You see the thing about secrets is, they normally get found out. Thanks to Steve B for the line, although he'll never know I stole it from him.
TITLE: Collision Course
AUTHOR: Morgan email@example.com
SUMMARY: A decisive moment in CJ's relationship with Toby.
DISCLAIMER: The West Wing belongs to NBC et al. I'm not quite sure why I'm doing this, I just am - but its for entertainment purposes only - no disrespect is intended.
Collision Course - part 3
CJ woke up slowly and stretched her arm out across the bed; she was completely unsurprised to discover that she was alone.
'Do you ever sleep?' she enquired, her voice husky with sleep. She opened her eyes and located Toby without difficulty. He was sitting at the desk, already knee deep in papers. Dimly she recognised that it had been the noise from the fax, currently spewing forth papers that had woken her.
'Holidays, long journeys and boring meetings,' was his response. He put down his papers and looked over at her, 'also you stole all the covers again, which is an endearing trait but it does make it a little harder to sleep.'
'What time is it?' she asked, ignoring his remark and his amused smile when she refused to rise to the bait. She glanced at the clock on the bedside table, 'six thrity. I have to brief the press before nine. I need to get up and...'
'I ordered breakfast,' Toby told her, 'we never have breakfast together, one of us always has to rush off. I thought we could have breakfast together today.'
'Toby, we've had breakfast together before.' She was a little taken aback by the gesture; and then she wondered why she was surprised, he'd done romantic things before - there were two dozen red roses in a room along the corridor as proof of this.
'Not for the last month.' She stared at him, torn between being surprised that he would know something like that and amazement that it had been so long since they had done something as simple as share breakfast.
'Have you been keeping count of how much time we spend together?' She asked, only half teasing him.
'No, I worked it out this morning while you were still asleep; and then I ordered breakfast.' He crossed the room to sit beside her on the bed, 'it should be here soon. I thought it would fall into the category of a nice thing to do.'
'It was very thoughtful,' she touched his cheek with her fingertips, 'on the other hand you could come back to bed for a while. That would be nice as well.'
'That's a very tempting offer.'
'But I do have some reading to do before we leave.'
'CJ,' she stopped whatever he had been about to say by putting a finger on his lips and then replacing the finger with her lips for a brief kiss.
'Its OK, I understand.'
'I'll make it up to you,' he offered.
'You most certainly will. Actually, I'm starving - breakfast was a very good idea.' She shoved him out of the way and slid out of bed, pulling on a robe and running a hand through her tousled hair. 'I'm going to have a shower, what's in the fax?'
'I don't know,' Toby picked up the three sheets of paper that had just arrived and started to read. 'Oh for Gods sake. I do not believe this!'
'How can this happen? Don't these people know we're all supposed to be members of the same party?'
'Toby?' He opened his mouth to tell her, but the words were stopped by the hammering on the door, followed by a shout of,
'Toby - you in there?'
'That's Josh,' CJ hissed, watching in disbelief as Toby shrugged and opened the door. This was it, the moment when they were going to get caught out.
'Have you ever seen such crap!' Josh was in full vent, with Sam a pace behind him.
'I'm just reading it now.' Josh looked over in CJs direction and she held her breath.
'CJ - whatever you were going to brief the press on is out the window now.'
'Toby and I were just discussing that,' she said, hoping that she could get away with not knowing what they were talking about.
'We need to develop a strategy,' Josh continued 'you'll need to be ready with a response.' CJ nodded, just a little distracted by the fact that Josh and Sam did not seem to be putting two and two together here. Granted they were concentrating on the problem at hand, but she was standing in Toby's hotel room wearing a bathrobe. Was it possible that, if they had thought about that at all, they had just assumed that she'd got up, found out what had happened and walked straight down here to talk to Toby about it without bothering to get dressed first? They were both dressed, although Josh looked as though he had been dragged from the gym - yet neither of them seemed to notice that she wasn't.
For a moment she seriously entertained the idea that they already knew about her relationship with Toby, which would explain their sang froid now. But it was a thought she dismissed almost at once; there was just no way either of them would have kept quiet about information like that. She looked up at Toby, who shrugged slightly, obviously as surprised as she was that nothing was being said. There was another knock and this time he handed her the offending fax as he went to open the door.
'Good morning everyone,' the President said stepping into the room, leaving his secret service escourt outside the door. 'Well, this is a great start to the day. What the hell are we going to do about this?'
'We're going to tell the press that this is not a serious contribution to the debate on drugs,' CJ said looking up from the fax, 'and we're going to wish Senator Fox good luck in his career as a stand up comedien.'
'I like that suggestion,' Sam agreed.
'CJs right,' Josh added, 'lets just take him out.'
'Leo thinks there will be retribution,' was the President's response, 'I don't want to lose support we've worked hard to gain.'
'These people hate us anyway,' Josh said, 'its any excuse with them. If we come out fighting they think twice about coming after us again.' Toby nodded, taking the resoning a step further,
'Plus Fox is out to make a name for himself in the party. If we hit him, everyone else gets the message that they can't do that on our backs, we won't stand for it. Makes us look decisive, strong.'
'Leo's calling round now, finding out if anyone else is jumping ship.'
The President hadn't said a word either, CJ glanced around the room as the others speculated on the impact on their legislative programme. It was just possible that they might get away with this - as long as there was no incriminating evidence to give them away. She'd hung up her dress last night and the rest of her discarded clothing was, as far as she remembered, in the bathroom. Damn! Her eyes fell on a pair of elegant high heels on the floor by the foot of the bed. They would raise some awkward questions if anyone saw them.
As the conversation continued she tried to casually move to stand in front of the shoes. She had to be careful since she didn't want to attract any undue attention. She looked up at one point to see Toby watching her carefully, he looked worried. Somehow she doubted Senator Fox rated highly enough as a problem to cause him to look like that - he was dreading their getting caught. It made her stop for a moment, try to work out what his great fear was about going public. Was it because he didn't want to his private life to be scrutinised to that extent - she had always known how intensely private he was, that was the obvious explanation. Or was it something more? Some uncertainly about their relationship that led him to think a public acknowledgement was premature?
Meanwhile, the President had made his decision.
'All right, this is what we're going to do, Josh and Sam - help Leo, I don't want this to cost us any votes. CJ, you and Toby are going to handle the press, beat them back from this, I don't want to spend the whole week reading about who my enemies are in the Democratic party. And keep the stand up comedien line, I liked that.'
'Yes sir,' they all murmured. There was a little more discussion, but they were winding down, a few more minutes and it would be over. CJ started to relax, there was a good chance they were going to get away with this, which would probably mean there was no need for her to try to talk to Toby about what he was so worried about.
And then it all went horribly wrong. Breakfast arrived.
Almost no one noticed that there were two place settings, two cups, two glasses of fruit juice. Sam and Josh barely gave the trolley a glance and Toby had the porter leave it in the corner of the room, out of the way. Unfortunately President Bartlet was a man who noticed food, normally because he was trying to see if other people were getting to eat more interesting food than he was. So he took a good look at the trolley and CJ knew the exact moment when disaster happened, and the penny dropped.
He didn't say anything right then, as Josh, Sam and Toby went on talking the President's gaze travelled slowly towards CJ, pausing only to take in last nights discarded shoes. She couldn't even begin to read his expresson, if she'd had to hazard a guess at his reaction she would have gone for amused, but that wasn't based on a great deal and she was very aware how wrong she could be.
'OK guys,' he said, 'lets do this later.' He gave Josh a shove towards the door, 'lets leave CJ and Toby to eat their breakfast in peace. Oh and Toby - I'm going to want to talk to you later.'
'Yes sir,' Toby sounded very unhappy, obviously already anticipating the lecture he was going to get.
Josh got two steps away from the door before he realised exactly what the President had said. He whirled round to look at them, eyes wide with realisation.
'Oh my God! You stood in the bar last night and let me speculate,' he said accusingly 'and you never said a word, either of you.'
