Notes: This is my first West Wing fic. I appear to be going through a series of one night stands with shows. Who'd have thought?
In the back of a car that is winding through the streets of Washington DC, he is kissing her. As they had waited for the driver to pull up to the curb, they had stood too close in front of too many people. He had not touched her, exactly, but let his fingers draw across the side of her skirt. They both looked away. And now here they are, his hand on her thigh as the street lights they pass under momentarily light their faces.
In the back of a White House car, Toby Ziegler is kissing her in her two thousand dollar dress, which, she would later try and convince herself, was how it had all started.
She'd been feeling old, or something. She'd been feeling something for a while now but there had always been trips, and press conferences and sometimes Danny. But there'd been other things too, like keeping Leo out of the papers and Josh out of himself. And Toby, but that still stung too much to think about.
So she bought this dress that she could never afford, that she'd wear maybe five times. And she stood in the middle of the White House ballroom and let Abby introduce her to doctors; let herself forget that she gave up a half million dollar a year career to work at the White House or that Toby had never really said it nice, after all.
She cornered him at the bar.
"I'm wearing a two thousand dollar dress, Toby."
He studies her for a moment, before turning to catch a waiter's eye.
Arming them with drinks, he looks down and then at her again. "I thought, maybe,
there was still going to be this thing between us. After this India-Pakistan-"
There's a second, only a second of silence.
"How can you afford a two thousand dollar dress, CJ? Are you independently
She laughs honestly at his, and people turn to look. Toby pretends not to notice her standing there, and for a second she feels like doubling over, like falling on the floor in laughter.
He comes at her with narrow eyes. "The thing is, I was right. And you were right.
And that's the way it's sometimes going to-"
She saw it then, like breaking bone, the tightening of his eyes, the structure finally snapping clean away. She wasn't scared of him, ever, but there was something that scared her and she felt like she was always too far away to see it.
"I've got a thing..." He coughs, and looks over her shoulder. "I've..."
And he walks away.
There was this language, this dialogue that they'd started using. She wasn't sure when it happened, but they all did it, the senior aides. Carol had cornered her just yesterday and asked her if Leo's thing was separate to Sam's thing, which, by the way, she had to make an appointment with the guy to confirm.
She had nodded and said, "okay."
Carol had laughed.
It wasn't cloak and mirrors, it was their way of not having to remind themselves that they sometimes did the things they didn't want to. Or, like Toby, sometimes they had to just walk away.
She finds she can't remember the last meaningful conversation she had with someone that wasn't about a thing with some guy. She finds that a two thousand dollar dress and expensive champagne doesn't make that any less real.
Someone had recognised her in Starbucks the other day. Usually, she would have entered it into the 'obscure spotting' competition they'd been having, despite the fact that no one could compete with Josh's groupies. Usually...
Her glass is empty, again, and she thinks that maybe this is a sign she should go home. She feels like a Sinatra impersonator at Vegas, all dressed up but playing to a crowd that ran out of money on the slots. She tries to estimate how many steps it would take to cross the ballroom, how many Senators and delegates she would have to avoid.
"I noticed the dress when you walked in. I notice everything CJ, I watch everything." The words come quickly from behind her, and for a second she's not sure if she even heard them.
She turns to face him, and he is holding a glass out for her. She knows it's an apology, it's his apology and she takes it.
He is speaking. "Before now, my favourite was that black dress, with...", he gestures around his neck, "with that neck. But now..." He stares at her.
And, for the first time, maybe ever, she stares back at him without hesitation. And it's like ice, like being trapped under ice, or in a coffin with only a cigarette lighter, like being trapped in a Tom Waits song.
And it's beauty and it's hesitation and it's slowly, slowly everything.
"The President gave me the heads up on you two." They both turn to face Leo, who was talking out of the side of his mouth in that 'if this gets in the papers I'm going to kick someone's arse' way. "Quit it, and I mean now. If you can't stop arguing for one evening, I don't want to see you within twenty feet of each other."
"Leo-" Toby begins.
"-No. Absolutely no 'Leo, but.' Work it out, or stand at opposite ends of the room. And do it now." He walks away before they can answer.
When she finally dares herself to look at him again, there's a small whip of a smile on his face. He leans in to her, and whispers.
"CJ, are you drunk?"
"Come home with me, Toby?" Sshe says, not suddenly but looking at his hands gripping his glass.
He doesn't answer, but steps forward and quickly runs a finger across the thin shoulder strap of her two thousand dollar dress, pressing hard at the point of rest on her back. And she doesn't look at him, doesn't glance, but walks across the ballroom, smiling as she hears him follow.
And so they hit the pavement, and they're waiting for her driver, and there's this thing...this thing as they both look at the wet street and not each other. And she steals a glance and he's smiling and she wants to kiss him, right there. And then they're in her car and the window's up and it's just them.
And he doesn't sit opposite her, but next to her, so that their legs touch and he's playing with her fingers and kissing her neck and it's something.
"Are we going to do this, CJ?" He says, pressing down on her fingernails,
turning her palm over in his hand, tracing lines to her wrist. She thinks maybe no one has
ever studied her like this before.
And he laughs them, louder than she's ever heard before. He throws his headback and when it comes down again, she's kissing him.
And it's something. It's something.