TITLE: Boys Are Dumb, Throw Soaps at Them
SUMMARY: It's early in Bartlet's first campaign, and C.J. is just getting to know Josh Lyman.
RATING: Rated PG-13 for adult situations
NOTES: I'd already gotten a good start on this story when I had to drop out of the bubbleficathon last year, and I always knew I wanted to finish it. I'm sorry I can't remember who it was supposed to be for anymore (and I've lost the email with my assignment), but the requirements were CJ/Josh and seashell-shaped soaps. Takes place a couple of weeks after the campaign flashbacks we see in "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part II."
Special thanks to my wonderful beta readers, kelbelle, cjcregg, bgirlla, and austin360.
C.J. felt out of sorts.
She was used to these parties by now, and usually she didn't mind them, but tonight for some reason she felt uncomfortable. She felt like her hair was too curly, that it made her look older. And she worried that her dress was all wrong--too couture, too West Coast for this crowd.
The room was headachingly noisy; there were a dozen conversations going on around her, high-pitched laughter, a piano player in the foyer.
"Olive is the prettiest dog you could imagine, and good papers, too, but I just had to ask myself if we really wanted those teeth in the Silversmith gene pool." The woman talking to C.J. was a breeder of springer spaniels. She was drinking a Bloody Mary and had lipstick on her teeth, or perhaps tomato juice. C.J. had an overwhelming urge to reach over and wipe it off.
C.J. excused herself at the first opportunity and made her way over to the bar where she ordered a gin and tonic.
"As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!" Josh proclaimed, coming up beside her.
C.J. winced. "I thought we agreed you weren't going to do the accent anymore."
"I can't help myself. Come on, it's like we're actually standing in Tara."
"Tara was in Georgia--this is South Carolina."
Josh shrugged. "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
"Don't let our hosts hear you say that," C.J. said, reaching for her drink. "Somehow, I don't think they'd appreciate it." The plantation-style mansion they were in did look an awful lot like Tara, even down to the heavy drapes that were perfect for converting into an antebellum hoop skirt.
"What the hell are we doing here?" Josh said, keeping his voice pitched low so no one would overhear.
"It's a fundraiser," C.J. replied, trying to ignore the way his right hand was casually wrapped around her upper arm. "We're raising funds. Or did you not realize that?"
She'd only known Josh Lyman for about a month and she was still trying to figure him out. The man possessed flawless political instincts but he was cocky as hell. And he always seemed to be half-flirting with her. But C.J. was starting to get the sense that it was just a put-on, like that swagger of his. She had a strong suspicion that if she were to actually respond to any of his innuendos, he'd run for the hills. Whatever. She had a firm rule about men she worked with, anyway.
"I mean, in South Carolina," Josh said, leaning in even closer. "This state isn't a battlefield, it's a minefield."
"We've already had this conversation." They'd been in South Carolina two weeks; Josh had been itching to leave for the last week and a half.
"I'm not through complaining yet."
"Go complain at someone else. I'm here to mingle."
"So go mingle," Josh said. "No one's stopping you."
She looked pointedly down at his hand, which was still on her arm, then back up at him, her eyebrows raised.
He smirked in that way of his that always made her want to kick him in the shins and let go, holding the offending hand up in a mockingly placating gesture before dropping it to his side.
C.J. moved away from Josh, but instead of mingling, she made for the nearest washroom and shut the door behind her, seeking a few moments of peace and quiet before she once more faced the throngs of Democratic contributors.
She leaned over the sink and frowned at her reflection in the atrociously expensive gilt-edged mirror. Why did her lipstick look so much brighter in this light than it had in the hotel bathroom? The people they were supposed to be impressing down here probably thought she looked like some kind of Yankee harlot. She sighed and reapplied the too-bright lipstick. Better that than a California feminista who didn't even bother to wear lipstick.
Before leaving the bathroom she slipped a handful of the seashell-shaped guest soaps into her pocket. It was stupid, but it was a habit she'd had since high school--under her bed at home was a box filled with soaps from every city she'd ever traveled to since she was 15 years old. It was big box.
She smoothed her skirt and stepped out of the washroom--and right into a truckload of tall, dark and handsome, emphasis on the tall.
"I'm so sorry," she said, feeling typically klutzy.
Tall, dark and handsome beamed a thousand-watt smile on her. "Don't be. If I'd seen you coming I would have thrown myself into your path on purpose."
C.J. smiled back. Tall, good-looking and charming--a deadly combination. And C.J. was always on the lookout for men who didn't peer up into her nostrils.
He stuck out his hand. "I'm Jack."
Perhaps the night was starting to look up.
Jack's Ford Expedition pulled up in front of the Siesta Motor Lodge.
"Thanks for the ride," C.J. said, reaching for the door handle.
"You sure I can't walk you to your room?" he asked hopefully.
"Absolutely sure," C.J. said, not even a little bit tempted. "Goodnight."
She got out of the car and walked quickly through the fluorescent-lit lobby. So much for tall, dark and handsome.
As soon as she stepped out into the tiled courtyard she was assaulted by the sound of Josh's ranting.
