All characters belong to Aaron Sorkin, John Wells Productions, Warner Bros., & NBC. The title's from a 10,000 Maniacs song. Standard disclaimers apply. Please send feedback. Don't Talk Violet
She was into her second drink when he got there, sitting in the corner at the
far end of the bar. He walked up and sat next to her. She didn't
acknowledge his presence, so he finally spoke.
"This is funny."
C.J. didn't look up from the glass of gin and tonic. "How is this funny?"
Toby shrugged. "Usually I'm back here, and you're the one who comes in
looking for me. I'm not used to sitting on a bar stool and looking at the
right side of your face."
She turned her back to him, folding her arms and staring at the wall. "How's
this? Now you're looking at the back side of my face."
"It's really not funny, Toby."
"No. But I was trying to start a conversation."
She let herself spin back toward him. "I don't want to talk."
"So don't talk, listen."
"I've done enough listening today."
He sighed. "I've had a little more time to think about this thing than you
"Right. Like you're not angry?"
"Sure I am."
"You're not shocked?"
"You're not sad?"
She drained her glass and signaled for another. "Yes, Toby, people are
usually sad when they find out someone important to them has an incurable
"There are a lot of ways to react to this."
"Of course there are." She ticked them off on her fingers. "Josh got a
blank look and then paced around looking tormented. Sam stammered a lot, and
I think he might have been crying in his office. I asked a few questions and
left work early to get a drink. What'd you do, Toby, go stricken and
self-righteous and yell your head off?"
He frowned uncomfortably. "That's not far--"
"That's probably exactly right. And then you came and woke me up."
"You were already awake," he pointed out.
"You didn't know that." C.J. ran a hand wearily through her hair. "Order a
drink or go away."
Toby let this pass. "We work for him."
"I don't like this." He drummed his fingers on the bar. "I don't like the
scale of this. It's profoundly -- I would have said, this is not what we
"It's exactly what we do." C.J. leaned away from him. "We work for him. We
know what our jobs entail. There are always secrets and unexpected crises
and -- we knew getting into this, we'd have to face some pretty unpleasant
"We don't have to celebrate when it happens. The scale of this. The number
of people who knew--"
"Is that what bothers you?" She drank some gin. "That you weren't the first
to know, so you could start spinning it out of the gate?"
"Isn't that what's bothering you?" he countered.
"I'm bothered that a good administration might be crushed by this, that a
good man might be--" She shook her head and didn't finish the thought.
"Of course you are. So am I." He studied her face. "You're not upset that
you didn't know sooner?"
She met his gaze and looked away. "No one would ever have asked you about
"What do you mean?"
"No one would ever have asked you a question. If there had been rumors, if,
god forbid, someone leaked it, it would have been Danny in my office, or
Katie in a briefing, or Steve -- it would have been my problem first, Toby.
And I probably would have said they were crazy, and then it would have broken
open. Twenty people know about this so far. I get to sell it to two hundred
and eighty million. Of course I'm upset I didn't know."
"Thank you," he said.
"For being honest."
"It's been a banner day for honesty." She sighed. "I don't want to talk
about this anymore."
"Don't talk, then." He looked at her intently. "Yes. I yelled. I was
angry. I think I had a right to be. The American people--"
"Oh, come on."
"The American people might have made a different decision. God knows the
last election wasn't a landslide. The next one -- if there is a next one --
will be excruciating. I'm pissed that it's going to be harder, and I'm going
to be pissed if this thing puts a Republican in the White House. There are a
lot of ways to react to this. The American people--"
"Come on." She sipped her drink and held the glass, turning it around in her
hands. "If you had known this in 1998, would it have kept you from coming to
work for Josiah Bartlet? You think this would have changed your decision?"
"I don't know," he told her.
"I do. You'd still be here. We all would."
"How are you so sure?"
"We got shot at," she said simply, unconsciously touching her necklace. "We
came back to work the next day."
He studied his hands. "Fair enough."
"What exactly is the point you're trying to make anyway?" she wondered,
swirling the ice in her glass. "You're angry. I knew that. I'm upset. You
knew that. What are you doing here?"
"I thought you might need to talk."
"I told you I don't."
"I didn't believe you."
"Fine." She set her drink down and swivelled around, leaning back against
the bar. "We're just going around in circles. What do we do now?"
"Deal with it."
C.J. scoffed. "How do you go from being offended on the behalf of Democrats
and decent folk everywhere to 'deal with it'?"
"I had a couple days." He looked embarrassed. "I wrote some of it down."
"In a letter of resignation."
She stared at him. "You wrote--"
"Three of them. Addressed them, sealed them, put them through the shredder.
You're right, C.J. We come back to work. The rest follows."
"You confuse me," she announced, finishing the last drops of her drink.
"You're concerned that he could lose the election," she said thoughtfully.
"Or, I guess, that he could have an attack -- another attack. You're
concerned he could lose. I'm concerned we could lose him."
"So am I," he interrupted.
She didn't seem to notice. "It's not like FDR's polio, or JFK's Addison's.
It's not Woodrow Wilson and Edith, although now that I think of it, Abbey
would make an awesome President. Maybe we should run her."
"Maybe you've had too much to drink."
"That very well may be the case, my friend." She waved a finger at him
knowingly. "You don't have a monopoly on being the poster child for social
and nervous... social and nervous..."
She looked at him defiantly. "You aren't taking me seriously. I hate when
you do that. You come in here and tell me I need to talk?"
"What you need is to button your shirt."
She looked down at her chest and blushed. "This blouse is slippery."
"And this is a public place," he reminded her. "We shouldn't do this here."
"No, no." She fiddled ineffectively with her buttons. "I know that. I'm
going to go home."
C.J. set some money on the bar, and wavered as she got to her feet. Toby
touched her waist lightly to steady her as he stood up. She looked at him.
"What are you doing?"
"You're not driving like this."
"I'm taking the thing."
"Right." She took a nervous step past him, toward the door, then turned
around. "I can't... I can't, tonight. Tomorrow--"
"I have Nigeria."
"Right." She slouched a little. "We knew, getting into this...."
"Yeah." He shuffled his feet. "This is not a situation I ever anticipated.
We're going to have to deal with it."
"Of grief." She hugged herself, and caught him looking at her chest, and
didn't care. "I'm saying, I'm sad."
"And I don't know how to accept this. I don't know how we'll fix it."
"But we will," he told her.
"Damned if I know. We will do this, C.J."
She didn't look any more convinced than he sounded. "Yeah. I'm going home."
"If you need to talk tomorrow," he called, as she started to walk away.
She held up a hand and didn't answer. The door closed behind her. He made a
soft sound in his throat, caught between a growl and a sigh and a yawn. He
watched the space where he had been for a long moment, then sat back down and
waved the bartender over to order a drink.