"This is a beautiful piece of music, do you know it? Listen... That, right there... It's miraculous."
Josh Lyman ~ The Crackpots and These Women
He was eight the first time he noticed Joanie leaving the house early on Saturday morning. He watched for weeks and it was always the same, 8:30 Joanie would come down the stairs in a nice skirt and slip out the front door, an hour later she would return humming to herself as she slipped back up to her room.
He just had to know (his mother said he wanted to know too much), so one Saturday he woke up early, put on his nice pants and stood by the front door.
“Take me with you,” he hadn't asked and Joanie hadn't really answered, just held the door open as he slipped under her arm.
Of all the places he imagined Joanie sneaking out to, St. Mark's never crossed his mind. But here they are, two Jewish children sitting in the back row of a Catholic church, and he keeps waiting for some one to notice and throw them out.
Before anyone does he hears a sound, almost like a soft sigh, and then there is music everywhere. Next to him Joanie has her eyes closed and one hand is slowly waving back and forth.
“What is it?” he whispers.
“Schubert,” she answers, “Played on a pipe organ.”
The music is joined by a woman's voice, singing out clear and strong and for a moment Josh thinks that this is what heaven is like.
Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Maria, gratia plena,
Maria, gratia plena,
The door was open slightly and the light at his desk was left on, as if it was any other light night emergency and he had just stepped out for a second to talk with Sam or Leo.
Slowly CJ walked into the office, her hand trailing along the edge of the desk as she went. She found herself looking at his the stereo and a stack of CDs piled haphazardly next to and remembered another late night, though that night the crisis had been personal.
He had surprised her that night, reminded her that Bartlett's Bulldog – for all of his running off at the mouth – had such a tender heart. “You're very sweet some times, you really are,” she had told him after he had ranted about smallpox and some crazy guy walking into Time Square with a test tube.
But for all of his doomsday ramblings he hadn't mentioned walking out of a building and being shot in the chest because some insane assassin was a lousy shot.
Pushing away that thought with a shake of her head, she flipped through the CD cases until she found the one she was looking for then turned and left the office, turning the lights off and closing the door behind her.
No one bothered her before she got to her office and shut the door, and she was glad of that. She wanted some time to be alone, without people interrupting her thoughts, and she hoped they would respect the closed door.
She looked at the CD, then briefly shut her eyes. She didn't have a rosary with her, but... "Hail Mary, full of grace," she murmured, then put the CD in her stereo and hit play.
Surrounding herself in the music, CJ let herself fall backwards onto her couch. She thought first about calling the hospital and getting an update on Josh and the President, but she didn't really want to move. Then she thought about taking a nap – but no. There was too much going on, and she needed to be ready to deal with it. She probably shouldn't even be taking this much of a break.
There was a knock on the door, and CJ muffled a groan. She may have felt guilty for wanting a break, but still, she had been hoping for a longer one.
“Come in,” she called as she sat up.
“Hey.” There stood Danny, silhouetted in the light from the bullpen.
“Danny, I don't – ”
“I'm not here as a reporter right now, CJ,” He said quickly, cutting her off as he stepped into the room and closed the door. "I wanted to see how you were doing."
"I'm fine," CJ said automatically.
"You sure?" he asked, sitting down on the couch so his body to face hers.
The words of the second verse rang out from the stereo and she felt the tears beginning to form, “No.”
Nunc et in hora mortis,
In hora mortis nostrae.
In hora, hora mortis nostrae,
In hora mortis nostrae.
“Good evening, ma'am.”
The voice was pitched low in deference to both herself and the fact that on stage the baritone was singing something bouncy in German.
“What the hell are you doing here, Josh?”
The fun thing about being First Lady was that she didn't have to defer to anyone.
“Ma'am?” Josh's eyebrows are sky-high.
“If my ass of a husband dragged you to this before you're ready to deal with it – ”
“Not at all, Mrs. Bartlett,” and now he's smiling. “This is one I like and it's not that often you get to hear Schubert sung in the original German.”
On stage a young woman begins to sing.
“If you're lying to me, Josh, I'll kick your ass.”
Aus diesem Felsen starr und wild
Soll mein Gebet zu dir hin wehen.
Wir schlafen sicher bis zum Morgen,
Ob Menschen noch so grausam sind
She takes a moment to consider his reply before again stating, “You're joking.”
His answer is too swift, and now her senses are on alert, “You are trying, in what you must think is a clever way, to some how fool me.”
“God, Donna! I'm not joking! I am one-hundred percent sincere in this request.”
She can't help but smile, “Honestly sincere?” She put a hand on his chest, over his heart, “Do you feel it here? Cus if you feel here then you've gotta be – ”
“Would you stop it with the songs already? You're the Chief of Staff for the First Lady, get her to invite the cast of “Glee” to the White House – and don't think that you can change the topic!”
Well, it had been an opening, “Change the topic?”
Why is he being so pig headed about this? “Okay, Josh. Setting aside the fact that neither one of us actively practice our faiths; you're Jewish and I'm Methodist, how would a Catholic hymn be appropriate for our – secular – wedding?”
“I'm not asking for the hymn, what I'm suggesting is an instrumental version.”
She pulls out an old, but true trick, “Instrumental?”
“No singing at all.”
Okay, working, “No singing?”
“Just a piano.”
“Piano?” and there's the crack that she's been waiting for.
“Mom has a recording of Joanie playing.”
And that right there is why she puts up with all of the yelling and late nights and political craziness, “Oh, Josh.”
She is going to marry the sweetest man in the world, and Ave Maria is going to play while she does.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus