OK - so last part; except for the by now traditional epilogue, or part 12 if you prefer to look at it that way.
Hope you enjoy it.
Current Affairs - part 11
'Sam?' Toby wasn't really concentrating, in fact he wasn't even pretending to concentrate. He'd still be gazing off into space right now, musing on matters that bore no relation to the briefing document about financial legislation he was supposed to be reading, if he hadn't caught sight of Sam out of the corner of his eye. 'Why are you here? You're supposed to be starting the briefing?'
'CJs back,' Sam stepped into the office, trying to hide his surprise that he was the person imparting this information. 'She got back a couple of hours ago and I'm guessing that you didn't know that?'
'Brilliant deduction there Sam,' Toby pushed himself up from his desk, 'I should go and see her.'
'I think she's a little busy right now,' Sam gestured to the television, amused by how distracted his boss had suddenly become. He turned the sound up as CJ stepped into the press room to begin what would probably be the day's final briefing. 'I'm surprised she hasn't been to see you yet.'
'I'm not.' The abrupt reply left Sam feeling as though he couldn't really continue the conversation, he paused for a moment and then decided that Toby was the last person who would want company just for the sake of it. 'Do you think I should go and see her?' Toby asked suddenly, 'or wait for her to come and find me?'
'She works in the same building Toby, you don't think you're going to bump into her at some point?'
'I didn't know she was back Sam; I'm probably the last person to find out, what does that tell you?'
'That the two of you are close to making a mess out of something that ought to be simple? You have a meeting in ten minutes, she has the briefing - go see her later.'
'You know I really don't want to go to this meeting.' Sam sighed, he did know, he'd spent many long hours listening to Toby complaining about having to go to this meeting.
'You have to go to the meeting, we've been preparing for this meeting for how many weeks now? I know it isn't going to be pleasant but you have to go.'
'You're part of a massive conspiracy to ruin my life - you know that, don't you Sam? There's you, the Republicans, military dictatorships, people who think bald jokes are amusing, the Portuguese...' Sam interrupted before Toby could produce what was certain to be a long and exhaustive list.
'What did the Portuguese ever do to you? No, you know what, don't tell me - I don't even want to know.'
Two men walked through the corridors of the West Wing, they were arguing, which wasn't exactly unusual. Sam rolled his eyes as Toby returned to the subject that had been occupying him for the last five or ten minutes, although as far as Sam was concerned, it had felt considerably longer.
'That was a complete waste of time. Let me clarify, if wasn't just a pointless meeting with a group of people whom we have absolutely no possibility of convincing of the validity of our argument. No - it was worse than that, it was a pointless meeting with a group of people whom we have no possibility of convincing of the validity of our argument that I left my office, and all the work I should have been doing to attend.'
Sam sighed and thought about pointing out that Toby hadn't actually been working prior to this meeting, he had in actual fact been sitting around and worrying about CJ. But then he remembered that he wanted to live - so he didn't say that. Instead he said,
'Yes, thank you Toby, I had managed to grasp that. It was tough to miss your feelings about the meeting from your attitude by the way - and I don't think there's much chance that man you called "a malevolent, obsequious parasite" was offended.'
'Sychophantic,' Toby muttered in response.
'I said he was "a malevolent, obsequious, sychophantic parasite."' Toby amended, leaving Sam to marvel at his powers of pedantry.
'Well, that's all right then - because its not going to have any impact on our ability to work with them.' As they arrived at the communications area Sam continued, 'I mean granted they weren't being entirely flexible, but then we didn't exactly approach the meeting with an open mind.'
Toby was only half listening, he had more important things on his mind than Sam's running commentary on their meeting. He still had no real idea what he was going to say to CJ - he hoped that he would at least get the chance to talk to her about this. His worst fear was that she wouldn't say anything at all, that she would never refer to the press' questions or their relationship again. Everything would return to the way it had been just a few weeks ago, except of course that things between them would never be the same again.
'What I'm saying is I don't think the situation is irretrievable,' Sam had started to talk again as they walked towards Toby's office. Toby considered telling him to stop, but then decided he couldn't be bothered. He opened the door to his office and reached for the light switch, stopping abruptly when he realised that someone was sitting on his couch. 'I mean its close, but its not actually irretreivable and... you've stopped listening to me haven't you Toby?'
'Frankly I never really got started.'
'Go away Sam.'
'I should turn the light on if I were you,' CJ said getting to her feet, 'it will make it easier if I can see you when I'm shouting at you.
'You don't get to talk yet Toby. Lets see if I've grasped this particular version of Ziegler strategising instead shall we? You thought that by telling Danny about us he'd ask the question at the briefing, you guessed I wouldn't risk a denial and that by putting us front and centre it would protect me from accusations of impropriety in my contact with Phillip. You probably thought it was unfortunate that it meant our private life was now public property, but you decided not to worry about that since its more important that you rescued this siutation because I obviously couldn't handle it on my own.'
