Disclaimer: I donít own Ďem. This is just for fun. Please donít sue me.
Summary: C.J and Tobyís relationship is threatened to be exposed. Sequel to Battleground and Armistice.
"Tell me why I have to go to this thing again."
"Carol," C.J. called to her assistant as she searched through piles of papers on her cluttered desk. "I need the HUD stats on-"
"The Illinois project," Carol supplied fluently in a manner borne from working closely with the Press Secretary for the past several years.
Without missing a beat, C.J. answered Tobyís question on the phone. "Because theyíre going to raise a couple million dollars for the Democratic party at this thing, most of which will go directly to re-electing the President in two years." She took the file Carol handed her and placed it in her briefcase along with a half dozen briefing books and files.
"And," he prodded.
Her assistant was halfway to the door, when she called her back to hand her a memo. "Carol, itís ĎIsraelií, not ĎIsraelianí; and there is no Ďcí in ĎBarakí." She turned back to her conversation with Toby. "And..." she trailed off as she slid her chair over to the computer to check something. "And someone on the Presidentís staff should make an appearance. Youíre from New York and you know a lot of the local politicians thatíll be there. Youíre the natural choice."
C.J. sighed heavily, before giving him the reply she knew he had been fishing for the entire time. "And, Leo has deigned this fundraiser the perfect opportunity to torture you."
"Yes." He paused, then asked only halfway rhetorically, "Why does he want to torture me, C.J.?"
"I canít imagine," she deadpanned. She glanced at the clock on her desk. "Hey, werenít you supposed to be there 15 minutes ago?"
"Okay," she replied. "Well, unless you have something else to discuss so you can prolong going to this thing a little longer, I should probably hang up now."
A smile slowly spread across her face as she set the papers down and leaned back in her chair. "Yes, Toby," she answered, trying to sound frustrated, but failing miserably.
There was a long pause, then his deep voice asked in all seriousness. "What are you wearing?" Her throaty laughter rang through the phone.
C.J. heard Sam yell Tobyís name. "Go," she ordered, still laughing. "Behave yourself."
"I donít deserve this, C.J."
"Toby," Sam yelled again.
"I should go," he sighed.
He hung up the phone as Sam rushed through the door that connected their hotel rooms. He was struggling to put on his jacket, tie his shoes, and comb his hair all at the same time.
"Toby, we were supposed to be at the thing twenty minutes ago!" Out of breath, he ran to the full length mirror and tried in vain to straighten his tie. "Why didnít you tell me we were running late?"
"One, you are running late," Toby replied. "I have been ready the entire time. Two, I didnít want to ruin a good thing."
"Weíve probably missed the receiving line," Sam reasoned. "I guess we can say there was a emergency we had to deal with. Theyíll probably buy that."
"Thatís a good idea, Sam. In fact, why donít we tell them there is a crisis we have to handle in Washington and just skip the whole thing altogether."
"Why not," Toby asked.
"Because, my best bet is at some point in the night, Leo will call Frank Thomson, the guy who is hosting this thing, and check up on us. Okay," Sam turned around. "Letís go. Oh, wait! I forgot my cufflinks," he explained racing back into his room, leaving Toby to roll his eyes.
"Take your time," he yelled.
C.J. knocked on the connected door between her and Joshís office and opened it slightly. "Josh, Iím heading out. Josh," she repeated when she didnít get an answer. Peering into his office, she found it cloaked in shadows, the only light came from the small reading lamp on his desk. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could make out her friend slouched down in his chair, staring abstractedly out the window.
He jumped startled, as she lightly touched his shoulder. "Wha-?"
"Josh," she said, her voice filled with concern. His face was pale and haggard. His normally sparkling eyes were devoid of life. "Whatís wrong?"
He rubbed his temple tiredly. "What makes you think something is wrong?"
"Because right now youíre bearing a remarkable resemblance to my little brother, Ryan, when he was seven years old and I told him there was no Santa Claus," replied C.J. matter-of-factly.
"Get up," she ordered and started to help in with his coat.
"What are you doing," he questioned.
"Iím going to take you to Rickís and buy you a beer."
"C.J., Iím really-"
"Josh," she said warningly.
