TITLE: The First One Hundred Days, Part Four.
AUTHOR: Luna (lunavudu@a...)
NOTES: See part one, and the close of this chapter. Feedback brings
joy.

In the pocket of the heart, in the rushing of the blood,
In the muscle of my sex, in the mindful, mindless love
I accept the newfound man
And I set the twilight reeling...
- Lou Reed, "Set The Twilight Reeling"

Sunday, April 29th: Day One Hundred

Everything was coming together, C.J. thought, tossing her coat over
her elbow so that she could carry her keys and her briefcase in the
same hand, while her purse hung over her shoulder. With the other,
she clutched the handle of her coffee cup and pulled the door of her
new apartment shut behind her. Walking down the hall, she felt
graceful. She was poised. She was balanced.

The phone rang, and she was even ready to handle that. C.J. hooked a
finger through her key-ring to hang onto it, and tossed the briefcase
into her other hand so she could fish the phone out of her purse.
She managed to extract it and push the button while it was still
ringing, pinning it in place with her shoulder. "Hello?"

"Hello."

For a moment it sounded like, she thought, but of course it
wasn't. "I'm sorry; who is this?" she said automatically.

The caller seemed odd, disoriented, stung by the question. "Toby."

Of course it was. She lost her grip. The briefcase thudded to the
carpet; her coat swished down over it. The coffee cup bounced twice
before rolling away, the lid flying off and the hot liquid
splattering her ankle. She bit her lip hard to stifle a yelp. "Toby
Ziegler?"

He still sounded baffled. "How many Tobys do you know?"

"Many," she said firmly. "Many, many, many. Ow."

"What are you doing?"

"I have a job interview," she explained, frowning down at the rubble
around her feet. "I have virtually all my important personal
belongings with me. I'm like a snail."

"How's your new place?" he asked.

"Three blocks over from my old building. Same architect.
Practically the same apartment."

"Feels like home?"

"Jesus, Toby." And she started to ask, half sarcastic, who was dead
or getting sued, because she couldn't imagine why else she'd be
hearing his voice. But something stopped her, even if it was only
his breathing and the static of the phone. "How's New York?"

"It's still very tall," he said. "There are lots of pigeons and,
shit, food and homeless people. It's the same place. And it's the
place."

"The place?"

"That I like the best."

"Right." She wondered why it seemed so difficult to make conversation
with someone she'd spent years with, had made a living talking to.
She leaned back against the wall, unconsciously tightening her hand
around the phone. "I keep thinking I feel that way about Los
Angeles. And I don't. It's not my New York, I mean. Um. It's been
a long time."

"In proportion to what?"

"In proportion to every day."

"I suppose."

"You called me," she said, wonderingly.

His voice stayed casual. "Thought I'd see how you were."

She wanted to giggle. She didn't. "I'm still very tall."

"Ah. Is that everything?"

"I'm interviewing at NARAL in--" she checked her watch -- "Ten
minutes. So I'll be late."

"NARAL, hmm?"

"I'm making up for some of the damage I did to the sisterhood." She
hesitated nervously. "How's your savings account holding up?"

"I can let you go," he said abruptly. "I mean, if you're in a hurry."

"No. No. Hey. Ainsley Hayes is writing a book, Donna says."

"God help her copy editor," he said wryly.

Talking about other people was easier than talking about herself, so
she went on. "You ought to send Zoey something for her first court
thing. And you probably got an invite to Bonnie's wedding in the
mail, I don't know if you're going..." For the first time, she
listened past his voice and heard strange noises in the background of
his end of the phone line. "Are you outside?"

"I'm outside," he said, in a strange undertone, as if it was some
kind of declaration, in a voice other men had used to tell her she
was beautiful.

She was shaken and she spoke too fast, almost babbling. "That's
strange. I know you don't like being outside. Or maybe it's
different in New York. Maybe you just don't like trees, although I
really don't understand how anyone can not like trees."

"C.J.--"

"I mean, they're trees, Toby!" she said, unsettled, speaking with
exaggerated disbelief. "If you have issues with squirrels, that's
different, because they've got the whole rodent paw thing going on."

"Be quiet."

"But then again there's that whole Norse myth. And I thought that
was the kind of thing you'd like, the squirrel of chaos living in the
tree that holds the world that, I don't know, throws acorns at
people. I took it in college. And I don't know why you called, but--
"

"For fuck's sake, C.J., could you stop talking for ten seconds?"

She stopped.

"I'm outside," he said, held his breath and let it out. "I'm waiting
for a goddamn cab."

"Are you having trouble? I mean, you're not Danny Glover."

Toby kept talking like she hadn't interrupted. "I'd take the subway,
but I'm carrying a quarter of what I own. I'm going to the airport."

She knew, then, but she made him say it. "And?"

