "Heís going to stay there all night to make sure youíre safe."
Hogan nodded her head. The world was so much easier when you still believed all it took to cure all the evil in the world was a good heart and a good aim.
Rawlins spoke to them as CJ reassured the girl and then they were gone and she was standing in front of him.
"Youíve been staring at all my windows, Agent Sunshine."
"Thatís generally where the bullets come from, Ms. Cregg."
He stared at her in the black Vera Wang, and he knew from deep within him, if it was even for just this one second, he couldnít ever tell her he didnít wish she hadnít bought it.
"Thereís been another death threat."
She nodded her head; she was a smart woman. The problem was she was a smart woman that was too damn brave for her own good.
"Whatís going to happen?"
"Weíre going to double security measures, place more agents around you, monitor all your communications and activities Ė "
CJ waved him off and moved into the middle of the room where she had been teaching Hogan to dance for her prom. No, her junior prom, he corrected in his head.
"How do you know?"
"It came in an email."
"What did it say?"
"I canít Ė "
"Simon, what did it say!" Her voice raised and her cheeks flushed, it was the first time he saw a sliver of fear in her.
"He or she liked the black Vera Wang you bought today."
CJ stood perfectly still, though one of the floorboards creaked under her as if that was the sound of shock from within her. She looked down at the dress, ran a hand over its smooth bodice. He knew he couldnít watch when she did that, knew he wasnít going to look away.
"You couldnít have called instead of barreling in here like the fourth horseman?"
"I was the one that read the email. I wanted to be the one that told you."
CJ nodded her head.
"When are the other agents coming?"
"They should be here within ten minutes."
"Only until they get here."
"I was teaching her to dance," CJ explained, before the cold silence caved in the room between them. "I canít lead to save my life."
The darkness welled in her eyes at her words.
It was five steps to reach her; Special Agent Simon Donovan knew that even before he touched her, had measured the space in his mind a dozen times, had imagined throwing his body in front of hers, shielding her standing tall and beautiful in a black Vera Wang and bare feet. But until he took her hand, slipped one arm around her back, where her waist met her lower spine, he had never let himself imagine being this close in this way.
"I can lead for us," he said as she moved against him, closed her fingers around him, set her arm around his shoulder, moved her hips next to his and let herself follow him.
They moved between the four walls of the her room as he tried not to think about how bullets came smashing through walls and were cold-hearted enough not to care who they struck. He tried not to think how she felt in the thick black weight of Vera Wang in his arms, how he would think about that when he closed his eyes.
"Whatís going to happen?" she asked again and he felt the weight of being CJ in the way she rested against him, the weight of being a woman in a man's world, the weight of playing ball with boys every day, the weight of having no one to lean on, the weight of being alone.
He knew about weights too.
"We keep dancing," he answered.
"For how long?"
"For as long as you need me." And he felt a part of her weight fall off, the way she brushed her cheek against his.
"Special Agent Donovan?" They stopped moving, but he didnít pull away the way he knew he should, the way he needed to. He saw the way that reflected in CJís eyes, the way it eased at her weights, the same way it eased at his.
"CJ, I promise you, no matter what happens, no matter what happened at Rosslyn, nothing will happen to you. I will be there to stand in front of that bullet, I promise you."
He heard the pounding tread of the agents coming through the rooms the way he had only short minutes ago. It felt like a lifetime. They called his name again and he answered them this time, stepping away from the United Statesí press secretary until they both stood on their own again. It felt horrible.
"I hope it doesnít come to that," CJ told him.
The other two agents came in and he instructed them to their posts and the new information. When he was done, she was still standing beside him.
"Thatís my job, maíam," he told her as he headed towards the door.
"Yes, but I canít dance alone," she told him. And he heard in her voice that sound, that must have once been the color of peonies at full bloom, so heavy with petals they needed to lean on something else to bear the burden of love and weight.
That was the way they would dance, he thought and saw it in her eyes too.
All things West Wing belong to Aaron Sorkin, John Wells, NBC, etc Ö I own the stories.