Beyond Misconceptions

by Miss_lucy21

General, Pre-White House, no parings

Summary: "The more she talked, though, the more he realized that she might just be something more than an angry girl."

Rating: G

Spoilers: Nothing explicit, maybe ITSOTG, part 2, if you're really meticulous about such things.

Disclaimer: Aaron Sorkin in his infinite wisdom gave us Toby and CJ. I'm just taking them out for a spin, and they won't be much worse for wear when I've finished :o)

Notes: This is what happens when you proofread with a friend looking over your shoulder. My friend doesn't watch West Wing, but he thought my line about how CJ and Toby met in "Invincible Summer" was funny enough to have it's own story, so I wrote it. If you haven't read "Invincible Summer", don't worry about it, this isn't connected other than the fact that it's my "universe". But go read it anyway! Feedback as always welcome at miss_lucy21@hotmail.com.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I am not an angry girl

but it seems like I've got everyone fooled

every time I say something they find hard to hear

they chalk it up to my anger

and never to their own fear

and imagine you're a girl

just trying to finally come clean

knowing full well they'd prefer you

were dirty and smiling

"Not a Pretty Girl," Ani DiFranco

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

San Francisco, September 1991

She walked into the campaign office at 2 am, obviously on a mission. He was the only one there, and he sighed as he sized up his intruder. She was tall, thin, and very young, at least to him, from his new vantage point of 35. Too many of the kids on this damn campaign were making him feel too damn old. As she got closer, moving towards him without saying anything to his challenging look, he decided she was probably a college student, although she barely looked that old. She stopped dead in front of his desk, and he could see that she was pale, with dark circles under her eyes. Her choppy red hair was falling in her face and she shoved it away unconsciously. Mentally, Toby upgraded her age to possibly grad school. College students didn't have that look of exhausted desperation about them unless it was finals week, and it was only the middle of September. But through her exhaustion, he could see the spark in her eyes that told him she was probably a spitfire. The fact that she wasn't cowering before his glare like most young campaign workers would was another clue.

"Do you need something?" he asked, finally, when it became apparent she was going to just stand there and wait for a verbal acknowledgement.

"A staple gun," she said, calmly.

"I see. And why should I help you find one?" he asked. She was vaguely familiar as being one of the kids working on the Miller campaign across the hall. They were sharing the space because Jeremy Miller and Tony Crenshaw, Toby's boss, were close friends.

"Because Renee told me that if I couldn't find it in the drawer I should look over here." The simple answer was delivered in the same easy manner that her first statement had been. Toby recognized the logic of the extremely sleep deprived and realized that she probably didn't think she was being as abrupt as she was. Besides, Renee, Miller's campaign manager and a friend of his, was right. The staple gun was on a table against the wall.

"Why does Renee want the staple gun so late?" he asked, out of curiosity. He'd thought everyone across the hall had gone home for the night.

"She doesn't. I do. I have to put the bulletin board up," she replied.

"Ah. A night owl, I see," Toby said, getting up from his desk. He'd give the kid the staple gun and send her on her way so he could get back to work.

She shrugged as she followed him towards the table where the staple gun lay. "Thank you," she said very precisely.

He nodded. "What's your name, kid?" he asked, suddenly.

She turned to face him. "CJ Cregg."

"How old are you anyway?" He hadn't meant to ask, but he couldn't help being curious.

"25," she answered, pulling herself up to her full height as if expecting a confrontation.

"Really. You don't look that old." Toby leaned against the edge of the table.

"Well, I am. How old are *you*?" she asked, defiantly.

"Fair enough. I'm 35." he answered easily. She nodded. "I'm Toby Ziegler, by the way." he told her.

"I know who you are," she said calmly. "Rickter, 1990, and Sampson in '88."

Toby drew back, surprised. "Yes," he answered simply.

"Rickter would have been a good campaign if he'd listened to his media people. Bad commercials and poor handling of the press." she informed him.

Toby was amused to hear this slip of a girl give the exact same assessment he'd give shortly before he'd been fired from the campaign. "Really now?"

She nodded. "Commercials cost him New York, bad press cost him Texas, and didn't help him any in the South. Someone didn't know how to spin the family conflicts."

"And on what basis do you form this opinion?" he asked.

She looked at him, and he saw the fire catch in her eyes. Oh, yes, this was definitely an angry girl. "I watched the campaign."

"So did a lot of people," he shrugged.

"Yes, but I'm studying political communications." she informed him.

"I see," he said, noncommittally. She didn't reply, but he could tell she wanted to. "All right then, what's your assessment of Miller's campaign?"

"We need to get a better in with the gay/lesbian community, as well as the Hispanic community. We're all right with Chinatown, he's familiar down there because of his wife," she answered automatically.

Toby nodded inwardly. That was basically what Doug, the media man for his campaign had been saying to Renee the other day. What Toby wondered was if this kid had come to the conclusions on her own, or if she was just parroting what she'd heard. Somehow, though, he thought she was smart enough to make her own conclusions.

