Author: Ms.M PM
TIME: 2012 PLACE: Santa Monica. When Andi, Toby and the twins visit Danny, CJ and their daughter for Christmas - old woulds are opened and mistakes are revealed. And a conversation six years in the making finally comes to fruition. This Fic is a thank you to all readers who send me such amazing, thoughtful letters - and anyone who ever liked a story I wrote. FOR STACY.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Drama - C.J. C. & Toby Z. - Words: 7,493 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 3 - Published: 08-31-12 - id: 8485190
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This is a thank you for the readers who sent me such lovely letters. I can't thank you enough. I have come out of fic retirement to thank you.
Please remember to review.
Category: The West Wing
Title: Our Mistakes
Characters: CJ Cregg, Danny Concannon, Toby Ziegler, Andrea Wyatt
Pairings: CJ/Toby (Friendship), CJ/Danny (Marriage)
Spoilers: The Entire Series.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Sorkin and Wells. Thank you
Special Thanks: fairloverlylady and lovehermindlovehershoes (Tumblr) for the Beta help.
Notes: This takes place in the same universe as my series "On The Road With Danny Concannon" – you however do not need to have read the series to understand or enjoy this story. Any small references to events from the series are explained in great detail here, and the series itself was to the letter canon that filled in the details we never saw.
I'm not saying this is what happened, but if it did, I think it happened like this.
December 22th 2012
Santa Monica, CA The Cregg-Concannon Household
CJ made her way to the kitchen, while Toby, Andi and Danny finished their drinks in the living room. The old friends had started a game of poker, but threw it aside for small talk, catching up, and a few bottles of Merlot and a California Riesling. Mostly, the reason the game was folded, so to speak, was because Danny kept winning most of the hands. CJ joked that she didn't mind so much because, "we live in California, so really, half of all his winnings are mine." This made Danny chuckle.
Even after almost five odd years of marriage Danny watched CJ leave the room with a combined look of the anticipation to her return, and the desire and happiness of the lucky life they shared together. It was something not unnoticed by the rest of the room – especially Toby, who smirked.
Now that Danny and CJ's daughter, Kat or K.C. as she was often called (Kathleen Cregg-Concannon), was three years old, almost four, and Huck and Molly were eight years old, CJ wanted her daughter and Toby's kids to know each other better. It was also an excuse to get Toby to come visit her in person. The slow recovery of their friendship had been long and hard, with CJ feeling like she was doing most of the heavy lifting. They talked on the phone and emailed on and off, she visited a few times, but now and then she still felt a distance between them she couldn't place. It had been six years and she had forgiven him, but maybe Toby was tapping in to some place in her subconscious where she hadn't. Whatever the reason, Toby was like family-even beyond family-and with family you try hard, even if sometimes you feel like hitting them over the head with a frying pan. It had not been an easy way back to friendship. That was why that night hit so hard.
"Really… you don't have to help me, Andi…" C.J. smiled to Andi, as she followed CJ into the kitchen, a glass of wine dangling from Andi's fingers.
Andi mentioned something about it giving them time to talk and CJ started to cut some apples on a cutting board. That was when it all went down. That was when CJ remember every word – it was just that important.
"It was me." Andi seemed to confess. "I felt you needed to know – I don't want this to ruin your friendship with Toby. I need you to know." And the rest to CJ sounded like white noise.
"Son of bitch!" CJ gritted her teeth and shot the knife directly into the cutting board. And without a word to Andi, she made her way into the living room.
"CJ," Andi called after her.
"You son of a bitch!" CJ yelled in Toby and Danny's direction. Danny looked perplexed.
"You told her!" Toby bellowed to Andi, who was now standing behind CJ.
Andi spoke up with traces of guilt in her voice, "I told you I couldn't let her think -"
"And I explicitly told you – I explicitly told you!" Toby was livid.
"Hey, what is going on?" Danny wasn't sure he wanted to know. He watched CJ direct her anger towards Toby.
"How could you not tell – how could you lie to me about this!" She turned to Andi. "And how could you let him take the rap for this?!" her voice screeched.
Andi spoke up, "You're a mother now CJ –"
"Andrea!" Toby strained to stop her.
"You have to understand what we had to do for the sake of the children –"
"Andi!" Toby looked like his head would explode.