Now wearing his coat and scarf, Josh grabbed his bag and started to follow C.J. out of his office into the nearly deserted corridor. "You told your little brother there is no Santa Claus?"
"In my defense, I was only nine years old and had just found out myself from a schoolmate. And like any good sister, I wanted my brothers to be as devastated as I was."
"Here you go, Mr. Zeigler." The bartender set a bourbon on the rocks on the black marble bar-top.
"Thank you." Toby took his drink and not for the first time that night contemplated exactly what he had done to Leo to merit this torture. Sam was understandable. He was dating Leoís only daughter. He was also carrying on a possibly damaging friendship with a hooker. There was no question in his mind that Sam deserved this.
Josh, Toby believed, was also another one who deserved to bear the brunt of Leoís anger. Between insulting the Christian Right on national television and briefing the White House Press Corps on a nonexistent secret plan to fight inflation, Josh had earned any torment Leo saw fit to heap upon him.
Toby, on the other hand, had done nothing. He was completely innocent. He had gotten Mendoza confirmed. He was influential in procuring WH-147ís passage through Congress. Not to mention, having to play referee in Josh and Mandyís daily quarrels. For that reason alone, Leo should have granted him a reprieve from this damn thing.
He took another drink of his bourbon and pulled uncomfortably on his tight collar, then turned slightly to look out at the large crowd gathered in the banquet room of the Plaza Hotel. Hundreds of men and women dressed up in their finest attire, drinking champagne, and engaged in meaningless exchanges trying to impress another.
This, he decided, was the seventh level of hell.
"Another beer, please."
"Josh, youíve already had two," C.J. said.
"And I would another one," he squinted to read the waiterís name tag, "Jason." He turned back to C.J. and continued what he was saying. "So I was telling her about Joey-"
"What about Joey?"
Josh ran his fingers through his hair. "Thank you," he said as the young guy sat another bottle of beer on the table. "Joey and Kenny are headed back to California in," he glanced at his watch, "oh, about half hour ago. She got a job in Waylendís campaign."
"Isnít he running for mayor in-"
"Santa Barbara," Josh finished her sentence. "Yeah." He paused, then said, "Itís not like we ever... you know, but there was definitely a certain thing between us; a kind of a fighting-flirting thing. I just wish..." he trailed off.
"You wish you had had more time to see what could happen," concluded C.J. softly.
"Yeah," he sighed.
"And you were talking to Donna about this?"
"I wanted to know if she thought I should say something to Joey before she left, or if-- Donna is always telling me what she thinks about everything else. And the time I actually ask for her advice, she gets mad!" He threw his hands up in frustration. "She said something about having better things to do than concern herself with what was going on between me and Joey. I donít understand, C.J. In the beginning, she encouraged me to go after Joey."
"Ah, so finally we come to the real problem," said C.J. in understanding. "Youíre upset because you and Donna had a fight."
"No, we didnít," Josh countered. "A fight usually consists of two or more people yelling or hitting each other. This was Donna not speaking to me unless it was work related and generally avoiding me all day. Iím pretty sure sheís angry at me for something, but I just canít figure out what!"
"Josh, if itís bothering you that much, call her and ask her whatís wrong."
"Why not," asked C.J.
He took a long swig of his beer. "She has a date with some local gomer tonight. Sheís probably at Chuck E. Cheese right now with 40 year old guy named Milton who still lives with his parents."
She rolled her eyes as Josh continued to wallow in his misery. "Do you get tired of being alone, C.J.," he asked seriously. In one of those rare moments that few people ever saw, Josh was stripped of his pride and overblown ego; his eyes revealing the vulnerability underneath. "I spend all day doing work that I enjoy with people I like and admire, then I go home and..." he sighed and shook his head. "Itís empty."
"I know, Josh," she answered sympathetically.
"Yeah," he replied and took another drink. "Well, at least youíre assistant isnít mad at you."
C.J. looked away from his gaze uneasily and sipped her beer. It had been five months since she and Toby started their relationship, and although she was the one who decided not to tell anyone, sometimes she felt guilty for keeping it from her friends, especially Josh.
"Wait a moment." his eyes grew wide. Through his semi drunken haze, he saw the myriad of emotions that flashed across C.J.ís face. The pieces came together in his mind. "Youíre seeing someone," he gasped.