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Triptych 2. All fics are archived at http://www.geocities.com/elizabeth_barr/triptych.htm
Sunset: The West Wing
by Liz Barr
July 2001
rated PG-13
CJ, Toby
characters and lyrics: not mine
summary: "The sin and this mess we're in, and the city sun sets over me."
email: elizabeth_barr@yahoo.com.au
website: http://www.geocities.com/elizabeth_barr/


New York. Sunset. It felt like a dateline. Wednesday, New York. No need to point out that it was sunset, of course. Journalists wanted politics and news, and perhaps a bit of sex. Not sunsets.

Wednesday. Sunset. New York.

'Sunset' was meaningless here anyway. No horizon. No stars. Barely any sky at all. But the air was getting cold, and CJ could see the setting sun reflected in a skyscraper's windows.

Her cellphone rang. It played some stupid pop song, only slightly less inane after the lyrics had been taken out. She'd wanted a regular ring, but it was inconvenient to have the whole staff checking phones when one rang. So she'd found the tune most likely to irritate Toby.

It rang again.

"Turn it off," said Toby behind her. She'd chosen it to annoy him, and it was working a little too well.

Things that annoyed Toby: stupidity, perceived injustice, bland pop music. Ann Stark. Politics.

He lived and breathed politics, but he'd never been able to win an election until the Bartlet campaign. CJ wondered what it was like to taste success for the first time.

Failure, for Toby, tasted like whiskey. For CJ, it tasted like Toby, dark and whiskey-scented. He'd asked her to join the Bartlet campaign and their failures had been tied together.

Whiskey and Toby: after she ended it with Ian, after he divorced Andi.

In the last days of the campaign, she'd found him buying a bottle of high quality imported whiskey.

"Planning ahead?" she'd asked with false cheer.
"Always." No pretense.
"We might win."
He said nothing, and then they won, and he put the bottle away in his apartment.

"Just in case it falls apart," he said.

New York, sunset, Wednesday. The whiskey, if he still had it, was in Washington, but there was always the overpriced bar fridge in their hotel room. Because there was no better way to celebrate getting fired from the second job in a row than by getting drunk on liquor she could no longer afford.

"I can never get used to not seeing the sun," she said. "This city makes me claustrophobic."
"We'll be in Washington tomorrow."

Washington, where it was the politics and media that made her claustrophobic. She was suddenly homesick for Los Angeles, where no one cared about politics, and where you knew the sun was shining, even if you couldn't see it through the smog.

"I spoke to Leo earlier," said Toby.
"And?"
"It's bad."
"I knew it was bad. What else did he say?"
"The Republicans are calling for blood. Resignations are being demanded."
"Ours?"
"Anyone's."

Sunset. She was suddenly cold.

"We should be in Washington," she said.
"I know."
"It looks bad, the two of us out here."
"We didn't arrange the airport worker's strike."

"Do you think the president will survive this?" she asked.
"Maybe. If someone else takes the fall."
"It was a mistake."
"It was a stupid mistake. And Ann thrives on other people's errors."

"It'll probably be us," he added.
"I know."
"Leo won't be happy about it."
"Funny. Neither am I."

She wondered what career options existed for a disgraced White House Communications Director and Press Secretary. Perhaps they could write a book. Do Oprah.

She blinked at the idea of Toby on Oprah. Bad idea. Stupid idea, almost as stupid as thinking they could play politics with Ann Stark without getting dirty. The politicians, they were good men, they could afford to be idealists. But the staff, the support, the backroom dealers ... they played a dirty game, and Ann played it better than anyone else.

Sunset, New York. Wednesday afternoon, rapidly becoming evening.

Politics was a funny game, and people could be raised almost as they fell. Tomorrow they'd be in Washington, in the middle of the game. The Republicans were playing for keeps, but so was the White House, and they had good people. God was on their side and so on, except in schools, because He wasn't allowed there anymore.

They'd done nothing wrong, or at least, nothing the other side had done, wasn't doing, and wouldn't do in the future. They'd survive.

"The stars are coming out," she said.
"How do you know?"
"I don't. But it's a widely accepted fact that stars become visible as the earth rotates and the sun moves behind the horizon."
"It might be cloudy," he said.
"It'll clear."

END


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