"I never asked him to – he did it on his own CJ and then we couldn't tell the truth –" Andi kept on talking.
Finally, Toby couldn't take it anymore and waved his hands and raised his voice. "For crying out loud, can we not have this discussion while there is still at least one more person in this room with small children who can't perjure themselves, right now!"
Everyone looked at Danny. "What?"
"Get out!" CJ and Toby yelled at him.
"Hey!" Danny walked forward towards Toby and his wife.
"Seriously here, Danny, get out! Get out! Get out!" Toby started his uncomfortable laugh and paced toward the back window. "Get out!"
"Danny," CJ said softly in Danny's direction. "You have to leave for a few hours."
"The hell I do!" he demanded. "This seems to concern my family, here." He looked at Toby and then back at CJ.
Danny walked closer to CJ and caught sight of her eyes; that was when he knew it was serious.
"Danny, for Kat, you need to get out of here now," her voice was a soft rasp.
"Okay," Danny said softly and nodded his head.
"CJ-" Andi tried to speak.
"For the love of god, Andrea." Toby spoke at a low volume, as if he was about to implode.
Andi looked at Danny. "Why don't we go and take the kids out for Ice cream?" She didn't seem happy.
"Yeah…" Danny nodded his head and gave CJ and Toby one final look - Danny knew what was going on.
It seemed like a forever of silence as Danny and Andi got Kat, Molly and Huck ready and out of the house. CJ could hear Danny pick up their daughter and call her "Bug" before the door shut and the car drove off.
"How could you!?" CJ laid into to him. "How could you keep this from me? You lied to me!"
"I was protecting you."
"I'm not a little girl, Toby. I don't need protecting."
"From perjuring yourself to a grand jury – I don't think so!"
CJ didn't say anything. She just shook her head and then paced for a moment.
Toby continued, "So, you're saying, you wouldn't have lied to the grand jury? Let both me and Andi both get carted off to the big house? Leave Huck and Molly without any significant parent for five to six years? Or no, perjure yourself and then have that found out - and we all go to jail for five to six years! 'Cause you think with subpoenas going around like phone numbers at last call – you're telling me none of those things were going to happen!? When you came to me that night about the pardon and you asked me if I was thinking of Huck and Molly." Toby almost lost all the emotion he was holding in. "Well… I was. I was thinking of everyone and everything I cared about." He paused for a moment. He looked at her. "And… I didn't lie," he said at a normal volume.
"You did lie!" she said indigently.
"Who do you think told her?!" His voice was filled with emotion and guilt.
"In a moment of weakness …" Her voice trailed off near the end, her hand went out, as if to say you know the rest, but finally continued to speak, as if she was finding the answers. "Your brother had just died."
"I leaked classified information to a US congresswoman."
"Who happened to be your ex-wife?!" her voice cracked and her eyes widened.
"You think the grand jury was going to make that distinction."
"What is this, Toby – some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy of doom – any excuse to fail? Here lies Toby Ziegler, his father killed some people so he'll never win."
"My brother had just died!" Toby didn't appreciate CJ's comment.
"Yeah…" she said, upset, but almost sweetly. She understood the grief of losing a loved one. "But that didn't mean—"
"I needed someone to talk to - I had a lot going on - it was hard to handle," Toby seemed to blurt out like a run-away train.
CJ looked like she was about to cry. "And you couldn't have come to me." She shook her head "At least someone who had security clearance, for god's sake!"
"Andi was there – she was there when David and I – she understood - I just… it was a mistake – we all make mistakes in moments of weakness…she's the woman I…!" Toby tried to hold in what he wanted to say, he didn't want to say it, that he still loved her. "My ex-wife." He took a breath. "And yes, it was stupid - it was weighing on me… hell, it was weighing on you too and thinking about David and … It just came up – it just came out…she was my wife, she understood what I… You once told me you almost leaked it to Danny and you weren't even sleeping with him yet!"
"That's not … that's not how I meant it to sound."
"It better not be!"
"I was trying to protect everything I cared about – because of my mistake. It was my mistake."
"She didn't have to tell Greg Brock. That she didn't have to do."
"You know Andi – she was trying to prove a point – she wanted a fight. Trying to "create trouble - where none existed" – a stir … about an issue." He took a silent breath. "She didn't think it could be traced back to me." He laughed, but not because it was funny.
