All I Want
Character(s): CJ, Toby
Category(s): Pre-White House, Angst
Rating: YTEEN Disclaimer: I don't own them. If I did, I'd be rich.
Summary: "You wonder if they've seen through you yet, wonder how long it will take before they all do." C.J. doesn't belong on this campaign.
Written: March, 2004
Author's Note: My first foray into WW fic. Thanks to Eodrakken for telling me I didn't suck. Or maybe I should be cursing at him for encouraging an obsession... Inspired by the word "misdirection".
I wanna be strong, I wanna laugh along
I wanna belong to the living
--Joni Mitchell "All I Want"
You don't belong here, you think to yourself. You don't belong at this table with these men with their idealistic dreams and the unbelievable talent that just might turn those dreams into a reality. You don't belong in this smoky hotel bar with heavy wood tables, and chairs that needed to be reupholstered back when Eisenhower was president. You don't belong in East Bumblefuck, Wisconsin, sipping grasshoppers (which are surprisingly good, despite their reputation) from a funny glass and listening to them talk about whether the Governor should say that he's pro-choice or strongly pro-choice.
You sneak glances around the table and wonder if they've seen through you yet, wonder how long it will take before they all do. Toby is the only one who meets your eyes, the only one, really, who notices that you're looking. And it's Toby, dammit, who's to blame for your being here to begin with. You want to smash that damn cigar onto the floor, want to throw his scotch into his face. You look away, because you don't want him to see what's inside you, because those damn puppy dog eyes are suddenly focused on you and you feel like you're naked in the middle of this shitty Wisconsin bar. You look away because when you see those eyes, you know that he can see everything inside you and it's just plain unnerving.
You contemplate leaving in the middle of the night, catching a bus or a cab or whatever the hell one catches in East Bumblefuck, to get back to Madison or Milwaukee, so you can catch a plane back to L.A. Back to another place where you don't belong, but at least the fate of the country isn't at stake because you don't. You've been thinking about running away a lot, since you got here three months ago. At least once, twice a day. You curse yourself at night for accepting this job, for letting your fear of unemployment get in the way of rational decision making. You're just not qualified for this. Maybe in a few years, or maybe a few years back, if you'd followed your heart instead of your wallet, maybe if you'd never gone to L.A., but now? No, you're not qualified to do this job right, and the worst of it is that Toby was wrong, but he was also right. Because Bartlet really is a good man. And he deserves better than what you have to offer.
You consider getting up right now, going back to your shitty hotel room and packing your suitcase. But you don't, because Toby would follow you, and Toby would talk you out of it. You don't because you're afraid that maybe he won't follow you. Because you know that he would only follow you if you really were needed here, and you don't think you could bear it if he didn't.
Instead, you order another drink that you don't need from the dour looking cocktail waitress. You see her nod, and you catch sadness in her eyes, and you realize that she's the reason you're here. She looks so defeated, and you realize that you got involved in this to save the next generation of women from wearing that same defeated look because they have to work at some shitty bar to support the kids that they had too young, and the jackass husband who beats them. You open your mouth, knowing that these brilliant, idealistic people might laugh at you.
"The Governor is strongly pro-choice because he believes that women are not second class citizens, because he believes they should have the right to make any and all choices with regards to their bodies and lives. He's strongly pro-choice because he hasn't backed down from a position yet and to flip-flop on this would only cost him credibility. He's strongly pro-choice because.... Because he is, dammit, and we can't start asking him to tone down now because, again, I cite the flip-flop." You lean back in your chair and avoid looking at anyone, because you know they're not going to agree, because you know that you're not qualified to do this, because you know that you don't know enough about national politics to know anything at all.
"C.J.'s right," you hear Toby say, and you're not sure if you want to kiss him or hit him. "People like him because he's strong on the issues he believes in, because he doesn't hide from a fight or from people disagreeing with him. People like him because he tells them the truth, and to start playing politician now.... People like him, and C.J.'s right."
You stare into your funny glass with the zigzag stem and contemplate how the flavors of mint and chocolate meld together to create what you think may just be the perfect drink, although you'd never admit it back in L.A., where everyone drinks martinis and margaritas and expensive champagne. You count the ice crystals that the blender didn't quite crush all the way, watching the light hit them and bounce off. You listen as one by one, everyone starts to agree with Toby, to agree with you. You don't belong here, but maybe you might.
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