Author: Elliott Silver
Feedback: Yes, Please, I would love to hear from you.
Timeline: Assume Simon didn't die in "Posse Comitatus", mer.
Summary: The ordinary is just that.
"I heard those bullets went through eighteen layers of Kevlar."
". 45's aimed from an arm's length away usually do that." Simon Donovan glanced up from the bench they were sitting on. The early June night was still fickle between the tang of spring and the heavy humidity of summer. The eight o'clock sky above them mirrored Van Gogh's Starry Night; light was flung helter-skelter across the heavens.
"Two more layers of Kevlar and we'd be having this conversation from a hospital ICU room or a séance."
Simon folded his hands and leaned forward, stretching out the cords in his shoulders. "They made me stay in the hospital that night anyway, just to make sure I didn't have any internal bleeding." CJ had gone eighteen kinds of crazy that night, striding into the emergency room with Ron Butterfield and a corps of doctors protesting she couldn't just go waltzing into a secure area. Standing before him in the black Vera Wang and the stacked Dolce and Gabbana heels, the first thing she had said to him was "You idiotic jackass son of bitch, how dare you?" Fear and anger ran unchecked across her face and when the doctors finally left, she had sat down gingerly on the side of the ER bed and stared at the whorled bruises already swelling across his chest. It had taken two minutes before she hesitantly put her hand over his discolored skin and felt his racing heartbeat from somewhere deeply below as his hand covered hers and held it there. His vest was propped on the lone chair in the curtained off area and the three bullets, flattened into silver slugs and stuck in the Kevlar, shone dully. She had stayed with him all night, watching from behind closed glass as x-rays flashed across his chest and the electric light glaring through the black films promised nothing was wrong. "I'm just lucky I was wearing the vest that night."
"Secret Service should wear those things all the time." There was conviction in his friend's tone, the idea of seeing the world in black and white, and the ultimate distaste of needless, tragic death.
"They hinder our mobility," Simon explained patiently, his voice a shade of charcoal. "We can't do our jobs like that."
"I can never figure out whether you guys are insanely brave or extraordinarily crazy."
"Both," Simon answered easily, returning the joke truthfully. The Washington Monument glowed like a sandcastle and the stone spire was crowned with a halo of burning balls of gas galaxies and dreams away.
"At least, they finally got you to take some time off," the man said. "Mandatory seven days?"
"Yeah," Simon answered, exhaling deeply as he leaned back against the bench.
"This is what? Day three?"
Simon just nodded.
"Sucks, doesnít it?"
And Simon chuckled. "Actually, it isn't as bad as I thought." He thought of the late nights and the early mornings that turned late that he spent with CJ, watching the pale light of dawn seep over their skin. As he looked out, he wanted to show her the stars tonight, point out the far-flung constellations, maybe even sketch their future in the distant points of light that defied even gravity and the black hull of the universe to encircle the sky above them.
"And you got that meritorious service award," his friend continued. "That's not too shabby."
"No," Simon concluded, thinking of the high-end reception and the brass-bound plaque. CJ had worn a pale blue dress the color of aquamarines that had always been carried by sailors for protection at sea. Her eyes were two shades darker when he unzipped the back and she let the silk drift to the floor. "I even got to meet the president."
"Imagine that." There was a second of silence between them and suddenly all joking was aside. "Rumor holds there's an opening on his detail."
"There are lots of rumors in Washington," Simon answered smoothly, though he hadnít heard this one before.
"Why'd you ever leave the Eagle patrol anyway?"
"It probably had to do with the psychological trauma everyone thought had been inflicted on us for doing our jobs at Rosslyn." Simon looked around him at the night falling darkly and then he too stopped joking. "I didn't ask to be taken off. I just go where I'm assigned."
"Is this what you always wanted to do?"
"Is this a night of questions?" Simon countered lightly.
"Well, seeing as how we've rarely talked since you left," the man answered. "I miss our evening talks."
"No," Simon answered and he wasn't quite sure why he was. "This isn't what I always wanted. I knew I wanted to serve our country, but I always thought I wanted the ordinary. You know, a family and a Suburban and tripping over toys in the hallways." He looked up at the stars thoughtfully. "Instead I chose eighteen layers of Kevlar."