"Really? She didn't?!" CJ was indigent. "She didn't think they wouldn't suss that one out?!"
"She thought I was telling her to do it… like it was an unspoken," Toby grumbled.
"So, you made me, The President, everyone think –"
"I could see how the investigation was going CJ – if I didn't stop it… even if they never found Andi… they were going after you."
"But I didn't do it, Toby," she stated like a question. "Let them go after me- they wouldn't have found anything."
Toby laughed. "Do you think that mattered?! How can you not see it? They would have humiliated you. They would have found everything. And not just your history with Danny – the reason Greg Brock was all over your call sheet – that he was helping you suppress the Hoynes thing, which means you and Hoynes comes out. And then every reporter you looked at sideways. They would have humiliated you."
CJ's eyes filled with tears.
"They would have had you, CJ." He said softly. "Babish said it to you himself in your office – you told me. It wasn't hard for him to put the pieces together. They would have eviscerated you. " He took a pause. "When you told me what Babish said, I knew… I knew if you got that last subpoena… I had to come forward." He took a few steps. "Andi didn't know. "He looked down for a moment. "She would have tried to stop me." He scratched the top of his head for a moment, not wanting to cry. "So, that's my story." He turned away from her for a moment.
"You're saying you did all of this because of my mistakes?" Her voice, and face, dripped with tears.
Toby looked her in the eye. "My mistake."
"I don't know about you but I like people with flaws – they're more… interesting."
CJ let out a sigh of air and wiped the tears from under her eyes with her fingers. There was a moment of utter silence.
"No matter what the details are … I was the leak," Toby said like a small child.
"Andi was the leak," she insisted.
"And she is the mother of my children, so we won't go there." He was firm.
"You're not pissed?!"
"Pissed?!" he yelled, "Pissed? Have we met!? I was livid!" He laughed his angry laugh. "I wanted to kill her. But as you may or may not have noticed my ex-wife seems to do whatever the hellshe feels like doing – but then…." He thought in the moment. "If she wasn't like that I wouldn't have Huck and Molly, would I?" He took a breath. "It was six years ago. I've made my peace…. It is what it is."
"Well, this is new to me, so give me some time!" She paced for a moment before looking him in the eye. "I'd let them skewer me for you, ya know?"
"I know," he said softly, as if to say, it wasn't a shocker.
"Hoynes, all of it… if it was for you – I'd let them do it."
"Sleeping with John Hoynes isn't a federal crime – it was nobody's business – " He lowered his head and didn't catch her eye. He finally looked at her. . "And good thing…" he sadly smirked "We'd run out of jails."
CJ tried not to laugh, but it was hard.
"It's good to know you can laugh at that now," Toby told her.
"Danny helped me with that." She halfway smiled. "He's a good listener."
"Yeah," he said as if to say, good or really? He nodded his head awkwardly. He scratched his forehead.
"He helped me forgive myself."
"He's a good man," Toby said softly, for he knew how important Danny was to CJ, and he was thankful she had him, when he couldn't be there for her – when he left the White House.
CJ took a loud sigh and sat down on the couch "I'm tired of the men I care about sacrificing their integrity for me. It's becoming... un-ladylike." She buried her head in her hands.
"Men?" Toby asked.
CJ looked up at him, almost embarrassed. "Danny… he told me he knew about Hoynes before-"
"Before that." She nodded her head, as her eyes got red again. "He suppressed it - the story. He burned it. "
"Are you surprised?"
"His feelings for me shouldn't have affected his job, Toby." She was adamant.
"He suppressed stories for you all the time – and you let him."
"I did not!"
"You did too – and that was fine with you – maybe not consciously – but you did."
"Danny stopped being a journalist because of me." She seemed to stab the air with her words of guilt.
"To move here with you – we all know that," he said, like it was old news.
"No, he didn't, Toby. He was tired of writing about sex scandals and who was sleeping with the Nanny. I was the straw that broke the camel's back and as much as he tells me otherwise, I know that – and I feel responsible for that. How can I not? He's my husband, the father of my child. And you… you…" She took a breath. "Are my best friend. You can't tell me I can't feel responsible? It's not that easy."
"Look at you." He sat down across from her and leaned in. "Can you listen, for a second, to all the great things you just listed about yourself? You have this great home and a child and a husband and an amazing job - I've never seen you this happy – not in a long time."