"Black voters are a huge segment of the South Carolina Democratic coalition, we need to be focusing on them!"
He and Toby were sitting by the pool, arguing, a collection of beer bottles on the table between them.
She saw Toby shake his head. "Any attempt at race-baiting is going to alienate moderate, white Democrats."
"It's 1998!" Josh said. "If they're not on board the diversity train yet they can get the hell out of our party--and they can take their Confederate flags and shove 'em up their asses, while they're at it!"
"We should definitely use that as a campaign slogan," C.J. said, coming up behind Toby. "Liberal New England potty-mouths are amazingly popular in the most socially conservative state east of Utah."
"What happened to Rhett Butler?" Josh asked.
C.J. ignored him and snagged a beer off the table.
"Just help yourself to the beer, there," Toby groused.
"Why thank you, don't mind if I do," C.J. said, knocking the bottle cap off on the side of the table with a loud thwack. She was in a bad mood, and it was going to take more than lite beer to reverse it. But it was a start.
"Not the man of your dreams after all?" Josh said.
"Drop it," C.J. warned.
"What was it? Bad breath? Extra toe? Monkey-pox?"
She cocked her eyebrows. "Monkey-pox?"
"He was married," said Toby quietly.
C.J. looked over at him sharply. "How'd you know?"
Toby shrugged. "Married men can always tell other married men. When'd you figure it out?"
"In the car on the way here--saw the tan line on his ring finger. Amateur mistake, I should have caught it sooner." She took a swig of beer. Yep, she was definitely going to need something stronger.
"And on that note, I'm going to call my wife," Toby said, pulling himself to his feet.
"Night," C.J. said.
She wasn't ready to go back to her hotel room yet so she slipped off her shoes and sat on the edge of the pool, dangling her feet into the water. It was a nice night--warm for October, even in the South.
Josh's new assistant, Donna, came over and handed him a stack of pink phone messages. "You need anything before I turn in?" she asked.
"Nope, we're done for the day," Josh said. "See you in the morning."
"She seems to be working out well," C.J. observed after Donna had gone.
"Hmm?" Josh said absently as he flipped through the messages.
"Your new assistant. She seems to be working out."
"Yeah, she is. She's great, actually." He looked up and smirked. "Jealous?"
"That you have an assistant and I don't? You're damn right I am."
"That's not what I meant."
"I know what you meant," C.J. said, taking another swig of beer.
Josh dropped the messages, grabbed his beer and came over to sit next to C.J. He pulled off his shoes and stuck his feet in the pool, socks and all.
"I think your pants are a little wet, there," C.J. said.
"They'll dry." He looked over at her. Actually, it was more of a leer than a look. "You look really nice tonight, C.J."
She eyed him warily. Even in the dim light his cheeks displayed a tell-tale flush. "How many beers have you had?"
"Two." He seemed to consider. "Possibly four."
She took the beer out of his hand and set on the other side of her. "I think you've had enough."
While she was turned away from him she felt something tickling her neck. Good God, he was playing with her hair. She pulled away quickly. "What are you doing?"
"What?" he said innocently.
"Stop what?" He leaned towards her. "This?"
"Yes," C.J. said firmly. He was close enough that she could smell his Hugo Boss cologne. And she was pretty sure she caught a whiff of single-malt scotch on his breath, which probably explained his current behavior better than the four beers.
"I figured out what's wrong with you, C.J."
This should be rich. "Is that so?"
"You should be kissed, and often, and by someone who knows how." Great, he was back to Gone with the Wind again.
Josh leaned in even closer. Lord, he was actually going to try to kiss her.
C.J. reacted on instinct and did the only thing she could think of--she shoved him. Hard.
Josh, caught off-balance, went flailing into the motel pool with the grace of a balletic cow.
She glared down at him as he sputtered to the surface. "You need to cool off, Josh!" she said.
He wiped his face and shook the water out of his hair. "It's nice and warm in here. Sure you don't want to join me?" And then he smirked. In that way that made her want to kick him.
C.J.'s fist clenched on the tiny seashell soaps that were still in her pocket. The next thing she knew the soaps were hurling through the air, straight at Josh's head.
"Ow!" he yelped as one bounced off his forehead. "What was that for?"
"For being a dumbass," C.J. snapped. She snatched up her shoes and stormed back to her hotel room.
When she got inside she threw her shoes across the room and flopped down on the bed. Why did men have to be such jerks? It was almost enough to make a girl consider switching teams. Almost.
She wondered if Josh would even remember this tomorrow. The more she more she thought about it, the more she hoped he wouldn't. It would make working together way too awkward.
This was really shaping up to be a craptastic year. The campaign was floundering, the candidate was a pain in the ass, and C.J. wasn't at all sure what she was doing here. Maybe she shouldn't have left L.A. after all.
She rolled over on her side and moaned. To top it all off, she'd left her beer down by the pool. Stupid beer. Stupid men. Stupid night.
There was a knock on the door. C.J. sat up. "Who is it?"
Super. She hauled herself off the bed and opened the door.
