Author's Notes: This was originally written for the Livejournal Community Sorkin Fest. My prompt was Jed/CJ – the night before their story breaks. Because of the nature of the prompt, this is AU, set during the trip to India the President and CJ take in season 3.
Special thanks to my beta, Olly, for all of her help.
Disclaimer: I don't own the show, so don't sue me.
No Questions Asked
By Duckie Nicks
The night before their story breaks, Jed is barely able to do his job. Standing next to him at the party is the Indian Ambassador, an arrogant man who likes to blather on longer than Jed does. And though he knows he should concentrate on the younger man, Jed is unable to do so. The topic is chess or Kashmir or who knows what at this point, but at the moment, all he can concentrate on is her laugh from across the room.
In all honesty, the noise shouldn't be attractive. Then again, if he's being honest, CJ is young enough to be his daughter, he knows, and that alone should make her unattractive, but it doesn't. And her laugh, by extension, by being a part of her seems to fit into the same irrationality. She shouldn't be attractive, but she is, and he shouldn't enjoy her cackle. After all, there's nothing soft and feminine about her laugh. It's not a giggle but a rich, full-bodied chortle that seems to ring out over the small sea of people – a bright burst of color among the dull gray. Her laugh is completely out of place among the state affair, punctuates the din of chatter swirling around him, and Jed feels he should be able to ignore it.
Nevertheless, he finds himself being hopelessly drawn to her – and to it – and he wishes, despite knowing he shouldn't, that he were talking to her right now instead.
He once likened CJ to a movie star – not the kind that exists now, where divorce and debauchery are the only currency that garners a role in a film. Rather, she reminded him of the old school stars, feminine but strong, bold but classy. And tonight, Jed thinks, she fits that ideal to a T.
CJ has spent most of the evening out of reach, but every now and then, he sees her, as she flits about. Dressed in a gown of ruby and gold silk, the press secretary is the target of every man's lust in the room. Out of the corner of his eye, sometimes, he can see someone talking to her, flirting with her. And from his own brief interludes this evening, Jed thinks she knows just how good she looks.
There's an added sway to her hips, an extra hint of tease in her tones, and the occasional hooded eye as she sips on her wine. It's for him just as much as it is for anyone else to enjoy, he supposes. In the years that he's known her, Jed has come to realize that CJ is a flirt in the nicest sense of the word.
She's always liked the attention, likes the power it gives her, and in all honesty, sometimes he likes it too. Not just when it's directed at him, though there is something to be said for that… But CJ has the ability to use her charm for his benefit by manipulating the press; every so often, they'll ask her a question, and she's able to run circles around them, partially distracting them, just as she distracts him now, with a laugh.
But there are other times, when her ways backfire, and she ends up letting a reporter – mainly Danny Concannon – in too much. And Jed will have a meeting with Leo or Toby, and they'll say to one another that someone needs to handle CJ. The words are left unsaid, but the meaning is always clear: Claudia Jean, stop flirting with the other boys.
And right now, Jed feels that keenly.
Every moment she spends away from him makes him itchy. He's felt this way before, but tonight… he's filled with such a sense of urgency – a desperate need to touch her, kiss her. Any contact they've had before this moment seems both too little and too meaningful to rein him in. A small kiss on the cheek on Inauguration Day wasn't, isn't, and will never be, enough to quell the desire growing within him.
His palms begin to sweat when he sees from afar the creamy expanse of her back, and yet the ambassador continues to talk, unabated, about what Pakistan must do.
Jed nods his head in an effort to stave off the feelings CJ has aroused in him. But it doesn't matter, because moments later he finds himself once more searching out her presence. It takes him long enough to spot her – a good five minutes anyway, which is enough time to make Jed feel his frustration keenly. And when their eyes do meet, despite being at opposite ends of the room, it's clear that CJ knows exactly what he wants.
She rescues him from yet another awkward conversation, swooping in as she always does with a quip on her tongue and an apologetic look in her eyes. Gently she tells the ambassador that the President has a phone call he must take, and Jed is more than thrilled that it works.
They walk side by side; his own footsteps sound faster, more staccato to his own ears when compared to the languid strides she's able to take. And when they are far enough away from the ambassador, CJ speaks up. "Sir?" she asks questioningly.
"Are you feeling all right, Mr. President?" Her tone is thankfully low and quiet enough so that no one else can hear.
"Yeah," he says not really paying attention to the question.
"If you're not, I can –"
Her pace slows down, and his does as well in turn, forcing him to look at her to see why. The frown on her lips tells him that she's not pleased.
