Days in Between
Subject: [glass_onion] New: (TWW) Days in Between (PG) 1/2 Date: Sunday, June 09, 2002 10:07 AM
Title: Days in Between
Author: CGB (email@example.com)
Web: http://appelsini.tripod.com/Christine/ Category: CJ/Toby
Spoilers: Hmmm... bit of a Women of Qumar Spoiler... Disclaimer: Steve Irwin made me do it. He's a dangerous man, and must be stopped. Summary: "Who knew they could screw up on such a grand scale?" Acknowledgments: At the end.
"There's only days in between - there's just tomorrow" - The Tindersticks
It's December and it's nearly midnight. They're cold, of course, but they like his porch so they sit on their coats, watching the street and pretending that nothing bad happened today.
He passes her a beer and keeps one for himself. He chinks his against the bottom of hers and they drink.
He smokes and scratches his beard. She cradles her beer in her hands and rests it on her knees. When she doesn't speak, he counts cars. One, two, three, four, four and a bicycle...
"I had this dream," she says, suddenly. "I was breaking. Pieces of me were falling off in chunks. I'd pick them up and they weren't mine anymore. They'd morphed into things, like shoes or an umbrella."
He brushes his hand against the edge of the step.
"You see - you approach everything from extremes."
This was where it began and this was where it finished. She met him in New York and it was in New York that he told her he was engaged.
"Don't touch me! Don't you touch me!"
She is suddenly transparent. She recovers quickly. "I won't be your mistress, Toby."
She throws sunglasses, wallet and filofax into her handbag and throws the strap over her shoulder.
Two years ago they met in New York and maybe then it was something but she was in LA and then she was in San Francisco and he was trying to lose a congressional campaign.
She leaves in a storm of frustration and disappointment.
He watches her go from the window of his apartment. CJ can flag a cab faster than anyone he knows.
He opens a cupboard and takes a bottle from the shelf. He pours himself a drink and thinks he should call his fiancee.
After two more drinks he does.
She brought Adrian to the wedding.
Adrian says, "I've heard so much about you." And he gives Toby a look that says, `but I don't think I've heard the whole story.'
He kisses her cheek. Andi does too.
"You look so good," Andi says
Six months later they return for Andrea's campaign launch and he catches CJ making notes in a spiral notebook.
A week later she sends them to him.
"Tell her not to wave - hand gestures should be pointed."
"She should say `we' not `you.' `You' sounds patronising."
"She doesn't listen to anything I tell her."
"Conflict of interest?"
"She doesn't trust my opinion."
"That's not true."
"It was good to see you."
She sends him a postcard from London, tells him she's been sightseeing.
"It's too dark here," she writes. "I miss the sun."
She promises to bring him back a present and he finds he looks forward to the paperweight or novelty item she will present him with. He is curious to know what she thinks of when she thinks of him, whether the present will reflect that.
Andi pins the card to the corkboard in the kitchen, places it next to an invitation to her sister's wedding.
"You should call her," Andi says.
"Sure. Why not?"
"Because it's two in the morning there."
Andi makes a face. "Not now - god, Toby, just give her a call some time. You have one friend. One! And you're lousy at keeping her."
He is - and he finds himself hoping that it's more than his friendship that keeps them in place because there's something about the surety of her that survives into his marriage and into these years apart.
She calls from her hotel.
"Adrian is in the hospital. He was drunk - he put his hand through the shower screen."
Her voice wavers.
"Are you okay?"
"I left my cell phone at the diner - I should go get it."
"The - ah - the one that was on the way to the rally."
"Stay there. "
He takes a cab. He arrives to find CJ in the lobby.
"They're cleaning the room."
He sits down beside her and takes her hand.
"He can't stop."
Three months ago Adrian crashed her car. She moved out to her brother's. She was back again by the end of the month.
"He won't stop - not for me."
He stands. "Let's go."
They find the diner where she has left her phone. She calls the hospital and he smokes outside, squinting in the sunlight.
In the taxi he rests a hand against her thigh and when he directs the driver to a hotel she says nothing.
Later she gets dressed in the dark room, avoiding light from the window. "I should go to the hospital," she says.
The receptionist at Triton Day says, "she doesn't work here anymore," and she must have felt sorry for him when he sounded surprised because it didn't take her long to hand out more personal information on CJ than he knew she should. He marvels. It's rare that he charms someone.