She looked up, tears streaming down her face, "At what cost?"
"What cost? CJ…" He almost laughed her name. "Look at me - I'm right here - with you - I'm not in jail… I have a great job - I see my kids. I get free trips to Santa Monica on Franklin Hollis' dime." He smirked, "Thank you for that by the way."
"You don't want to work in politics again?" she asked, almost like a sad child.
"Politics are overrated… and who says I still don't?" he said softly and smiled.
A small smile grew on CJ's face. "You little devil." She blotted the tears off her face with the bottom of her palms, and sucked in the rest.
Toby spoke softly, "Just call me Trumbo." *
"Of course." She nodded her head. "I'm gonna kill Josh."
"How do you know it's for Santos?"
"You did it before…" she demanded, as if to say, "I'm not stupid, here"
"Who says it's still for Santos…"
"Oh, I know." She waved her finger at him. CJ just looked at Toby for a moment, trying not to smile, before she looked away for another moment, and then back at him. She took a breath. "I feel guilty."
"When don't you?" He seemed to know her better than anyone - other than her husband.
They shared a brief, silent moment.
CJ had a melancholy look at on her face. "When I told you about Danny – that day in your apartment… you said you already knew. It was flying around?"
"Beltway gossip, yeah." He was embarrassed for her, but it was true.
"I see." She looked away and took a peanut from the coffee table and threw it toward a wine glass at the end of the room. It went in with a splash.
"Good job," he said softly.
"I have a lot of free time on my hands. I'm thinking of going pro," she said dryly.
"Andi told me about you and Danny."
"Good for her," she said dryly. CJ threw another peanut across the room, making a splash in the glass of red wine. "She's a regular Yenta, isn't she?" she said sarcastically. "They should get her a column in The Post."
Toby made CJ look at him. "And you know what I told her… I said good for her." He paused for a moment looking into his best friend's eyes. "I dug myself into this hole and I thank you for your concern," he said very matter-of-factly. "But now… we must never speak of this again." He stood and sat down next to CJ on the couch.
CJ sucked in her tears again. "I hate you right now."
"I know," he said softly.
"I'm not sure how long it will last," she said, in such a way that Toby didn't know if she was serious or kidding.
"I get that a lot from women," he said dryly.
"You have to tell The President," she spoke as if it had just occurred to her.
"No, I don't think so." He looked away.
"Please, Toby… you…" She looked at him. "You broke our hearts," she said it as if it was the first time she had ever said it out loud – it surprised her.
"I still did it," he said softly. "I can't take that back."
CJ took a moment and then nodded her head yes. She looked off into space.
"We good?" Toby asked. He then looked towards her.
CJ turned her head and looked into Toby's eyes. "We will be," she said with a soft inflection, and a tiny smile.
"You gonna tell, Danny?"
"Contrary to yours - and many people's beliefs, I don't tell Danny everything." CJ stood and walked toward the wine bottles on a small table across from her.
"Okay." He didn't seem to believe her.
"I don't! There are many, many things – eight years of things he doesn't know. And never will, bub."
"Okay." He put his hands up. "I didn't mean it that way."
"You wanna finish off this bottle?" CJ took a white wine bottle with her fist sluggishly.
Toby nodded his head and CJ poured him a fresh glass.
"So, this is what we're gonna to do." She handed Toby his drink and then poured herself a glass. "We're both going to sit here in silence for about an hour and just drink." She sat down on the couch. "Sound good?"
"Sure," Toby smirked; he always got a kick out of her.
"I said no talking." And she took a large swig of her drink almost downing the whole glass. "I said no talking."
"I didn't say anything."
"Yeah, well, you were thinking loudly."
CJ and Toby sat in silence and drank. After what seemed like forever, but was really only two minutes, CJ spoke up.
"Kat said something to me the other week…"
"I thought we weren't -"
"We'll, I'm talking," she said pointed and stern.
"Okay," Toby said, implying she was crazy.
"Last week, Danny and I were telling Kat about you and the White House – about you and the kids coming out – she understands a little – mostly, that we all used to work together. And I told her how it was the most amazing time of my life because I was doing what I loved and mostly because I was doing it with you – with Josh and Sam and Leo – with my friends. And for a President I admired and respected." Her eyes got misty.
"I see you understand how to speak on a child's level," he joked.
