Danny hesitantly knocked on the Press Secretary's door the next morning. "C.J.?" he called. He turned away from the door upon hearing nothing, thinking that perhaps she just didn't want to see him. "Carol," he asked, "can you give her a message to call me?"
"Sure." Carol sighed. "But things don't look too good, so I have no idea when she'll be able to call you."
Danny blinked. "What do you mean?"
Carol looked him right in the eye and spoke. "She's thinking of quitting."
"Thanks." Danny managed to gasp out as the assistant left. Even after the differences they'd had... why did he suddenly find it hard to breathe at that thought?
He walked down the hall in a fog, narrowly missing the mail cart. Was it his question that had provoked this? Or was it a thing that had been long-building? Either way, Danny couldn't rid himself of an awful feeling of responsibility.
C.J. took extra care to appear casual as she walked into her office that morning. She nodded a hello to Carol and unlocked her inner door. It was only after she was inside that she allowed herself to smile.
Last night had been amazing. After Josh had told her to change into her new Versace, he had whisked her off to a late dinner. They'd talked, laughed, danced, and most of all kissed. He was an amazing kisser.
And no one knew! They'd taken huge precautions, been careful as could be. She had left his place earlier. No incriminating evidence. They'd cleaned up, though she'd hated it but not a soul knew where she'd been last night. Even her snoopy landlady hadn't asked questions.
She was loved. It didn't get any better than this.
C.J. smiled as she looked at her phone messages. Well, she amended, maybe it did. An evil plot was forming in her head.
"Carol," she called, "could you get me Josh on the phone?"
"Sure." A few moments passed. "Pick it up, C.J."
"Thanks." The press secretary lifted the receiver. "Josh?"
"Hey." She could just see him smiling on the other end of the line.
"I've got a great idea but I need your help."
"For revenge, you mean?" Josh cackled evilly. "What does it involve, and how many by-laws will I have to break?"
"None, I don't think." C.J. paused. How to put it? Finally, the words came. "I wanna stick it to Danny most of all. And best of all, this little stunt may help keep the press out of our love lives." She was careful to use the plural. Just in case.
Josh's tone ruined all her precautions. A deaf-mute could tell how much it warmed the phone lines. "What can I do you for, Claudia Jean?"
Absurdly, she found herself giggling like a schoolgirl. "Josh." Seriousness returned, though. "Really. The first few campaign stops are coming up in a week or so. The focus needs to be on the candidate, not us. I've found a way for that to be cemented."
"Yeah." C.J. grinned. "It involves innuendo, rumor and some careful wordplay. But no actual lying."
"I'm getting the idea." Josh sounded impressed. "I love the way you think."
She lowered her voice. "You love the way I do other things, too." Laughing, she hung up.
It only took her a moment to work out the "dialogue" for what she wanted to do. The hard part would be calling Danny.
She finally managed it, though. "Danny, could you try and get to the press room at two?"
"No problem," he said easily, and C.J. felt a rush of impotent anger. Patronizing bastard. "Why, though, C.J.? Exclusive?"
"You could call it that." C.J. fudged. "Two o'clock."
"Thanks." They disconnected, and C.J. made immediately for Josh's office.
Donna let her through with no questions asked, though she did offer one commentary: a most prodigious wink.
C.J. looked at Josh inquiringly when she walked inside. "What's with Donna?"
"Nothing." Josh shrugged. "She knows something's up, but I won't tell her what."
"Really." C.J. was a bit surprised. Josh and Donna were close, indeed. She shifted gears abruptly, though. "Okay, here's what I need you to do." She outlined the whole plan quickly.
Josh laughed long and hard when she finished. "Wow," he said, wiping tears of amusement. "It's completely unprofessional. But I'm looking forward to this."
"Great." C.J. rose. "See you at two."
She made ready to leave, but Josh caught her. "No one's watching." He kissed her quickly, but it was still enough to leave a sizzle on the edge of her tongue.
"Later, loverboy." C.J. grinned somewhat stupidly and sailed out of the room.
Two o'clock rolled around. C.J. and Josh had met up at about 1:50, and now were ready. "You got it?" C.J. asked for the last time.
"It'll be fine." Josh held the sheet of paper out in front of him. "Crack the door open."
"Okay." C.J. suited the action to the word, peering inside quickly. "He's there. And he's standing right by the door." In a whisper, she finally said it: "Go."