'Josh,' President Bartlet said warningly, 'not now.'
'Am I missing something?' Sam said as they stepped out of the room. It was Josh who filled him in.
'Sam, CJ is wearing a robe, she's standing in Toby's room, she was there before either of us. Where do you think she spent the night?' Fortunately for everyone Sam's reply was cut off by the door being closed firmly behind him.
There was silence in the hotel room, a shocked, sickening silence. CJ snapped out of it first, her cheeks burning with embarrassment. She sat down on the bed and buried her face in her hands, hoping she could shut all of this out. When she looked up again, having convinced herself otherwise, Toby was standing in exactly the same position, looking stunned.
'We need to talk to them,' she said urgently, 'in a minute Leo is going to know. This isn't going to stay a secret much longer, the press might even find out. We need to be prepared.'
'CJ, will you stop working - just for a moment?' Coming from him that was an almost unbelievable remark.
'If I stop working I have to think,' she shot back and then was immediately sorry, she hadn't inteneded to sound so harsh. 'And if I have to think I'm going to start worrying about what effect this will have on us,' she added softly. Toby sat heavily on the bed and reached for her hand. He still hadn't looked at her she noticed, that couldn't be good. 'Talk to me Toby, don't go all silent on me. I feel as though I can't reach you when you get like this.'
Toby struggled in silence for a few moments longer. He looked down at their joined hands, telling her that he was afraid things wouldn't work out, that he would lose her, meant confessing to deep seated insecurities and fears - something he was instinctively wary of. On the other hand, if he remained silent he would in all likelihood lose her anyway. He couldn't allow that to happen, she was incredibley precious to him and his greatest fault was probably that he hadn't told her that before now.
'I've been so keen to hold onto the secrecy because I thought that in the harsh light of day, in the spotlight of the press and our friends and colleagues we might find that our feelings have changed, and what we've had for the last six months might not survive. I thought if we could keep it hidden it would be all right, safer I suppose. I don't want to lose you CJ.' She turned his hand over and stroked a thumb over his palm.
'Thank you for telling me; I feel better now I can see a few of your demons - its hard to fight enemies you can't see. You have no idea what I've been imagining, what ridiculous scenarios I've dreamt up to explain to myself why you wanted to keep this secret. I've been telling myself that it didn't mean that you weren't as serious about this as I am, that you weren't as involved as I was. But I think it was one of my more unconvincing performances.'
Finally Toby looked up at her, seeing in her eyes all the uncertainty and fear that he was sure she could see in his, there was something else there as well - and he hoped that she was as sure about what it was as he suddenly was. He put his arms around her and pulled her tight to him, she didn't protest, wrapping her arms around him and holding on as if that were all that mattered.
'We can do this,' he said quietly into her ear, 'we've been doing it for months now - our work hasn't suffered, we haven't fought more than usual. Its no one's business but ours. If the press ask we'll confirm a relationship but tell them its a private matter - why should they care? No one else is involved, we aren't hurting anyone, there's no impropriety here. There's not much of a story in that. As for our friends, well, they should be pleased for us, they should be able to tell how much happier we've both been since we've been together - and we'll tell them that.'
'We're going to come out fighting?' She asked, lifting her head from his shoulder.
'Absolutely. We're together, we're very happy and to hell with anyone who doesn't like it.'
'OK.' She brushed her lips over his, 'sounds fine, you're a brilliant strategist Mr Ziegler.'
'Well, I have you to deliver that strategy - that makes things easier.'
'I just have one question.' He frowned, unable to tell where she might be going with this.
'Do I really make you happy?' Oh God, he was so bad at this, this was why his other relationships hadn't worked out, well that and his lousy temper.
'I'm sorry, I should have told you. I thought you could tell - you make me very happy CJ.'
'I was just checking.' She kissed his cheek and whispered, 'you make me happy too.' Toby closed his eyes for a moment and cradled the back of her head with his hand as she nestled happily into him. Having her in his arms was a feeling so good he was quite sure he didn't deserve it. And he was going to do everything in his power to carry on making her happy.