"What's that based on?" he asked.

"Polling data," she answered. "I ran the numbers last night."

"I thought Jen was in charge of polling over there," he said.

"She is. Mr. Miller is letting me help with the questions and compile my own data for my thesis. In exchange, I help out with outreach and secretarial stuff," she replied.

He hadn't meant to start a conversation with this angry little girl in front of him, but he'd done it anyway. Probably because it was late, he was bored and frustrated, and she looked too young and too lost. And so, he started asking questions, just to see if he could get a rise out of her. It turned out to be more difficult than he'd thought it would be. And she turned out to be much better informed than he would have thought. He got the feeling that people just weren't willing to give her any time, because they thought she was just this angry little girl who didn't know anything. The more she talked, though, the more he realized that she might just be something more than an angry girl.

He was on the verge of being impressed when she made a particularly forceful point about a current bill in Congress and made the crucial mistake of forgetting she had a staple gun in her hand. She accidentally slammed the staple gun down onto the palm of her right hand. Toby swallowed hard as he heard the trigger click home. Her face went even paler and her eyes widened. "Oh God," Toby breathed. "Here, sit," he said to the frozen girl in front of him. She did so as he ran over to the other wall and grabbed the first aid kit. Slapping the gloves on, he knelt in front of her and very gently pulled the stapler away. Her hand was gushing blood and he quickly pushed a 4x4 gauze pad down on the puncture. Wrapping it with a large amount of gauze, he lifted her hand above her heart and applied pressure. "Too hard?" he asked, realizing she wasn't even crying.

"No," she said through gritted teeth. He nodded and used his free hand to tilt her chin up and look at her face. She was pale, and her eyes were full of tears, but she was blinking them back before they could spill.

"Ok. Does it hurt?" he asked. She nodded. "Right. Ok." He applied some more pressure, then brought it down to see if it had stopped bleeding. Wrapping another layer of gauze over her hand, he asked, "Did you drive yourself here?" She nodded again. "Ok, well do you have a roommate or someone I could call?"

"No," she managed.

"You live by yourself?" At her nod, he asked, "Is there a friend or someone I could call?"

She shook her head. "She's out of town, won't be back for a month or so."

"Ok." Thinking quickly now, he realized that she wasn't in any shape to drive anywhere. Besides, if her hand started bleeding again, she'd be in a world of trouble. "You're just going to have to come home with me, then. My wife is much better at this first aid stuff than I am. Her sister is an ER doctor and her brother is an emergency medic with the Red Cross Disaster Team. Come on," he said, gently helping her up. Positioning her so she'd be holding her hand above her heart, he walked her over to collect her knapsack in her campaign office. Then he led her out to his car. "Easy now, don't bump your head," he cautioned her as he helped her sit down in his Chevette.

He drove towards home with as much speed as he dared, considering the propensity of San Francisco cops to set up speed traps along his route home. He'd lived in the city for 5 months now, and had gotten 4 tickets already. Hearing a whisper next to him, he glanced over to see if her hand had started to bleed again. Her eyes were screwed shut and she had her hand resting against the window. "How're you doing?" he asked.

She started a bit, but shrugged. "Ok," she gritted out.

"Thought you said something," he said.

"Nothing important," she gasped.

"Sure?" he asked.

"Just prayin'," she managed.

"Oh, in that case, go for it," Toby said. He was doing a little of that himself, and he hardly knew this kid.

A few minutes later, he pulled up in front of his townhouse. The light in the kitchen was still on, so he figured Andrea was still awake. Helping the girl into his house, he called softly, "Andi?"

Andrea emerged from the kitchen, looking at him questioningly. "What do we have here?" she asked.

"She put a staple from a staple gun through her hand," he replied, guiding her into the kitchen and sitting her down.

"Ouch. Bet that hurts," Andrea said, kneeling down to take a look. "I'm Andrea Wyatt, what's your name, honey?"

"CJ Cregg," she said.

"Ok, CJ, this looks pretty bad," she said as she unwrapped the gauze. "How long ago did this happen?"

Toby thought a moment. "Maybe 20 minutes."

"Did it stop bleeding at all?" Andi asked. CJ shrugged. "Ok, I think you're going to need some stitches. Let me get dressed and we'll go over to the ER, ok?"

"No. No hospitals," CJ said, shaking her head violently.

"I know it's not on the top 10 list of great things to do with your night, but that's a pretty bad cut and you need some stitches and a tetanus shot," Andrea said in a no-nonsense tone as she left the kitchen.

"I don't like hospitals," CJ said softly, looking up at Toby.

"I can tell," he said. "But it's necessary."

She didn't reply, and Andrea reappeared a moment later. "You going to come?" she asked Toby.

"Yeah, I'll come. We have a conversation to finish, don't we?" he asked the girl sitting in front of him.

