Disclaimer- They're not mine, I just like to play sometimes
Notes- I like to make up people's backstories...since we know very little about anyone's life previous to the show's timeline, I get to make up lots of details :o) If I contradict something that's already been said on the show, my apologies, I tried to proof that as much as possible. Feedback is welcome at email@example.com
"Quit looking so nervous, all right?" Toby Ziegler said irritably to the woman standing next to him. CJ Cregg looked over at him as he held the door open for her.
"Sorry. I don't mean to..." she trailed off.
"It's all right. I just don't want you to screw up because you were too damn hyper." Toby replied. Biting back a response, she followed him into the main room of the Bartlett Campaign Offices. She looked around at the controlled chaos of a campaign office and started to relax. Apparently, such offices looked much the same in New Hampshire as in California, which was a somewhat comforting thought.
"Toby, it's about damn time you got back, I need remarks for the dinner tomorrow night, and I need them yesterday," Josh Lyman yelled as he saw Toby standing in the doorway with a tall woman he didn't recognize.
"They're done, Josh. I wrote them on the plane. Josh, I'd like you to meet CJ Cregg, our new press liaison. CJ, this is Josh Lyman." Toby said calmly.
Josh sized up the woman standing in front of him. She was taller than he'd thought on first glance, and would be absolutely beautiful if not for the slightly jet-lagged look to her face and the suppressed terror in her too-wide eyes. "Yeah, great. What do you say if the press asks you to comment on the relationship between the candidate and his wife?" he shot at her, quickly.
"The candidate and his wife are very proud to be at this stage in the campaign, and then I don't say anything further unless I've been previously instructed. Actually, I don't comment on personal matters unless there's been a problem, or I'm told to mention something specific," she replied effortlessly, as though it were second nature.
"And what do you say if they press for anything further?" Josh snapped.
"I don't have a comment at this time." CJ snapped back in kind.
"Yeah, you'll do, Sweet-tart," Josh said, carelessly. He started to turn to Toby, but was stopped by the way CJ's face suddenly commanded his attention. Her expression had barely changed, it was still the slightly tired pleasant expression, but the terror in her eyes was more subdued and something else had begun to overshadow the obvious nervousness. Toby winced, but said nothing.
"I really should slap you for that remark," CJ said in a perfectly pleasant conversational tone, as Josh looked her straight in the eye. He looked away quickly, and muttered something about Toby getting him those remarks ASAP as he walked away quickly. CJ sighed. "Well, there's one person who doesn't like me already," she said under her breath.
"Oh, I wouldn't worry too much about Josh, he's being cranky today. You're just the first person to challenge it. Usually we just ignore him," a new voice said from behind them. CJ and Toby turned to see Leo McGarry walking towards them with a warm smile. "CJ Cregg, I presume. I'm Leo, we spoke on the phone last night."
"Yes, it's a pleasure to meet you," CJ said quickly, smiling her most pleasant smile as she reached to shake Leo's hand.
"Likewise. Toby, why don't you get those remarks to Josh, and get together with Sam on whatever he's working on right now. I'll get CJ settled," Leo directed.
"Ok. CJ, let me know when you're ready to go, I'll give you a ride," Toby said to his friend. She looked slightly lost, but he knew Leo would probably take better care of her than he would. He was good at getting new people settled into their space and up to speed.
"SO, where are you staying?" Leo asked her as Toby walked away.
"Actually, I don't know yet. Our flight was delayed, so Toby figured we should just get here instead of checking me in somewhere first," CJ replied. Leo noticed that she hadn't taken off her coat yet, and that she seemed just a little off balance. That didn't surprise him much, considering she'd probably been up since 3 or 4 am Eastern Time, and it was getting on towards midafternoon.
"Ah. Well, we'll find you somewhere to stay, don't worry about that. Why don't you take your coat off, throw it over that coat rack over there, and we'll get you situated, ok?" Leo said, smiling gently.
"Ok," she replied, looking mildly embarrassed. She followed Leo into a makeshift office and sat down as he handed her some paperwork to fill out.