"It's just that the ambassador was talking about chess, and you love –"
He waves off her concern. "I'm fine, Claudia." Jed keeps walking, the silent command in his eyes that she needs to follow him.
"Where are we going? Sir?" But she continues to walk obediently nonetheless.
"I have a phone call," he explains, pushing the doors open so that they leave the crowded room.
Jed stops and turns to face her. "You think the ambassador isn't going to notice me just standing across the room?" He shrugs. "I guess I could do that, but if he finds me, I'm blaming you."
She sighs, and they both continue walking, the secret service trotting along side only ten feet away, towards an elevator. They are silent, but the air around them is filled with noise and chatter, filled with an energy originating only partly from all these other people surrounding them.
The din of directions and announcements has ceased to wear on him; when he'd first become President, Jed thought he'd never get used to it. Yet here he is – in the mood to woo CJ while pretending that nothing else exists, that no one else is watching or will care.
It's a dangerous thought, one he hasn't truly ever been able to shake. And he knows he should stop himself, should go back down to the party. But once they are finally alone in his hotel room, the door clicking shut behind them, Jed knows resistance is pointless.
The weighty realization has him headed towards his mini-bar. Intently aware of CJ watching him, he pours himself a scotch before turning to her. As he swallows the first potent sip, the bitter liquid burns the back of his throat.
"Yeah." He finishes the drink quickly and sets the glass down on an end table nearby.
"You plan on staying here all night, Mr. President?"
"Nah. Just long enough so that it looks like I'm actually making a call. But not so long that it looks like, you know, China blew something up."
"Right," she says, though it's obvious to him that CJ couldn't be more confused by his actions.
And frankly, he thinks, as silence settles over them, neither can he. He shouldn't want her, shouldn't even think about acting on it.
But he does, and he's not sure if it's the liquor or the fact that his wife is on another continent… Maybe it's just the way CJ has stuck with him this year, despite her anger. He's not sure what it is exactly – and a very great part of him no longer cares, which is a little scary.
So moments later (and every time after that), when he kisses her, there are no second guesses. There's no doubt, because all he can think is how much he wants her, needs her.
Their lips pulling apart slowly, Jed looks into her eyes. And there is doubt in her face, maybe fear too.
Jed thinks he's gone too far, but a half-assed apology dies on his tongue; her thin fingers tucked into his lapels, CJ pulls him closer.
She kisses him.
And afterwards this time, there is no doubt left in her eyes. His hands pulling at the red and gold silk, there are no questions asked.
Until the next morning, after they've spent hours apart and loaded onto Air Force One separately; CJ is the one to find him. "The press wants to know why you and I left the party early last night."
Cautiously he asks, "Who knows we –"
There's a beat, a moment's worth of hesitation, before she forces it out. "A reporter, sir, stopped by the secret service saw us get on the elevator together."
He looks at her carefully. "You can handle it?"
"Yes, sir." Her voice is confident.
But for some reason, Jed doesn't feel the same way. He supposes it's because this time the press actually has it right. And knowing that, he needs more than a simple yes from CJ. "What are you going to tell them?"
She stands up a little straighter, perhaps affronted by his implication. She answers him anyway. "That you actually had a phone call, that I was asked to sit in on it. I don't know – I'll say exactly what I said every other time this rumor has popped up."
"This won't be a story."
Jed thinks for a second that she has more to say. But whatever's on her mind goes unsaid, as she excuses herself and leaves.
And he's left in silence until, out of curiosity (and only that), he hangs around the press cabin to hear what she says. It plays out exactly as she says it will, and briefly, Jed tells himself that he should trust her instincts more. Because their night together doesn't become the story, thankfully.
CJ's so good at what she does that the press shuns the reporter who initially posted the rumor. She's so good that even Abbey thinks nothing of it. It's almost shocking how everything works out; he can hardly believe it.
And because of that… already his mind plots on when he can do it again.
Part of him is all too aware of how wrong it is; he took vows, and she's so young and his employee. And eventually they will get caught, or God will smite him or something.
But Jed has to push it anyway. As much as there is to lose, he can't stop himself. Because he did it to be President, and that turned out okay. And he can – will – do it again for her.
He'll push and push, and in the very least, Toby will have to admit that he was wrong. Because Jed is so many things; an Uncle Fluffy, though, will never be one of them.
The next party at the White House, Jed finds his eyes roaming. Once again, he is searching for her, never stopping, and the cycle repeats.