Author's Note:

This is my second take on Institutional Memory. At some point I may even tackle a third, but in this one I wanted to try my hand at a Danny POV.

Inserted a bunch of dialogue from the episode into the story because there was no way around that, as you will see. Also some dialogue from Internal Displacement and Requiem. There's a also a reference to Season One, Episode 17: The White House Pro-AM.


Adams Morgan

Washington, D.C.

Early January, 2007

Danny nursed his bruised feelings alongside his bourbon; reflecting upon the last few weeks of his life and how far removed he'd become from the starry-eyed guy who'd offered his hand and his heart to the woman he'd been mesmerized by for the better part of a decade.

Without stopping to wonder whether she was still the same woman.

Maybe that was where he'd tripped up - thinking that everything was still the same under the hood.

It wasn't.

She'd been catapulted into a job that she likely wouldn't have chosen.

Catapulted into it under stressful and deeply emotional conditions.

Had been abandoned by all her peers over a relatively short period of time.

And in the process she'd been robbed of many things.

Not least her sense of humour.

But she'd tackled the new job head on - governed by her sense of duty and innate need to do right by the President - and made a go of it despite all the odds.

And then he'd shown up.

Introducing a modicum of normalcy into her larger-than-life existence.

Bringing physical intimacy into a wasteland.

And far from being the hassle-free guy he'd once encouraged Charlie Young to be, he'd become territorial.

It hadn't been intentional, but it had happened anyway.

For a moment he dwelled on his less than shining moment at Leo's wake when he'd behaved like a cocky, horny college kid.

"Are you seriously telling me you're going to pass on a night in my bed because you don't know what you're going to tell Donna Moss?"

"It's not about Donna. It's about the fact that I'll spend the rest of the afternoon strategizing about how to explain it or not explain it, or don't need to explain it, or don't have an explanation for it, or even for myself. I don't have a definition of what it is or where it's going. I'll chew the question over in my brain quietly while other people are talking to me about death of affairs of state .."

With hindsight, things had started to unravel the moment she'd said those words.

But instead of taking her seriously he'd played with fire.

Basked in the glow of her arrival in his bed when she eventually got there.

Placed himself at her disposal.

Allowed himself to be hypnotized by complexity.

Became relegated to someone she could count on.

As long as he slotted nicely into whatever time she could give.

And today he'd gotten burned.

He didn't start thinking about the deeper layers of meaning until he was a few drinks in and able to process the afternoon's argument in the street.

It wasn't just that that she didn't see him in her future; it was the nagging suspicion that she didn't see him as anything other than an outlet for the frustration of her daily grind.

And that made him disposable.

Coupled with both of those things, the thought that this was bringing out the worst in him made him feel nauseous.

His phone felt like it was burning a hole in his pocket, but he couldn't bring himself to apologize.

Her phone was probably tucked away in her bag while she was at the trade review, anyway. She might not see it for hours and he'd be sitting here checking his phone obsessively for a response.

Bitterness rose like bile, momentarily paralyzing his thought process.

He took a long draw from his glass and ran a hand across his face, but it was a while before he realized that - whether or not he was big enough to admit it to anyone else - he had his share of blame to shoulder.

Danny exhaled before taking another long draw from his glass, but the next big thought formulated in his mind long before the alcohol burnt a trail down his throat.

The argument in the street had been one of those moments in life when things crystallize.

For better or for worse, he'd taken a stand for himself.

She really did have to make the decision to make him a part of her life - because he clearly didn't have it in him to subjugate his needs any more.

It wouldn't be fair to him and it wouldn't be fair to her.

Several variants of the conversation they'd had at 6.45am that morning would become part of their repertoire.

A series of veiled volleyed accusations - and neither one of them deserved that.

As he refreshed his glass he recognized the dull ache in his chest for what it was; the sadness inherent in knowing that something you thought you had was slipping through your fingers.

He didn't allow himself to wonder whether she would call, but he did let his mind drift back to the night at the restaurant when he'd asked her why she'd come to meet him.

"I wanted to see you."

He'd thought his heart was going explode.

Her left shoulder had twitched slightly as she spoke, and he wondered randomly whether she knew that little twitch was her emotional tell.

A rush of unbidden emotion surged through him, but it wasn't anger.

There were only the vestiges of anger there now.

Whether she was aware of it or not, the ball was officially in her court.

The bigger question was .. would she play ball?

Apparently he wasn't going to have to wait very long to find out.

A knock on the door pulled him from his thoughts, and he wondered absently whether the trade review had ended early.

"Good evening, Sir."

He waved the agent inside and looked at CJ across the threshold.