CJ gave him a shut up look.
"Sorry," he said softly.
"And then she asked me something…" CJ smiled through her melancholy. "Ya know what she asked me? She asked me if I missed her." Her eyes shined. "Can you believe that?" She sighed. "She asked me if I missed her when I worked in the White House." CJ looked at Toby straight in the eye. "And the truth is… I think I did," she said, surprising herself. "I didn't even know I wanted her or that I had any chance of ever having her and I missed her. I missed Danny. I missed this. I missed my family." She took a moment to collect herself. "I can't even believe that was me sometimes - that I lived that life… and I would never trade it in for the world – but I would never trade this. How is that possible?" She gestured toward Toby.
"It's called parenthood," he said lovingly.
"I don't want my daughter to make the same mistakes I did, Toby - how do I do that?"
"We make them for them."
"Isn't that what being a kid is - going against everything our parents tell us not to do? I'm terrified of that, Toby. What if she dies her hair pink and becomes a republican?"
"I think the ones who dye their hair pink usually –" he said softly.
"- You know what I mean!" she interrupted him, with all sincerity.
Toby couldn't help but giggle and turn away from her.
"This isn't funny!"
"No, no. It's not." He looked at her. "Maybe, sometimes parenthood means having them learn from their own mistakes. Isn't that how we learn not to touch the fire, because when we try it's hot?"
"Yeah…" she trailed off. "That's what Danny said."
"Well, we agree on a lot of basic things in life." He took a drink from of his wine glass.
"You think that, do you?" she said sarcastically, knowing how different her husband and Toby were.
"Oh, well, the important things." He looked directly at her with all the warmth of his heart.
She nodded her head and leaned back into the couch, resting her head against the back of it. There was a long pause.
"Are we back to the not talking?" Toby questioned.
"Yeah," she said, listless and yet deep in thought. She lifted her head up and took a drink from her wine glass. After a moment she took Toby's hand and they drank in silence.
Two Hours Later
Danny came back into the house with his daughter draped over his chest and shoulder. The house was dark, and there was no sign of Toby. Danny had dropped Andi and the kids off at the hotel for it was getting late. From the foyer, he could see CJ's back through the glass door in the living room. She was sitting in the backyard alone, and he wasn't sure if she was sitting on the ground or the small stoop by the door.
Danny put his daughter to bed and kissed her on the forehead, before turning the light out on her purple room and closing the door. He made his way around the house, looking for other signs of life, until he again caught sight of CJ again. Now, in the living room, he could see she was in fact sitting on a small step outside the backyard door. She was just sitting, starring out into space, and drinking a half-finished Corona. Danny slid the large sliding door open, making a loud noise. The sound didn't seem to shake CJ from her stupor.
Danny sat down next to his wife with a large breath. He looked at her for a moment and then just sat there for another moment, looking straight ahead, and waiting for her to say something. CJ didn't look at him and took a swig of her Corona. They both stared into the dark sky, as if floored by the common knowledge they couldn't share. Danny extended his arm in her direction, the unspoken gesture for sharing. CJ handed Danny the beer bottle and he downed the rest and took another breath. She turned her head towards Danny and him toward her, as he placed the bottle on the ground below him. Her eyes turned red and glossy and Danny brushed a piece of her hair behind her ear. And that's when it happened. CJ couldn't hold it in any longer and her entire body shook, as the emotions she was feeling burst through the dam. Danny couldn't stand to see her in so much pain - his eyes gave it away as he took her into a huge hug; letting her sob on his shoulder. He let her cry like that, saying nothing, until her sobs become controlled – it seemed like hours, but it wasn't.
"We're out of beer," she finally said.
"I'll get more in the morning." He tried to catch her eyes, but couldn't. "I put K.C to bed."
"She fuss?" She looked at Danny.
"No, the ice cream snocked her out pretty good." He rubbed CJ's back for a moment. "CJ-"
"I just want you to know, I know what happened here tonight – I'm not stupid," Danny was firm.
"No one is saying you are, Danny," she said as if to say he was one of the smartest people she knew and that it wasn't that hard to figure out.
"I'm just saying..." He took a breath. "And then we don't have to talk about it. Ever."
"Toby is gonna spend more time with us. And we should visit him more."
"Yeah…" He smiled. "I have no problem with that," he said lovingly. Danny also knew that if what he thought had happened, happened, he also owed Toby a great deal.