A couple weeks later, Josh heard muffled noises as he walked down the hallway. It was Saturday afternoon, and most of the volunteers were taking a break, since they were gearing up to go to South Carolina. The Governor had declared a day off for himself and was spending the time with his family. Leo had told the staffers that they could take time if they wanted. Sam had taken Leo up on the offer, and taken the train to New York the night before to see his fiancée. Toby had disappeared last night as well, but Josh figured he'd be in later in the day. Leo was hanging around, working on a few things. Josh's girlfriend, Mandy, had decided to run down to DC to see friends of hers, who didn't like Josh, so he stayed behind. Now, he was wandering around, trying to find something reasonable to work on. Turning the corner, he noticed the bathroom door had been propped open, and the noise he'd heard in the hallway was coming from the small room. Curious, he poked his head through the open doorway, and found CJ bending over and scrubbing the sink with a vengeance.
"I'll be done in just a moment, hang on, would you?" she said, not looking up.
"Um, what are you doing?" he asked curiously, cursing inwardly as CJ stiffened at the sound of his voice. She avoided him as much as possible, and was decidedly nervous whenever he was around. He knew that his impromptu test and wisecrack from her first day was the reason, and while he had apologized, the situation was still uncomfortable.
"It was filthy, so I decided to clean it up," she replied uneasily.
"There's people who do that, you know," he said. She didn't answer, but moved on to the toilet. He stood in the doorway and watched her work with more efficiency than he would have managed had he been cleaning the bathroom.
"CJ, you down here?" Leo's voice called.
"Yeah," she called back, still not looking up. Leo and Toby rounded the corner and found Josh leaning against the doorway, and CJ swiftly cleaning the mirror.
"CJ, what are you doing?" Leo asked, eyebrows raised. She turned and blushed slightly as she discovered the three men watching her.
"Working on the polling questions," she replied, as she quickly put the cleansers away in the cabinet under the sink, and pulled out the large soap bottle to refill the dispenser.
"Hmm. Well, I suppose cleaning a restroom could be conceivably considered writing poll questions, sure." Leo replied.
"I, um, got stuck," she admitted. Her gaze shifted nervously back to the soap dispenser as she screwed the top back on. When she glanced up again after putting the soap away, she looked through the men, instead of at them. Suddenly, she stripped the rubber gloves off, aimed them at the trashcan, and smiled.
"Did you get it?" Toby asked, looking unsurprised by her actions.
"Yeah. I'm, um, gonna go write it down. Before I forget, you know," she said, washing her hands quickly and brushing past the spectators.
Josh watched her leave. "Ok, so am I the only one she gets that nervous around, or what?" he asked.
"She's just jumpy, Josh. She's fidgety around everyone," Leo said.
"She's hyperactive," Toby said suddenly. When Leo and Josh turned to look at him, he shook his head. "Not clinically, or anything like that. She has the longest attention span of anyone I've ever met, but I don't think I've ever seen her be still. She has a lot of nervous energy. You get used to it after awhile," he shrugged.
"How long have you known her?" Leo asked.
"Since 1991. A friend wanted me to work on a campaign in California, and she was working on another campaign that shared the office building with us. She was in grad school, and it was her first campaign." Toby explained. "She's done a lot in the last 7 years."
"She's really doing a good job," Josh said. "I just wish she'd calm down."
"Well, Josh, she didn't exactly get the warmest welcome," Leo pointed out.
"I've apologized," Josh protested.
"She feels like she made a bad first impression," Toby explained. "We'd talked about letting her temper get the better of her, and how that would probably give people the wrong impression."
"CJ has behaved completely professionally," Leo pointed out.
"Yeah, even when I made the smart remark, she still wasn't unprofessional." Josh commented.
"I know. But she's nervous about this yet. She's never worked nationally; she's never worked outside of California. It's a big step for her." Toby said.
"I'll talk to her," Leo said.
"No, I'll do it. I'm the one who was the asshole," Josh sighed. Leo watched him speculatively. "Hey, I need to work with her pretty closely coming up here, I can't do that if she's like this."
