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 3
'Well?' Arriving at the West Wing on Monday morning Josh was bought to an abrupt halt by an uncharacteristically agitated Press Secretary. This was clearly going to be one of those days when just getting to his office was a manoeuvre that would take great skill and cunning.
'We have staff in five minutes,' he pointed out.
'Yes - and if you tell me what you know now we won't be late for it.'
'Or, we could stand here, debate the issue for a while and then be late.' He considered her point for all of a millisecond before conceding it.
'Nothing, there's nothing going on. No one's heard anything, there's nothing to worry aout. The bill's going to pass.'
'You're sure? You've checked, you talked to everyone?'
'I talked to everyone - I spent much of my Sunday talking to Congressmen and women and apologising for disturbing their weekend. The highspots of my day were the frequent phone calls from both you and Toby demanding progress reports. People are going to ask me how my weekend was, you know. What am I supposed to tell them?'
'Josh, no one is going to ask you about your weekend, no one cares about your weekend.' His shoulders drooped.
'Thank you CJ - I feel better now. I don't suppose you're going to tell me what this is about?'
'You're right, I'm not going to tell you,' she said as they started to walk briskly in the direction of Leo's office.
'Or what happened with Toby on Saturday night?' She shot him a look that told him in no uncertain terms that he'd better mind his own business or suffer the consequences. But he thought she looked tired and edgy and if she was fretting about Phillip Cauldwell that could only mean she thought she had upset or angered him. 'CJ, its going to be OK. Cauldwell isn't out to get us, or at least he isn't going to use the social security bill to do it. There's nothing to worry about.'
'Thanks.' CJ wanted to believe what Josh said, but she was aware that she knew Phillip better than any of them - and she thought they were a long way away from being home and dry.
'What's happening?' Leo asked as CJ and Josh arrived and the staff meeting finally got started.
'The social security bill is going to pass,' Josh announced.
'You're sure?' Toby asked as he glanced up from the file he was studying.
'I spent all day yesterday on this, no one has dropped out, no one is going to try to attach another clause. Its going to pass.'
'CJ?' Leo looked over to her and she couldn't help remembering that yesterdays most difficult conversation had been the one in which she had hinted to Leo that there might be a problem with Phillip Cauldwell and the votes he had gained them.
'He's not going to derail the bill,' she agreed, 'there is a potential for negative publicity in that. But he is going to make sure everyone knows it was passed because of him.'
'Do a Hoynes?' Josh said sitting up in his chair, 'you think that's it?'
'What do you want to do about it?' Leo asked and CJ considered carefully, aware that she was on less than solid ground here, that if Phillip chose he could still make her position untenable.
'We should beat him to it. Give him the credit, but make sure we look good for getting him on board.'
'He's not going to dispute our version of events if we get there first,' Toby agreed, 'you should plant a question CJ.'
'I know,' she rolled her eyes the way she did when he had told her to do something that she was just about to suggest. 'I'll talk to Chris.'
'OK - good, let's move on.' Leo scanned his notes, 'CJ - we're going to have a thing with women's health statistics later in the week, the report will be with us today, I want you to be talking to the press about it tommorw. Toby will go through the bullet points with you.'
'Sam'll do it,' Toby said as everyone in the room looked at him.
'I will?' Sam asked, 'I mean yes, OK, I will - are you sure about this Toby?'
'I have some other things to work on, Sam will go through the report with CJ.' CJ narrowed her eyes and looked over at Toby who carefully did not look back at her. What was going on? Yesterday they'd talked a couple of times on the phone, mostly about Phillip, but everything had seemed fine. But now, was he avoiding her? She listened to the rest of Leo's list of subjects, without contributing much - she was still wondering about Toby, was she being too sensitive?
'There's just one other thing,' Leo announced just as the meeting was drawing to a close, 'the American Bar Association is celebrating Judge Mendoza's appointment to the Supreme Court; they're a little late in this, but considering how critical of them he's been that's hardly surprising. There's a gala dinner later this week, unfortunately the President can't attend, a prior engagement, he would however, like someone to go in his place.' There was a long silence as Leo's gaze settled on Toby. 'Toby?'
'No. absolutely not.'
'The man tortured me, he's a crazy lunatic. His sole ambition is to make my life more difficult than it already is. I am not going to his celebratory dinner.'
'Yes, you are.'
'They had a stormy relationship,' Sam put in, obviously trying to diffuse the confrontation that was brewing. CJ wondered why he was bothering - there was no way Toby was going to be deflected from arguing about this one.
'Shut up Sam. Leo are you doing this just to make me angry?'
'No Toby, but its an added bonus. Margaret has the invitaion, its black tie.'
'This is a conspiracy, to make me suffer, you know that?' Leo didn't seem to care that much, he simply looked at Toby over his glasses and said,
'Your discomfort notwithstanding - can we get back to business? This meeting is over - CJ, you got a minute?'
She watched as the rest of the senior staff filed out and then turned her attention back to Leo, who she found was watching her.
'You OK?' He asked.
'And you're going to explain this to me at some point, or as much of it as I need to know?' He asked carefully.
