Toby had heard the gossip around the office; the quiet whispers of a relationship between C.J. and Danny. He had never given it much credence. C.J. would never fall for Concannon. He wasnít her type. Not to mention the huge conflict of interest. The gossip was wrong. Carol, Bonnie, and the rest were just letting their overactive imaginations get the better of them.
Or maybe thatís just what he needed to believe. Because the fact of the matter was, he was now being presented with evidence to the contrary. He heard her glorious laughter ringing in the hall. He saw her beautiful smile and the twinkle in her eye. And he watched in anguish as she kissed the red haired reporter. She kissed him.
Then, their eyes met. Quickly, he looked away.
Her mind raced as she saw Toby in her doorway. What was he thinking? What would he say? Would he tell Leo? What had she seen in his eyes before he looked away? Why for one moment did he look like he had lost his best friend? She felt a slight glimmer of hope race through her heart before she locked it away again, not ready to recognize or deal with those feelings, yet.
"I didnít mean to interrupt," Toby finally said gruffly, his eyes darting around the room, careful not to look at C.J. or Danny.
"No problem," Danny replied cheerfully. "Iíll leave and let you guys get some work done." Usually, his observant nature would have clued him in to the tension in the room, but that had taken a back seat to more baser emotions when he felt her soft lips on his cheek. He headed for the door. "Iím sure you have a lot to do before rolling out our newest Justice on Thursday," he said casually to Toby. "Good night, C.J. Bye, Toby."
Unable to find her voice, C.J. just smiled half-heartedly at him, then looked back down to her desk. Her gaze landed on her new goldfish, Gail. The corners of her mouth curled up as she watched the small fish swim around in her tank. What a simple life. All Gail had to worry about was food. Food. Damn, Danny forgot to give her some fish food to feed Gail. Sheíd have to ask Carol to get some tomorrow. Maybe she should take Gail home with her and keep her there. But, then who would feed her when C.J. was away on a trip? The sound of her door closing and Tobyís rough voice snatched her from her thoughts.
"What the hell was that?!"
Finally, an outlet for all of the pain and heartbreak he was feeling. Wrath. Ire. Those were emotions he was more comfortable with. This was his safe ground.
Her head snapped up. "Excuse me?"
"Did you tell him it was Mendoza, C.J.?"
"Of course I didnít tell him. And I resent that question," she replied; her embarrassment now giving way to anger. Okay. She could handle anger. That was safe.
"Well, I donít think itís a completely illogical assumption when I walk in on you and that reporter kissing and then as he leaves he offhandedly mentions the Presidentís nominee for the Court with a smug smirk on his face. I donít think itís completely unreasonable to think maybe you said something to him about Mendoza. That would sure qualify as the scoop of the week for Mr. Paperboy."
"As always, your logic is impeccable, Toby," she fired back. "Iíve spent almost a year ensuring the press knows only what we want them to know and only when we want them to know it. But, this was just too good, Toby," she said sarcastically. "Telling a journalist the Presidentís nominee for the Court almost three whole days before the President was going to announce it himself was just too juicy for me to sit on. So, I very publicly invite Danny into my office, leave the door open so anyone who passes by can hear what we are saying, then precede to spill my guts about Mendoza. Yeah, I think thatís a completely reasonable conclusion for you to come to after witnessing a very innocent gesture of friendship."
"Then why did he just say something about the newest Justice?"
"I donít know, Toby!" She threw her arms up in frustration. "Maybe he was referring to the press release that you wrote and issued this morning talking about rolling out the Presidentís nominee for the Court on Thursday. Do you think maybe thatís a possibility?"
"He was smirking, C.J.! Obviously he knows something."
"You know, some people smile because there is no reason not to, Toby! I understand thatís a little difficult for you to believe, but trust me," she said sardonically. "Oh, but thereís something else you have a hard time doing, isnít it?"
"You canít have a relationship with Danny, C.J."
"Number one, My relationship with Danny is professional," she replied. "Number two, if I did want to pursue a personal relationship with him, it would be none of your business!"
"It is nothing but my business," he yelled. "I am the White House Communications Director! The Press Secretary cannot have a relationship with the Senior White House correspondent or any other reporter for that matter!"
"So, youíre saying photographers are still on the table?"
"Toby! This conversation is ridiculous."
"It is not ridiculous," he snapped. "Itís very serious, and I am having a difficult time with the fact that you donít seem to realize that. Does the the phrase Ďconflict of interestí mean anything to you?"
"Weíre professionals, Toby. We can be trusted to leave our work at the office."
"I trust you, C.J.-"
"Yes! Now, I donít happen to trust that arrogant son of bitch reporter, but thatís not the point."
"Then would you please tell me your point, Toby," she sighed in frustration.
"The point is," he replied pointedly, "it doesnít matter if you leak information to him. It doesnít matter if he doesnít use a relationship with you to his advantage when it comes to his job. The point is appearances, C.J. You should know that. You were the one who told Sam that it didnít matter what it was; what mattered was what it looked like."
"He was dating a prostitute," she yelled, exasperated. "He had a relationship with a woman whose night job constitutes a felony!"
"You canít have a relationship with Danny, C.J. Thatís the bottom line," Toby said and walked out of her office, slamming the door behind him.
God, he was hot when he was like that.
Where did that come from? She shook her head and refocused her attention on her fury towards him. How dare he tell her she canít have a relationship with Danny? Just because he was lonely and miserable, didnít mean that she had to resign herself to that fate. She was tired of being alone.
And she made her decision. She walked out of her office and to Carolís empty desk. Thumbing through the rolodex, until she came upon the one she was looking for, she picked up the phone and began dialing the number to Danny Concannonís cell phone.
"Hi. What are you doing tomorrow night? Ask me to dinner. I said, ask me to dinner, Danny. I accept. Great. Goodnight, Danny."
She replaced the receiver on the hook and glanced in the direction of Tobyís office. Then she smiled in satisfaction.