*********

See Part 1 for disclaimer

Part 7

"I need to say something to you."

C.J. attempted to put a name to the feeling those simple words evoked in her. After a few seconds, she gave up; confident in the knowledge that no one word could adequately describe her emotions.

She stood and walked from behind her desk. She wanted to say something; a joke, quick one-liner, anything to lighten the serious mood that filled the room. Nothing came, though. Instead, all she could do was wait.

Every nerve in his body wanted to look away, but Toby couldnít tear his gaze from her face. She was so incredibly beautiful and strong. It was the vulnerability in her eyes, though, that caused his breath to catch. It was then that he knew he was doing the right thing. Nothing was more important than her happiness. He would anything in the world to save her from being hurt.... including this.

"Iím sorry."

C.J. blinked. Confusion clouded her face. "What," she finally asked incredulously.

He cleared his throat uncomfortably. "I was wrong and I apologize."

The room was painfully silent for several seconds, when suddenly C.J. started to laugh; softly at first, but quickly turned into a full blown guffaw. Toby shuffled his feet, and looked down at the floor, afraid to let her see how much he enjoyed hearing her laugh. He worked to keep his voice sounding gruff. "Whatís so funny?"

"Do you realize there is a office pool betting who would be the first one to get you to say those words?"

"What words?"

"Iím sorry, I was wrong, I apologize," C.J. listed gleefully. "Of course, the irony of the situation is with the way weíve been fighting lately, nobody would believe me if I told them. Theyíd think I was just trying to get back at you." She paused. "Listen, how about we go find an audience and you repeat what you just said in front of witnesses."

"C.J.-"

"Iíll split the money with you. 50-50. What do you say?"

Toby was quiet for a moment, then said, "Whatís the pot up to?"

"Weíll have to ask Sam. Last I heard, it was $2400."

It was Tobyís turn to blink in surprise. "$2400?"

She smiled. "That would make your share $1200."

"Well, thank you for clearing that up, C.J," he said. "In my 20 years of schooling, I was never quite able to master the art of simple division." He hesitated. "Why would we have to ask Sam?"

"Heís in charge of the pool," she answered matter-of-factly.

"And the entire office is in on it?"

"Well...."

"C.J.," he said warningly.

"Itís more like the West Wing."

"What?!"

"And some of the Secret Service. And, um, a few Cabinet members. Oh, and several Congressmen."

Toby threw his hands in the air in disgust. "Is there anyone in the federal government not in on this?"

"The President and Leo," she replied quickly. "You know, since they could order you to apologize and all. It really wouldnít have been fair."

"Iím going to kill him," said Toby, rubbing his forehead.

"Well, can you wait on that until after we collect the money?"

Toby thought for a moment. "Tell me when the pot reaches $4000. Iíll just have to make Princetonís life a living hell until then," he said in the utmost seriousness.

"A job youíre uniquely suited for," C.J. deadpanned.

His careful facade cracked and they both began to laugh. Then, out of the corner of his eye, Toby saw the goldfish swimming happily around itís small bowl. He stopped laughing, causing C.J. to notice his immediate turn-about.

"Toby," she said softly, and reached out to touch his arm.

He quickly stepped back to avoid her touch. "I was wrong to say you couldnít date Danny." He cleared his throat again. God, this was so painful. "Your personal life is clearly none of my business."

C.J. could feel her heart breaking with every word.

Toby continued, his own heartache blinding him to hers. "Danny is a good guy. And I should never have questioned his or your professionalism. I apologize for that."

She shook her head. "Toby," she whispered.

He looked into her lucent eyes, unshed tears causing them to glitter with light. "I hope he makes you happy," he said sincerely and quickly left before she could say a word.

Her hand flew to her mouth, as she watched the door close behind him. Tears streamed down her silken cheeks, leaving salty trails. Without a word, C.J. sunk to the floor and cried.

********

"C.J., whatís wrong?"

She looked across the elegantly set table to her date. "Iím sorry," she said questioningly, as if awoken from a trance.

Danny sighed. Something had been off with her the entire night. In the beginning, he was too happy to be on a date with C.J. Cregg to question it. But, as the night progressed, the unpleasant realization that she didnít want to be here was too overwhelming to ignore. Her mind was on something else, someone else.

"Go talk to him."

"I donít know-" C.J. began to say, but as she looked into his eyes, she found she couldnít deny it. Slowly, she reached to grasp his hand. "Iím sorry," she said quietly.

He smiled sadly. "Itís okay." He squeezed her hand. "Go to him."

C.J. took a deep breath and let it out. "Okay." She stood and took a few steps before turning back to him. "Thank you."

Danny nodded gently and watched as she rushed out of the restaurant.

********

"Ginger!"

Tobyís assistant looked up from her desk to see C.J. racing through the halls in a stunning evening dress.

"Whereís Toby?"

"He left a few hours ago," Ginger replied. She was about to ask the Press Secretary if she wanted her to call him, but C.J. was gone before she could say anything more.

********

Toby was sitting in his living room reading a memo on Social Security Reform, when he heard his door bell ring. He debated answering the door, not really in the mood for visitors. Another chime of the door bell interrupted his thoughts. The knocking that followed made up his mind. Annoyed, he threw open the door. His irate retort died in his throat as he saw her standing in the doorway.

Oblivious to his shock, she swept past him into the room. Turning to face him, her eyes blazed with fire. "You have a hell of a lot of nerve!"

 

 

Battlegound - 8

 

 

 

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