OK - so part 4. Can I ask you all to bare in mind that I'm a Brit, living in London and its been a while since I studies Political Science. If I make a mistake about the US legislative process, I humbly apologies and promise to do more research next time.
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 4
'Got a minute?' CJ looked up from the report she was reading to find Toby standing in the doorway of her office. If, after their encounter earlier in the day, she'd been expecting him to apprear unsure, even hesitant about approaching her she was in for a surprise. He looked exactly the same as he always did, edgy and - well, brooding.
Whatever the conflicts of their private life it was easier in that moment to fall back upon a more familiar relationship, to think of him solely in terms of his formidable intelligence, to see him as the possessor of a mind that stimulated and challenged her own.
'Have you read this?' She asked, taking off her glasses and laying them on the desk, 'apparently women pay more for prescription drugs, live longer and earn less than men and so have higher overall health costs. One third of women on medicare lack prescription drugs coverage,' she quoted.
'I see you have the bullet points,' Toby accepted drily, 'you're going to be talking about the report tomorrow?'
'I'll mention it at the gaggle - and then see if anyone is interested in follow up.' She sighed, 'sometimes I think that we'll never do enough, there always seems to be more for us to sort out.'
'Fixing health provision isn't an overnight job CJ.'
'You think I don't know that?'
'OK.' She's always known he was an impatient man, the sight of him trying to control that impatience, to stand there and talk about health care provision with her when it was obvious he wanted to discuss what had happened that morning, was one that in other circumstances might have made her smile. The situation was a little too serious for that and instead she gestured to the couch. 'Sit down Toby, talk to me.'
As he complied he glanced over at her television set, the sound was muted but it was clear that she was waiting for the vote.
'How's it going?'
'Josh is right - I think its going to pass.'
'Has Cauldwell said anything?'
'There's been no response to my remarks at the briefing this morning - there'll be a press conference after the vote I expect - although what he'll say I couldn't even begin to guess.' The note of anxiety that crept into her voice as she talked about Cauldwell made Toby want to tell her that it was going to be all right, that a hurt and rejected Phillip Cauldwell would retire to a corner and lick his wounds rather than strike out at her. But he had no idea if that was the truth and offering her false comfort would be as bad as lying to her. 'Let's talk about this morning instead,' she offered,as though it would be a welcome respite.
'You were right this morning.'
'I know.' He sighed, aware that he deserved the comment,but unable to prevent himself from saying peevishly,
'CJ this is going to be a short conversation if you keep telling me how right you were.'
'Annoying, isn't it?' was her response. He darted a quick look in her direction, and saw the rapid smile she directed his way - more challenge than sympathy he decided. Instead of replying he looked down at his feet, tried to focus his attention inward, on the things he needed her to know.
'I thought if we could just keep work and our private lives separate it wouldn't become too complicated, we wouldn't mess up our relationship, I wouldn't annoy or disappoint you too much.'
CJ took a long breath before answering him. She firmly clamped down on her instinct to be flippant, knowing it was a response she had developed to keep her distance from people, to prevent herself from being hurt. Toby was bending over backwards to be honest with her, he deserved a response of equal seriousness.
'Toby, I understand the impulse, but we work 18, 20 hour days. We are never going to keep what we do out of our relationship, maybe if we had different jobs it might work, but right now its not possible and we're not going to be able to change that. I agree we should be discrete, try to build our relationship on elements outside work, but not because we're trying to put up barriers, not because we're too scared to really get close.' She paused, considering the wisdom of probing deeper, wondering if she was really ready to get up close and personal with this many of Toby's demons in one shot. 'Tell me what makes you think you'll annoy or disappoint me?'
'Because it's what happens. It's what I do. The novelty of my somewhat challenging personality tends to wear off quickly CJ.'
'Toby, I've got to tell you, the novelty of your personality, challenging or otherwise, wore off shortly after I met you.' He shook his head and smiled, the jibe had been perfectly timed. 'I do have some idea of what I'm getting into.'
'I want to believe that.'
'Good.' Hesitantly she got up from behind the desk and went to sit down with him on the couch. 'Neither of us is entering into this without some baggage.' She glanced over her shoulder towards the televison, the congressional vote a reminder of the currency of her own past, 'if we can't be honest about that...'
'Come with me to the Mendoza dinner?' He asked suddenly, almost as though on impulse. He hadn't been sure that he would ask her, didn't want to combine something he didn't want to do with a date with CJ. But her smile was temptation enough and she was sitting close enough for him to feel the warmth from her body. It had been so long since he had felt this way.
'I thought you didn't want to go?'
'I don't want to go, Leo is making me go because he has a perverse sense of humour. CJ, this is not the moment to play coy. You dropped one of the broadest hints I've heard for some time on this very subject this morning.' She leaned her elbow against the back of the couch add rested her head on her hand, watching him as she observed,
'Toby, its going to be difficult for us to date if we don't actually go anywhere.'
'I know that and I don't think I'm unreasonable in pointing out that a dinner given for Mendoza by the American Bar Association is far from being an ideal first date.'
'We'll be together, out of the office,' she counted the points off on her fingers and added a few more, 'there will be food and alcohol, I'm struggling to see where the problem is.'
'The problem is with Mendoza and his ability to bring chaos into my life.'
'I'm not that interested in Mendoza right now Toby.' He turned to look at her, startled by her words. Seeing something in her eyes he wanted to respond to, he cautiously stroked a hand over her cheek, touching her hair, moving closer to her. Smiling she shook her head, pressed her fingers over his mouth.
'I'm sorry, but when I kiss you for the first time its not going to be in my office.'
'OK, well my office is just down the corridor,' he was teasing and she laughed, flirting with him was a game she could easily come to enjoy. She didn't back away from the sudden closeness and Toby slipped an arm around her and rubbed her back lightly. She sighed in relaxation and then looked over at the television,
'This is it,' she said, slipping away from him, crossing to the desk and turning the sound up. She wasn't completely surprised when he perched on the desk beside her and watched the final moments of the vote with his customary intense concentration.
'How does it feel?' He asked quietly, 'you made this happen.'
'I think I'd be happier if I didn't know how much of a struggle we'll have to get it through the Senate.'
'And if you hadn't had to expose so much of your past to get us to this point?'
'Well, that too.' She might have said something more, she might have talked about her relationship with Phillip Cauldwell, and how it had effected her, but Josh appeared at the doorway, denying her the chance.
'Guys,' he hesitated, looking carefully at them before he asked, 'am I disturbing something?'
'Yes,' Toby said irritatedly, 'what do you want?'
'Turn over, Cauldwell's press conference is on CNN.'
Toby felt rather than saw the tension creep back into CJ's body as they switched channels. He finally started to understand how deeply she had been effected by Phillip Cauldwell's return to her life, what she must have laid on the line to try out a relationship with him instead. Not able to tell her how glad he was that she had chosen to try this,or not right then, instead he reached over and took her hand, squeezing it as they watched, hoping she understood that he was with her, whatever it took.
'I congratulate the Bartlet administration on getting the social security bill through the House,' Phillip was saying, 'I think it's a success they should be proud of, and I'm glad that in some small way I was able to assist in that. But I'm here to serve them notice that the fight isn't over - I believe we can do more, that this legislation can be stronger, braver and we will be continuing the battle to ensure that it is.'
'He's good,' Josh said in reluctant admiration. 'He's cool, he comes across as a committed and skilled politician,' but Toby wasn't interested in an analysis of Cauldwell's performance right now. He looked across at CJ, to see how she was responding.
'I'd forgotten how relentless he could be,' she said quietly, 'this isn't over Toby, not by a long way.'
To Be Continued