It didn't escape his notice that she was shifting from side to side, that her body language screamed defensiveness, and that she was still having trouble looking him in the eye.

She also looked as though she'd been crying.

None of it boded well.

"Thank you, Sir."

"Thank you."

Danny closed the door gently behind her and fortified himself with some more alcohol before turning to look at her.

He watched as she tightened the belt on her coat before launching into an impassioned spiel about missing the window; calling him condescending into the bargain.

Cutting him off when he tried to explain to her that it had not been his intention.

"I don't know how to do it. Maybe at one point I did, maybe I never did, but it's over now. It's too late. This and skiing, it's too late. It's not gonna happen."

He wasn't sure what skiing had to do with anything but it was crystal clear to him that she'd rehearsed this on the way over.

That she was looking for an out.

"CJ .."

"You said yourself, it's not an accident that this hasn't come together."

He'd said no such thing, but he let it slide.

"I'm good at my job, Danny. I'm good at working, I'm not good at this."

She waved her hands in the space between them, and he knew that the next words out of his mouth would either defuse the situation or escalate it.

He wasn't ready to give up on what they had, so it was go big or go home.

"You're right, you suck at it. You're going to need a tremendous amount of training."

"You're not going to -

"I am, actually."

"- train me!"

Judging by the flash of disbelief on her face, he'd caught her off guard.

"I'll call it something else - that sounds bad - but we'll deal with it."

"I don't need training."

"No, of course not."

He looked down, intensely aware that she was watching him and that she'd caught his change in expression.

"That's not funny."

"No it isn't. You're gonna get good at it. " He took a step closer towards her and changed the pronoun to include both of them. "We're going to get good at new things."

"You don't know that."

Her left shoulder twitched, and it took Danny a split second to decide where his strategy was going next.

"I do."

"Don't make it sound like it's nothing."

"You didn't miss it."

"What if I did?"

"You didn't miss it .."

"What if we can't -"

She'd changed the pronoun, too.

"We'll figure it out, all of it."

He heard her deep heavy sigh, and pressed his advantage.

"You can be scared. That's okay. But you're not going to walk away from me because you're scared. I'm not that scary."

She would either walk or capitulate - and he felt a flare of unease when she put her hand into her coat pocket and shortly thereafter pulled her belt tight again.

But when she spoke again she wasn't defensive, she was nervous.

"So, uh, do you want me to take one of the board of directors jobs? It's only a couple of hours a month."

He couldn't possible be hearing this right.

She was avoiding confrontation because confrontation was uncomfortable?

Worse still, was she .. placating him?

This was about the fundamental difference between listening and hearing what was actually being said.

Anger rushed into his words before he was even aware of it.

"Where the hell did that come from?"

"I'm trying. You want to be involved, I'm-"

"I want you to do what you want. Take the job at the White House. I just want you to talk to me about it. I want us to talk about what it'll mean and how we'll make it work. I want us to talk like we're going to figure it out together. I want us to talk because I like the sound of your voice. I just want to talk."

He knew the moment her eyes welled up with tears that he'd gotten through to her, and hope burgeoned inside him when she brought up Franklin Hollis and his offer.

"That sounds like fun," he said as he stepped a little closer. "Does that sound like fun to you? "

She nodded, her gaze fixed on him as though she was experiencing an epiphany of sorts.

Or maybe she'd given up the fight and made a choice.

"Do you want to work at the White House?" he asked, watching her closely.

Knowing full well that he was asking her to choose a new life with him over duty.

CJ shook her head.

Slowly at first, and then with a bit more vigour as he smiled at her.

She closed her eyes and swallowed compulsively.

"There's a typo in the Constitution," she said when she looked up.

Not what he'd been expecting, but Danny didn't miss a beat.

"Well, someone should look into that."

"Toby's going to deal with it."

He wasn't sure when Toby had come back into the picture, but it could only be a good thing.

"Okay. What else?"

For a second he thought that she was back in fight or flight mode, but he opted not to push.

"Margaret and Charlie were packing up my office when I got in this morning."

"I guess they had to start sometime," he said understandingly as he moved closer.

She nodded but didn't answer, and he could sense the emotion lurking just under the surface.

"Would you like to give me your coat?"

She looked up at him through tired eyes, but took it off and handed it over.

"It was a bad day today, Danny."

He wondered what else had happened that she wouldn't be able to tell him about, and almost apologized for his own behaviour.

But he resisted the temptation, and simply reached out and squeezed her shoulder.

Life had taught him that sometimes you needed a pile up to help you break down the elements of your life that you wanted to hold on to.