"Ok," Leo said. "You talk to her. Just try not to make things worse. You're not exactly the most diplomatic person in the world."
"Thank you so much for the vote of confidence, Leo." Josh grumbled as he walked back towards the main offices.
"What's up?" Josh asked, waiting for the younger man to catch up.
"Are you going to dinner? 'Cause I'm hungry," Sam explained.
"Yeah, I am, but I need to...well, I'm going to try and take CJ to dinner." Josh sighed. He hadn't had a chance to talk to her yet. He hadn't been able to find her when he'd looked for her on Saturday, and they'd been too busy yesterday, getting ready to go. And he'd hadn't been able to get her alone while they were on the road that morning, and when they'd actually hit South Carolina, chaos had ensued, and this was the first chance he'd had to breathe, let alone track down their Press Liaison and have a serious conversation.
"You're gonna what?" Sam said. It wasn't much of a secret that CJ was pretty uncomfortable when she was around Josh. She didn't seem any too comfortable around any of them, outside of Toby, but the tension level jumped a couple of notches when she had to deal with Josh. Sam had tried to talk to her about it once, but she had just sat there and looked at him. He'd gotten the hint and backed off.
"I need to talk to her, and I figured I could do that more effectively if I got her alone," Josh said shortly.
"You do realize, she's likely to refuse you. She's refused just about every offer to do something outside of work that anyone has made. Besides, what about Mandy?" Sam asked.
"Mandy is sleeping and doesn't want to eat anyway, and yes, I know that CJ hasn't exactly been a social butterfly. I'm going to go see if I can rectify that a little."
"Why?" Sam asked.
"Because..." Josh paused, and pointed at Sam's open door. The two men backed into the room that Sam was sharing with Toby. Closing the door behind them, Josh continued. "Because Toby told me and Leo a couple of things that made me think that we haven't exactly been the most welcoming bunch of people to work with. She doesn't have any experience with a national campaign, and she's never worked on a campaign outside of California. She's pretty far from home, and the only person she knows here is Toby, who has his own problems at the moment, and I doubt he's got time to spare for her, even if he were inclined to-which I think he might be, for her. They've been friends for almost 10 years. She's scared, that much has been obvious, but I think she's lonely, too. And she thinks she made a bad first impression, because I was stupid and made a smart-ass remark because I was annoyed with Mandy. I certainly could have at least let her get through the door, and settled in before I started being a jerk without cause to her. Plus, I somehow don't think anyone has told her that she's doing a fantastic job. And someone should, you know?"
"Yeah," Sam replied. "I'll see you later, then. Should I tell anyone where you went?"
"No, I've got my phone. I don't think anyone will be looking for us until about 10 anyhow. We should be back before then." Josh replied. "I'll see you."
Sam nodded and watched Josh walk down the hall and around the corner, where most of the rest of the team was bunked.
Josh hesitated before knocking on CJ's door. He wasn't sure whom she was sharing with. He hadn't thought about that, and hoped she hadn't wound up having to pay for a room all on her own. For that matter, he wondered what Donna, his new assistant, had done for a room. Maybe she'd shared with Margaret, he thought. Sighing, he knocked on the door lightly.
He'd expected her to ask who was there, but the door swung open, and CJ looked at him, surprised. They looked at each other for a long moment, neither one saying anything. "Hi," he said finally.
"Hello," she replied, cautiously.
"Listen, do you want to get something to eat? I want to talk to you," he said finally.
"You want to talk to me?" she asked dully.
"Yeah, I do," he replied. She bit her lip, and thought about that for a moment. "You're not in trouble, CJ," he added when it looked like she was trying to screw up her courage to get a scolding.
"Oh." she said. "Ok." she said again after a moment.
"Ok." Josh said.
"Let me get my shoes and a jacket," she said, not looking at him.
"I'll wait," he replied. She nodded, and closed the door. A moment later, she reappeared, ready to go.
They walked silently down the street towards a restaurant he'd noticed earlier. They went in, and took a seat at a booth. She held herself very stiffly, although he could tell she was fairly tired.
