You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there
You've got a friend
Toby hung up his phone and stared at it, his face pale and wearing a shocked expression. After a few minutes staring at the wall, he picked up the phone again an dialed Margaret's extension.
"Margaret, does she have a moment?" After receiving an affirmative answer, he hung up again and got up.
Slowly, he walked to CJ's office. People who walked past Toby turned to look at him, surprised: he seemed a ghost wandering the halls of the West Wing, his blank sight looking at nothing in particular, his slow steps making him take twice the time it would usually take him to get from his office to CJ's. He passed by Margaret's side without even looking at her and got into his best friend's office, shutting the door behind him.
CJ, focused on her work, didn't notice him entering her office until he closed the door. She raised her eyes to see who was there and, after pointing her finger to the chair in front of her desk and inviting to sit, returned her sight to the papers she was reading. She continued reading for a couple of minutes, unaware of the distress her friend was suffering. When she realized that Toby was still silent, she raised her eyes again and saw his troubled face. Quickly, she stood up and went around her desk to sit on the chair next to him.
"Toby?" She asked, concerned. "What's wrong?"
"David's dead." He simply stated, his voice lower than usual.
"What?" CJ asked, thinking that, maybe, she hadn't heard him well.
"Sarah just called me. He's dead." Toby answered.
"Oh, my God!" She exclaimed. "Toby." She said, kneeling in front of him and taking his hand between her own. "I'm so sorry." CJ told him, deeply affected.
"I know." He said, covering their intertwined hands with his other one. "Thanks." He sincerely told her, smiling sadly, knowing well that CJ shared some of his pain. "I have to go to New York."
"Of course." CJ quickly replied while getting up. "Go sit on the couch. I'll be right back."
CJ opened the door of her office and went to Margaret's desk.
"Find the next flight to New York and book Toby on it. What do I have left to do?"
"Security briefing with Kate and Nancy." Margaret answered.
"Is it urgent?" CJ asked her.
"I don't think so."
"Ok. Cancel it, we can do it tomorrow morning. Move senior staff from 8 to 9." She told her. She moved to return to her office but suddenly stopped. "I'll need a few minutes with the President tomorrow, first thing."
"Done." Margaret said.
"Thanks. Go home."
CJ walked into her office and closed the door, leaving an astonished Margaret behind. She opened the door of the small closet in her office and grabbed two glasses and a half empty bottle of scotch. She put them on her coffee table and sat next to Toby on the couch.
"You don't have to do all this." Toby, having heard her conversation with Margaret, told her a bit annoyed but thankful at the same time, even if he would never tell her that.
"Yes, I do." She said, handing him one of the full glasses. "Do you want me to call someone?" She asked before taking a sip from her drink.
"Will you call Leo and the rest?" She asked, knowing fully well that he didn't have the intention of doing it.
"Well ..." He began, scratching his beard, sensing that he got caught.
"Don't worry, I'll call them tomorrow."
Margaret knocked on the door, interrupting them.
"Come in." CJ said.
Margaret entered and approached them. "The first flight is tomorrow at 7." She told him, handing him the papers.
"Thank you." Toby said.
"Thanks Margaret." CJ told her. "Go home."
"Ok." She said before leaving the room.
"Come on, finish your drink and I'll drive you home. We'll order Chinese food and drink expensive wine."
"CJ." He warned her.
"I won't accept a no for an answer. Let's go."
Two days later, everybody was aware of Toby's situation. The President, after hearing the news, called him to offer his condolences and ask if he needed something. Toby appreciated it but told him that he was alright. He, as well as all his friends, offered to go to New York for the funeral but Toby said that there was no need, he would be fine and he had his family. The White House had sent a nice flower arrangement and he felt that it was more than enough.
During the morning Senior Staff meeting, Margaret's phone rang. She quickly answered it and connected the call to CJ's phone. She stood up and went to the door.
"Toby's on line two." She announced.
"Thanks." CJ said, picking up the phone. "We'll finish this later." She told her staff. When everybody was out of the room, she put the phone on her ear. "Tobus, how are you?"
"Fine, CJ. How is everything going there? Do you need me?" He asked.