"Right." Josh cleared his throat and began. In a slightly louder voice, he said, "C.J., you ready for tonight?" Though his voice was loud, his tone was a replica of the amorous quality he'd used in his office earlier.
"I'm all set," she responded, trying to sound excited. "I don't think anyone will guess what's going on. Hey, do you know who Bartlet's getting for his new VP?"
"That's really a shot out of left field, isn't it?" Meaning that Bartlet has no new VP at the moment, Josh added silently, so any decision would be out of left field.
"But if I tell the press, they won't even believe me!" C.J. sighed. "I've lost credibility since Danny pulled the Hoynes thing on me."
"He's such a bastard, isn't he?" Josh threw in for effect.
C.J. grinned. "You have no idea." Getting back to the script, she added, "Well, I better go tell him what's going on. Even if he was an asshole he's the only reporter we can trust with this. This is big."
"Yeah." Josh whistled through his teeth. "I really hope you've made the right decision, C.J."
"Don't worry." C.J. sighed for effect. "I want to keep this little bundle of joy close to my heart."
"You realize the press will go nuts. And Sam might resign." Josh fought to suppress a grin as he envisioned the effect these innuendoes would undoubtedly be having on the senior White House correspondent.
"Yeah. He'll be too hot to handle." C.J. laughed. "It'll only be me that gets to wear the fireproof gloves. Because I tell you, he's flaming hot."
Josh wrinkled his nose. "That's not my business."
"Whatever. But let me go talk to Danny. Later." She laid her paper into Josh's hands and mouthed silently, "Burn these." She kissed him on the cheek and turned to go into the press room. But instead of opening it gently, she flung it open, sure to catch Danny listening.
Her hunch proved right. Danny sprang back from the door like he'd been stung. "C.J.... I, uh..."
"Danny." Her voice dripped icicles. Now, C.J. knew, was the time to go on the offensive. "You heard Josh and me talking, didn't you?"
With no time to prepare, Danny simply told the truth. "Uh, yeah, I did. And I have to say that I don't know what to comment on first."
C.J. grinned evilly. "Nothing, Danny."
"Nothing?" he echoed.
"Nothing," C.J. said calmly, and I'll tell you why." She took a deep breath. "Basically, you can't comment because you have no solid legal footing for anything."
"The hell I don't."
"No, I'm afraid I'm right." She ticked off the points one by one. "You can't say anything about a choice of VP because a), there was no name involved and b), the wording was ambiguous."
"In what way?" Danny's chin shot out pugnaciously.
"In this way." C.J. attacked. "When I said, 'Do you know who Bartlet's getting for his new VP?' it was meant as a direct question, not an expression of incredulity. And Josh's answer, 'that's out of left field, isn't it?' was meant as a rhetorical question. Meaning that the President hasn't made anything public, and no answer was implied."
C.J.'s logic converted Danny's face into a prize she would treasure. Frustrated at every etymological turn, he tried another tack. "What about the... uh... Sam situation?"
C.J. affected a carelessly sarcastic air. "Why, Danny, whatever do you mean?" She laughed. "The 'little bundle of joy'? The fact that Sam's 'flaming hot?' "
C.J. smiled her evil grin again. Now for the kill. "The newest campaign speech that will make Sam such a hot property among speechwriters? I'm not supposed to let it out until the stop." She got right in his stunned face. "Why? What were you thinking?"
"I wasn't... uh, that is..."
"Exactly. You weren't thinking." C.J.'s tone was no longer light-hearted; it was deadly. "Look, Concannon. You've been casting aspersions on me and my job. I don't like it. You're painting me as incompetent when I know what I need to know. I'm not told everything; the only person who is happens to be the Chief of Staff. And out of what I'm told, I only tell you, the press, about half to three-quarters. So why are you painting me like I'm incompetent?"
Danny had no words.
C.J. smiled, but it was fraught with intensity and malice. "Don't screw with me again, Concannon. Or I'll stomp you like a barrel of wine grapes."
"Right." Now that Danny was speaking, he was in frightened Catholic-school mode. Any minute C.J. expected him to stutter, "Y-yes, Sister."
She let him off the hook. "Get the hell out of here."
Danny merely nodded dumbly and took off. C.J. watched him go, feeling an enormous sense of pride. She'd bested him on his own terms. She was the master of wordplay again. And this time, she'd be damned if she'd let anyone take that title again.