'It wasn't like that,'
'Oh really - then explain to me how it was?' He opened his mouth to do just that, he was the White House Director of Communications, he ought to be able to put together the appropriate collection of phrases to ensure that his actions were presented in the right light.
'Toby have you got the draft remarks for tomorrow?'
Just not right now.
'They're on my desk.'
'Thanks. Hi CJ.'
'Hi Sam.' As Sam crossed the room to collect the file he needed, Toby and CJ stood in uneasy silence, waiting for him to leave. As he pulled the door closed behind him, CJ said, 'so - how was it?' Toby rubbed his head and risked a step towards her.
'CJ I'm not good at sitting by and accepting thngs - especially if I think its wrong. You know this about me. I had to do something, I would have had to do something even if things hadn't changed between us and this whole thing effected something that is important to me. To not defend a key member of this staff would have been tantamount to telling the press we were fair game, to saying "come and get us" and that's untenable. I put our relationship out there because I knew it would have an impact, I wasn't undermining you, I was doing my job. And I'm sorry if you don't like that, I should have discussed it with you - but you weren't exactly approachable this morning.'
'So, its my fault?'
'No.' The insistent ringing of the telephone interrupted the moment ad CJ watched Toby's face, knowing that he was considering not answering, but also that he was too much of a professional to ignore what might be an important call.
In truth, she was grateful for the respite, arguing with Toby was a draining experience at the best of times, throw in the tumultuous nature of her own feelings and what you had was a recipe for disaster. And that was before he'd told her that he'd done his job - it was the one thing she hadn't been expecting him to say, which proved that she wasn't thinking straight right now.
It was an incredibley insignificant phone call and Toby was quite sure it wasn't worth the effort it had taken him to answer it. He listened patiently for all of thirty seconds and then said,
'This can wait until tomorrow morning, call me then and I'll try to feign interest,' before putting the phone down. He turned back to CJ who was looking at him with a mixture of amusement and shock.
He was impossible she decided, absolutely impossible. He was rude and arrogant and funny and sweet and passionate about what mattered to him and she was really going to have to work harder at the whole staying mad at him thing.
'CJ, the bottom line here is that I offered our relationship up to the press because I knew it would help you defend yourself. It wasn't wrong, it was a good strategy. The only thing I'm sorry about is that I hurt you. If its any consolation I've been scared to death all day. When you didn't come in here straight after the briefing I thought,' he waved his hand, not able to finish the sentence.
'You told Danny knowing he'd ask the question?'
'Knowing that I might never forgive you?'
'No one has ever done anything like that for me.' Toby did a rapid double take, her tone was soft, almost forgiving. Could she? Was she?
'Are you telling me you aren't angry with me?'
'No. I'm mad as hell with you, I'm just saying, no one's ever done something like that; done something they believed to be right even though it might cost them their relationship with me.'
'Toby?' Neither of them had seen Donna push open the office door, 'I'm sorry but Josh needs to know what time you're meeting with Congressman Lloyd on Thursday?'
'OK - thanks.' CJ didn't miss the speculative look Donna cast them before she hurried off - everyone must curious about them; they were probably the main subject of all White House gossip right now.
'I know I shouldn't have left today,' she said, 'but I needed to get away, just for a couple of hours, do some thinking.'
'Where did you go?'
'To see Phillip.' She could tell from his expression, from the sudden flash of unhappiness in his eyes, that that wasn't the answer he'd wanted to his question. 'I needed to, I don't know, end it for good between us.'
'And did you?'
'I think so, but I don't know what Phillip's ging to do or say.'
'If he knows what's good for him he'll keep his mouth shut.'
'Yes, but what are the chances of that?'
There was a breif silence in which they both tried to find a way to move the conversation on, both aware that they'd scarcely covered the most important things. Inevitably they both began at the same time.
'Toby,' CJ laughed nervously and said, 'after you.'
'No,' Toby turned away, picked up a file from his desk, glancing at it without really being aware what he was reading, before putting it down again. 'You go first. I don't know what to say anyway.'
CJ could have told him that she had the same problem, except, she realised suddenly, she did have someting to say. She was tired of feeling out of control, buffeted by circumstances, she was taking charge of this.
'I chose to come back,' she said quietly.
'I chose to come back, I'm choosing to hold onto something that matters, you told me I'd understand what you meant, and I do; today, in Phillip's office when he kissed me I understood what you meant.'
'He kissed you?'
'Yes, but that's not important. It didn't mean anything and what I realised was...'
'He kissed you!' She sighed, frustrated that he'd leapt straight to that, ignoring what she considered to be the serious and substantive point here.
'Yes, he kissed me, it lasted for maybe ten seconds and then I pulled away because for some stupid reason it made me realise that I was in love with you.'