"Have you eaten anything at all today?" he inquired gently.

"A few pieces of rosemary chicken."

"Want me to fix something for you?"

He knew her first instinct was to say no, but she took a breath and accepted.

A step in the right direction, he surmised.

"This is nice .." she said as she twirled some spaghetti around her fork a short while later.

Somewhere in the back of his mind he wondered if she'd realized that he'd replicated her meal at the restaurant in October.

"Plenty more where that came from .." he said with a nod towards a pot on the stove.

"Matt Santos did a real number on my head today," she said suddenly.

Danny listened as she told him about the two separate conversations with the President-Elect.

"Why does this feel so complicated?" she asked.

"Because you're still in Chief of Staff mode. Matt Santos made you an offer and told you you couldn't refuse it. He knew what he was doing. You've been conditioned to think this way."

"I'm saying no first thing tomorrow."

"Okay," he said as he took her plate and rinsed it. "Tell me more about Frank Hollis?"

"He feels that holding on to all of his money is going to seem .. impolite."

"I can see how he would think that," Danny said with a chuckle. "The tax write offs won't hurt, though."

"He wants to work on a single problem."

"Was he looking for suggestions?"

"He was."

"What did you suggest?"

"Highways, then plumbing. In Africa. I told him it was unsexy," she added as he dropped onto the couch next to her. "And that it would make for a lousy telethon .

"And I bet he lapped it up."

CJ smiled.

"He seems to think I have a unique perspective," she said with a waggle of her shoulders.

"He's right," Danny said as he brought her hand to his mouth and kissed it. "You do."

CJ smiled as her head dropped to his shoulder.

"You really think we'll figure it out?" she said after a while.

"I do."

"You do realize neither one of us has any actual experience, right? It will be like the blind leading the blind."

"Speak for yourself. I was married for eighteen months."

CJ sat up straight.

"You were married? I didn't know that. When?"

"It fizzled out at the start of the first campaign trail."

"I'm sorry .."

"Don't be. She's happily remarried. Great guy, nice house, got the kids she wanted."

"Glad that worked out."

"Me too. She was a nice girl. Just not cut out for the pressures of Washington."

"Can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"Have you thought any more about what you want to do?"

Danny contemplated the question for a moment and then rose from the couch.

He handed her several sets of stapled papers when he returned.

CJ scanned notes from three separate meetings.

"You've had three book offers?" she asked incredulously.

"Declined the middle one. Leaning more towards the first than the third. Might consider the third when we know what role she'll play in the new administration."

"You did write the first book on Abbey. It makes sense."

"She's already authorized it, so that one's a done deal."

"Nancy McNally?"

"She scares me a little," Danny said with a chuckle.

"She doesn't scare me."

Danny laughed outright.

"I could give you pointers .." she said with a small laugh of her own.

"You could be a ghost writer."

"Why didn't you tell me any of this?" she asked as she put the papers down next to her.

Her voice had turned serious and Danny considered his response carefully.

"You didn't have the mental bandwidth for it, CJ."

"I've been here - "

"At ungodly hours," he supplied. "A quick fumble while we're both half asleep, not much talking, and then you'd be gone until you showed up again. And I was mostly okay with that until today. But .. as I believe I've said before .. there are better things ahead."

He breathed a small sigh of relief when she caught the reference and laughed.

"That Sex Ed report seems like a lifetime ago," she said as she leaned over and kissed him.

"Yet here we are, and you're still grabbing me and kissing me."

CJ snickered, and picked the papers up again.

"You really turned down the book about me?"

"I did."

"Whatever happened to being uniquely suited to minding the people's business?"

"The people deserve better than a biased read. And," he added as he placed a kiss on her mouth "I don't want to share this with the people, either."

She settled into his embrace with a contented sigh.

"You were right," she said after a while.

"I know."

"You don't even know what I'm talking about."

"I do. You're scared."

"You're not scared?"

"I've lived most of my adult life running scared, CJ. Always chasing the next big story. Afraid it wasn't going to happen, or that someone would get it first. I can't live like that anymore."

She raised her head to look at him.

"Was that a metaphor for the way you feel about me?"

He watched regret rise in her eyes the moment she realized she'd made light of what he was saying.

"You know exactly how I feel about you. I never made a secret of it. Even back then."

"And you really think we'll figure it out?"

"I do."

"I guess I didn't pick you up in a bar last Thursday .." she mused.

"What?"

"Toby reminded me that we've been close for eight years. Which I guess we have. More, if you count the campaign trail."

"You saw Toby?"

"Before I came here."

"Remind me to thank him."

"I will."