'Leo,' she paused, wondering exactly how she was going to explain this, 'its complicated,' she concluded feebly.
'Skip it - I just want to know whether Phillip Cauldwell is out to get us and what's up with you and Toby.' Those were two questions she wanted to know the answer to herself.
'I'll get back to you,' she offered, knowing that wasn't exactly conclusive.
'CJ, we can handle Cauldwell, but I can't have you and Toby fighting - sort it out, whatever it is. Do it today.'
'I'll get right on it.'
Sorting out Toby wasn't a task to be embarked upon lightly and CJ thought that it was entirely understandable that she put it on the back burner until later in the day. Instead she talked to Chris and persuaded him to ask a question about Phillip Cauldwell. It would cost her, of course, it was a favour that would need to be returned at a later date, but that was the way it worked. The price of doing business.
She chose her words with care during the briefing when she was called upon to respond to that particular question.
'CJ, there's a rumour that Phillip Cauldwell was involved in helping the bill to pass - he's on record as being opposed to some of its key provisions, do you have a comment?'
'I'm aware of the rumour Chris and Congressman Cauldwell, while unable to fully support the bill himself, did take the time to talk to several of his colleagues who were wavering.'
'He and the Presidnet haven't always seen eye to eye,' someone else pointed out.
'There have been some differences of opinion - however, on a piece of legislation this important the President was prepared to reach out to anyone who could help us, we spent a lot of time talking to the Congressman and his aides and we're delighted with the results.'
Reading the notes and watching the tape later she was satisfied with the subtlety of her response; the implication was that the Bartlet team had worked hard to get Cauldwell's assistance, the conclusion she hoped the press would reach was that they had fought for this victory because they were committed to the cause. Her only lingering fear was whether Phillip would accept that there was enough credit to go around.
Toby looked up from the document he was reading. His expression was distasteful and he fixed his companion with a stern gaze.
'Subterranean?' he asked.
'Its a word,' Sam jumped as though he had not been expecting to be challenged on that precise element of the speech.
'I know its a word Sam, but this is the White House, not Star Trek - find a different word.'
'Ther's nothing wrong with...' Sam began to protest but didn't get very far.
'Do you have a moment?' They both looked up to find CJ standing in the doorway.
'We're busy,' Toby growled.
'I have to find a new word,' Sam informed her and then looking back adn froth between his two colleagues he got hastily to his feet, 'but I can do that from next door, or the other side of the building - whichever is safer.'
Toby shifted some papers and generally tried to pretend that CJ wasn't standing in the doorway watching him. She matched his silence and waited out his discomfort.
'What?' he asked eventually, irritated with himself for giving way so easily.
'So, this is what I think is going on, I think you've decided that we should be careful, not draw too much attention to any changes that might be happening in our relationship and you've decided the best way to do that is to avoid me, am I getting anywhere near with this Toby?'
'It seems prudent to keep some distance,' he agreed, 'I'm sure neither of us want to be the subject of gossip.'
'OK - fine.' He was surprised by her ready agreement, until she pushed the office door shut and he realised that she had just got started on this. 'Except for two things - firstly people are now wondering why we aren't talking to one another and our work is being effected and secondly, your fabulous piece of logic sounds to me like an excuse, a delaying tactic. Toby I don't know what your issues are, why you're suddenly nervous about our getting closer; but I thought we'd agreed we were going to try this?'
He rubbed his head tiredly, facing the facts she had presented him with and trying to decide what to say in response.
'I'm not going to admit that twice CJ. But I do seem to have been using our professional relationship as an excuse. I thought it would be easier if we didn't spend as much time together.'
'Its not going to be easier, there aren't going to be any short-cuts here.'
'I know that.'
'We're going to talk about this some more.'
'I can't wait.'
'I have to get back to work now, when you're ready to talk about this come and find me.' He watched her walk to the door, fighting with himself about whether or not to call her back. He was just about to say her name when she paused and said, 'its unfortunate you aren't sure about mixing the personal and the professional.'
'What are you talking about?'
'I don't know if you've noticed but the invitation from the American Bar Association includes a guest.' He hadn't noticed, in fact he was carefully not thinking about the event at all.
'I'm going to ask Sam to go through the women's health report now, I know you're busy, so I won't keep you.'
He sat back in his chair as she left, he'd got this wrong, really, really wrong. Yesterday his plan had seemed perfectly reasonable, sensible even, a way of managing their professional relationship despite the changes in their personal lives. Today it had taken CJ to make him see that he had merely constructed an excuse to keep hiding, to try to avoid the complications that were going to ensue if they continued with what they had begun on Saturday night.
It had seemed so simple, he wanted her in his life, somehow she seemed to want the same thing and he had temporarily pushed aside all of his fears. But they were insidious and had had crept back. What made it worse was that he had based decisions on them, lending them a legitimacy. He wasn't sure if he could explain them to someone else, let alone find a way to get past them - but if he couldn't he stood no chance of being able to give CJ the relationship she deserved, the relationship he wanted.
To Be Continued