TITLE: Say Hey
AUTHOR: Julian Lee, firstname.lastname@example.org
SPOILERS: "Mandatory Minimums" "ITSOTG," and an itty-bitty "Ellie" one
FEEDBACK: The elixir of life!
DISCLAIMER: Oh, I think we all know I don't own them.
ARCHIVE: Anywhere, as long as you tell me.
SUMMARY: Sometimes it doesn't matter who hurt who first, or when....
Notes: Thanks to Laura Ellen, who said, "Well, hell, I can't wait to read it," and to Chelle C, a Toby/CJ loyalist who had nothing worse to say than "It's certainly interesting."
Say Hey by Julian Lee
CJ said "hey" to me today. Maybe that would be a lot for some people, but for me it was a knife in the stomach. Toby and I were in the hallway talking about the Leukemia Foundation dinner, and she rushed up to him and started talking, like she hadn't seen me. Then she did that half turn of her head - oh, God, I remember that look; it says whoever she's talking to is the world and everyone else can go to hell. She'd never turned it on me before. She said, "Hey, Andi,' then went right back to talking to him. And it killed me. Just a little.
I wondered about the rumors I've heard, that they're sleeping together. Somehow, it would be fitting if they were. The closing of the circle, so to speak. And good for them, if they find comfort in each other. God knows it's more of a refuge than I've found.
I made it through the rest of the day with little enough distraction. Thank God there's never a shortage of crises in Congress; I didn't have time to think about CJ Cregg and how she'd wiped the walls out of my life, and how my hurt was running together, today's pain bleeding into what was inflicted ten years ago.
And now I'm home, alone, and it's rushing back to me like it was never gone; like not a single day has passed in between. I can't stop crying; I can't stop remembering.
The day I met her, Toby came home from work early, more excited than he'd been in months. I'd watched him grow steadily more frustrated with Georgie Stanner's campaign. He swore he was going to walk soon. Now here he was, coming through the door and calling for me the way he used to when we started dating and he was actually excited to see me. When I accused him of getting fired, he told me he'd been vindicated. That was enough to get me into the living room.
And there she stood. Tall, willowy, graceful, beautiful, and totally tense about being there. Just seeing her was like a shot of adrenaline to my heart. Somehow I managed to stay present enough to get through introductions. When she shook my hand I thought my arm was going to fall off. I was hot, and cold, and a burst of flame shot all the way to my neck. She smiled at me and acted like nothing had happened. I thought that, for her, nothing had.
Toby glowed as he told me how CJ insulted him at headquarters, then backed him up anyway. Little known fact: CJ called him Pokey first. I picked it up from her. Among other things.
I watched her through dinner; I couldn't look away. She was electrifying. The subtlest movement of her wrist made me shiver; the way her hair fell across her face made me want to make love to her right there on the dining room floor. Instead we talked politics, sports, plans for the future. Toby announced he was quitting the campaign. I touched Toby as much as I could during dinner so I didn't forget which one I was supposed to belong to.
When she left, I hugged her. That was a bad idea, but if she walked out that door without my getting to touch her again, I'd explode. I wanted to think she gave me a knowing smile when I let go, but that was probably wishful thinking. I was on ground I hadn't walked in eight years. Sure, I looked at women all the time, but since Tara, there had never seemed to be any point in wanting them.
I fucked Toby blue that night. And the night after. Every night for a week. Trying to erase the memory of CJ. Trying to erase the feeling she left on my skin when she touched me. It didn't work, but it calmed me down enough that I could keep my mind on my work during the day.
After a while, the pain eased to a dull ache. I could make it though a day without thinking of her; I could make it through a night without dreaming of her. But there was an emptiness in my life I couldn't quite fill.
And the years passed, as years tend to do. I, despite my innate dislike of politicians and the political world, ran off and got elected to the New York State House, then the United States Congress. Toby and I got married. He got a job on the campaign of Josiah Bartlet, the dark horse Presidential candidate. No one with any sense expected Jed Bartlet to win the nomination; I guess Toby wanted to keep his perfect losing record.
One day, two minutes before a depressing vote on a depressing welfare reform bill, my cell phone rang. "Andrea Wyatt."
"Andi?" I could barely hear him.
"Toby? You're breaking up."
"I'm in - car. I'm - way - Guardia."
"What? Toby, say again? It sounded like you said you're going to LaGuardia."
"Yeah. I ha - go - Califor-"
"What's in California?"