He waits by the pool. CJ probably does laps but it's the kind of pool where the swimmer can only manage three strokes before turning.
It's warm in LA. Warm and sunny and about a world away from New Hampshire. He knows she's going to say `yes.' It throws new light on his trip because only an hour ago the situation was unpredictable.
Only an hour ago, he would have put down good money and bet on her refusal because when it boils down to it, he can offer her nothing more than a poorly paid headache and an extra grey hair or two.
"When can you be in New Hampshire?" He is talking through her almost closed bedroom door. A two inch opening suggesting familiarity and distance at the same time.
"When are you going back?"
She reappears in dry clothes. "Really?"
He shrugs. "Yeah."
"When did you get here?"
"You flew all this way to see me?"
Her eyes narrow. "And I got fired on the same day - did you have something to do with that?"
"The money is being transferred into Isobel's bank account as we speak."
"I'm serious. We call her "Little Mouse"..."
"Yeah. She gets that a lot."
"Do you want to go to lunch?"
She drives. He holds a hand against the dash when she takes the corner too fast.
She pretends she doesn't notice. "So - I'd be working for you?"
"Can I call you `oh captain, my captain'?"
She pulls the car into a parking space. She sits for a while with her hands on the steering wheel.
"This could be pretty weird, huh?"
He huffs and looks out the window.
"It'll be fine."
"Are we going to win?"
He opens his door. "No," he says as he steps out.
There aren't names for days like these; the days in between when nothing advances or falls, or makes its mark on the day. The days when you throw a basketball through the window because you miss the noise.
On this day the inactivity is quieter even if the voices are louder.
"Constitutional rights need to be decided with sound precedents," Sam is saying. "Otherwise the only section of the public that can fight for their rights are the ones that can afford their day in court."
"I don't believe it." Josh is leaning back in his chair with arms crossed behind his head. He gesticulates with a palm. "The election is two weeks away and Sam is already trying to heavy the Supreme Court."
"I think he's right," Donna says.
Josh's chair overbalances and he narrowly avoids spinal injury.
"It isn't enough to say `in this case,'" Sam continues. Toby leaves before hearing the rest of the argument. He's heard it before.
He loiters outside, lighting a cigarette and shuffling his feet.
And soon she is there. "How goes the debate?"
He blows smoke away from her.
"I thought you were giving up," she says.
He looks away. "What time is it?"
"Two-thirty. You wanna stay up with me? I'm going to catch the early news."
They stare at his smoke trailing upwards in a z-like swirl.
"I haven't slept in three days."
"You want to get drunk."
She shakes her head. "It's a bad idea."
"I mean, with the debate..."
It's cold. She's wearing day clothes, too thin for the brisk night air.
"Let's get out of here," she says.
She makes coffee and switches the TV in her room to CNN. They sit on the bed and watch, her under the covers and him on top.
"Do you think Christiane Amanpour is sexy?" She says.
She leans forward. "So what is it? You get dumped on by Leo? Andi called? Sam borrowed your favourite tie without asking?"
"I'm tired, CJ. People who lack sleep are often irritable. Even people like myself who are normally cheerful and pleasant."
"You're a pain in the ass."
"You invited me back here."
She folds her arms in front of her. "So did Andi call?"
"Did she yell a lot?"
She puts a hand on his arm. Her touch is light at first and then heavier as she decides to let her fingers rest. He turns to face her and she looks down.
His hand reaches up to her neck and pulls her closer so that they kiss with uncertainty.
And they rock against each other, while the television produces a play of light on the walls.
They miss the morning shows.
"I'm not even sure this is mine." She unwraps a ceramic vase and holds it up for him to view.
Her place. Freshly painted. She would have moved in yesterday but she said the smell of paint gave her a headache.
"How do you know?"
"Andi gave it to you."
"Ah." She places it on the floor next to books piled in stacks. "I hear there's a tunnel underneath the White House."
"They didn't say..."
"The Lincoln Memorial?"
She nods. "That would make sense."
"You'll tell me if you find it, right?"
She stretches and leans back against the couch. She looks serious for a moment. "If I told you there was a twelve year old bottle of scotch in one of those boxes, would you unpack the rest of them to find it?"