He'd changed into dry clothes, but hadn't bothered to comb his wet hair, which was sticking up in amusing tufts around his head. On his face was his most pathetic guilty puppy expression and he was clutching a rumpled paper bag in one hand.
"I'm sorry," Josh said, sounding sincere for once. "I was out of line and I absolutely deserved to be shoved into the pool."
"Apology accepted," C.J. said grudgingly.
"The soap attack was maybe an overreaction, though."
"Don't push your luck."
"I'm just saying, they kinda hurt."
"What's in the bag?" C.J. asked.
"Peace offering." Josh held it out so she could see inside.
"It was either the vending machine or something from my luggage, and I thought you'd prefer stale Milky Ways to dirty socks." He pulled something else from behind his back. "Also I got this from Toby." It was a mostly-full bottle of Jack Daniel's. Good old Toby.
"You really think you need more alcohol?" she asked.
"It's for you, not me."
"Trying to get me drunk so I'll forget what happened?"
"Something like that."
"Sir, you are no gentleman," said C.J. archly.
"And you, miss, are no lady," Josh retorted with a grin.
She stepped back and held the door open.
Josh came in and looked around the dingy motel room. "Your room's bigger than mine."
"Size queen." She grabbed the candy and the bottle of Jack and sat down on the bed. "No Reese's?"
"They were all out."
C.J. took a swig out of the bottle and smiled happily. This was a Jack that would never turn out to be married. She tore open a Kit Kat. "Want something?"
"Plain or peanut?"
She tossed a bag of M&M's to Josh and leaned back against the headboard. "So a man walks into a bar, sits down and orders a beer--"
"What are you doing?" Josh interrupted.
"I'm telling a joke."
He stared at her disbelief. "Really?"
"Yes, and you're going to sit there and listen."
"This is my punishment, isn't it?"
"As he sips his beer," C.J. continued, "the man hears someone say, 'Nice tie.' The man looks around, but there's no one in the bar but him and the bartender. A minute later another voice says, 'Beautiful shirt.' So the man calls the bartender over. 'I must be hearing things,' the man says. 'I keep hearing voices saying nice things to me, but there's no one here but us.' 'It's the peanuts,' says the bartender. 'They're complimentary.'"
"That's a terrible joke," Josh said.
C.J. grinned. "I've got a million of 'em." She poured some whiskey into a glass and passed it to him. "You're going to need this."
He accepted the glass hesitantly. "You sure?"
"Just... stay over there."
C.J. took another drink from the bottle and settled back on the bed. Her mood was finally beginning to improve. "So a cowboy moseys into a saloon and orders a whiskey..."
C.J. rolled over with a groan and grabbed the ringing phone.
"This is your 5 a.m. wake-up call," said the robotic voice on the other end.
She dropped the receiver back into its cradle and opened one bleary eye. On the bed next to her were a half-dozen candy wrappers and an empty Jack Daniel's bottle.
Bits and pieces of the night before slowly began to come back to her. The pool... seashell soaps... the whiskey... Josh.
She sat up suddenly and looked around her. Curled up in an undignified lump on the floor was Josh. And--oh God--he didn't appear to be wearing anything but the rumpled sheet that was--blessedly--wrapped around his waist.
C.J. looked down at herself. She was wearing a bathrobe. With nothing whatsoever underneath. Oh. God.
"Whatimizzit?" he bleared.
"What did we do?" screeched C.J.
"Huh?" Josh sat up and rubbed his eyes. He looked around the room. Then he looked down at himself.
"Aaaah!" He leapt to his feet, holding the sheet carefully around his boy parts.
They stared at each, aghast.
"Did we...?" Josh finally managed.
"No," C.J. said. "We wouldn't. I wouldn't."
"Right," Josh said. "Um, do you know where my clothes are?"
C.J. looked around. She pointed to a pair of jeans wedged under the dresser.
Josh collected his clothes. "I'll just... get dressed in the bathroom," he said.
C.J. nodded mutely. This was not happening. She buried her face in her hands. Then she wondered why her hair was damp.
Josh came out of the bathroom, once more wearing pants, for which she was immensely grateful. "C.J.?"
"There's, uh... the bathroom... It's..."
C.J. went into the bathroom. The floor was covered with water and the tub was half full. Floating on the surface of the water was a limp residue of bubbles and a couple of tiny seashell-shaped soaps.
"Are you sure we--"
"Nothing happened," C.J. said firmly. "Do you understand? Absolutely nothing happened last night."
Josh nodded. "Nothing happened."
The hotel bathroom was beginning to feel very small. "You should go," C.J. said.
"Okay." He hesitated. "C.J.--"
"Nothing happened," C.J. said, a little louder than she intended.
"Right," Josh said. He started edging towards the door. "We'll just act normal."
"Normal," C.J. repeated. "We can do that."
Yeah, there's no way we're going to be able to do that, she thought.
"I'll see you at the pancake breakfast." Josh grabbed his shoes and let himself out.
C.J. leaned over and let the water out of the tub. It funneled down the drain with a loud slurping sound.
Oh well, she thought, digging through her bag for some ibuprofen, tomorrow is another day.