"Danny?"

His mind registered the drop in pitch immediately.

"Are you trying to seduce me?"

"I thought you liked the sound of my voice."

"I do. Especially that voice."

He brushed his lips lightly across hers.

"Can we take this into the other room?"

Her breath felt warm against the side of his face as his mouth sought hers, and he knew she was letting him lead because she could sense the need in him.

That, too, was new.

He nipped at her lower lip, and as his tongue traversed it he felt wanton desire surface in her.

He kissed her deeply then - feeling the beating of his own heart match her own.

Rapid at first, then gradually slowing its pace as they stood in each other's embrace and just held each other close.

There was no doubt in either of their minds that they needed the communion of slow healing if they were going to move past this day.

In the semi-darkness of the bedroom he waited patiently as she draped her clothes over a chair; his fingers tracing lightly up and down her arms.

He brushed a stray strand of hair from her face as she turned back to him, and then leaned in and kissed her.

Familiar stirrings started to awaken his senses as her fingers curled in his hair, and he pulled her close as the kiss became a slow burn.

She placed her hand to his knee; sliding it up his leg as their bodies move closer.

His hand reciprocated, sending shivers coursing through her.

He insinuated his other hand between them. Palming her bra to show her what he wanted.

He cupped a breast gently as she dropped her hands from him. Squeezing it through the fabric and tweaking the nipple that rose through it.

CJ smiled and took a step backwards.

Slowly, almost teasingly, she slid the straps from her arms, and then undid the clasp.

As the bra fell away from her body, the unadulterated lust in his eyes almost made her blush.

Their mouths met again; the kissing more intense as their hands began an exploration of the other's body.

CJ pushed his sweater over his shoulders; tugging impatiently when the sleeves snagged on his wrists.

She slid a hand over his chest; savouring the feel of the soft hair beneath her fingertips before closing her lips round one of his nipples.

Enjoying the way his breath hitched and the fierceness with which he gripped her shoulders.

He pushed her onto the bed and positioned himself over her.

Lips slid across her cheek; her hot breath in his ear encouraging him to rub himself against her gently.

His head dropped to her shoulder as she popped the button on his jeans; his mouth leaving a damp trail down her neck.

He paused only to divest himself of the rest of his clothes, and then he was back.

Teasing her breasts with his tongue.

Smiling when she gasped.

Shifting onto his side and pressing his fingers firmly against her panties; the dampness leaching through the scrap of silk making him tighten a little more.

He hooked his fingers into the waistband; kissing her for good measure as she raised herself to facilitate the removal of her underwear.

A shiver surged through her as his moist lips followed the panties' descent to her ankles, and as he tossed them aside Danny slid his hands gently up her legs.

Watching avidly as her body arched when he skimmed her inner thighs.

He parted them gently and moved between them again.

On another occasion he might have drawn out the foreplay, but it wasn't warranted tonight.

There was mutual understanding that they needed the closeness more than they needed the stimulation.

He murmured as she guided him inside her, and kissed him hungrily.

He tucked his arms under her back as she raised her hips to meet him; enjoying the feel of spreading her inner walls as his fingers curled round her shoulders.

She clenched her muscles tightly around him.

Making him work hard to overcome the resistance.

His thrusts increased in tempo and desperation - prompting her to drag her fingernails down his back until her hands rested on his ass.

She winced at the pain and force behind his penetration, but matched him stroke for stroke.

Cognizant, even as her world blurred around the edges, that they were navigating the depth of their emotion.

Giving themselves over to the adrenaline - and to each other.

She held him close as the last of his orgasm rippled through him, and then pressed a kiss to his temple.

"Margaret thinks that if I take the job with Franklin Hollis I'll have to relocate back to the West Coast," she said softly as she settled into his arms.

"You're gonna to have to keep a tub of sunscreen in the car."

She laughed in the darkness before adding, "I still have a house there."

"Tenants?"

"Yes."

"With a lease expiring any time soon?"

"January 14th."

"Nice house?"

"It has a pool."

"Someone should check up on it. Make sure it's ready for you to move back into."

He ran his fingers through her hair.

"Danny?"

"Yeah?"

"Do you want to check up on the house?"

He thought about it for a moment.

"Do you want to stay the night?"

He'd laid the final card on the table.

"Yes."

"Okay then." He dropped a kiss to the top of her head and slipped out of bed. "I'm gonna go deal with your security detail."

"Okay." She swung her legs out of the other side of the bed. "I'm going to go brush my teeth .. with my fingers."

She hovered in the bathroom entryway, listening for his voice as the door to the apartment cracked open.

"She's in for the night."