Title: "This Dance We Do" 1/1
I freely admit I stole the title from an ER episode (bad Morgan!). I also think its a
bit mawkish but I'm just about to hit a big birthday I've decided that I'm allowed to be a
This Dance We Do
She knows him too well, and because of that she realises there is something wrong. He knows that she thinks this because she has no reason to hide her concern and because, without knowing how or why or when, they have become attuned to the rhythms of each other's life, and the funeral dirge that he is living through now pulls at her as well. He dislikes that there is instinct in their response to one another and it is easier for him to pretend that he doesn't know why that is. He is afraid that one day he will wake up and find that he can not lie to her, and he can't face the thought that that day might already have arrived.
When she stops by, as she has done every day, to ask how he is he snaps. Irritation and weariness combine and he is worse to her than he has been with the others, and he has been pretty brutal with the others. But she sees him too clearly, and he can't afford to let her get too close; to close to him and his secret and to the fact that he is scared to death and has no idea what he should do. She stands there while he rants, uncharacteristically silent, uncharacteristically still - there is no smart comeback, no killer exit line and when he has finished she walks away.
His foundations are no longer slowly crumbling, now they are crashing to the ground as he faces the fact that he has damaged, perhaps irreparably, his friendship with the one person he cares about more than anything. He sits in his office for the whole afternoon cursing the existence of Presidents, their Doctors, their friends and advisors and everyone he has ever known, or has ever met, anyone who has had a hand in this rapidly unravelling tragedy. And when he has done that he holds his head in his hands and faces the uncomfortable fact that while he is not the man that she needs or deserves, he loves her. He has enough pride to wish he were a better man, less bitter and angry, less prone to dark, destructive moods, less capable of taking his anger out on the people he cares about the most. But it is because he is not a better man that he doesn't have the sense of self-sacrifice that it would take to walk away.
He goes in search of her at the end of the day, knowing that although he won't say sorry he will - somehow, communicate his apologies to her. His head is still buzzing; with the sound of her laughter, the memory of the way she moves, images of grace and poise under pressure filling his head. Typically those images evaporate rapidly as he listens to her on the phone; petty, sarcastic, teetering on the brink of stridency before tumbling over it into plain threatening. She looks tired as she slumps over her desk, twirling a pencil around in her hand before jamming it into her desk and snapping the point.
The revelation is blinding and if he were a man for whom faith came more easily he would be inclined to suspect divine intervention. But in the dim light of the close of day he sees, with a clarity he no longer thought himself capable of, that she is no more perfect than he is. She is tired and overwhelmed, and sometimes she gets insecure about how intelligent she is and forgets that while she might not know some obscure detail, or understand the intricacies of economic policy she has street-smarts in spades, and that's what will save their necks; and he knows that she can't possibly realise how important that will be in the weeks, months to come. But he knows for both of them.
Suddenly, all thoughts of who deserves whom are null and void. This is about something different; this is about the imperfect world that they exist in and about the fact that there are far worse storms on the horizon and more damaging things that can happen or be done to them. This is about loosing faith in one thing and finding it somewhere else and holding fast to that. If he can not save the President, or undo what has gone before, he can at least find a way to do this.
'Toby?' He is standing staring at her like a man who has just seen the light and she shivers, suddenly afraid of his intensity, or of his scrutiny, or some combination of the two that she has no explanation for. But if he makes a crack about the shadows under her eyes, the state of her face or the crumbled jacket she's wearing his life will be forfeit.
She has been expecting his visit, just as she has been expecting that he will fumble and stumble through an apology. She knows that she deserves better treatment than this, and she knows that he knows this as well, but there are currents here that she does not understand and it worries her because it is her job to protect the administration - and she can't do that if she doesn't have all the information.
His apology is as inept as she anticipated; and the routine is one that she is tiring of, they used to be better friends than this - and she is not sure she likes the fact that he no longer seems to treat her with respect. She is not sure how much longer she can tell herself that there are still times that she can get through to him when no one else can, that he is standing here apologising, however badly, when there are very few other people he would make such an effort for.
'This isn't like you Toby, and believe me I never thought I'd say that. Whatever it is, can it really be this bad?' His face contorts with what she initially thinks is pain but subsequently decides is despair. He has the look of a man who desperately wants to be somewhere else; but for some reason he is standing his ground.
'CJ, I can't discuss this.' Arms flailing, voice cracking with the tension, she is surprised that his defence is not more eloquent; that he can not justify his behaviour, or at least mask it with a smokescreen of problems that only he can provide a solution to.
'Don't I need to know if it's going to effect the administration?'
'CJ...' He is pleading with her now, the desperation in his voice uncharacteristic. Chilled to the bone she stops talking and crosses the room to him.
'Its bad?' Her hand finds his arm and curls around it as though it is an anchor.
'CJ,' his voice has dropped to a whisper and he leans towards her.
'Its bad?' She asks again and this time he nods, just once, but it is enough. 'Is there anything I can do?'
'Wait.' It is the last thing she wants to hear and she knows that it is the last thing he would ask of her; which means he must have no choice, which means as bad as she is feeling now, he must feel a hundred times worse.
They stand together as though they are waiting for the storm to engulf them. There is an awkwardness about them, they are uncomfortable, awkward, unpractised in this type of intimacy and yet the connection, however tentative, is not one that can be broken now. She tightens her grip on his arm, and he touches her face with his fingertips and the splinter in her heart that is him, that has always been him; embeds itself a little more deeply.
He brushes a thumb over her lip and he is no longer thinking about whether he is good
enough for her, now he is thinking that she feels warm and fluid in his arms and he will
be in no doubt that he is the biggest idiot alive if he doesn't at least let her know how
'We can't do this,'
'We can't do this.' It sounds like a final statement but he is heartened by the fact that she has not pulled away from him and if anything her grip on him has tightened. 'Toby, we can't do this, it would be a disaster.'
'No, I'm an expert on disasters and believe me when I tell you there are far worse things that can happen to this administration than you and I being together.' He is only sure of this after he has said the words, and if that is what being one of the bearers of this terrible secret has taught him then perhaps that is something that will help him contextualise what he knows, perhaps all is not lost after all. If she believes him he no longer doubts that he can still use words to make people feel hope, that he can still convey small truths as easily as he communicates the great issues of the day.
In the end he is a man with a secret, one that burns through his existence and marks him out from other men. But at dawn on a new day as he wakes to find himself lying with someone he cares about with a depth he scarcely recognises, he is also a man who has learnt that perfection is a gift from heaven, that everything else is a dance and that sometimes the best you can hope for is that the journey will not always be a solitary one.