Yes - there is definitely one part left to go - and maybe an epilogue, I haven't decided yet.
I should say (because I forgot to in the last part) that the stuff about the process of being the Press Secretary was from Lanny J. Davis' great book 'Truth To Tell' - Davis was chief spokesman handling scandals for Clinton (pre Lewinsky). He learnt how to handel the press practically from scratch and describes the process in great detail. Its an interesting read.
TITLE: Current Affairs
AUTHOR: Morgan firstname.lastname@example.org
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 10
'What?' Toby didn't even need to look up to know that Sam was standing in the doorway, over the years he'd gained a sixth sense about this and it had never yet let him down. His eyes didn't stray from the passage of text he was reading, his head resting heavily on the palm of one hand.
'I'm doing the next briefing.'
'What?' Suddenly Sam had his full attention. 'Where's CJ?'
'She isn't here, I was just talking to Leo and he said...'
'She isn't here. What do you mean she isn't here?'
'I mean she isn't in the building, she's gone.' Toby was already reaching for his phone when Josh arrived in the doorway.
'Don't bother, I've already tried. There's an answer machine on in her apartment and her pager and cell phone are in her desk drawer.'
Toby rubbed his head in consternation, this couldn't be happening. He had never expected that she would walk out, in fact for the last hour or so he'd been expecting her to come storming into his office to have this out with him.
'If she doesn't do the next briefing the press are going to start speculating that she's resigned, or been asked to resign,' he pointed out - despite the fact that neither Sam nor Josh needed his help to draw that conclusion. 'Did either of you speak to her after the briefing?'
'I did,' Josh looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable, 'she was pretty pissed. I tried to get her to calm down, but there's a good chance I made things worse.'
'I'm going to go and find her,'
'No you aren't.' Toby stopped in the act of reaching for his jacket as Leo stepped into the room. He closed the door behind him before he added, 'CJ asked for some time off, I've told her she can take as long as she needs, I don't know when she'll be back.'
'Or if,' Toby added morosely. 'She could just decide never to come back.' The silence that followed this remark was decidedly tense and it was Sam who broke it.
'She'll come back.' There was no immediate response from Toby who had started to pace back and forth in front of his window, working himself up into a diatribe.
'Leo - its going to give the impression that we've fired or suspended her - we've spent the whole morning managing this story - and now, we've played right into the press' hands.'
'I can't help that.' Leo was unrepentant - something that did nothing to soothe Toby.
'You should have told her not to go!' He exploded. Josh and Sam held their breath, waiting for Leo's response, recognising that it wouldn't be good. Leo, unmoved by Toby's volume didn't bother to raise his voice; he just made sure he sounded every bit as angry.
'Yes, I could have done that, but given how upset and pissed off she was I didn't think that would be particularly helpful. And just in case you're interested Toby I'm resenting the hell out of you blaming me for this when in fact you contributed to this situation. Which part of "don't do anything" did you fail to understand?'
'Can I just say, Toby did absolutely the right thing.' Josh interjected.
'How do you work that out?' Leo turned his attention to his Deputy, who immediately wished he hadn't got involved in this. It was Sam who continued the argument.
'By making the press aware of his relationship with CJ, Toby made it far more difficult for them to imply that there was anything more to her contact with Cauldwell than a business meeting. They're going to be much more likely to pursue the "romance in The West Wing" angle.'
'Thank you Sam, you made that sound truly repugnant' Toby glanced away from the windows for long enough to nail his colleague with a look, 'I'm sure we're all grateful you aren't a speech writer or anything like that.'
'Can we get on with our jobs now?' Leo said in a voice that left little doubt that this wasn't open for debate.
'I'm still worried about CJ.'
'Are you Toby? Or are you annoyed that she came to me instead of you? Because I think that might have something to do with it.' It was difficult for Toby to respond to that criticism because the thought had crossed his mind. He was disappointed that she hadn't come to him to talk, or argue about what he had done, and he was - jealous that she had chosen to go to Leo instead.
'I wasn't aware the two were mutually exclusive.'
'Lets not do this now - we have enough trouble without fighting among ourselves. CJ will be fine, she just needs some time to think things through. Sam, don't you need to read some papers before the briefing?'
'I do, I've only just realised how much paperwork CJ reads - I don't know how she does it.' His remark was met with silence and he hurriedly followed Leo out of the door - leaving Toby and Josh alone. Toby had turned back to the window - Josh wasn't even sure if he realised that he wasn't alone, and he was torn between thinking he ought to say something and not having a clue what that something should be. He'd just decided that perhaps the easiest thing to do was creep away when Toby asked
'When you spoke to CJ was she very angry?'
'At me?' There was something, vulnerable in Toby's voice as he asked that question, something Josh could have done without ever hearing - he wished he didn't feel quite so compelled to tell the truth.
Nicole Howther had been Congressman Cauldwell's personal secretary for three years now. She'd lived in Washington DC for over a decade and had held a variety of posts working for politicians. It wasn't much of a challenge for her to identify senior figures in the Bartlet administration, and so it only took her a split second to realise that the angry woman standing before her was CJ Cregg.
She bit back her slightly nervous automatic response, which was to remark that she looked a lot taller in the flesh than she did on TV. Somehow she suspected that this wasn't a conversation destined to produce much in the way of small talk.
'Is he here?'
'The Congressman is at the House this at the moment, he has rather a full diary today perhaps...' In fairness Nicole realised that this wasn't the best of responses. She'd seen the news today, knew what had been said at the White House briefing this morning and had spent the intervening hours fending off calls from the press.
