It was all going so well, so I decided to fix that! Please be aware this part contains some CJ bashing (verbal) and some not very nice implications - also Sam gets to be a bit of a hero! For Suz, Fi and Claire because they put up with me!
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 6
'Do you realise that 44% of registered voters believe there is intelligent life on other Planets?' Sam said as he stepped into his boss' office.
'Sam,' Toby replied without even looking up at him, 'go away.' Unfortunately the warning note in his voice had little or no effect.
'I mean 44% - can you believe that?'
'On an average day I have trouble believing there is intelligent life in this building.'
'There's another part to the study.'
'Is it possible that you know even more completely useless information?' Toby mused, mostly to himself.
'In response to the question "Do you believe in aliens?" 54% of men and 33% of women questioned answered "Yes."'
'Apparently it is possible.' Finally Toby looked up, 'when I asked that question Sam, you do understand I was being sarcastic?'
'OK,' Sam looked dismayed and slightly hurt, 'I'm not sure how I was supposed to know that,' Toby sighed.
'Why are you here?'
'Its time to go.' Toby stood up and began gathering the papers he'd need.
'Remind me again why we are going to them as opposed to having the meeting here?'
'Its a symbol, we're saying, "we're here to listen as well as to talk" and "we are interested in what you have to say."'
'OK - but we aren't actually interested.' Undaunted by the interruption Sam continued.
'It shows a willingness to negotiate that we're going to need if we are going to get the Social Security Bill through the Senate.'
'I've got to stop letting you arrange these meetings.' As Sam opened his mouth to argue with this decision Josh put his head into the office.
'You two still here?'
'No Josh,' Toby replied, 'we actually left ten minutes ago, you're here talking to yourself right now.' Long accoustomed to this attitude Josh didn't even bat an eyelid.
'Because you have the thing on the Hill?'
'We know - Toby was just telling me that he doesn't understand why we're going to them,' Sam put in.
'We've had this discussion,' Josh stepped all the way into the office, looking it had to be said, slightly alarmed. He looked at Toby as he asked 'you're going to be nice - right?'
'No, Sam is going to be nice, I'm going to be truculent and intractable.'
'I hope you aren't this difficult with CJ.' Toby had actually been on the way to the door because, as amusing as it was to banter with Josh, he and Sam did actually have an important meeting to get to. But now, in response to Josh's remark, he stopped in front of him and asked in a dangerously low tone.
'I beg your pardon?'
'You heard what I said Toby.'
'Would you care to explain that remark?'
'Actually, I don't think I would. Have a good meeting.'
Toby watched the Deputy Chief of Staff's departure with narrowed eyes. He was aware that his relationship with CJ was a delicate thing that was more likely to thrive if it had time and space to grow away from the hothouse environment of the White House. Realistically he knew that such an opportunity was very unlikely, but uncharacteristically - he was hoping they were going to get lucky.
Josh wasn't someone who knew when to give up. This was clear from the fact that fresh from his encounter with Toby he stopped by his office for long enough to pick up a report and headed off on the scent of his next victim.
'There's a thing you need to read,' he announced, stepping into CJ's office mid way through one of her periodic conversations with Carol about spelling.
'A thing?' CJ queried before turning back to her assistant, 'Carol, its just a guess, but I think we're definitely going to need to know how to spell Reykjavik before we go there.'
'I'll find out.'
'Thank you. Now,' she looked over the top of her glasses at Josh, 'what thing?'
'A report on mental health.' CJ appeared less than thrilled as she held out her hand for said report, 'what's wrong?'
'Josh, last week I read a report on women's health and spent several days worrying about breast cancer and cervical cancer, among other things. I even made an appoinment for a check up.'
'I don't think I want to know anymore about that CJ,' she ignored him.
'I'm just wondering what I'm going to be worrying about this week - that's all.'
'Its funny you should say that - its a report about anxiety.'
'Anxiety?' Her gaze did not falter, even as she considered any unintentional humour that her remark could have prompted, 'and I'm going to be talking about this?'
'It effects 19 million adult Americans every year plus 13 million kids under 17 to a tune of $42 billion in Doctor's bills and work place losses, so yah, I'd say you're going to be talking about it.'
'OK,' she returned to her reading, only to look up a few seconds later to find him still there, 'Josh, I don't know if you've noticed but I'm actually trying to work here?'
'So - Toby said you had a good time the other night,' CJ hid a smile at this fairly transparent attempt to find out what was happening between her and Toby - she was actually surprised he'd held out for this long.
'No, he didn't - and the reason I know that Josh is because the words, 'Toby' and 'good time' are not synonymous in any known language and because he is far too smart to fall for one of your adolescent attempts to gather information or gossip about us, and just so we're clear about this, so am I.'
'CJ,' he whined, 'you have to tell me something.'
'No, I really don't.'
'Please?' She repeated in disbelief, 'that's it, that's your big strategy? Well, that certainly explains why we're having so much trouble working with Congress.'
Toby's meeting hadn't got off to a good start. In fairness they hadn't exactly been expecting a cake walk, they'd known that getting the Social Secrity Bill through the Senate was going to be every bit of the struggle it had taken to get it through the House. Yet buoyed by the unexpected victory they had determined not to lose any of the momentum they had on this, to carry the fight to the Senate and not to be afraid to argue with all comers if that was what it took.
The Office of Congressional Liaison, the White House department responsible for lobbying Congress had already swung into action on this, but, in their planning sessions The President, Leo and Josh had agreed that it couldn't hurt to pick out a few party waverers and try to bring them back into line via that well known double act of Ziegler and Seaborn.
It was a plan Toby approved of and agreed with. It was even a plan he thought had a chance of succeeding. But that was pretty much blown out of the water the moment Congressman Phillip Cauldwell walked into the room.