"What did you do after New York?"
And from the murk of gloomy remorse, Simon abruptly chuckled again. "CJ and I ate grapefruit at 3 am on her front steps."
"Good God, why?"
"Because I told her she could," Simon answered and he remembered the way she looked in the still cool air under the vague cast of the street lamp, all radiant shadows. He remembered how he had followed her protestingly the four and half blocks to the corner grocery that for unknown reasons stayed open 24 hours to buy two ruby red grapefruit for $1.69. He remembered them sitting on the stairs watching her fingers rip away curls of peel, the flesh spurting in laser-like jets, until the fruit sat naked in their palms and she pulled apart sections the color of her cheeks when she blushed. And he remembered the way she tasted, the sweet tang of grapefruit still on her lips and tongue when he kissed her, the sticky way the pads of her fingers touched his stubbled cheeks and left imprints she had kissed away later.
"She's an amazing woman."
"No," Simon answered immediately. "She's more."
The man swung the full weight of his stare at Simon and smiled. It was so rare to see that kind of smile on him and yet he wore it so well. It seemed a travesty he didn't find the occasion more often.
"You know, she used to date someone from the press corps here," he said and Simon looked away. "Danny Concannon from The Post."
"I've read his work." His voice sounded short and no matter how hard he tried, a little jealous.
"He got an assignment covering the other side of the world."
"He left her?" Simon didnít bother to hide any of the emotions in his voice. When the man looked over at him again, he understood that tangent had been carefully orchestrated. The man smiled again.
"It was a good offer," he defended because he was so used to seeing things from more than one perspective. "And Danny thought he was missing out on the rest of the world. Plus, he knew there was only so far he would ever get with CJ."
"Oh." It shouldnít have come as such a relief to him, but it did.
"Do you ever think you're missing out on anything with your job?"
"I'd be missing out on putting a bullet through a fifteen year-old's temporal lobe just because he didnít like the color of the president's aide's skin." The man sitting on the bench beside him flinched and Simon wondered how often this seat made of plats of wood and nails had withstood such conversations like this. "But I'd also be missing out on eating a fruit I find downright revolting at dawn with the woman I love too."
Simon took a breath; above him the stars shimmered like white coals that someone had blown on. "If I wasn't in this job, hadn't taken a barrel of bullets in chest, I would have missed her." And he knew by saying that, he was saying it all.
There was a knock on the glass panes and Charlie stepped out on the verandah. "CJ says she's ready to go whenever you are."
Simon nodded his head as they both rose.
"Just remember, the ordinary is just that," his friend told him and Simon too realized how much he had missed these chats, how he had missed this man's extraordinary ability to make things clearer all by boiling them down to what really mattered. "You saved the life of the President of the United States. You stopped an armed robbery. You lived because two layers of Kevlar stood up to three .45s. You can still have the Suburban if you want it, though the gas prices will kill you and driving it in DC will really piss you off, but the rest of ordinary is best left behind. Because there's nothing ordinary about CJ and there's certainly nothing ordinary about you two eating grapefruit at 3 in the morning either, because, to tell you the truth, she hates grapefruit too."
Before Simon could speak, the man continued. "And just remember, my family signed the Declaration of Independence and if you screw up with my Press Secretary, don't think I won't send half of the armed forces of the United States to hunt you down."
"Thank you, Mr. President," he said, shaking Jed Bartlet's hand, knowing that was exactly what the most powerful man in the world had wanted to tell him, not the threat because Simon already knew that, but that CJ hated grapefruit too and that said everything.
"I have just one question, though," he said as the President walked into the Oval Office and he could see CJ's shadow waiting for him in the hallway. As he glanced at her, he knew there were times for Kevlar and times for pure bareness because stars too could explode and die but they never wore anything but heat and luster and the unfailing knowledge that they would live on forever in the memory of those who bathed in their light. He would show CJ those stars tonight, every night. "Who put me on CJ's detail?"
The President smiled and when he did, his eyes twinkled like Van Gogh's stars. "I did."
Disclaimer: All things West Wing belong to Aaron Sorkin, John Wells, NBC, etc Ö I own the stories.