"Toby, you totally cut out. Toby?" I'd lost him, and I knew he wouldn't call back But I'd heard enough to wish I hadn't heard a thing.
Toby was about to get on a plane to California and bring CJ onto the Bartlet campaign. That was probably McGarry's doing, damn the old drunk. Someone like CJ would be exactly what he'd want in a press secretary. And Jed Bartlet was exactly the kind of candidate CJ could get behind. But, Jesus Christ and all the saints! Why did he have to bring her back to Washington? I put my phone back in my pocket and went in for my depressing vote, trying to ignore an all too familiar ache between my legs.
I didn't see her for months after she joined the campaign. I don't know how I managed it, but I seem to have amazing powers of avoidance. Toby was irritable, but he really seemed to believe in Bartlet. I just worked harder and harder. Everyone was impressed with the junior Congresswoman from New York and how hard she worked. No one could've guessed, as I stood with my husband at all the right functions, that I did it to get over a broken heart.
And then, damned if Jed Bartlet didn’t win the nomination. I was there the last night of the convention, when they took the vote. The place was in turmoil; everyone knew Bartlet was a better man than Hoynes, but would anybody vote for him? My eyes were glued to CJ the whole time. The light in her face didn’t come from the floodlights blinding everyone on the podium; it came from inside her. She just glowed that way. And when they announced Bartlet as the nominee, she jumped into the air and caught Josh in a hug. I couldn’t believe how that thrilled me. I burned with shame, but the fact that the person she turned to at that moment was someone other than Toby made my heart soar.
There was this party after the convention. This huge, crazy party, where everyone, even my beloved humorless husband, was having fun. Everyone except me. I couldn’t stop watching CJ.
Toby asked me to dance. Toby never asked me to dance, but...there he was, asking me to dance. He led me to the floor, and I came the closest I had come all night a good time.
And then someone cleared their throat. We stopped, turned, and there she was, standing behind us, beaming. "Hey. Can I cut in?"
I immediately stepped aside, dropping my eyes and looking anywhere that wasn’t CJ. Toby sighed, and his feet (the only part of him I could see in my fascinating study of the floor) shuffled away.
I looked up, and CJ was still standing there, looking at me expectantly. "Well?" Oh, dear Lord. She wanted to dance with me. Here, at the national convention, in front of thousands of influential party members and who knows how many reporters, CJ Cregg intended to dance with me.
"CJ, we really shouldn’t—"
"Lighten up, Andi! Your husband’s right over there; the candidate’s watching; no one’s gonna think—"
"Think what, CJ? What exactly are we doing?"
"It’s just a dance, Andi." She grinned, and before I realized what had happened she had swept me up, and we were dancing.
At first it was just a dance. We got one or two funny looks, but people knew who we were and how long we’d been friends. They knew my husband, and that CJ wasn’t about to do anything to jeopardize the candidate. We were just two old friends sharing what was bound to be the last of the carefree moments.
CJ and I whirled around the dance floor, laughing at some joke in the Governor’s speech. We marveled at Sam, who had become Toby’s protege and was the only speechwriter who could turn Toby’s idea’s into Bartlet’s words. We commented on how much we loved this song. And then I made a horrible mistake. I looked into CJ’s eyes.
I’d looked everywhere but there. I’d avoided her gaze for the last two minutes, but then she said something sweet and funny and all too characteristically her, and I looked up to laugh. And she was looking down at me. My mouth went dry, and I couldn’t catch my breath. "Oh, Andi," she breathed.
And that was it. I was lost. "CJ, I—"
She shook her head. "I know."
The world disappeared. Without holding me any closer, without moving her hands, she made the dance a moment between lovers, not friends. My heart raced; I could barely feel the floor (or my feet). My palms were sweaty, my eyes burned. I was painfully aware of the curve of CJ’s breasts under the thin fabric of her blouse, and the way her gaze fell repeatedly to my lips. I was in agony. Wasn’t the dance ever going to end? Couldn’t it go on forever?
The music died away, and CJ and I broke apart, ravaged. I looked around; crowds had not gathered to leer at us. No one was particularly paying attention to us. Could no one have seen what happened out there?
No. One person had seen. One dear, cranky, balding speechwriter stuffed his hands in his pockets and slunk away from the dance floor — but not before meeting my eyes with a stare that told me I’d cut him more deeply than I had imagined possible.
But a different motor altogether was driving now. I was no longer the compassionate Andi who had time to chase down her husband and assure him it wasn’t what it looked like. Because it was exactly what it looked like, and the part of me that had taken over was in a dreadful hurry.
