Title: Four Hours
Author: CGB (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rating: R or something. Some adults doing the wild
thing here kiddies avert your eyes.
Feedback: Yes please
Disclaimer: yadda yadda not mine yadda yadda actually
I don't know who owns them...Aaron Sorkin on his own?
Summary: Four hours on Air Force One proves to be a
little too hard to handle.
Some background: August suggested I write a story
about the missing four hour flirtation on Air Force
One mentioned in her story "Paper Replicates". Because
I needed an idea and because I loved that story I took
her up on it. The theme of this story is inspired by
a line from that story "You see, words are everything
to me, CJ, they're all I have (Toby)"
This theme has been touched upon by August and
Penelopody since so I guess that line had quite an
impact. Always a good thing, right A.?
When they discussed it, and they never discussed it,
when they exchanged breathless promises to themselves
and each other in heated moments, they insisted it
would never be like this. Not like this.
She'd been reading the tax reform report but she
couldn't make sense of it. The words swam around the
screen slipping into one another. The political jargon
was repetitive and complex. Josh had told her not to
attempt to read it on the plane but she couldn't
resist getting a head start on it, even if it was just
to know she'd seen the words before.
But she was easily distracted. Her thoughts roamed,
coming to rest of the notion of language and the
mutation of language that constituted political
jargon. She mused on the stages of evolution that
took place from the moment the 'rah rah' became known
as the large creature with the imposing incisors to
the appearance of such wonders of poetics as words
like 'multi-tasking' and 'globalisation', although
from what she understood that was just one theory on
the development of language in human beings. She liked
She knew a great deal about language and linguistics
and about the origins of words and phrases. It was a
prerequisite for the job. Taking on the press room
meant knowing stupid things, like the development of
the term 'networking' for example or the meaning of
'nescient', which some ostentatiously clever person
had chosen to include in the report she was reading.
It was a useful word. The kind of word she'd expect
to hear Toby use in a speech.
No, it was the kind of word Toby hurled up people who
really were nescient just because he'd know they
wouldn't know what he was talking about. He loved
that kind of cruel irony.
And there it was. She'd meandered and circled but, as
was inevitable, her preoccupation with words and
language led her to thinking about Toby Zeigler.
She had resolved not to think about him after finding
herself executing somersaults in her head in an effort
to determine the exact nature of their relationship,
it's implications and potential hazards. Normally an
organized and disciplined person, she had been
confident of deriving a solution to the chaos that was
Toby and herself, but she wound up confused and
frustrated and angry with herself for starting
something she had no idea how to finish.
She wisely told herself to find another subject to
dwell on but she hadn't slept in forty hours and words
like 'nescient' were getting stuck in her head and
bouncing around in there long enough to lose all
semblance of meaning.
She gave in and quickly risked a side long glance at
the figure across the cabin. He was sleeping. She
decided she would punish him severely for such an
obviously display of callousness when she was only six
feet away from him. She thought perhaps she could
refuse his advances the next time they were offered
but she couldn't really be sure there would be a next
The last time, a heady moment in her office late at
night that still made her cheeks flush thinking about
it, they'd agreed that the possibility of continuing
their covert encounters was ludicrous.
"This has to be the last time," she' d said.
He nodded, "it won't happen again."
And they didn't talk about what 'it' was or why it
wouldn't happen again or why it shouldn't happen
again, but went home in separate cars soaking up the
smell of mixed sweat and semen still volatile on their
But she knew the conviction behind the words could not
be trusted because they'd made similar vows before
only to denounce them days later.
They were just words. The language, well the language
was something else entirely.
He was pretending to be asleep. At one stage he was
actually trying to sleep but he gave up on that idea
when he caught CJ leaning back against her seat
rubbing her neck with her eyes closed. He knew now
that any attempt to take that image into slumber was
likely to be met with resistance from other parts of
So he feigned sleep because it was the next best thing
and because his position with his legs up on the table
in front of him afforded him the best vantage point in
the cabin from which to observe CJ's private
She was looking at her monitor only he'd noticed that
she hadn't raised a finger to the keyboard in the last
fifteen minutes. She was wide awake so he had to
assume she was completely engrossed in something
taking place somewhere other than on her computer
He was faced with a most intriguing question. What was
going on in CJ Gregg's mind? He was arrogant enough to
hope it had something to do with him but not so
arrogant that he would suspect her thoughts of him to
Here was a woman who had set them both on the path of
sexual misdemeanors by saying, "Toby, take me home now
because I'm about to change my mind and I really think
we should have sex," and like a deer caught in her
headlights he'd responded, "OK."
It wasn't that she'd issued him an ultimatum, or that
he felt pressured into compliance, he knew as she did,
that it was the right time. It was the only time.
She closed the laptop and leaned back into her chair
taking in the man sleeping across from her. She was
surprised when he opened his eyes and stared right
They stared at each other blankly for a few moments
until Toby said, "I assume the reason you're staring
at me is not because I have drool coming out the side
of my mouth?"