"Good." She put her head on his shoulder and they sat in silence for a moment. "If Toby had never –"
CJ took a moment and Danny feared what she was going to say. He recognized the tone in her voice from days gone by – from their times at the White House – when she wanted to leak him a story.
"I mean-" She stopped herself. "If he hadn't told Leo about me – it he hadn't come here and brought me on the campaign."
Danny nodded his head, remembered how he used to think the same thing about his friendship with Josh.
CJ continued. "I would have never…" She lifted her head and looked at Danny. "You know how I tell you that everything I value most in our lives you've given me?"
"Yeah," he said with such emotion, unsure where she was going.
"I'm thinking I'm wrong about that."
"Yeah…" Tears almost came to his eyes. "Me too." He nodded his head "Me too." They joined hands and he kissed her fingers. CJ looked like she would cry again. "Come to bed," he beckoned. "Get some sleep."
"I will." She nodded her head. "I just need a few moments, okay?"
"Yeah," he said in his understanding way. He kissed her on the lips and they leaned their heads together, before he kissed her on the forehead. Danny picked up the empty beer bottle and left CJ alone with the stars.
"And now I know… Spanish Harlem are not just pretty words to say. I thought I knew -
But now I know that rose trees never grow in New York City…"
~ Mona Lisas and Madhatters – Elton John
The Next Morning
Parking Lot, Best Western Gateway Hotel, Santa Monica
The sun was bright, making everything in sight glary without sunglasses, yet the cool breeze made most people wear coats. It was not what most east-coasters expect of California. It was early enough for most, but late enough for someone like Toby Ziegler, who was accustomed to being up for six am strategy meetings or seven am lectures. Therefore, a Sunday at 9:05 am wasn't very early for Toby, even though he was the only one checking out of the hotel with a ticket to JFK, and the same when he wheeled his suitcase across the deserted parking lot to his rental car, with the beach in the far off distance.
"Wait!" he heard CJ's voice yell. "Toby, wait!" came a voice from the front seat of a parked car. CJ tried to get out of her car, but had forgotten to take her seat belt off and then found herself fiddling with the button.
"You need to push and pull at the same time," he bellowed to her across the parking lot.
"I am!" She wasn't getting it.
"No, not a jerking— you need to-"
But then CJ got it and almost jumped out of the car. "Don't go!" she yelled, as she tied her trench coat closed, wearing what could only be described as her pajamas underneath.
Toby tried not to giggle. "I'm not going anywhere – I'm standing in a parking lot."
"There are a few things I forgot to say - well one thing – one thing I never said." She folded her arms in towards herself, as if for protection.
"And you couldn't have gotten dressed first?"
"When you left the White House – I dawned on me that—well… when I woke up this morning… that… no one…" She took a breath. "No one thanked you for your service." She gestured towards him. "I'm thanking you for your service, Toby." It came out awkwardly and fast.
"You don't need to."
"And yet I do," she said, totally sincerely and calm. They shared a lovely moment of silence, each too choked up to say anything. "I thank you, Toby, my family thanks you - I thank you on their behalf," she echoed Toby's words to her six years before, when he thanked her for his pardon. "I didn't say that last night and I should have."
He shook his head no and looked away for a moment.
"I won't let you give up on this friendship, Toby. I refuse it. I refuse your exit from this friendship. I won't let you use this as an excuse." Her lower lids filled with tears. "Because…" She took a moment and her voice cracked. "Even if I'd never met you, Toby..." She tried not to cry. "I'd miss you."
"Don't…" He smiled through his own tears. "Why do you have too—" He couldn't say the words and before he could even speak again, CJ had walked over to him and taken him by surprise with a huge bear hug. She kissed him on the side of his head. CJ wasn't sure if Toby was shocked, uncomfortable, or touched.
"You better get used to public displays of affection there, Mister." She let up from the hug and looked at him.
"What will the neighbors think?" he joked dryly.
"I work hard, I deserve… a lov-er," she elongated the word lover in a comic way.
"You did something a little funny with your voice there…" he taunted her dryly.
"I often do that for comic effect when saying things for amusement." She smiled.
Toby smiled, and they shared a heartfelt moment.
"So, here's the deal," she interrupted the moment with a glint in her eye. "I've decided I'm calling the shots from now on."
