Disclaimers: They're not mine. Sometimes I ask them out to play, but they go home with Mr. Sorkin, et. al.
Summary: CJ takes a fall and Toby gets roped in to picking up the pieces.
Flamingo Falling (Part 16/?)
When Toby showed up the next evening, Mrs. Cregg was nowhere to be found. "Chinese." He put the bags down on the table. "Where is she?" Toby asked.
"Chased my doctor out of the room with questions. What did she do to you last night?"
"I told her I was exhausted and went to bed early," he said. "I was very disoriented when I woke up in your bed this morning."
"You slept in my bed?" she asked.
"Where would you have had me sleep? The couch?"
"Sorry, wasn't thinking. I'm so sorry you're going through this."
"CJ, if you apologize one more time, I won't be held responsible for my actions. I know you're embarrassed, but I promised to take care of this and everybody else is on board. Sam and Josh were joking about it being this administration's scandal and how it'd land in history books some day."
"If you're trying to make me feel better, you're going about it all wrong."
"She wanted to know why my mail isn't strewn around the apartment," he said, abruptly changing the subject.
"And you told her..."
"I told her that to avoid the appearance of impropriety you and I still officially maintain separate residences and that is to where my mail is delivered."
"Very nice. Guess what I got?"
"I'm surprised it took this long, but this afternoon she asked why you wear a wedding ring."
"What did you say?"
"I told her that you're divorced. She asked if you were still in love with your ex and is that why you still wear the ring. I told her you wear it to keep women away. She wanted to know if I had anything to do with the divorce. I told her no, but she's lived in California for too long. I'm sure she's got some kind of disgusting scenario all worked out. Then my doctor came in and she insisted on speaking to him in private."
Toby rubbed his temples in an attempt to stop his rising headache. "CJ, I wasn't terribly fond of in-laws when I had them for real. I'm even less fond of make-believe pseudo-in-laws."
CJ cringed. "I'm sorry, Toby. Look, this is beyond the call. I'm going to tell her tonight."
"And what will she do?"
She sighed. "Yell. Scream. Rant. Rave. The worst-case scenario would be silent disappointment."
"And have you hyperventilating in nothing flat? Look, CJ, we'd all like you to get out of the hospital some day. I mean, Josh is getting better at the briefings. I think he's finally figured out that sarcasm doesn't play in the pressroom. Anyway, if carrying on this little charade will help that happen then I'll do it."
CJ reached out for his hand. "Really?" Then her eyes narrowed. "Why are you being so nice? This isn't like you."
"I'm a nice person," he insisted.
"This is going to cost me, isn't it?"
Toby had the Chinese food spread out when Mrs. Cregg returned. "Well, I've finally gotten somewhere," she said, falling in to a chair. "It looks like you may be released tomorrow."
"They started her on an oral anticoagulant this morning-explaining the current lack of the IV. She'll have a lung scan tomorrow morning," Toby said. "If that's clear she can go home in the afternoon."
"You found this out how and you were gong to tell me when?" CJ demanded.
Toby looked directly at CJ. "When I can't be here, your doctor or nurse calls me every two hours with an update, CJ."
"Really?" Mrs. Cregg asked in a surprised voice. "I had to corner him in the lounge to get answers."
CJ could tell this pleased Toby. "Rank has its privileges, Mrs. Cregg. After all, we do work for the most powerful man in the free world."
That shut her up.
A few moments later a man dressed in black entered the room without knocking. "Hey, Pete," Toby addressed the Secret Service man casually. "How's it going? Want an egg roll?"
Pete shook his head, looked behind the curtains and in the bathroom and left.
Mrs. Cregg appeared a bit startled. "Abbey's
"Is she serious?" Toby asked, wiping his hands on his napkin and standing in anticipation of the First Lady's arrival. CJ just rolled her eyes.
The door opened and the First Lady walked in. "CJ, I'm sorry I haven't been in the past couple of days."
"I understand, Ma'am."
"You're sounding better. Breathing okay?"
"Yes, Ma'am. Oxygen is my friend."
Abbey laughed. Toby cleared his throat. She turned to him. "Are you taking good care of her, Toby?"
"As always," he assured her. "Ma'am, may I introduce CJ's mother Mrs. Cregg? Mrs. Cregg, Abigal Bartlet, the First Lady of the United States."
"A pleasure to meet you," Abbey enthused, holding out her hand. Mrs. Cregg shook it tentatively.
"The pleasure's all mine." Mrs. Cregg sounded so in awe, Toby thought she might actually curtsy.
"Well, look," Abbey said, turning back to CJ. "I can only stay for a moment. I'm meeting Jed at a banquet at the Omni. I talked to your doctor this afternoon. I'm pleased to hear how well you're doing. Looks like they may kick you out tomorrow. Use the bed for a sick person, I suppose."
"That's what I understand, Ma'am," CJ said.
"I'm sure you're both looking forward to that." Abbey placed a hand on Toby's arm.
"Of course," Toby agreed.
"CJ, Jed feels terrible that he hasn't been to see you. But the Secret Service..."
"I understand," CJ said. "I'm sure your detail
"No, but I'm more charming than Jed. Maybe after you're sprung-if you're feeling up to it." She
"I'm sure 12:30 will be wonderful," Toby said. "I'll be certain to have her there."
"Just call and I'll have someone escort her from your office, Toby."
"Thank you, Ma'am," Toby said.
"Thank you, Ma'am," CJ echoed and waited. "Mother?"
"Uh, thank you, Ma'am," Mrs. Cregg said.
"Fine then. I'm off." Pete opened the door and preceded her out.
"That was the First Lady," Mrs. Cregg informed them.
Toby could tell CJ wanted to laugh. He could hear it in her voice. "Yes, Mother. Abigal Bartlet."
"She came to see you?"
"Of course," Toby said.
"She came to see you here? The First Lady? Of the United States?" Mrs. Cregg continued.
"We're friends, Mother. She even tries-I mean tried-to fix me up with doctors and lawyers," CJ said.
"She's married to the President."
"For whom we work," Toby said, his voice taking on a lighter tone. "And you, Mrs. Cregg, have been invited to the residence for lunch tomorrow."
"I think it finally hit her," CJ said, reaching out a hand to squeeze Toby's arm.
"What will I wear?" Mrs. Cregg almost screamed.
"Mother, can you take your breakdown into the hall for a moment?" Mrs. Cregg gathered her purse and coat and headed for the door. "Oh, good night, Darling," she said half-way out.
"Toby, I am so sorry for what you are going to have to go through tonight."
She narrowed her eyes. "What do you mean by that?"
"I am going to drop your mother off at the apartment and then go back to the office to get some actual work done. Believe it or not, my time away has not stunted the growth of the files on my desk. I'm going to stay late, sleep on the couch, go to staff in the morning and go home in time to pick her up for her lunch."
"Good plan, but may I make a suggestion?" He didn't respond, so she continued. "Why don't you do all of that, but instead of sleeping on your office couch, actually go to your own apartment."
It had almost slipped his mind. "I can do that. She'd never know the difference."
That night he slept well in his own bed.
To be continued...