She broke into a grin and he grinned back and they
grinned at each other like silly teenagers until they
became suddenly conscious of where they were and CJ
did a quick scan of their surrounds to see if anyone
It wasn't supposed to be like this that much she was
sure of. It wasn't supposed to be anything at all but
if it must be something then it probably shouldn't be
these mindless moments where they flaunted an
undeniable attraction for all to see.
She placed the laptop on the table in front of her.
"I have to go to the bathroom," she said and he nodded
as she rose.
By some strange compulsion she found herself walking
past him close enough to brush her thigh against his
shoulder, a light touch but its effect was
substantial. She clenched her hands into fists hoping
to exorcise some of her nervous energy. It wasn't
working. Perhaps it was sleep deprivation. She felt
like she was on the verge of exploding.
In the staff's bathroom on Air Force One she ran her
hands under cold water and splashed her face. She
thought of the age old remedy of taking cold showers
to quell a sexual appetite and knew that on Air Force
One she could consider it seriously.
She doubted the cure was as effective as mythology
made it out to be she really didn't want to take a
cold shower to prove a point.
What she really wanted to do was go back to her seat,
sit down and treat the situation calmly and
reasonably. They were on Air Force One surrounded by
their colleagues and the press not to mention the
President of the United States and she really should
think about something else, anything else, and oh god,
she really couldn't go back out there with her pupils
dilated and her hands struggling to find somewhere
they could just sit still.
She breathed deeply and willed her heatbeat to slow,
remembering that the last thing she wanted to do was
give Toby Zeigler the satisfaction of knowing she'd
hyperventilated in the bathroom over him.
She opened the door and stepped out to face the object
of her distress.
"Toby, " she said, taking a moment to compose herself,
"would you use the word 'nescient' in a sentence?"
He looked momentarily thrown and she was pleased
because she didn't know what he expected and she
doubted he did either, but it wasn't that.
She raised her eyebrows.
"Spoken or written?"
"You say words you wouldn't write or is it the other
"It goes either way," he looked down at her hand
resting one in the other in front of her. He reached
out to run a finger across her knuckles. "You'll
notice the President doesn't refer to a 'thing' he has
with relatives in Delaware, but you'll also notice
that I'd call Josh an idiot before I referred to him
"Mmhm," she murmured, "what about 'gloaming'?"
"From Old English 'glom' meaning the evening twilight.
Have you ever referred to the evening as gloaming?"
His finger still caressed her knuckle. She looked down
at where the hands met and then up at his eyes. They
were closer. She thought they might kiss in what was
no doubt going to be a clinical example of throwing
all caution to the wind. As they were their backs hid
their touching hands but anyone catching them standing
this close was doubtlessly going to wonder what the
Press Secretary and the Communications Director had to
say to each other that required them to stand so their
noses were almost clashing.
"I think," he said, and now he had taken her hand and
was applying some pressure to her palm, "that
Bartlet's disease is contagious."
And she thought that might be it, the end of it all,
as they got swept into an irretrievable moment, but
Sam's voice was heard breaking the tension.
They parted quickly, and she stumbled back to her
seat. She checked her watch. Two and half hours to go
before they touched down. She didn't consider herself
a religious person but she was about to implore
whatever deities had put her in this situation to
grant her the relief of sleep for the remainder of the
After attending to Sam, he went back to his seat he
saw that CJ was absent. He was surprised to find
himself slightly dejected by this. He began to
reprimand himself for his rather bold display minutes
earlier outside the bathroom. He really didn't know
what he was doing. And he was so used to knowing what
he was doing. This spontaneity in him was
unrecognizable as the Toby Zeigler he knew and
And that was the strangest thing to say about himself
because he'd been in love, got married and done all
the things associated such as propose on buses and
have sex in her parents' kitchen. He'd been wild and
he'd been frivolous so when did he start thinking of
himself as an austere and serious presence?
But this was different, so very different. Aside from
the fact that they really hadn't qualified this
relationship and flinging such words as 'love' into
the arena was probably wildly inappropriate, if not
downright stupid, this was a relationship forged in
the prime of their careers. This was it. This was the
height of their lives and it felt out of control,
dangerous, to be in each other's company because the
view from the pinnacle was dazzling.
And yet none of it, nothing could erase the memory he
had of her when he had slipped her gown from her
shoulders and kissed her collarbone for the first time
and she had moaned softly and looked at him like she
might have been ready to drown with him.
He had a dream that he remembered at the strangest
times. He was driving his car off an exit ramp, when
he realized there were cars coming towards him in the
opposite direction and he had no where to turn. It's
not that it was like that from time to time. It was
like that all the time.
Charlie was standing before him in his now familiar
'I'm sorry to have to do this to you but he's the
"The President said that if you were awake you might
like to join them."
"The President and CJ."
He nodded and rose and thought, for the life of him he
really should have pretended to be asleep.
"Toby sit down," Barlet was making wide gestures as he
often did when he was in a good mood.
The senior staff had made an art out of their excuses
to escape the President when he was in a good mood.
Toby was, of course, particularly artistic in that
area only he wasn't making excuses now and he really
did want to be sitting down listening to whatever wild
tale the President was telling if CJ was willing to do
so as well.