"You'd have to convince me that there was a bottle of twelve year old scotch in one of these boxes and I don't believe you can."
"I don't unpack for anything younger than eight."
She reaches for the water bottle on top of the yellow pages. "Do you have a road map?"
"I need a road map."
"Try the gas station."
"Yeah." She gets to her feet and goes into the kitchen. He can hear the water running and the sound of ice falling into a glass.
She returns with two tumblers of scotch on the rocks. She holds one out to him.
"Six years old. It's the best I can do."
"I heard you got an offer."
"Ah. Who told you?"
"It doesn't matter."
"No, I suppose not." She sits on the floor. She places her drink on the floor beside her while she removes her glasses and polishes them with her blouse. "I didn't take it."
"How many is this? Four? Five?"
"I don't know."
"You said that house was a liability."
"It is, but I'm not giving it away."
"It's somewhere to stay in LA, isn't it?"
"And I'm not planning on going back soon..."
"Because anyone would think..."
"Jesus, Toby, that house is all I have. I want a decent price for it." She takes a mouthful of scotch and swallows. "But just in case you're wondering, and just in case you were thinking of judging any of us because we didn't think we could cut it or we just didn't want to be a part of the world's biggest show, I thought long and hard about going back, Toby. I don't know that this is what I want - I have doubts, and hey, I'd be willing to bet that someone inside your impregnable exterior you probably feel a little nervous too. So yeah, I was thinking about chickening out - But..." She swills again. "But, I'll sell my house when I get a decent offer!"
"Are you done?"
"Drink your goddamn scotch."
He does. "You shouldn't be."
"You shouldn't be nervous. You're smart and you're quick. You'll knock the balls off the press corps."
She sits with her glass in hand, momentarily removed from herself.
"Say that again."
"You'll knock the balls off..."
"Not that part..."
He smiles. He really does. "You're smart and you're quick."
She smiles too, but it dissolves quickly. "God, Toby, I'm terrified."
He doesn't answer. His free hand twists his wedding ring until he looks up to see she is watching him.
"Yeah. Me too," he says.
"The first years are hard years" - he remembers that jingle from somewhere. They fumble and stumble and leave legacies for subsequent administrations to contend with. Who knew they could screw up on such a grand scale?
Toby stops sleeping around about the third month. It takes her a good six months before she joins him for midnight policy sessions in his office.
Inevitably, the conversation is a minefield.
"I hear you're being lobbied by Seniors' Rights?"
"They're picketing my apartment."
She falls into the sofa and leans an arm across the back. She crosses her legs and for some reason feels the need to inch her skirt across her knee. Demure. Very unlike her.
"Just two of them - they live next door."
"So they're not trespassing?"
He pulls that face at her. The one he reserves for when she is saying something very obvious. "No."
"I'm taking you off the morning shows."
"And it's not because of the senior citizens thing -it's just because Sam and I are prettier."
"That goes without saying."
"But next time you want to tell anyone they can shove their tougher penalties for crimes against senior citizens up their ass, you should clear it with me."
He sniffs and rubs his jaw. "It's ludicrous."
She raises eyebrows.
"Do you know what category most crimes against old people fall into?" he asks.
"Fraud - misuse of power of attorney shows up frequently - you think you're the only one who reads the crime statistics?"
She uncrosses her legs. There's a clock on the wall outside Toby's office that whirrs and clunks each time the hour hand moves. It clunks in 2 am.
He stares at the desk without blinking. "Andi called. She asked me how you were."
"What did you say?"
"I said `how the hell should I know?'"
She purses her lips. She lifts her arm off the back of the sofa and runs it through her hair. It really is too late for this.
"It's strange, isn't it - that someone married you?"
"No - that people gave money to Tammy and Jim Bakker so that they could build the bible version of Disneyland is strange. My wife misjudged, but she's not a fool."
"Hence the divorce."
"Hence the divorce."
He stands up suddenly and sweeps an arm across the desk. Two bottles and empty folder fall to the floor.
She jumps to her feet. "What are you doing?"
"Getting rid of the clutter."
"We could tidy up?"
He falls into back into his seat. "No - no, I'm good."
She is left standing. She spends some time trying out positions for her arms before giving up and letting them fall to her side. "Okay." She nods. "Okay."
