Toby is waiting in her office. "So you're -- okay, then?" he asks, peering at her. She feels like she's stepped into the middle of the conversation.
"What?" she says, looking around. She came in here for something, but now can't remember what.
Toby rolls his shoulders and repeats himself. He seems to be asking how she is. She's pretty sure he's never asked her that before and she wonders if Josh said something to him about her cracking up on Pennsylvania Avenue.
"I'm fine," she tells him, frowning.
He shifts his weight. Toby always fidgets when he's nervous. "Good. Because -- good." He nods once, but doesn't leave.
It's time to make a joke. "Because, you know, I don't know what you've heard, but the tinfoil hat was for a friend."
Toby looks pained, but CJ remembers what she needed. She grabs her coffee cup and toasts him with it.
"Catch you later," she says, because it's eight a.m. and she can't deal with this without coffee.
She tried to give it up once. It was in California, back when Starbucks was still a funny little shop with a green mermaid in the window. That was the week she got fired from Triton-Day and came home to find Toby Ziegler sitting in her backyard.
After she fell in the pool, she climbed out, got a new job and then went inside and made a pot of coffee. That was the first and last time she gave up caffeine, but she's paranoid now, convinced that if she doesn't drink enough coffee her job could be in danger. Though, as it turns out, her job is in danger anyway.
The pumpy thermos in the mess gives her one squirt of coffee and then coughs at her. She scowls into her mug. There's probably decaf, but she can't decide if she's that desperate.
"CJ," someone calls her.
It's Sam, sitting at a table full of binders and notepads. "They're making more," he says, nodding toward the kitchen.
She grunts and goes to sit next to him. He's flipping through a press packet and taking notes.
"How do we feel about Katie Couric?" he asks her.
CJ sips at her centimeter of coffee. "I feel like she's short. Don't you feel like she's short?"
Sam flips back a few pages. "This says she's five foot three and three quarters of an inch."
"It actually says that?"
"Right down to the quarters of an inch?"
"Yes," Sam says again.
"Well, in that case, you should know that I'm taller than her by, I'd have to say, at least a good quarter of an inch." There seem to be grounds in her coffee. She puts it down.
"You're taller than everybody, CJ. You win. Now what about Katie Couric?" Sam sounds annoyed and that's enough to make CJ feel a little mean.
"What about her, Sam? You gonna ask her to the prom? 'Cause I heard she was waiting for Troy to ask her, but he's already going with Penny."
"What do you think about Katie Couric for the interview with the President," Sam says slowly, looking harried and older than he should, and CJ realizes they're surrounded by people who don't know about this, who have no idea what's about to happen.
"Oh," she says, spinning her mug in a circle.
"Yeah," Sam nods.
CJ tries to think back to before this was her job, back to a time she didn't read fifteen different morning papers, back to when she couldn't care less about who was talking to who and what they were saying. "She, uh, got General Schwarzkopf's first interview after the Gulf, General Powell talked to her in a farewell thingy when he left as Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and somewhere in there there's a few senators, a couple first ladies, that guy who was in office before us--"
"Michelle Kwan," Sam interrupts with a grin.
"Right." He glances away. "Plus she interviewed, um, me."
CJ wipes a hand across her face and sags a little. "After the shooting." She can't believe she forgot.
"Yeah, so there's an emotional history. Also," he pauses and looks sick, "her husband died of colon cancer so it's likely there'll be some sympathy that we can draw on there, from both her and the audience."
What they're doing is shameful. It's desperate and awful and it turns her stomach, but they're trying to save the President and it's her job to make it look like he's worth saving.
Sam can't meet her eyes, and CJ gets up and goes back upstairs, carrying her empty mug and watching the floor go by under her feet.
She runs into Leo in the hallway outside the Roosevelt Room.
"Whoa," he says, putting a hand out.
"Leo!" she yelps, thinking she's lucky there isn't any coffee in her mug after all.
"Yeah, you might actually want to look where you're going instead of staring at the floor like that."
"I'm sorry," she says and it's almost a whine. Leo never fails to make her feel like a goofy teenager.
He waves her off. "Yeah, whatever. Look, did you talk to Toby?"