"Toby, CJ was telling me that you were having an very
interesting discussion about the use of the words
'nescient' and 'gloaming'?"
"Mr President, 'interesting' is a poorly chosen
adjective for the Press Secretary's startling
repartee" he deadpanned. CJ raised an eyebrow and
Bartlett looked skeptical. The President was astute
enough to know when the staff played games with one
another but he generally let them determine the
outcome on their own.
"Is that so?" he said, and they were lectured at
length on the peculiarities of the English language
only it didn't matter because every now and then Toby
caught CJ pulling a lock of her out of her eyes or
flicking lint from the top of her blouse just above
her breast and he relaxed comfortably into the
pleasure of figuring, knowing this show was just for
Air Force One touched down in the Capital at 3.30 am.
The tired and disgruntled passengers were herded into
their respective vehicles and taxis. CJ had driven and
a dutiful Secret Service Agent had offered to
accompany her to her car.
"It's OK," Toby had interjected not really knowing
whether it was or whether he had the right to say so
but he hadn't slept in over forty hours and all reason
and sensibility had vanished long ago.
She had raised eyebrows at him but said nothing.
They'd walked to her car in silence. He with his hands
in his pockets and his bag slung over his shoulder,
her carrying hand luggage and trying not to look at
She'd stepped off the plain thinking practical
thoughts in her head like a mantra. They had to go
home, to sleep, to prepare for the morning that was
only another four hours away, they had to change
clothes, read notes, check their answering machines,
and she had to do all these things. She really had to.
Finally she spoke. She had arrived at her car and was
leaning against the driver's door, waiting for the
end, the finale, the round up for the four hours of
mania they had just experienced.
"God, it's 4 am. I'm have to be back at the white
House at eight thirty! Toby do I get paid enough for
this?" she was nervous. They weren't moving. He had
his hands in his pockets and he was only inches away
and they both needed sleep but they weren't moving.
"If I told you 'no' would you still be there at 8.30
She fumbled in her purse for keys. She looked down for
a moment searching, and then back up again at his
face. He was staring at her, unflinching.
Her fingers tightened around her keys and she told
herself she needed to open her car door, get in and
drive home, because she needed the three hours of
sleep she was still likely to get tonight.
Instead, she leaned forward, acting on an impulse, and
kissed him. He returned the kiss pushing her back
against the car and pushing himself against her body
She found herself unlocking the door and they stumbled
into the back seat. Toby was tugging at the front of
her blouse. She lost three buttons in his haste to
undress her but she only noticed when she tried to
dress herself again later.
She noticed, however when his hands touched her skin.
When his mouth felt warm and wet on her collar bone
and her neck as he whispered to her that she was
beautiful and that he had tried, god he'd tried, to
keep his hands off her but her couldn't.
She was saying the same words back. Speaking the
language of two people who had a relationship, had
something, not just an attraction that was harboured
and only taken out to sail when it could be kept under
And she was amazed that she had never learned, but
spoke this language so well.
They were all hands and legs. All sighs and moans and
clothing half on and half off. He could feel the
protruding bone of her thigh as he ran his hand down
her body, slipping his fingers between them, desperate
to see her face in ecstasy.
He thought he might have told her he loved her only
she'd not responded so maybe he'd said it to himself.
Or had she ignored it?
He lost sight of himself during these times. Forgot
that he was the Communications Director of the White
House, a very important man and major influence in the
politics of the nation, forgot he had these duties,
these responsibilities and expectations. Forgot that
he was this person who hears his own words from the
And he forgot that the woman underneath him was the
White House Press Secretary and had just as many
obligations and expectations.
He'd lose himself in her and she'd grip his shoulders
and when they spoke neither one of them heard.
Eventually she came back down and realized that she
was half undressed in a parking lot near Air Force
One. She had visions of the Secret Service shining
their torches into the car and the two of them, her
minus the buttons on her blouse, staring at their feet
like naughty school children and that was the last
thing she wanted to happen.
No. The last thing she wanted to happen was to find
that it was not the Secret Service outside but some
particularly tenacious photographer who just knew
where to find the picture to make his or her career.
"I should take you home," she offered. He had tossed
his tie into his pocket and shoved his hand in there
after it. He looked rumpled, as if he'd just woken up
and she was momentarily reminded that their prospects
for much needed sleep were now dwindling.
"It's OK, I'll sleep in the office."
"Are you sure?"
She got back in her car and started the engine. He
leant in to kiss her and she smiled as he pulled away.
"Seeyou tomorrow," he said softly.
"It already is tomorrow," she said, equally soft.
She thought about it later, that there must have been,
must be some point in evolution where the language,
the words, took flight and left a trail of broken
meanings and misunderstood concepts behind, so that
one could now speak without ever having to say
She had spent the last five hours or so talking to
Toby without touching on the relevant or pertinent
issues of their dalliance, and yet somehow they both
understood that the culmination of the dialogue would
be a completely reckless attempt to realize a teenage
ideal by making out in the back seat of a car.
She was tired. Words and meaning always assaulted her
when she was tired and words, well, thinking about
words always ended with Toby and she really needed to
sleep right now.