"Everything is going well. As well as everything can go in this White House but that's a completely different matter." CJ joked.
"The funeral is tomorrow at noon." He said, abruptly, totally changing the subject of the conversation.
"Are you sure you don't want me to go?" She asked him.
"Yes, I'm sure."
"I have to go."
"I'll call you tomorrow." CJ told him. "Toby."
"Take care of yourself and call me if you need anything or change your mind."
He hung up first. CJ, after staring at her phone for a few seconds, did the same. Margaret, shyly, entered the office.
"The President wants to see you."
"Thanks Margaret." CJ told her while getting up. Slowly, she walked to the connecting door with the Oval Office and knocked on it before stepping in. "You wanted to see me, Sir?"
"Yes, CJ." He said from his seat behind the desk. "Sit down."
CJ sat down on the armchair she usually used and waited, with her hands on her knees, for the President to join her. With some difficulties, Jed Bartlet stood up and joined his Chief of Staff.
"Is there something wrong, Sir?" She asked, warily.
"Everything's fine." He quickly answered, calming her down a little. "Have you talked with Toby since yesterday?"
"I've just hung up." CJ told him.
"How was he?" Jed asked, concerned.
"I'm not sure." CJ sighed. "He wasn't very talkative today. He told me the funeral's tomorrow at noon and then that he had to go."
"Does he still want to do this alone?"
"I think so. He's a very proud man, he won't admit that he wants somebody there with him."
"He's too stubborn." Jed said.
"We all are, Mr. President." She replied, half smiling.
"Yes, you are." He thought out loud, smiling too. "Will you keep me posted?"
"Perfect. Now, go do some work."
The morning of the funeral, CJ arrived at the White House early, much earlier than she usually did. She walked the halls of the West Wing towards her office, greeting the few persons that were already there. She entered her outer office and was surprised to find Margaret already sitting at her desk.
"Good morning, CJ." Margaret cheerfully greeted her.
"What are you doing here this early?" CJ asked, curious about her presence at those hours. "And how can you be so chipper at six a.m.?"
"I suspected you would come earlier today." She told her, ignoring the last question.
"Great." CJ replied sarcastically. "Do you have the schedule?"
"It's on your desk."
CJ got into her office and went to the closet to hung up her coat and purse. She closed the door and walked to her desk. She quickly went over the files resting there and grabbed those that she needed. She sat down on the couch and left them all on the coffee table before she took the first one and began to read.
An hour later, after realizing that she hadn't accomplished a thing, she closed the file and threw it angrily onto the table. She leaned back on the couch and closed her eyes. Too many things were spinning in her mind and she wasn't able to concentrate properly. But one thought prevailed over the rest: her best friend was going through one of the toughest times of his life and she wasn't with him, firstly because he had told her that he didn't want anybody there and secondly because she had too much to do. After thinking about that for almost ten minutes, she made her decision. Quickly, she jumped from the couch and walked quickly to the door. She opened it with more force than she had initially intended to and went to stand in front of her assistant. She tried to talk but Margaret began before she could say anything.
"I moved Senior Staff to seven thirty. Your flight leaves at nine. A car will be waiting to take you to the airport. Once you get there, they'll take you to David's house. The flight back leaves at five." Margaret explained.
"I should be glad I decided to wear a black suit today." CJ said ironically.
"Maybe, subconsciously, you knew that you would be going to the funeral." Margaret guessed.
"Maybe." CJ replied. "Thank you Margaret." She said, sincerely. "Knock when the staff gets here."
When CJ walked out of the terminal in New York, with her Secret Service escort following her closely, a black car was waiting for her. She quickly got in and the agent driving began the route to David's house. She used the time to calm down her nerves and trying to prepare herself for the possible confrontation with Toby. The ride didn't take long and, before she knew it, the driver stopped in front of the house. An agent opened the door and held it while she got out. She grabbed her cellphone from her purse and dialed Toby's number.
"Yes?" He quickly answered.
"Hi, Tobus." She joked.
"CJ. Is everything alright? Do you need me to come back?" Toby asked.
"Everything's fine. Why don't you go outside for a moment?"