"Well, he was lurking around my office and acting squirrelly and he asked me how I was, which, you know, isn't something Toby does, so then I started wondering if there was like a pod somewhere under his desk and maybe aliens had landed on the back lawn and I'd totally--"
Leo is giving her the look that means he isn't interested in anything he's hearing.
"Nope," CJ says. "Didn't talk to him."
"Him and Sam are working on who's gonna interview the President. You'll wanna get in on that."
"I talked to Sam," she says, feeling unaccountably like the kid that didn't do the homework but still gets to show off. "We're thinking Katie Couric looks good. We did some interviews with her after Rosslyn--"
He cuts her off. "Yeah, good, talk to Toby about it, will ya? We need to get this thing movin'."
"Okay," CJ says, but he's already halfway down the hall and turning the corner. She sighs and looks into her gritty coffee cup.
In the communications bullpen, the Mr. Coffee is broken.
"How is anyone getting any work done around here?" CJ asks. "I mean, I'm certainly not."
Cathy gives her a dirty look on her way past and CJ shouts after her, "There's no coffee! I'm just wondering how anyone--"
"CJ?" someone says behind her.
CJ jumps. "Good god! Are you trying to kill me?"
Ainsley's eyes widen. "No, that was not my intention at all, in fact, initially I was going to ask if you perchance knew where Sam was, but now I'm mostly curious as to why you're yelling at an empty room."
"There's no coffee," CJ explains.
"Ah," Ainsley says.
"There's no coffee to be found anywhere in this entire damn building, and believe me, I looked. Sadly, all I can tell you is where to find Sam."
"Will you tell me?" Ainsley asks, looking doubtful.
CJ wants to laugh but doesn't have the energy. "He's in the mess."
"The mess," Ainsley repeats, wandering off. "I wonder if he'd buy me a sandwich."
CJ glares at Mr. Coffee and considers her options.
"Oh!" Ainsley says, spinning back around. "Josh and Donna just got back from Starbucks. Maybe you could persuade them to, perhaps, share?"
"Or I could bend Josh's fingers backwards until he gives me his."
"Or that," Ainsley says, leaving again, a little faster this time.
Donna's not at her desk and Josh's door is shut. CJ hovers outside for while, deciding if she wants to knock. She's lost her coffee mug somewhere along the way and her hands feel empty. She goes back to her office.
"Toby was looking for you," Carol tells her, following her in.
"He found me," CJ says, sitting at her desk.
"And Josh has something for you to read before your meeting."
CJ picks up a paperclip and unbends it. "I have a meeting with Josh?"
"You have a meeting with Josh and the President."
"And that's when?"
"Right now, actually," Carol says. "Are you okay, CJ?"
"Fine," CJ says absently, standing and smoothing the back of her skirt.
"You need this too," Carol says, handing CJ a report.
The report is in a blue folder and CJ tries to read it but it doesn't seem to make any sense. In the hallway outside her office, Josh is pacing and reading and drinking coffee. CJ nearly faints.
Josh looks at her over the top of his Starbucks cup. "Did you read this thing?"
"Yes, Josh. Carol just put it into my hands, but I'm just so damned good at my job that I already know what it says -- no I haven't read it!"
He grins. "Well why the hell not?"
"Watch it, bucko," CJ grumbles. "You're talking to a woman that hasn't had any coffee."
"And you're, what, gonna go talk to the President like that?" Josh's forehead crinkles in alarm.
"Yeah, well, it wasn't my first choice, believe me."
"And you didn't read the thing." Josh exhales. "Okay, what we're gonna do, is you're going to drink this coffee, and I'm gonna read these notecards Donna made, because I, ah, haven't looked at this thing either."
"Go team," CJ cheers, grabbing Josh's coffee, and the cardboard cup is warm and heavy and smells like the end of desperation. She takes a long drink and sighs.
"Can you read this?" Josh asks, passing her a notecard as they walk through the lobby.
"It might say, 'Grunion mutiny may be obligated to disclose pertinent medical information.'"
Josh laughs. "Yeah, I don't think it says that."
"But what if it does? It'll take us in a whole other direction. One involving fish and...frigates."
"Finish your coffee, we've got stuff to do."