"And I'm taking the shuttle down."

"You are."

"Yes."

C.J. slid slowly down the wall until she was sitting Indian-style on
the floor. "You are. You're coming down."

"I'm waiting for a cab. And you're talking about -- what are you
talking about?"

"I really can't tell you," she admitted dizzily. "What about--"

Toby didn't wait for her to finish. "The hell with it."

"You're coming down," she repeated, amazed that she felt
relieved. "And I've been really horrible, Toby, I--"

"Don't," he said rapidly. "Don't make any sweeping statements. I
don't know how long, or anything, yet."

"Ratatosk!" she burst out, opening her eyes wide.

"Uh..."

"The squirrel," she explained, distantly wondering if her neighbors
were eavesdropping, were calling mental health care workers. "In the
world tree, with the acorns and the chaos and such."

"I don't like squirrels," he said, and she was certain he was trying
hard not to smile.

"I know." She was laughing. Crying. Laughing. "I've missed you."

"You're still very tall?"

"Most definitely," she told him.

It was as if that settled everything. "Okay."

"Toby--"

"Don't."

"I was just going to say, call me. Call me again. So I know when to
pick you up."

"Yes," he said, but not goodbye, and hung up. She held the little
phone with both hands until she was sure she was steady enough to
stand up, then began to gather up the rubble around her. The coat
went around her shoulders; her wrist slipped awkwardly through the
briefcase handle so she could balance it. She left the coffee cup,
mentally bracing herself for her landlord's complaints, and held onto
the phone, knowing she had explanations to make, apologies to give,
and wrongs to right.

* * *

"They're not twist-tops," Josh said, passing a can opener to Sam as
he sat down on the couch.

Sam stopped straining at the bottle's cap. "Thanks for the update."

"I try." He reached for the remote. "Anything good on TV?"

"ESPN's showing rugby."

"Anything *good* on TV?"

"No." Sam took a swig of his beer. "We should go out on the town.
We should find C.J. and see what she's doing, at least."

"We should," Josh agreed, stretching, "But that would mean making
effort and putting on shoes and stuff."

"So, rugby?"

"Rugby or Nascar." Josh grimaced. "Help us, we are in hell."

"I like Nascar," Sam said.

Josh blinked at him. "You need some serious help."

"You've been saying that and saying that."

"Not sinking in?"

"Not as much as some things."

Josh chuckled and cuffed him affectionately on the upper arm. "So
when are you going to get a haircut and get a real job?"

His eyes narrowed. "I like my job, Josh."

"Really it's the hair that's indefensible." Josh propped his feet up
on the coffee table. "No, really. I mean, it's good that you're
enjoying the teaching and everything, but you're a writer."

"I'm still writing while I'm doing this," Sam said. "I'll be writing
until someone blows me up."

"I could use you. And you know you'd be happier working with me."

"How's it pay?"

Josh raised his eyebrows. "I didn't say I was going to pay you.
Speaking of which, what do you plan to do with your tax refund?"

"I'm getting one, huh?"

"Looks that way."

"I'll give it to charity," Sam decided.

"Me too."

"Oh?" Sam cocked his head. "What were you going to do with it
before I just said that?"

Josh kept a straight face. "Get digital cable."

"I don't need the money," Sam said. "I'm just not sure I'm with you
yet. I maybe need a change. I don't know."

"Maybe you're not ready now, but you're going to be later. Maybe by
the time we're looking hard at the next campaign. I don't know about
C.J., or anyone else, but that's when the serious thinking starts,
and that's when I'll ask you again." Josh took a long pull on his
beer. "And you're my best friend, Sam, I mean, who else?"

Sam looked pensive. "If I'm ready, you'll know first."

"Who else, man? But you can afford to take your time."

He gave a tiny smile. "We earned it."

"We earned the hell out of it," Josh proclaimed, glancing at the TV
screen. "Hey, that was a pretty cool crash."

"They're the reason everybody watches." Sam rested his head on the
top of the couch. "What time is it?"

Josh glanced at his watch. "Just after midnight."

* * *

Monday, April 30th: Day One Hundred And One

There had been a time when he was a child, a time when he knew that
it was spring. It wasn't that the weather changed exactly; there
were still heaps of half-frozen, muddy slush everywhere, bitterly
cold rain spitting down from the sky. But the clouds were a
different color somehow, a cleaner white, and for some reason as soon
as he stepped outside, his fingers ached to pick up a baseball,
cradle it, let it go. And that was how it felt when he looked at her.

There had been a time when she was an adolescent, gawky and twisted
up inside with self-doubt, sure she was irrevocably hideous. And one
day she'd been walking through town and a stranger, a boy her age she
never saw again, smiled at her. It splashed her, shone on her, this
commonplace approval. It was a ray of light into teenage murkiness,
and it was the first time she ever thought of herself as a woman.
And that was how it felt when he touched her.