"Please." She told him.
"Ok. Wait a second."
The front door opened and Toby stepped outside. It took him a moment to recognize her but, when he did, he closed his phone and walked over the car.
"Claudia Jean." He said just as he reached her. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I'm glad to see you too." She told him.
CJ hugged him, hard. At first, he tensed up but after a few seconds he relaxed into her arms and let his friend hug him. They stood there, in silence, embracing each other. Her agents surrounded them, staring nervously at everything. Finally, the head of her detail carefully interrupted them.
"Ms. Cregg. You should go inside." He told her.
"Pete, can we skip the whole checking up the house part?" She asked her agent while releasing Toby from the hug. "We don't need to scare everybody and I don't want to bother them."
"It's against protocol, ma'am." Pete simply stated.
"There's only Sarah and the kids inside. I'll warn them."
"I'm sorry, Toby." CJ told him, apologetic.
"Don't worry." He said while walking back to the house. He stopped just before he took the steps of the front porch and turned around to look at her. "I'm really glad that you came." He told her, smiling slightly.
After the security check, CJ joined the Ziegler family inside the house. Sarah was surprised to see her but really appreciated that she had came all the way to New York to be with Toby. The kids barely remembered her but after a few minutes they accepted CJ as if she was part of the family. After a few minutes of small talk with Sarah and the kids, Toby and CJ went to the kitchen to have some time alone before they had to leave for the funeral.
They sat down at the kitchen table with a big mug of coffee in front of them. CJ quickly grabbed his hand and didn't release it. They sat in silence, quietly drinking their beverages, until CJ couldn't hold it anymore and talked.
"Are you mad at me?" She shyly asked.
"No, no. I'm glad, CJ. I didn't realize how much I needed you here until I saw you standing outside." He reassured her, gently caressing her hand. "You could have told me."
"I decided to come at the very last minute. Thank God I have a wonderful assistant." She joked, making him smile. "How are you?"
"Coping. It's hard, very hard. I can't imagine what Sarah and the kids are going through."
"It's a different kind of pain, not better or worse, just different. She's lost her husband but you've lost your brother, Toby."
Deeply affected by his sadness, CJ stood up and walked around the table without releasing his hand, until she was in front of him. With a gentle tug, she made him stand up and hugged him again while silent tears fell down both their faces. They stood there, in each other arms, until a little voice interrupted them.
"CJ." The little girl said. "Your phone was ringing." She told her while handing CJ the phone.
"Thank you, sweetie."
They broke the embrace and CJ checked her phone.
"Fuck." She said before realizing what had come out of her mouth. She quickly covered her mouth with her hand, making the little girl giggle. "Sorry." The little girl just smiled and left her uncle and his friend alone. "It just came out." CJ told Toby.
"Don't worry. She's heard worse." Toby said. "Who called?"
"The President." CJ told him with remorse all over her voice. Toby looked at her, surprised. "I kinda forgot to tell him I was coming." She explained, smiling guiltily.
"You kinda forgot?" Toby asked, incredulous.
Before she could say anything more, her cell began to ring again. She quickly answered it. "Mr. President." She said, trying to sound as casual as possible.
"Claudia Jean." Jed Bartlet replied. "I think you forgot to tell me something."
"I'm sorry, sir." She apologized.
"Imagine my shock when you didn't appear at the Security briefing and Charlie told me you were in New York." He said a bit angry even if he understood why she was there. "Are you with Toby?"
"Give him the phone." CJ passed him the phone and returned to her coffee while they talked. She heard Toby tell him that he was fine, as well as his sister-in-law and his nephew and niece.
After they exchanged a few more words, Toby covered the phone with his hand and spoke to her. "He's asking when you'll be back."
"My flight leaves at five. I suppose I'll be back in my office by seven, more or less." CJ answered.
Toby passed the information to the President, thanked him and hung up before he returned the cell to CJ.
"He's pissed." Toby simply stated.
"Yeah, I know." CJ replied. "But don't worry. I'll take care of it."
"Claudia Jean." He warned her.
"Do you realize this is the second time you used my full name? It's weird."
