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TITLE: Wish they all could be
AUTHOR: the stylus (
SPOILERS: Post-ep for "Night Five"
DISCLAIMER: Sorkin. Let's move on.
SUMMARY: Cloudy and cold in D.C. Or: "His father had bought him back from the kohen for five pieces of silver."
FEEDBACK: Elephants work for peanuts. Writers work for feedback. Or something.
NOTES: I wanted to get this out of my hands before it's rendered unimportant by NEW EPISODES. Unbetaed. All mistakes mine.

Wish they all could be

"He was a good man," she says offhandedly between bites of her sandwich.

Toby nods. They are all good men, in the end; in retrospect. All better than their ends. He steals a potato chip off of her plate and she glares at him.

"His children..." She does not finish the thought, just ducks her head to the side a bit. As if she could escape her own words. As if any of them could.

Toby just nods again, feeling the curve in his spine and the way his shirt shifts over his shoulders. He wants to take her home and fit the side of this thumb into the lines of her palm. He wants to be in the dark of a bar back booth and run his foot up the inside of her calf. Instead they are in the window of a Washington deli, the grey light of a cloudy afternoon washing over them both.

His grandparents came to this country without the language, packed onto ships; he remembers as a young child the way his grandmother talked about America as though it were still foreign to her. Right there in the middle of the rumbling, chuntering city she was still awed by the place. Her voice was thin, like tissue paper when she spread it over the candles on Friday evenings. It was she, with her blue trembling hands and her strange foreign smells, who taught him the Aleynu and told him about the pidyon ha-ben, the redemption of the first born son. His father had bought him back from the kohen for five pieces of silver. As a child, he listened solemnly to this story over and over and it made him feel taller to walk out into the bustling streets knowing that his father had had to pay for his life. He swaggered with it.

His grandmother would be proud of him if she were here. "Good boy," she would have said, touching the side of his face. "Good boy, doing such good work." As a child, the Slavic set of her language fascinated him. He would ask her to read to him from the few books printed in Russian which were on the highest shelves just to listen to the way her voice rose and fell.

Some days he goes and stands at the door to the Press Room just beyond where the light stops and listens to C.J. do the briefing. Mostly he is busy elsewhere or tired; but some days he catches the sound of her voice, the brandy vowels of it, and he is drawn in.

She shakes her head to dispel the thoughts that have taken up residence and unfolds from the table. He collects their paper plates and pushes them through the front of the trash can. They are outside and the wind is already all the way through his coat. He sees her shiver and pull her coat tighter and smiles a little at the benediction of such a simple gesture. The first winter here, she had called him at night occasionally just to complain about how cold it was.

"You didn't tell me, when you came to sunny California to steal me away from my high-paying job, that I was going to have to move just south of the Arctic Circle to work for the President. For God's sake, Toby. I'm too tall for this weather."

He had laughed, long and full, and told her that he was sorry, that he forgot that everyone wasn't as hardy as he was, that the atmosphere was different up there where she was and colder. It had been their joke since the day they met, her height, because she knew without asking that he loved it about her. Some days he had told her, too, that he knew it was cold but that the cold helped them think. You had to be here where it was cool enough to think to make the kind of life and death decisions that a Presidency required. To make a difference.

"Not that you made a difference in New York, and it's even colder there," she would grumble, but in a way that warmed him. They were doing a good thing, together. Even if there were days that were all meetings chasing their own tail and frantic, unproductive minutiae. He was more alive than he had been in years and on less sleep.

They lean into the wind as they walk and he clips along at the pace he uses with only her to match the strides of her long legs. As a child on Yom Kippur he used to sit very quietly so that the adults would leave him alone and he could watch his grandmother pray the al-het. She closed her eyes and rocked back and forth on her feet just a little. And when she murmured the prayers, her whole face seemed to smooth out. When he had asked for the forgiveness of his sins, he had thought of God like his father; in his mind had seen a large open hand that was used to rebuke children.

He wonders now if his grandmother prayed for her own sins or for the sins of them all: husband, son, grandson. He wonders what five pieces of silver would be in today's currency.

He must be lagging, because C.J. has stopped and turned to look at him with a question on her face. Her nose is red from the wind and the cold, her eyes are watering. She has never been quite so beautiful, or so blond. It is a silly thought out of his childhood when California was his dream land, so bright and different from the gritty sidewalks of New York. The thought is unexpected and he finds himself suddenly smiling, really smiling, reaching out to take her arm as they walk again.

Now it is just the two of them bent slightly forward making their way along a wide block on a day without sun. For three days the reporters have left an empty seat in the briefings; in his childhood at Pesah this always meant promise as well as loss. Yom Kippur slips by mostly unnoticed now; he has long since given up on fasting or saying the Shma as the sun sets. There is the work; and there is enough penance in set of C.J.'s shoulders. These are enough-- they will have to be. He no longer believes anyone will save them but themselves.


"Stories have no point if they don't absorb our terror."

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