"Yes, I can do that. I'm a mother now. Mother's do that."
"Danny must love that," he joked softly.
"Okayyyy." He humored her, but he loved it.
"So, since, I call the shots now – and we're staying on message. Here is what is going to happen. You. Me. We're talking more. I mean almost every day – or I fly to NYC and I tell your classroom of co-horts and co-eds, all the secrets I know about you. And when I say secrets—"
"-You mean funny and amusing anecdotes, as opposed to…" He let the absence of words indicate what he meant: the illegal secrets she knew.
"Humiliating stories, my friend, and my memory is far and wide. Far and wide – like this great country of ours. Oh, mighty shall she wave or whatever comes next!"
Toby smiled at her. "I think you mean the flag, there, and you just quoted the Canada National-"
"And you're learning Skype!"
He laughed. "I will not!" he said matter-of-factly.
"Come on!? It's easy!"
"I don't care how easy it is… man was not meant to be seen while talking on the phone. Heard, yes, seen, no. I deserve privacy in my own home without the hand of god -"
"Eye of god there maybe, Toby, or are you afraid the Deus ex machina is gonna come down and ruin your little Greek playlet ya got going here?"
"What if I want to sit around in my underwear?"
"You sit around in your underwear when you talk to me on phone!?" her voice went up an octave.
"No! I'm saying if I want to. Maybe if you wanted to."
"Really, because you have my permission," he smirked.
"You're also coming to visit me and Danny more – and you're going to be Kat's favorite god-father/uncle."
"What if she doesn't like me?" he asked defensively
"She's a kid, they're easily swayed – buy her things," she said pointedly.
"Okay," he smirked.
"Just not princess books – no princess books," she said dry and fast. The wind blew her trench coat open a little and she tided it tighter
"Okay," he said to humor her, and CJ didn't like that.
"What? They give girls terrible complexes." She stated her reasons vehemently, as her eyes gave Toby dagger looks "Waiting around in a big palace for years until the perfect man just comes along and takes her away from her – oh god, noooo." The truth of her statement hit CJ.
"Sound familiar, there," he said softly, and lowered his head trying not to laugh.
"Shut up!" she demanded. "So, whatever, no princess stuff," she threw if off, obviously flustered.
"Yeah," he said to calm her, before nodding his head and looking away.
"Okay, buddy, look me in the eye here –" She got Toby to look at her. "So, your time is now spent between your two families – California and Maryland, got it?"
"Yeah," he said, as if to say, "Okay, I get it, calm down."
"I refuse to give up on you, Toby Ziegler. I am refusing your exit to this friendship – and I will until the day I die! You get that!?"
"You said that already, didn't you?"
"I haven't had my coffee yet – I'm hung over - just answer the question."
"It was a question this time?" He took a breath. "Yeah," he said softly.
"I'm sorry, I can't hear you!" she spoke like a military officer.
"Yes!" he said as if to say, "fine, leave me alone."
"Great." She smiled awkwardly. "Good." She tried to pretend like she knew what the next step was. "And you know my life isn't perfect… It's not."
"Oh, okay, so we're back to the top of this conversation, now—"
"I never said it was!"
"Well, good!" she said pointedly and then realized how it sounded. "Give me your bag." She took his suitcase and wheeled it towards her car, while with her other hand fiddled with her keys.
"What am I doing, now?" he asked, gesturing his hands to each side.
"You're coming back to my place and you're staying with me and Danny and you're watching your kids and my kid open presents on Christmas Eve."
"My kids are half Jewish," he smirked.
"Then they can open half their presents." She opened her trunk and then couldn't seem to get Toby's suitcase in the trunk, either the weight of it, or the fact that her sleeve was somehow caught on the handle. "What do you have bricks in here?"
"Yes." He walked over to her and unhooked her sleeve from the suitcase strap. "I do indeed have bricks in there," he said deadpanned. Toby lifted the suitcase and put it in the trunk. He smirked at CJ and closed the trunk.
"I could have done that."
"I have no doubt you could do anything you set your mind to," he said softly.
She grinned at him and they shared a moment. "Get in the car," she demanded.
"Okay," he said softly and with emotion. And Toby got into the car.
CJ got into her side of the car, put her seatbelt on, and took a breath. She put her hands on the steering wheel, the keys still dangly from her fingers. She took a deep breath.
