Shades Of
by Katrina McDonnell





She throws the newspapers down on the hotel bed and stalks over to the window. Why don't they just come right out and ask, "Why's Bartlet sabotaging himself with this stupid bitch?"

"Fuck off, Toby."

He's the only one who'll enter without knocking. But she can't deal with him right now.

"He wants to see you."

She bites her lip, trying to quell the nausea.

"Why the hell did you bring me here?"

To force her to watch them together? To confirm he'd made the right choice going with the Congresswoman?

"Because you can do it."

She snorts, turns and walks past him. "It's an absolute mystery why you've never won an election."


Leo's tongue lashing and shape up warning, followed by two hours of meetings and briefing drills. An apple for lunch. Another two and a half hours of drilling.

And Congresswoman Wyatt's arrival.

With her fingers and her emerald and diamond ring tangled between his fingers.

She needs to be somewhere else. A place where she's the professional.


The first bar is too quiet. Barbra singing of easy chairs and morning air forces her out of the second.

She drains the last drops of her grasshopper.

"Another one for the lady."

His knee bumps hers and she prays for a second before turning.

Not bad.



Inane chatter, crossed legs baring more thigh, large hand splayed against the inside of her knee.

Third grasshopper.

Khaki pants, sage pullover, dark eyes, dark hair.

Her damp panties remind her how long it's been since a beard's rasped between her legs.

He sucks the olive off the toothpick, and a drop of alcohol catches in his whiskers. She leans over and collects it with her tongue.

She normally prefers scotch drinkers but he'll do.


She thanks providence or something that she had the foresight to wear stockings. There's no way she could wait for the inevitable pantyhose untangling.

He stands behind her in the elevator. His hand slips between her thighs. And she's unbearably close to pressing the alarm button, stopping their ascent and begging him to go down on her.

Typical business hotel room. At least she assumes so.

The lights are off and she's fully dressed. Except that her panties are on the floor near the door and her skirt is hiked up around her waist.

She whimpers at the first scrape of beard against her thigh. His hands mold around her ass and she leans her head and shoulder blades against the wall. She wonders about the wisdom of this position given three grasshoppers and her famous sense of balance.

But lips and tongue and beard moving over her and in her dispel her misgivings, leaving only wet arousal. She squirms and moans and pushes against his mouth, wanting closer and harder and faster.

Until all that exists is his name.


"My name's Greg."

She laughs, waves it off, and makes him forget everything but her mouth around him.

He complains as she pulls away, but she again shifts his attention by straddling him. His hands grasp her hips and she winces as long unused flesh is forced into action.

"You're tight."

No kidding.

She uses the strength in her thigh muscles to slow her descent and shift her weight forward, her hands bracing against his shoulders.

"Oh, baby."

God...he's one of those. Definitely better when his mouth's occupied.

Smiling at him, she wishes she'd left before they made it to the bed. A fistful of dollar bills would've assuaged her guilt.

She starts to ride him, hoping for another orgasm. But his litany of pornographic prose distracts her from the physical and she realizes the beard is the only similarity and it's not enough.

Too short and thick, too vocal, hands too rough...and thank God, a fast burn.


She slowly opens her eyes...hoping...

Her hotel room.

Releasing a breath, she shifts her legs and grimaces. Her head's perfectly clear and she'd only be fooling herself if she tries to blame last night on the grasshoppers.

She needs to locate the nearest clinic and drug store. But that means taking time out when her job's already on the line. She could claim food poisoning and she'd only be partly lying. It does make her sick.

A knock at the door interrupts her planning. She throws the blankets off and wonders whether she should get dressed first.

"CJ, it's Andi."

She grabs a robe from the end of the bed, pulling it on over her t-shirt as she walks to the door. Pausing with her hand on the doorknob, she sucks in a deep breath and attempts to assemble her expression into something approaching friendliness.

Andi's contrite as she's invited in. "I know it's early, but I wanted to talk to you before I left."

After closing the door, she touches her hand to her neck - oh hell, beard burn. She adjusts the collar of the robe and her hair to cover it. "You going back to DC?"

"Committee meeting this afternoon."

She can't help but focus on the flash of green as Andi's hands join in the conversation. Why couldn't it have been a ruby? He knew emeralds were hers by birth.

"I know they're coming down hard on you."

She could wipe away the Congresswoman's pity with a sentence or two about a hotel room not unlike this one.

"But he wouldn't have brought you in if he didn't know you could do the job."

And she swallows the bitter words as she remembers his face and his voice as he apologized to his absent fiancee. The year of silence without even a wedding invitation.

"They'll realize eventually you've got the toughest job."

She shakes her head. "I'm not going to be here."

"You will be. They need you." Andi smiles. "They just don't know how much yet. My cab should be here," she finishes, glancing at her watch.

Tightening the sash around her robe to give her hands something to do, she follows Andi to the door and opens it. "Thanks." It's the only thing she can think to say...and she's the one supposed to be dealing with the press.

"Give it some time." Andi touches her wrist. "Don't doubt you can do it. Toby doesn't and I trust him."

She bites her lip before covering with a wavering smile, never quite meeting her direct gaze. There's too much of him here, between them, and she wants to keep some pieces for herself.


"Does Leo need a sick note?" She moves aside to let him in, knowing he won't just leave her alone.

"How much did you have to drink last night?"

"Not enough," she snarls through gritted teeth. Her head rests against the closed door and she wills her stomach to behave.