At least Margaret knocked. Unfortunately she knocked the moment CJ had finished her confession so that instead of responding Toby said,
'Come in,' which didn't really convey any of the things he was feeling.
'Toby, have you seen, oh CJ, there you are, I've been looking everywhere for you. Leo wants to move your briefing with State to tomorrow afternoon - is that all right?' CJ was having difficulty remembering that there was going to be anything happening at all tomorrow. All she was really conscious of was the heat of Toby's gaze as it rested upon her. With some difficulty she focussed on the matter at hand.
'I'm sure that's fine Margaret, can you check with Carol first thing in the morning? And you can tell Leo I called a full lid.'
'OK thanks.' As Margaret left CJ blew out a breath and expressed a little of the frustration she was feeling at the constant interruptions. 'You trained them, didn't you? You trained them to do this. I mean we're standing here, trying to have a confrontation and half the building is strolling into and out of your office. I don't know, maybe there's a queue out there. Do you want to take a guess on who'll be next?'
'No, I want to do this instead.' She should have been prepared, really she should. She should have guessed what was going to happen, but somehow she still managed to be shocked when he kissed her... shocked but pleased.
Her first, somewhat confused thought, was that reconciliation kissing was good. Her second was that if it was this good every time they were going to be doing a lot of fighting. Eventually she realised that they could probably generate this much heat and passion without actually having to fight. But then Toby backed her against his desk and she accidentally knocked over his desk lamp as he pulled off her suit jacket. It was at about that point she decided to give up on thinking and concentrate on kissing.
The concentrating on kissing plan was a good one, especially when combined with the touching plan and the soft sighes and groans plan. As Toby's hands slid up and down her back she arched away from him and he seized the opportunity to explore her throat and neck - he really was going to drive her crazy.
The sound of a distinctly embarrassed cough stopped them in their tracks.
'I'm not looking and I really didn't see anything,' Ginger squeaked. From over Toby's shoulder CJ could indeed confirm that Ginger had turned her back. 'I just need the file on the Nasdaq - I'm really sorry.' CJ was surprised that Toby hadn't moved away from her and she took the opportunity to drop her head to his shoulder.
'I'm sitting on the Nasdaq file, aren't I?' She asked quietly. He gently stroked a hand over her back as he stepped away from her.
Toby didn't care what Ginger thought, and so he scarcely spared her a glance as he handed her the file and she made possibly the fastest exit from an office ever. He was much more concerned with the woman who had slid off his desk and was now standing with her back to him looking out of the window.
'CJ?' As he took a step towards her he could see she had convered her face with her hands and her shoulders were shaking. 'CJ?' He was afraid that she was crying, that she was so embarrassed she'd call the whole thing off. But when she looked up he could see that she wasn't crying.
'I'm sorry,' she gasped, trying to contain her laughter, 'but this is impossible, isn't it? Its a roaring farce.' He smiled and laughed a little along with her, mostly in relief. 'That was so embarrassing.'
'I don't know - it might have been worse if she'd come in much later.'
CJ covered her mouth and laughed some more, when she looked up Toby was watching her.
'Its been a while since I've seen you smile, I was just enjoying it.' She touched his cheek with her hand at his reference to the difficult days they had experienced.
'Its going to get better from here on in,' she said firmly, 'but we can't ever do that here again.'
'Or at least not unless we're sure there's no one in the building.'
'I'm joking.' He stood next to her and pulled her into his embrace, breathing out as she moved to make herself more comfortable. 'We can do this though - right?'
'Yes, I think we can do this.'
'Good. You tired?' He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and remembered how little sleep she'd got the previous night.
'Not especially. I'll tell you what I would like though.'
'To go home with you.' He pulled back from her just a little, wanting to clarify what she was suggesting.
'Do you think this is a good idea, I mean maybe we ought to talk about it or...' She put a finger on his lips and he very obediently stopped talking.
'I'll have to remember that's a good way of getting you to shut up,' she observed and then added, 'we talk far too much. I think this is one thing we definitely don't need to discuss or plan or make strategies for. I think we need to go somewhere more comfortable, somewhere where we can be alone, and just see what happens.'
'CJ - we both know what's going to happen.'
'Which is another reason we don't need to talk about it,' she concluded triumphantly slipping out of his embrace. 'I'm going to collect my stuff, I'll see you out front in twenty minutes, we can drop my car outside my apartment and I'll pick up a few things I'll need tomorrow - OK?'
'OK,' he looked a little dazed and she collected her discarded jacket, looked at the remains of his desk lamp and then crossed back to him to kiss him very briefly on the cheek. His lips quirked into a rapid smile, 'just out of interest, are you planning on inviting the rest of the ofice - to give it that authentic, people interrupting us kind of feel? We should at least invite Ginger to drop by at some point don't you think?'
He smiled and spent a moment looking out of the window as her laughter echoed along the corridor.