C.J. woke up before Toby, but didn't move, remaining curled up at his
side, her head pillowed on her arms. She watched his eyelids
flutter, his face for once unguarded, and then he was awake too. He
regarded her with a strange mixture of suspicion and amusement and
astonishment.

"You know, when we're in bed," he said, "you don't seem so tall."

"Really?" She yawned and stretched as much as she could, her body
bare and long and close to his. "How about now?"

"Even now." He touched her shoulder and closed his eyes against the
sunlight filtering in. "What time is it?"

C.J. craned her neck to see the clock on the nightstand. "Almost
seven."

"Too damn early."

"This used to be late," she reflected. "We would've been late to
work by now. We didn't have that hard of a time getting up, then."

"Nothing is like it was, then," he muttered.

"It isn't, but it is." She rolled onto her back, crossing her arms
across her chest. "You came back."

"I don't know how long," he cautioned her.

"That's what Sam and I said too," she reminded him.

"You turned me into a girl."

She made a face. "What?"

"On your little thing," he said with mild distaste. "The one woman
got all my lines. I know myself when I hear it."

"You watched!"

"You turned me into a girl!"

C.J. laughed loudly for several seconds. "But she played you well."

"It wasn't the worst thing I've ever seen," Toby said grudgingly. He
sat up and surveyed the bedroom. "This really is just like your old
place."

"At least the cat doesn't get lost." She turned her head to watch
his profile. "It really has been a very long time."

"It has and it hasn't."

She cleared her throat. "I never would have been here. I never
would have worked for Josiah Bartlet if it wasn't for the fact that
you came and got me."

He shook his head. "It was Leo."

"Sure, it was. But really, it was you." C.J. lifted her head and
rested her cheek in her hand. "You've had some fairly lousy days in
New York, I believe."

He did not look at her. "Yes."

"This, then, here, has never been easy and sometimes awful, but..."
She trailed off. "I ran away in December."

"Yeah, you did."

"I didn't want to do the thing where everyone hugs and shit. It was
easier to just turn it off and be something else."

"You don't have to explain yourself to me," he said, turning his gaze
to her.

"Good, because I'm not sure I can." C.J. pressed her eyes shut and
then opened them again to look into his. "I said some bad things
about you. To this guy, when we were drunk, and I wasn't being
myself."

"I was fucking Andi," he said under his breath.

She stopped sounding apologetic. "What the hell are we going to do
with ourselves now?"

Toby touched the back of her knee under the thin sheet. "I was
hoping you'd know."

"Well, here's what I think. I think we have to call Josh and Sam and
have lunch with them, and get the teasing and misery out of the way
so we can all move on. And then..."

"Job-hunting?" he suggested, almost playfully.

"House-hunting," she said, beaming. "I didn't even like this
apartment when it was my old apartment."

She wasn't sure how it happened or which of them moved, but she was
sliding under him, and he was speaking, breathing on her collarbone.

"It will serve," he said.

C.J. tipped her head back, exposing her throat. "God," she murmured,
her breath quickening. "Everything's so bizarre right now, and I
don't know."

"Neither do I."

She sat up a little, pulling away from him. "I want you to promise
me something."

"C.J.," he warned, almost groaning.

"When I'm settled into something, some career, some role, I want to
remember what this part was like." She waved a hand in the
air. "And what it wasn't."

"You will."

"Will you remind me?"

"I swear it," he said solemnly. They did not move apart again.

* * *

Maybe one day soon, it'll all come out,
How you dream about each other sometimes
With a memory of how you once gave up
But you made it through the troubled times...
- Fountains Of Wayne, "Troubled Times"

* * *

End. Thanks for reading all this, I appreciate it.

I am humbled by the infinite patience of everyone who had to know me
while I was walking around with this story. Thanks are due to all of
you, and to:
The Mango, the Bordello, Amanda Leske and her parents, the Saratoga
Sheraton, Ani DiFranco, Billy Joel, Radiohead, Richard Thompson,
Sandy Denny, R.E.M, Counting Crows, Kate Bush, Lou Reed, Fountains of
Wayne, Google.com, Salon.com, the Drudge report, Carina Chocano, Neil
Gaiman, Bill Gibson, Dave Eggers, AT&T, Victor Garber and the fake
cast of "Hail To The Chief," the real cast of TWW, opensecrets.org,
gutenberg.net, joshlyman.com, jedbartlet.com, Lichtenberg, IMDB.com,
the Exorcist, the Book of Job, Chris "Jeff" Hardwick and Puck. Oh,
and three guys you've heard of: Aaron Sorkin, Thomas Schlamme, and
John Wells.

Feedback is delightful and delicious,
Luna
http://www.geocities.com/spark_fanfic

 

 

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