The bottle rolls into a position resting against the leg of his desk. She watches it until it is still.
"I'm going home," she says.
She heads for the door. When she gets there she turns around resting a hand on the frame. "You know - you could be in this office for four years - possibly eight - have you thought about that?"
He gives her that look again. "No."
"I'm taking you off the morning shows." And with that she is gone.
Donna and Sam follow Josh inside, leaving them to wait for a cab on the steps of Josh's apartment.
"He looks good," she says.
"His pajamas are too big."
"He'll grow into them."
"Come home with me." He hasn't missed a beat.
"Come home with me."
"No - a week from next Tuesday. Yes, now."
"What - what the hell brought this on?"
He doesn't answer. She knows. He knows, she knows. She knows, he knows - it could go on.
"Toby - It's been crazy - for all of us, but you know - I thought... I thought we didn't do that anymore."
He shrugs, holding his arms out to the sides. "We don't."
"Because the last time was..."
"The campaign." The last time was when he was still married and it's unlikely Andi ever found out, so maybe they don't talk about that - because they haven't.
"Toby, when was the last time you - you know...?"
He thinks about not answering. He thinks she shouldn't ask and ordinarily she wouldn't, but he started them on this path and she has a right to know. He looks away. "It was - Christmas. After the election."
"You never told me that."
His eyes shift from her to the ground and to her again. "You?"
This is the wrong place, the worst place to be having this conversation. She looks like she would rather be anywhere else.
This is the wrong time too. Maybe last year, maybe six months ago, they could have this conversation and it wouldn't be about Rosslyn and it wouldn't be about Josh and it wouldn't be about Charlie and that they can't get the guys who did this to them.
"Why don't we do it anymore?" She asks. And then she says, "Why did we do it all?"
"What do you want from me?"
"God, Toby..." She puts a hand to her forehead briefly and then shakes her head. "God! I'm forty. Do you remember that? I'm forty. I'm too old to have an affair with my boss."
"Yes, it is, Toby!" Her voice is raised. She's almost shouting. They cast quick looks at Josh's apartment and then back at each other. "Yes, it is." She says again. "When you weren't with Andi you were with New York, and now you're with this job, and so am I but it doesn't mean dick, Toby, because we're not with each other."
"You want a relationship? Is that it?"
"No - I don't know - But we're better than this." She pauses. "Well - I am."
She pulls her car keys from her pocket, stares at them for a while. "I'm going home," she says.
The street is so quiet, he can hear the sound of her footsteps getting lower and lower until she is gone.
The chairs are empty but in their ears the applause hasn't died down. He sits in the front row with his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped.
At this level, the first thing he notices is her knees. Her knees are finely shaped. She has beautiful knees.
"Hey," she says as she gets closer.
"Claudia Jean," he acknowledges her.
"Josh has challenged us to a pool competition at the bar."
"Charlie will eat us all. He's a shark."
"Yeah - we're starting him on a handicap. We'll make him play with one hand or something."
He looks up at her face. "You gonna go?"
Shit sits down next to him. "Yeah."
She waits. "It was a good night," she says eventually.
"It could have been worse."
She doesn't say anything - just sits and looks at her hands.
"What did he say?" he says eventually.
"What did who say?"
"Bartlet. When you resigned, what did he say?"
She looks up and they are eye to eye. His face is not kind, but neither is hers.
"Are we going to fight about this?" She says.
"Because it wouldn't have worked, you know. I could have come to you and said `Toby, I think I should resign' and you would have said..."
"I think you're being ridiculous."
"That's not why you didn't tell me."
"No - you didn't tell me because it wouldn't have mattered what the hell I said, CJ." His voice raises at the end of his sentence. He stands up, hand going to his brow in his usual habit. "It wasn't good enough, was it?"
She is still sitting. She looks up. "What wasn't good enough?"
"Knowing that we needed you. Knowing that..." he waves his hand in the air. "Knowing that I need you."
"You don't." She sighs and looks around. "We should go back..."
"Did Bartlet tell you what you wanted to hear?"
"Yes," she nods. "Yes he did."
He shrugs. "Well. Good."
She stands. "I'm going."