She wasn't prepared for quite how imposing the President's Press Secretary could be, possibly because she always seemed to be so calm and approachable during briefings. But the woman who drew herself up to her full height and spoke with considerable force was anything but approachable.
'I don't care if he's having tea with National Security Advisor, call him on his cell phone and tell him if he doesn't get back here in twenty minutes I'm going to start briefing the press about our sex life, right outside his front door. I'll be in there.' She gestured in the direction of what she assumed was the Congressman's private office and swept past the startled looking secretary without a backwards glance. Fortunately she'd guessed correctly; it was his office, not a broom cupboard.
CJ pushed the door to the office shut behind her, she stood in Phillip's inner sanctum - looking around her in disbelief, what on earth was she doing here? She couldn't begin to tell what emotions had prompted her to come here. She'd walked out of the White House full of righteous indignation, surprised that Leo had not tried to talk her out of leaving and only when she got to her car had she realised that she had no idea where to go. But somehow she'd found her way here - a decision that had felt right the moment that she'd arrived at it. As she'd travelled here her anger and her need to see him had grown and grown until she thought she would explode. His absence was a factor she hadn't quite counted on, but it was a minor complication - not something that would deflect her.
As Phillip stepped through the doors of his office CJ unfolded herself from the chair behind his desk. There was, she reasoned, no need to let him know that as the moments trickled away towards her deadline she had started to worry that he might be planning to call her on it, and that she might have to go through with her threat to brief the press with the full details of their affair.
'Well,' Phillip said in a voice that was perilously close to a drawl, 'this takes me back. I remember a time when you'd be waiting for me in my office almost every day.' She knew what he was referring to, there was an office in California that had seen a lot of activity four years ago - not all of it political. But, she pushed the thought away and concentrated on the here and now.
'I came here to talk to you.'
'Oh, I think you've done quite enough talking for one day - I caught your briefing this morning, it was very touching.'
'You hit us, we come back at you one hundred times harder - that's how we play this game at the White House Phillip - don't mess with us, you're out of your league.'
'You destroyed me this morning CJ - do you realise that? Just a few little words, that cunning little reference, how did it go? Something about our relationship ending when I reconciled with my wife, shortly before I decided to run for President?' She wasn't going to pretend that she hadn't done it deliberately - the one thing she'd made certain of was that everyone who had heard her statement was absolutley clear that the three events were indelibley linked.
'That is what happened Phillip, its not as though I made it up. You hung my career out to dry, you didn't care if I survived or if I'd have to resign - did you really think I'd just take that? That I wouldn't defend myself?' His facade of confidence cracked abruptly.
'I don't know what I was thinking CJ; I was angry, jealous and I wanted to hurt you.'
'Congratulations - you got your wish,' she stopped herself, this wasn't who she wanted to be, no matter how angry she was with him she didn't want to be someone who enjoyed causing pain. 'I know some of this is my fault, I know I encouraged you, let you think that we could start again. That was wrong of me, and I'm sorry. But you hurt me, I hurt you - we're done now, aren't we? Lets leave this with us both still in one piece - and get on with our lives.'
'Why did you do it if it wasn't real - if it was such a mistake?' CJ sighed, it was the question she hoped he wouldn't ask and yet he did deserve an answer.
'When I saw you again, some of the feelings I used to have for you resurfaced and I was flattered that you were still interested in me. I've been so busy the last few years, I haven't exactly been beating eligible men back with a stick - and at the point at which my better judgement should probably have kicked in, there was Toby - telling me I couldn't, shouldn't get involved with you. Now I realise that there were all these other feelings connected with my reaction to Toby - but then, I think I was just trying to annoy him.'
'Well, that's flattering.'
'I'm trying to be honest with you.'
Does Toby know you're here?'
'No - this has nothing to do with him Phillip.'
'You're not trying to make him jealous? Or trying to find a way out of a relationship you aren't ready for?' When she didn't answer he took a step closer to her, obviously sensing he was getting close to what he considered the truth. 'We were so good together CJ, we still could be.' He reached over to touch her face with his fingertips and then leaned forwards to kiss her.
She would never be quite sure why she didn't move, why she didn't push him away, why she let him pull her closer and kiss her - hard. Or why she didn't stop him. Instead her arms slipped around his neck as he pulled her close, deepening the kiss . Suddenly reality set in with all the force of a physical blow and she wrenched herself away from him, putting as much distance between them as possible.
'What's wrong?' She wasn't even thinking about Phillip, from the moment she'd pulled herself away from him her entire consciousness had been focused on a very different man. Her thoughts raced, piecing together details of a jigsaw that had taken her far to long to solve. 'CJ?' Phillip touched her shoulder and she jumped, literally, 'what's wrong?' Words failed her, for a woman who lived by her ability to speak to the press that was something that should probably worry her more - but right now she didn't give a damn.
'I'm in love with him,' she choked out at last. 'I didn't realise it until just now, I have to go, I need... I shouldn't be here.'
'Suppose I tell him you were here - with me, suppose I tell him that we kissed?' She paused at the door and looked back at him, she didn't have time for this, standing here talking to him was merely delaying her journey back to the West Wing.
'Tell him what you like, do you think he'll believe you? Phillip this is over, its done with. There's nothing between us anymore.'
She didn't even look back as she left the office - and it wasn't until she was out in the corridor that she realised that she was still mad with Toby.
To Be Continued