Sam saw him first.
'Congressman,' he said, loudly enough for Toby to hear him, 'what a pleasant surprise.' To his credit Sam did actually sound moderately pleased to see the man - but then he didn't know what else might be at stake here.
'Sam - good to see you again.' The Congressman shook his hand warmly and then turned to Toby, completely oblivious to the chill that had suddenly descended upon the room. 'And you must be the famous Toby Ziegler - its a pleasure to meet you. I don't believe we were formally introduced the other night.'
'I don't believe there was any need,' Toby said, ignoring the outstretched hand and using a tone of voice that finally set alarm bells off in Sam's brain.
'I didn't realise you would be joining us today,' he said, trying desperately to break into the hard ball game of stareing Toby and Cauldwell had got into.
'Oh, I just thought I'd drop by and lend my support to the discussion, Senator Gordon mentioned you were meeting and we all know how close the Social Security Bill is to my heart.'
Any hope of a constructive, productive meeting died there and then. For the next two hours Toby and Sam (but mostly Toby) talked, the Congressman argued and six Senators listened, occasionally contributing questions or comments. It was a text book political debate and the only real surprise was the iron grip Toby kept on his self control. Sam didn't know what scared him the most, Cauldwell's repeated attempts to bait Toby or Toby keeping his temper by demonstrating hitherto unknown degrees of patience. Either way he was certain that it couldn't last.
The conclusions of serious, high level meetings are a complicated matter - it isn't just a case of getting up, saying goodbye and getting the hell out of there - unfortunately. If Toby could have packed away his papers and sprinted for the door he would have done it. Instead, he endured a tortuous round of goodbyes whilst making strenuous attempts to avoid eye contact with anyone - especially Phillip Cauldwell. He had been largely successful in this, which was clearly not what the Congressman had intended at all.
'My Ziegler - may I have a word?' Toby seriously considered pointing out that as far as he was concerned Cauldwell had said enough already. Instead he enquired heavily,
'About the Bill?'
'About a personal matter,' without waiting for his reply Cauldwell continued, 'I was surprised to see you with CJ last week.' Leaving Toby with a choice between allowing Cauldwell to draw him into the corner of the room for a conversation he had no wish to participate in, or risking having the conversation in the centre of the room where six nosy Senators and Sam could overhear them.
'You and I do not need to discuss this,' he said, playing for time, hoping his tone of voice would be enough to warn Cauldwell off. It wasn't.
'Oh, I think we do.'
'CJ and I work together, there's no reason why I shouldn't have been with her.'
'You're colleagues? Really? CJ is getting awfully close to her colleagues these days. You're aware I've known her for years, in fact we were very close ourselves at one point, intimate friends you might say.' Toby abandoned all hope of containing this situation and grabbed Cauldwell's elbow and led him to the corner of the room.
'I know all about your relationship with CJ; it has nothing to do with her relationship with me.' If he'd hoped that would be end this subject he was sadly mistaken.
'Oh I think it has everything to do with you and her. CJ's very loving, very giving - isn't she? A pleasure to be with in fact. When she smiled at me, when I made her laugh I used to think that I was invincible because she loved me. I used to love the scent of that bubble bath she uses and I've lost count of the hours I've spent touching that cute little mole on her back, you know the one I mean, near the base of her spine?' He paused and looked up at Toby's carefully blank face, a face that should have made him realise that he had just made a dangerous and implacable enemy. But Phillip Cauldwell could only scent a victory here and he smiled, somewhat smugly and continued blithely, 'oh, I see you don't. That isn't like CJ. I'm afraid I'm rather embarrassed to recall how soon after meeting we ended up in bed.' The last shreds of Toby's self control exploded at that moment.
'Listen to me you son of a bitch,' Phillip Cauldwell was considerably taller that his antagonist, he was also in a lot better shape, but in terms of sheer fury there was no comparison to the White House Director of Comminications right then. As determined as he had been to prevoke this scene, even Cauldwell was unprepared for the force he had unleashed and he took half a step backwards, in no doubt that the man before him would pummel him to death or make a damn good attempt.
'Toby!' Sam got there first, 'we need to leave now.' He actually got in between the two men, a decision he might not had made had he not been acting on impulse.
'CJ is bitter and she's only interested in revenge,' Cauldwell said angrily, trying to reach round Sam to get to Toby, 'this is all about me and her, she's never forgiven me for not choosing her and now she's using you to hurt me.'
'You're talking about my colleague and my friend,' Sam said, rounding quickly on Cauldwell, 'I don't care if you are a member of Congress, I won't allow you to defame her in front of me. Is that clear?' The sight of the normally affable, calm Sam Seaborn angry was enough to take the wind out of anyone's sails, and Sam took advantage of the momentalry lull, 'we're leaving,' he siad firmly, practically dragging Toby from the room.
Shortly afterwards the productive silence of the White House afternoon was shattered by the arrival of a walking thundercloud that was Toby Ziegler. He burst back into the West Wing filled with a bitter, angry energy that had people scattering to avoid him. In his wake trailed an exhausted looking Sam Seaborn. A witness to their return would easily gain the impression that Sam had been on the receiving end of one of Toby's frequent tirades.
In actual fact Toby had scarcely spoken two words since leaving the meeting, Sam wasn't even sure his boss was aware of his existence - and that worried him. Wherever Toby's mind was right now he was fairly sure that it wasn't a pleasant place. He watched in deep concern as Toby swept angrily past Carol and into CJ's office, only to emerge a split second later. Clearly the Press Secretary was not at her desk.
'Find her,' were the only words he spat in the general direction of her worried looking assistant, before stalking off into his office. Carol looked towards Sam for an explanation, something Sam couldn't even begin to offer her.
'Do it now,' was his advice, 'this is bad.'
To Be Continued
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