"You need to--this isn't--" The nervous cough.

"Just shut the fu--" She twists her neck to glare at him.

His shirt is sage. It doesn't suit him.

She clamps her hand over her mouth as her stomach demands out, shoving past him and falling to her knees in front of the toilet.

His fingers brush her neck and she tries to push them away.

"Let me."

The heaving diverts her attention and, though she won't tell him, she's grateful he's holding her hair.


She nods and leans against the bath, resting her head on her bent knees as she listens to the water running into a glass...the same glass she used to take the pill...the box of which is sitting on the sink...


No. That's what got her into this mess.

She takes the glass without looking at him and rinses; feels his eyes on her neck but she can't care, or move, enough to hide it. Refusing his hand and using the bath as support, she slowly stands and walks out.

Her stomach and head quiet down once she's on her back, staring at the ceiling. She's tired of hotel beds and rooms with peeling paint and looking but not touching.

"Leo will get over it."

She screws her eyes shut and wishes him and his inept pep talks away.

"I've lost count of the number of times he's--"

"Why did you give her emeralds?"

Silence. So long she opens her eyes to check whether he has disappeared. Would be a useful super power for dealing with the press.

His eyes will her to spontaneously combust. "You didn't want them."

She flinches. "Have you ever told her?"

"We were drunk. It was an accident."

"We knew exactly what we were doing, Toby," she snorts, rising slowly to a sitting position. "You were hard before you finished your first drink. And the way you went down on me in the hotel elevator required some sort of--"

"What the hell do you want, CJ?" His lips are drawn in a tight line and the glare would be enough to silence Mary Marsh.

But she's ripped off the scab and can't stop. "I wasn't talking about that night. I meant us. Have you ever told her about us?"

His gaze drops to his shoes as he shuffles his feet and coughs.

And the tiny ball of hope that she has nursed deep inside cracks. Her shoulders slump and she swallows a sob, before managing to whisper, "What happened to us?"

He rubs his hand over his beard and glances up. "You ran as far as you could without falling into the Pacific."

"Why didn't you follow me?" She chews her lip, unsure she really wants the answer.

"How many times did you expect me to chase you?" He slides his hands into his pants pockets and rocks on the balls of his feet. "I was tired, CJ. You'd be back and then as soon as things started getting serious again, you'd leave. I loved you, but I couldn't live like that any longer."

"She--Andi gives you--" Her lip trembles and she can't get the words out.

"I love her."

She closes her eyes and bites her lip hard.

"If you're going to run, do it now. Before they come to depend on you. Before--" A cough. "Before they love you."

"Toby." She opens her eyes.

His hand stops on the door handle, but he doesn't look at her.

"I--I'm sorry."

He turns his head and she forces herself to meet and hold his gaze.

"So am I," he whispers and walks out.

And she cries.


On the table in their meeting room is a bowl of assorted fruit with a big yellow ribbon. Sam, Josh and Toby are clustered around it. No sage clothing in sight.

"You still sick?" Josh wears an apprehensive expression as she pulls out the chair next to him.

"Don't worry, Josh. You're not going to catch anything." She senses Toby glancing up from his paper on the other side of the table, but she doesn't look at him.

Josh still shuffles his chair sideways and whines, "Mrs Landingham heard you were sick and replaced our donuts and bagels with that." He points at the bowl.

She rolls her eyes and grabs an apple. Turning to her left, she asks Sam to bring her up to date on the previous day's happenings. She takes notes while biting into the green skin.

"Nice of you to join us, CJ."

"Are you feeling better?"

She ignores Leo's greeting and smiles at the Governor. "Yes, thank you, Sir."

Over the next forty minutes she speaks sporadically, only answering direct questions. Discussion finally turns to raising the profile of Jed Bartlet and it's her opportunity to prove she can do this.

Except Leo throws the question at everyone but her.

She bites her lip as her stomach rolls, and she wishes she wasn't six feet tall and could slide under the table.

Her eyes are fixed on her notes when Toby grizzles, "Why are you asking me? This is CJ's area."

Silence and their eyes burn her skin. Deep breath and look up.

"Do you have some ideas you'd like to share, CJ?"

She turns her attention directly to their candidate. "Yes, Sir. I made some enquiries yesterday and called in some favours. I can get you an hour on Larry King."

"Larry King?" Sam and Josh chorus.

"It will have to be before the end of the month, before they go into sweeps. They need at least a week's notice." She glances around the table. "We'll have to start prepping now, but it's a good opportunity and the quickest way to raise the campaign profile."

She looks back to Leo and Bartlet, waiting for some indication whether her trial's over. Bartlet's smiling, but she still can't read Leo.

"You can make all the arrangements?"

She nods.

"Good work, CJ."

And she knows Leo's grin is his highest accolade.

Her colleagues seize the interview as a concrete goal, and ideas and issues start flowing.

She knows he's watching her, and meets his eyes. And in their darkness, she never ran and there's only them. Until he rubs his ring.

He nods and his lips quirk slightly. The Toby version of 'I told you so'.

She thanks him for his faith with a smile.

"Hey, CJ." Josh bumps her shoulder with his.

She breaks contact with Toby and bumps Josh back. "You're not still worried about germs?"

"I could do with a day off." In a conspiratorial whisper, he asks, "So, who do you know in Hollywood?"

She laughs and grabs a handful of cherries from the bowl.


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