*~*~*~*~*~

They'd sat in the waiting room for close to 2 hours before a nurse even came close to them. Toby had to admit that a San Francisco ER was almost as interesting as a New York City ER, and he and Andrea had spent quite a while regaling CJ with tales of the city when they found out she'd never been there. Except for her incessant fidgeting, CJ had remained eerily calm throughout the whole thing. She hadn't cried or complained at all, which impressed Toby almost as much as her arguments had.

"So, then, where are you from?" Andrea asked, finishing up another story about New York.

"Here and there," CJ shrugged. "We moved a lot."

"You go to Berkeley?" He asked her.

She nodded. "Yeah. I'm finishing my masters in communications and public relations."

"How long have you been working on it?" he asked.

"Mmm, almost a year. I'll graduate in 93, hopefully," she shrugged. "I won't have the data finished until the end of next year, then about 6 months to write it."

"Seems like an awful long time, doesn't it?" Andi commented. "I thought I could get mine finished in 6 months and it took more like 10."

"Well, my other one took about a year to write, but this one isn't as involved," she explained.

Toby blinked. "Your undergrad thesis?" he asked.

"No. My masters in political science," she replied.

"When did you graduate?" Andrea asked. Toby realized that he hadn't told Andi how old this kid was.

"1987. I got my first masters in 1990." she said quietly, as if this question was becoming all to familiar to her. "I'm 25," she added as if to forestall that question.

"Wow," Andi said.

Conversation stopped for a while as the triage nurse finally got to them. They let him and Andrea go back to the treatment area with her, and an hour later, CJ was staring blankly at a wall while a young intern stitched her hand.

"Almost done, hon," Andrea said gently. CJ nodded vaguely.

"Ok, miss, all done," the intern said. "Now, next time you go three days without sleep, don't attempt to use equipment that automatically fires sharp objects, ok?"

CJ blushed, but didn't respond. It was close to 5 am by the time she was discharged. "You could just drop me at the campaign office," CJ said softly. "I should finish the board."

"No, I don't think so," Toby said. He found that he'd come to respect this young woman. "I'll talk to Renee, I'm sure she won't mind letting you have a couple days off."

"Besides, you're going to be feeling those painkillers here soon. The only thing you're going to want to do is crawl into bed somewhere," Andrea said. "We'll take you back to our house, you can crash in our guest room."

"I'm ok. I can just go home," CJ said, not looking up from her feet.

"It's no problem. You sleep for a couple hours, and I'll take you to your place later this afternoon," Andrea said. "I'm on vacation this week, anyhow."

CJ bit her lip. "I have an awful lot of stuff that I have to do," she protested.

"And it'll be much easier to do once you've had some sleep. Trust me on this one," Toby said. "Renee will give you a couple days off, you can get some sleep, maybe some food," he said, noting how thin she was, "get your errands and some schoolwork done. It'll be fine," he assured her.

"Ok," she said slowly. By this point, Toby had them almost home. As he helped her out of the car, she asked, "Can I use your phone?"

"Sure," Andrea said. She pointed CJ towards the kitchen phone. "We'll be in the other room."

Toby followed his wife down the hall. "Are there sheets on that bed?" he asked.

Andi nodded. "I changed them after your sister came out last month." She paused. "She lives alone?"

"I think her roommate might be out of town or something. She mentioned something about that," Toby shrugged.

"I see. She's awfully bright, Toby, what are they using her for?" Andrea asked.

"Secretarial. She gets access to polling data in exchange for doing clerical work. It frees up a little money for Miller and helps her out," he replied.

"How'd they find out about her?" she asked.

"I don't know, but I know Tony's got some friends at Berkeley. I would guess they know Jerry too." He glanced back at the kitchen. "I don't know. I'd be interested in checking her thesis out."

"That impressive, huh?" Andrea said.

"Let's just say that had she not slammed that staple gun home, I would still have figured out a way to finish my conversation with her," Toby replied.

"Interesting," Andi said, looking at him. CJ emerged from the kitchen, cutting off any response he would have made. Andrea smiled warmly. "All set?"

"Yeah. I had to cancel my classes. They won't mind much," she said.

"Taking or teaching?" Andi asked.

"Teaching. I'm done taking classes." CJ shrugged. "Introduction to American Politics Parts 1 and 2."

"I had to teach one called "Politics and You". It was for non-majors who just needed a social science credit," Andrea sighed. "It was fairly wretched."

"I remember," Toby said, grinning. "I remember the essay tests."

Andi groaned. "God, those were the worst. But that's a story for another night. You look about ready to drop, CJ."

CJ shrugged. "I guess I'm pretty tired."

"That's fine. Why don't you go wash up in there," Andrea said, motioning to the bathroom. "And I'll find something for you to change into, ok?"

CJ nodded. "Thanks. For taking care of me, too."

"Oh, it's not a problem at all," Andrea said. Toby nodded in agreement. CJ managed a small smile, and slipped into the bathroom. Andrea reached out and wrapped her arms around Toby's neck. "You did a good thing, Toby Ziegler."

"Yeah. I think I did," he said, kissing his wife.

*~*~*~End~*~*~*

 

 

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