"I don't know," she throws her hands up haphazardly. "To the bar, to my bed, to hell probably..." and then she stops. "Tell me something Mr Let's-Have-it-all-out-in-the-open: what would you have done differently? Would you have asked for my opinion? What about Josh? Sam? If anyone was going to say, `no, you're needed' who would you want it to be? Because you and I both know there's only one opinion that matters around here, and I didn't tell you because the last thing I wanted to have to say was `well that mean's Jack to me, Toby!'."
There's a crew folding rows of seats and piling them into a truck. They work quickly and in no time they will leave the space empty. He wonders what they think of the two people arguing in the centre of the arena - whether they give a damn.
"I would have said it anyway," he says.
"Yeah," she says and they are silent.
"I wanted to say it," he says eventually.
She puts her hands on her hips. "Let's get out of here before they fold us in two and put us back in the back of that truck."
Later she beats him at pool and he hands over five dollars. She cheers and raises her hand in the air. Donna applauds.
She fakes enthusiasm but he notices she ask for ginger ale when she goes to the bar. She's in no mood to celebrate.
He thinks he makes an impression, sometimes, but she never lets it show.
She leaves early. His eyes follow her as she throws her jacket over her shoulders and waves at Charlie. He edges his way around the room until he is at her side.
"I'm coming with you," he says.
Out in the street, she stops and faces him. "You know what I said before - about `wanting a relationship'?"
"Well - it's not true. I don't want a relationship - I don't need a relationship." She makes a sweeping gesture with her hand.
"Well that's too bad, CJ, because I'm here anyway."
She takes a breath. He does too. They stare at each other until she shakes her head, slowly. "Just like that, huh?" she says.
"Just like that."
"Extremes? " she says. "Toby, that's ridiculous - that's not me at all. "
"The issue is complex, and yet you insist that it isn't. It's not an insult - you shouldn't think that it is."
"Fuck off, Toby."
"This is my place."
He has dreams. He told her about them once. He dreams about forgetting, about opening his mouth and nothing coming out. It's funny how the dreams are never abstract, never poetic, always literal. Sometimes a skyscraper is just a tall building.
"Promise me you won't regret coming for me," she says, and it comes out of nowhere.
"I haven't yet."
"Promise me we won't be sorry."
He lifts her beer.
"I'm cutting you off."
"You're asking for certainty? That isn't like you."
"And you know me so well."
"I do. You don't want to know the future, but you're after reassurance right now. So I could say something that will reassure you and you'll see right through it and we'll be back where we started from."
She frowns, takes a swig from her beer and leans back on her hands. The night sky is clouded. No stars to be seen. She stares anyway.
"I don't really get why we do this."
"No one else will have us?"
"I meant you and me. Here. Now."
"So did I."
"I'm not used to this," she puts a hand on his knee. She smiles - a crooked smile. Apologetic. "I'm not used to having people around me who make a difference."
He nods sagely and takes another swig of his beer.
She goes on. "Do you wonder what I might have said, had you not been there tonight?"
"You have that prerogative."
"You didn't think I was about to blow the lid off our the whole deal? You didn't think I was about to break a story about the sale of arms to a country with a less-than-exemplary human rights record?"
"No." He looks ahead. She looks at him, so they meet at right angles. "I'm not proud of our history, CJ. You and I - we haven't always done what was right - what we should. But I know you. I do - and if that's not something then we have no business drinking together like this."
Somewhere there is laughter, somewhere there is a siren screaming at the night, somewhere there a radio playing Dusty Springfield - "love gets kind of crazy with a spooky little boy like you..." - and somewhere a truck rumbles by and shakes the foundations of her apartment block.
"Are we going to win?"
"Okay - okay, good." She looks ahead and nods. She stands up and wipes the back of her pants. "You staying, Mr. Ziegler?"
He follows her inside and he stays - and he is there when she dreams about falling apart and he is there on the days in between.
Acknowledgements: For Anna- Moonbar who planted a seed many moons ago and this might not be what she had in mind - but that's where it started. Love and thanks to Luna-Petunia who is an OG if ever there was one and pimpin' ain't easy.
The title is from a song called "Rented Rooms" by the Tindersticks which is so many things CJ and Toby to me.
Flour Manufacturers Mission Statement: Fear no weevils. See no weevils. Say "No weevils." JD Boatwood.
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to CGB
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