"I'm really grateful that you're here but I don't want this to cause problems between you and the President." He told her, ignoring her previous remark.
"They can survive a day without me." She said, not looking at him.
"Claudia." He began, but CJ interrupted him.
"Can you stop, please? It's been years since you called me Claudia!" She told him, annoyed.
"It's your name." Toby joked
"I know!" She exclaimed, exasperated. "And you only use it when we're having one of our strange, weird and scary deeply emotional moments. It ticks me off."
"Well, sorry, but I really like your name."
"Toby, please." She nearly begged. "I don't care if he's pissed. It will be gone by tomorrow so don't worry. I wanted to be here for you, I needed to be here, so the rest doesn't matter, ok?"
"Do you know what will make me feel better?" He asked her.
"What?" She replied, her voice almost to low to be heard.
"A kiss." Toby told her while encircling her waist with his arms and pulling her body closer to his.
"Really?" She asked, amused.
"Yeah." He simply replied.
They closed their eyes and, slowly, their lips came closer to each other. The first kiss was short and chaste, merely a kiss between friends. They opened their eyes and looked directly at each other, trying to read what the other was feeling. Then, they joined their lips again in a more passionate kiss. After a few seconds they came out for air wearing silly smiles on their faces. CJ rested her forehead on Toby's, their noses touching.
"Thank you." Toby whispered.
"My pleasure." CJ whispered back.
"How long has it been since our last kiss? Twelve years?" He asked.
"More or less."
"We're out of practice." Toby joked.
"Shut up." She told him, smacking his arm.
"We should talk about this."
"Yeah, we should, but not today. When you come back you can invite me to dinner in a fancy restaurant and then we'll talk." CJ replied.
Sarah, who had just gotten into the kitchen, cleared her throat. They quickly broke the embrace and stood a feet apart, a bit ashamed of being caught. Sarah only smiled at them.
"Andy is outside with the twins." She explained. "It's time to go."
During the funeral, CJ stood by Toby's side holding his hand, showing him all her support. At first, she had tried to stay a bit behind, she didn't want to interfere, but Toby had taken her hand and made her stand with him. She only released it to give him a tissue after he had begun to silently cry.
After everything was over, they walked together to the car and let the Secret Service drive them home. CJ, before getting into the car, asked her agent, discreetly, to make a little detour so Toby could compose himself before facing his family and friends. They arrived twenty minutes later. Hand in hand, they walked into the house and greeted everyone. After a few minutes they drifted apart, making conversation with different people.
Little Huck, bored because nobody really paid attention to him, looked around for his sister but didn't find her. Seeing his father talking to someone, he decided to interrupt him. He walked to him and tugged his pants. Toby looked down at his son and quickly picked him up.
"Hey, little man." He said to his son.
"Sissy?" Huck simply asked.
Toby looked around the room. He saw Andy talking with Sarah but there was no sign of Molly nor CJ, he also noticed. "Let's go find her." He said. "If you'll excuse me." He told the man he was talking to.
Luckily for them, they found Molly at the first place they went: the kitchen. Molly was sitting on CJ's lap, facing her, playing some sort of game that made the little girl laugh out loud while CJ smiled widely. Toby smiled at the sight of his daughter and his friend, realizing how great they looked together.
"There you are." He said, interrupting their game.
"Daddy!" The girl happily squealed. "Hi!"
"Hi sweetie." Toby told her.
Huck, after seeing his sister, began to move into his father's arms, wanting to be put down on the floor. Toby quickly complied and the little boy ran to the girls.
"Cee-Cee." He said to CJ, too little to know how to pronounce her name correctly (not that CJ minded the new nickname). "Me up."
"You want to sit here with your sister?" CJ sweetly asked him. He just nodded in answer. CJ repositioned Molly and sat her on one of her legs before picking Huck up and sitting him on the other one. She kissed both kids cheeks and raised her head to look at their father.
"Thank you, Claudia, for everything." Toby said, approaching her and kneeling by her side.
"You're welcome." She told him, lowering her head to receive a quick peck on the lips.
Toby stood up, grabbed a chair, and sat down with them to spend as much time as he could with them before CJ had to go.