"CJ, could you possibly relax, just for a little while?" he asked, gently. "I generally try not to tear co-workers' heads off while I'm eating, ok?"
She nodded, but didn't really relax. He sighed. This was going to be extremely difficult. Thankfully, a waitress came over to give them menus and take a drink order. When she left, CJ started poring over the menu as she fiddled with her water glass.
"What are you getting," Josh asked after a moment.
"Soup and a sandwich," she replied.
"Not too hungry?" he asked. He didn't think he'd ever seen her eat a meal before.
"Not really," she said.
"Ah." Josh said, not knowing quite what to say to that. They ordered when the waitress came back, and he leaned back to look at her. She was playing with her napkin, and generally squirming. "CJ, look. We got off to a bad start. I wish I hadn't been a jerk that day, and I feel like it completely messed everything up for you. I mean, you're more nervous than Margaret, which is quite an accomplishment. Somehow, I don't think this is how you generally operate. I know you think I don't like you, but I don't think I've had enough of a chance to talk to you or anything to make any decisions. At the very least, we need to work together, and it's very hard for us to do that if you're so nervous you can't talk to me, or look at me. This is going to be a rough road. Why make it harder?" he finished.
She looked surprised, but didn't say anything. He sighed, and said, "Toby said you've never worked outside of California. I bet you feel pretty far from home right now, huh?"
"A little," she said softly. "I mean, a lot of the work I did for EMILY'S List was outside of California, but it wasn't campaign work. It was fundraising."
"What's EMILY'S list?" Josh asked. He thought he knew, but this seemed to be a conversation starter, so he was going to run with it.
"It stands for "Early Money Is Like Yeast." The organization raises money for pro-choice women Democratic Candidates, and helps with campaigns. I didn't do much campaign work, though. I helped a lot with fundraising, and worked on a couple campaigns in California that EMILY'S List was involved in." she replied. It was the longest non-work related statement she'd ever made to him.
"Oh, I think I've heard of them, yeah," he said. "What else have you done?"
"I've worked on a couple other campaigns in California. And I was just fired from my job with a PR firm right before Toby came out to see if I would come to New Hampshire," she sighed.
"Why were you fired?" Josh asked curiously.
"Um. I kinda let my temper get the best of me and told an important client off," she mumbled.
"Ah," he said. Much becomes clear, he thought. No wonder she was nervous about almost telling him off.
"Yeah." she said. At that moment, the waitress brought their food, and a few minutes were occupied with fixing sandwiches and eating.
"So you have fundraising experience, huh?" he asked.
She nodded, her mouth full of her grilled cheese sandwich. "That could come in handy," Josh continued. "Does Leo know about that?"
"I think so. Toby said he was impressed with the work I did for EMILY'S List." she replied.
"Why'd you stop working there?" Josh asked. "I mean, you wouldn't be here, otherwise, since I don't think Jed Bartlett quite qualifies as a pro-choice female candidate."
"It didn't pay very well and I had student loans that I had to start getting serious about paying off," she replied.
"Makes sense. Campaigning doesn't pay well, no," he said. "I imagine PR work pays better."
"Much." she said.
Leo McGarry and Jed Bartlett walked into the restaurant a half an hour later, and heard a lovely laugh. Turning to look, Leo was startled to see that the person laughing was CJ Cregg. She was seated across from Josh, no less. "Amazing," Leo muttered under his breath.
"What?" Jed asked.
"CJ and Josh. I would have laid odds that if they were forced to spend any amount of time alone in each other's presence, Josh would be tearing his hair out in exasperation, and CJ would have fidgeted herself nearly to death. I would not have thought for a second that they'd be having an amiable, and even animated conversation. I also would never have thought I would see CJ look happy," Leo replied.
"CJ's the quiet one, isn't she? The one who only speaks up if something goes wrong?" Jed asked.
"Basically, that's how it's been. She didn't get the best start with us, and it made her nervous." Leo explained. "I think that may change, though," he finished with a smile.