She was still holding my hand. "Where to?" she asked breathlessly.
I only thought about it for an instant. "Your hotel room. Toby’s sure to go to ours."
Several people stopped us on the way. We wanted to scream and run right over them, but Bartlet had done an amazing thing, and everyone wanted to celebrate and congratulate. When anyone asked where we were going, I said we were looking for Toby. CJ cringed every time I said it. We walked as fast as we could without looking undignified. As soon as we were away from the convention, we ran for my rickety Escort and tore out of the parking lot as fast as it would carry us.
We made a great show of parting in the hotel lobby, CJ heading for the elevator, I for the stairwell. I raced up the long flights of stairs to the fifth floor, where I gave the code knock she’d suggested. The door opened a crack, and a hand reached out and yanked me into the room. The instant the door closed behind us, CJ had me pressed against the wall, her lips on my lips, tongue meeting mine, her hand running up and down my side. I whimpered softly and arched towards her. She smiled. "Get on the desk."
"What?" Her room had a fairly solid-looking writing table, but it also had an enormous bed.
"I’ve always wanted to have sex on a desk. So get up there."
That was a twist I hadn’t expected, but at this point she could have said she wanted to go back and have sex on the convention podium and I wouldn’t have objected. We swept away any pointy objects that could cause trouble later, then CJ lay me across the desk and began fulfilling seven years of fantasies that hadn’t begun to do her justice.
As we redressed afterwards, triple-checking ourselves to make sure we looked the same as when we arrived, I asked, "On a scale of one to ten, how huge of a mistake was this?" I cursed myself the instant the words came out.
Her face fell. "How huge a mistake?"
"CJ, I didn’t mean that. I just couldn’t help thinking—"
"Of Toby," she finished bitterly.
"If you’d seen the look on his face when we left the dance floor — CJ, we crushed him."
"I saw it." She put her hands on the desk and sagged forward, her chin falling onto her chest. "It isn’t fair!" she said, jerking up. "I wanted you from the instant I met you. He’s the one who gets you, and all he thinks about is this damned campaign."
"CJ, you can’t mean that," I said, carefully avoiding the first part of her declaration. "This campaign is everything to you, too."
"He doesn’t deserve you."
"He loves me, CJ. And I love him."
She turned and stared at me. Her eyes could look right through my skull; I was certain of it. "What about me, Andi?"
I stepped forward and touched her hand. "I spent seven years wanting you. But I think our timing was never meant to be right."
She smiled wryly and gestured at the mess that had recently been her tidy hotel room. "Tonight wasn’t good timing?"
"Tonight was one performance only."
We stared at each other for a moment, trying not to remember that we’d admitted how long we’d been burning for each other in the same breath we’d acknowledged we could never come together again. She grabbed her purse from the bed and jerked the door open without checking if I was ready. "Well, it was quite a performance; I’ll say that." She stormed out and slammed the door behind her.
And, oh, how I wish I could say I held to that resolution. I had a husband I adored and a high-profile job I was starting to like. But I couldn’t stay away from this woman. At first, it was once a month at most, out of town on bogus business trips and conferences. We were like thieves, and I felt slightly dirty every time. That was a good check for me; the shame reminded me that I was a member of Congress, for God’s sake, and that if we were caught I was ruined. But I was like a rubber ball; every time I hit the ground I returned to the air for a shorter period of time. Our need grew too great, our trysts grew too frequent, and I grew too comfortable sneaking around. We began to meet around DC, began to grow careless. I forgot that this wasn’t how things were supposed to be.
Toby and I made love as frequently as we ever had, but he knew damned well I was somewhere else. Things were so tense between him and CJ that Leo left Toby in Manchester during the second to last campaign swing. He started drinking again, not so much that his co-workers, even Leo, would notice, but enough for me to see what I was driving him to. Still I couldn’t leave her.
Until a day about a week before the election, when I came to the increasingly tense Bartlet headquarters intending for once to visit my husband, and found myself outside CJ’s office anyway. I had walked in a daze, hardly realizing where my feet were taking me until I was already there. When I saw what I’d done, I almost burst into tears.
"She’s not there," said a soft voice behind me. I turned, and there was Toby, lost and broken. And I understood that I had done that to him. Then I did cry. He rushed over and enveloped me in his arms. "Hey," he whispered, "it’s all right. Everything’s going to be fine." I had broken this wonderful man’s heart, and he was consoling me about it.