"You know my parents are both dead now … my brothers live in the middle of the country – they have their own families anyway – Sam's getting ready to run for congress, Josh and Donna are too busy to even see each other let alone visit me or Danny and I love catching up with them when we can, but most of the time they just want to talk about the life– The White House. And I'm done with that, ya know? I got my own thing now and it's peaceful and I get weekends off and I get home before the sun sets. And I love Danny and I love my job and I love my kid and long walks but sometimes you just need…"
"… Someone to run off to Cabo with?"
"Yeah, somethin' like that…" she trailed off again, before continuing her speech at a breakneck pace, "I need someone where I'm not their mother or their wife, or ex –Chief of Staff slash Press Secretary to pillage for answers like I got 'um all – because I don't . 'Cause sometimes I don't want to be someone's wife or mother or give anyone free advice or answers about affairs of state, because I get paid pretty well for that on the lecture circuit, ya know - I'm just sayin' you don't get the milk for free without buying the cow." She took a breath and got the point of her speech. "Sometimes, I just need a friend where I don't come with a moniker."
He took a moment and just looked at her in amazement. "I can do that."
"I know this isn't going to be easy, Toby. But we have to try. I want to try. Tell me, you'll try this time." There was a pause. "Promise me," she stressed and looked at him. "And no more excuses like you miss me too much to talk to me, 'cause that's crap and we both know it." Her eyes filled with emotion. "I don't think I can lose you again."
Toby finally really opened up. "No, you were right," he confessed. "I pulled away … because of this…" He lowered his head "I didn't want you to find out." He looked at her and nodded his head. "I knew what I was doing."
"Promise me," she stressed again and looked at him.
"I promise," he said as if to say, "of course."
"Good." CJ nodded and put her key in the ignition.
"How much do you make?" Toby asked softly.
"On the lecture circuit?
"Are you asking me if I can keep you within the matter to which you're accustomed?" She leaned her head towards him.
Toby laughed his held in laugh. He took a breath and nodded his head. "Something like that…" he said in hushed tones.
CJ didn't say anything for moment; she looked at Toby, awkwardly and then back at the road.
"Like what? More than Leo, did?" He wasn't sure he wanted to hear it.
CJ smiled uncomfortably and Toby had his answer. Toby just laughed in his way and put his seatbelt on.
CJ finally looked at him and spoke. "Let's just say it can pay for of a million and one direct flights from LAX to JFK."
"Is something wrong with Newark?" he questioned with a deadpanned humor.
"I'm telling you right now, Toby, if you make me go to Jersey, this friendship is over," she said dryly.
"Deal." he smiled.
"Good," she said. And then CJ started the car and they drove down the long road together.
"And I thank the Lord for the people I have found,
I thank the Lord for the people I have found.
While Mona Lisas and mad hatters,
sons of bankers, sons of lawyers,
turn around and say, "good morning" to the night.
For unless they see the sky, but they can't and that is why,
they know not if it's dark outside or light."
~Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters – Elton John
* James Dalton Trumbo (December 9, 1905 – September 10, 1976) was an American screenwriter and novelist. As one of the Hollywood Ten, he refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1947 during the committee's investigation of Communist influences in the motion picture industry. Trumbo won two Academy Awards while blacklisted; one was originally given to a front writer, and one was awarded to Robert Rich, Trumbo's pseudonym.
Read More About It:
If you're interested in reading up on stories referenced in this fic you can check out (all stories can be read as separate stand alones that together make a story)
On The Road With Danny Concannon 05'-'06:
Chapter 3: Staying On Message (Danny gets the truth from Greg Brock)
Chapter 4: The Conversation (CJ confesses her biggest regret to Danny)
Chapter 6: The Other Side Of The Ocean: (Toby shows up at CJs House in Santa Monica)
Chapter 15: Every New Beginning, is Some Beginning's end (In the Present Toby won't name names; in the future CJ tracks down Toby to tell him she's pregnant.)
On The Road With Danny Concannon '04 – '05
Danny struggles with the state of political journalism and if he fits into that world anymore, his love for CJ, the loss of his best friend and his struggle with the story he's uncovered about the women he loves. Will it all be the death of him or will it lead to the best decision he's ever made – and CJ's heart.
Characters: CJ/Danny, Josh & Maizy.