So - this is the sequel to Past Tense. Its sort of a series of snippets from CJ and Toby's developing relationship.
TITLE: Current Affairs
AUTHOR: Morgan email@example.com
SUMMARY: In the sequel to Past Tense, CJ and Toby explore their feelings for one another, with her former lover in the wings and the rest of the staff looking on.
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.
Current Affairs - part 1
Toby looked up from the cup of coffee he had been assidiously stirring for the last five minutes, to find CJ watching him across the table with an amused expression.
'What?' he demanded.
She hid a smile, he was being incredibly awkward, fidgeting, talking about work and then clearly remembering this was supposed to be a social occasion - at which point he would lapse into a long silence.
'I was just thinking that you've surprised me this evening. I wasn't sure how you'd react to my suggestion.'
'I'm still not sure how I'm reacting to it CJ.'
'But you're here,' she probed carefully. This was the subject they'd been circling for the last two hours or so - tiptoeing around the edges of the serious discussion that they needed to have, yet perhaps weren't ready for. CJ couldn't decide if, since she'd known Toby for so long, she should be worried about this difficulty in talking to one another - or if she was just expecting too much too soon.
She had never done this before, never changed the nature of her relationship with someone she'd worked with, shared victory and defeat with. It was all so confusing - she'd been hoping that actually making a decision would make it easier, but now she realised she had simply opened up whole new vistas of confusion.
'Well, surprisingly enough, wondering what might have happened wasn't as attractive an alternative as actually finding out what might happen.' It was definitely wasn't the answer she'd been expecting; although within it she could glimpse tantalising possibilities of the future and the relationship they could have. 'CJ there have been things in my life that I've regretted. I don't want never finding out what might have developed between us to be one of them.'
Now she was definitely taken aback - he was suddenly being far more honest than she'd expected, she could tell how difficult it was for him - but still he was trying. She was curious about those regrets and wanted to ask him about them, she wanted to know more about what drove him - but the staff were rather noisily putting chairs on tables.
CJ looked around her and realised that they were the only customers left and the waitress behind the counter was sending pointed looks in their direction. It was ironic that they were going to have to leave at the very moment they seemed to be getting somewhere.
'We seem to have outstayed our welcome.'
'I'm still drinking my coffee.' He finished his drink, at his own leisurely pace, completely ignoring the looks directed towards them from a waitress who clearly had no idea who she was dealing with. CJ rolled her eyes at his behaviour and said nothing until he finally put the cup down.
'Can we leave now?'
'I think so.' CJ got to her feet and pulled Toby's raincoat over her dress, happening to glance over her shoulder she noticed the waitresses expression.
'Nice coat,' was her somewhat sarcastic expression.
'I like it,' CJ replied, fastening the belt and turning to Toby, 'let's get out of here.'
As they left the coffee shop Toby tried, for a moment, to see them as a stranger might. A tall woman in a glamourous and obviously expensive dress, wearing a somewhat crumpled raincoat that probably wasn't hers - and a bald, bearded guy in a dark suit who needed to do more exercise. As a couple they were fairly incongrous.What might someone who didn't know anything about them make of them? Colleagues? Friends? Something more? That seemed the most unlikely option of all somehow - but had he ever given a damn about what other people thought of him?
CJ turned in the direction of her apartment building and started to walk. Toby hesitated for a moment, not sure if this was a good idea.
'We're walking?' He asked, falling into step beside her.
'Its just around the corner Toby,' she glanced over at him, guessing the reason for his anxiety. 'This is a street, hardly a wide open space.'
'I know, its fine.'
Clearly it wasn't, but she wasn't going to debate the issue and they walked in silence for a few minutes until he said with what she recognised as inordinate care.
'This wasn't exactly what you were hoping for was it?'
'You think I'm disappointed?'
'No,' she shook her head emphatically and stopped walking, it was suddenly incredibly important that they talked about this at least. 'We're both feeling awkward, a couple of hours ago we weren't even talking. I don't think we can wave a magic wand and suddenly change our relationship. We need some time, I want us to get to know each other in a different way, I don't for one moment think it will be easy, but I want to try - I'm not so different from you, I think if I don't explore this I'll regret it.'
'I want to try as well.'
'Good, then that's what we'll do.'
'Can we start walking now?'
'Yes.' She was just about to add that actually she'd had a good evening, that she had enjoyed his company, when they rounded the corner and she came to an abrupt stop.
'That's Phillip's car.' As she spoke a a familiar figure got out of the car and took a tentative step towards them.
'And that's Phillip Cauldwell,' Toby observed dryly. 'I suppose it isn't exactly a surprise that he'd come looking for you.'
'I need to talk to him.'
'CJ...' It wasn't exactly difficult to pick up on his lack of enthusiasm for this idea.
'I need to talk to him,' she reiterated.
'CJ?' This time it was Phillip who spoke her name. 'I think you left this behind,' he held out her wrap and she accepted it gratefully, not missing Toby's expression of dislike or the way that Phillip gave her companion the once over.
'Thank you - I know I owe you an explanation, I'm prepared to offer you one - although you may not be happy about what I have to say.'
'I want to know what happened.'
'Can you just give me a minute?' He nodded and with a final glance towards Toby turned and walked the few steps back to his car.
'Are you going to be all right?'
'Toby - I'll be fine.' She slipped his coat off and handed it back to him, 'thank you for lending me this, and for tonight. I might see you tomorrow?'
'I'll be in the office all day.'
'OK.' There was another of those uneasy silences, in which they both considered and dismissed something more in the way of a leave taking. The awkwardness of the moment was something they might have dealt with had they not both been aware that they were being watched. Finally it was a relief to say something as simple as, 'good night.'
CJ paused at the top of the steps to the apartment building, looking past Phillip to see Toby slowly walking away. She couldn't help wishing that he would look back at her just for a moment so she could at least smile reassuringly. Unfortunately by the time Toby did pause and look back, both CJ and Cauldwell had stepped into the building and all he saw was the door being closed behind them. Dispiritedly he turned and started to walk away.
To Be Continued