That week when I arrived at our assigned time and place, I didn’t undress or pour a glass of the wine we never met without. CJ sat with her legs thrown over the arm of the chair and watched me with a look that was part suspicion, part amusement, and the largest part lust. "Are we playing a new game tonight, Andrea?"
I shuddered. She held so much power over me when she used my full name. But I had seen too much pain in Toby’s eyes. "CJ," I said quietly, "we can’t see each other anymore."
"What?" She brought her legs around so she sat properly in the chair, but she did not stand.
"I’m ending this."
She crossed the room in three long strides and took my arms roughly in her hands. "Why?" I looked away. "Toby," she spat. "You’re going back to Toby."
I raised my eyes to hers. "I never left him, CJ."
She released my arms abruptly, went back to the chair, and sat down, angling away from me. "Oh my God, Andi," she whispered. "What have we done?"
I shook my head. "I don’t know."
She raised a hand to her eyes; I looked down and pretended I didn’t see she was wiping away tears. "You—" She cleared her throat. "You’re right." We were silent for the span of a thousand thoughts, less than a second. She raised her head and looked out the window. "I ordered dinner," she said quietly. "You could stay and eat."
"No, I really couldn’t."
She nodded. "You’re probably right." She didn’t move, and I knew I had to leave. Still I hung in the room for at least two minutes, just standing there looking at her. Then I swallowed hard and walked slowly to the door.
"So, um, I guess I’ll see you around, maybe." It sounded empty and ridiculous, but I didn’t feel I could just walk out the door.
She laughed hollowly. "Yeah."
"Good bye, CJ," I said softly, then slipped outside, leaving her staring into the night. There was only one thing left to do.
When I walked into our living room, Toby was sitting on the couch staring out the window and clearly not seeing a thing. The glass in his hand was empty, as was the decanter on the coffee table. "Toby."
He half turned. "Andrea." Twice in one night. From him it was a reproach. "I didn’t expect you tonight."
"It’s over, Toby," I said, not moving from where I stood just inside the doorway. This seemed to be my fate tonight; I was stuck on the edges of rooms, of situations, of my life. "I left her." We had not talked about it before. He kept his expression carefully neutral, as though he knew what I would say next. I’m sure he did. "And I’m leaving you, too."
All he did was nod, and my heart lurched into my throat. No matter what I’d said to CJ, I didn’t fully understood until that instant how much we had hurt Toby. We had made him completely numb. "Why?" His voice was flat, and I knew that he asked because he thought I expected him to, and that, as he always said, he could give a damn.
"Because I love her, and it wouldn’t be fair to you."
He snorted. "Then why not stay with her?"
"Because I love you, too."
He stood and stabbed me with a look of utter contempt. "Well, how nice for you to have so many people to love." He grabbed his jacket and car keys. "I’ll be at the Sheraton. Call me when you’ve moved your stuff out."
After he left, I sank onto the couch and buried my face in the cushions. His scent clung there, faintly. CJ’s scent clung faintly to my clothes. Yeah. How nice for me to have so many people to love.
I stayed out of town or hidden in my office for several months after that. I voted for Bartlet and cheered, alone in my lonely new apartment, when he won. For the first time ever, I listened to Beltway gossip, and only when I started hearing that the new President’s press secretary and communications director were getting along again did I resume making appearances at places they might be.
The first time I ran into them was at Congressman Winterfield’s annual end-of-session party. Toby and I were in the middle of our divorce. CJ flirted too heavily with a red-headed guy I thought was a reporter; Toby flirted too heavily with the bourbon. All I could get from CJ was a quick "hello," but I attempted to make small talk with Toby, congratulating him on a terrific five months. He thanked me somewhat apathetically, then mentioned he’d heard I might get a seat on the Ethics committee next session. When I saw the ugly smile that brought to his face, I knew it was time to leave. But when, as I was leaving, I saw her lean over his chair and whisper like he was her closest confidante, I realized any hope of a normal relationship with either of them was mining for fool’s gold.
Somehow, Toby and I eventually remembered that we had nearly ten years of good times before I fucked it up. These days we’re almost close, as long as we keep to our unspoken agreement never to revisit those times. He was even sweet to me, in his way, when I told him about my disastrous date with Victor Stipe.
Renew any sort of relationship with CJ? Never. I’ve ruined that. I had thought she just needed more time. But today she said hey to me, and now I know there isn’t enough time in the world.
Feedback of all kinds would be, by me, appreciated (Hey. Sometimes you just can't help channeling Ainsley).
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