DISCLAIMER: Not mine. I promise I'm only borrowing them and will return them to their rightful owners whenever they ask for them back. My imagination took a flight of fancy.....my bank account stayed empty. (Seriously, the cast of The West Wing belong to Warner Bros. and I'm only borrowing them for some free daydreaming that I wrote down).
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The fifth in a series of stories introducing Kate Harper and establishing her as 'one of the gang'. Post ep missing scene for Episode s5 ep 19 'Talking Points', set the night before the day featured in s5 ep 20 'No Exit'.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To ncruuk[at]gmail.com
Meeting Kate Harper CJ Cregg
"CJ Cregg?" came the respectfully cautious enquiry, interrupting CJ's fragile concentration.
"Who wants to know?" asked CJ wearily, looking up at the doorway.
"Kate Harper, Deputy NSA I understand you were looking for me?"
"I was?" Momentarily confused, CJ closed the briefing book she had been failing to absorb and attempted to remember earlier in the day, "I was, come in " she concluded, gesturing towards one of the chairs in front of the desk. Wordlessly, Kate sat down, carefully putting the plastic bag she had been carrying on top of her own briefing pack, which she put in her lap.
"So " began CJ expectantly, surprised when her remark was met with total silence, forcing her to gesture with mild frustration at Kate.
"My message to come find you didn't give me a conversation topic Ms Cregg," explained Kate finally, realising what CJ was waiting for.
"Call me CJ it didn't say I wanted to talk to you about the thing?" asked CJ, wondering if Carol's message relaying skills had suddenly deteriorated.
"Yes it did say to talk to me about the thing?" clarified CJ, wondering why she was finding the conversation amusing not frustrating.
Kate was sorely tempted to give in to her frustration and snap at CJ in order to try to hurry this along so she and her take out could get back to her office and resume the attempt to establish some order and control over her newly acquired and apparently chaotic empire. Instead however, she heard Nancy McNally's voice in her head giving her that final piece of advice, 'talk to CJ Cregg '
"My assistant had me juggling eight different urgent things today, seven of them are not on this continent and four require me to either read briefing packs or attend meetings without using American English. I have no idea which thing you want to talk to me about, although I'm guessing it's going to be number 11 on my thing list."
"What's thing number nine and ten?" asked CJ in jest, struggling to comprehend the full impact of what the Deputy NSA had just said.
"Nine is give up my midnight snack to you now so I can eat my dinner whilst we talk about your thing, ten is make sure my assistant remembers that I won't automatically know what your 'thing' is and to never give me a message like this ever again," explained Kate matter-of-factly.
"Your midnight snack?" asked CJ cautiously, although the offer of food was extremely tempting, as was the distraction from the White House Correspondents' Dinner preparations.
"Kung Po Chicken unless you want beef and broccoli?" asked Kate, extracting the Chinese take-out containers and allowing CJ to pick.
"Kung Po's great you want a beer?" asked CJ, already crossing to the small fridge and extracting two bottles.
"Thanks, so the thing that you wanted to talk to me about?" began Kate, opening up the cartons of rice and vegetables she'd also ordered.
"You always order enough for two?" asked CJ, eyeing the spread with curiosity bordering on suspicion.
"Yes." Again, the short explanation-less statement was automatic, although once again Nancy's advice haunted her and so, somewhat awkwardly she continued, "I over order and put it in the fridge. Usually I eat it for a midnight snack, sometimes breakfast I basically only order Chinese when I know I'm probably sleeping in my office."
"Cold?" asked CJ, shocked that the NSA offices might have access to a microwave oven they were banned in the West Wing.
"Yeah it's better than survival bars." Seeing the look of genuine curiosity that now appeared on CJ's face, Kate cursed herself for what she perceived to be 'oversharing' and so, having quickly chewed a large mouthful of broccoli she asked again, "so, your thing?"
"Right, my thing actually, now I think about it, it's two things "
"Rampant thing inflation, not a good sign."
"That was actually funny," observed CJ, the words escaping before she could stop herself.
"Thanks. I do have a sense of humour," retorted Kate, trying not to try and remember when she'd last made a joke as opposed to saying something that gave someone else the punch line.
"It should practice getting out more," suggested CJ kindly, even if she couldn't quite avoid the sarcasm.
"Duly noted, now, thing 1?" prompted Kate, wondering if low blood sugar was a reasonable justification for this rather distracted conversation. Surely there wasn't time for small talk in the West Wing, was there?
"The CoDel in two weeks how sensitive might it be?"
"I'm sorry, CoDel?"
"Congressional Delegation to "
" to Gaza, right. Sensitive from what perspective?"
"My perspective," stated CJ, only to intuitively grasp that Kate needed a little more detail, although the canted head was, CJ now realised, also a pretty good hint, "media handling and message management."
"Fairly insensitive the agenda is uncontroversial, the participants on our side sufficiently minor "
"US Congressmen are minor?" CJ's tone was tinged with on incredulity.
"From a security risk and media standpoint regarding the agenda, yes; they are major and significant enough to get to have their serious conversations with serious people they are not seen as senior enough nor influential enough for the agenda to be hijacked at short notice with controversial issues," clarified Kate, intrigued at how quickly CJ's ire deflated once she understood the facts.
"So what I see in the briefing pack is what I'm going to get?"
"Why the question?" asked Kate finally as, unusually for her, her curiosity allowed her to interrupt an otherwise acceptable silence, although she managed to persuade herself she was just gathering intelligence.
"Advance are struggling to accommodate all the people they were wondering if I wanted a White House Press rep who could do the White House policy brief or if I could live with a press acceptable policy aide."
"Why the need to compromise?"
"White House only gets two seats and one's already taken by someone else "
"Admiral Fitzwallace," volunteered Kate automatically.
"You didn't know " frantically Kate mentally reviewed what information briefing had yielded that particular nugget of information, trying to establish where she'd got it from and whether she'd just committed a felony, " because you haven't read the evening State brief," declared with relief, spotting it on the corner of CJ's desk. Nodding towards it she added, "page 4, by Presidential Request."
"Wow, can he do that?" asked CJ, wondering if the Senior Staff were ever going to be told before realising that actually, they probably wouldn't be since rarely did they get interested in CoDels.
"The President? I think he just did " observed Kate, evidently comfortable with the President's ultimate decision making power, at least in some areas.
"I meant let Senior Staff find out by accident from State."
"You didn't find out by accident from State," corrected Kate mildly.
"I didn't?" CJ was confused.
"I do believe the Deputy NSA told you, because State told me," corrected Kate, not feeling it necessary to explain how she'd actually found out Admiral Fitzwallace's addition to the Gaza trip had been thing number two this morning and required far, far more Arabic than she'd really got time for on day three of her job.
"This is what you do for us?" asked CJ, starting to understand.
"What for who?" Kate wasn't following CJ's thought process.
"Deal with the foreign stuff?" Anything more coherent was lost in a particularly chewy mouthful of Kung Po.
"Co-ordinate the facts, positions and feasible scenarios on matters relating to national security," corrected Kate before adding, "I don't do Politics," which prompted CJ to laugh.
"You work at the White House and you don't do politics?" Pausing to consider CJ's statement, Kate finally worked out how she wanted to answer.
"I don't do domestic Democratic Party Politics except as a spectator sport."
"You know the rules?" enquired CJ, wondering how much exposure to domestic partisan politics this newest member of their club might have.
"I will by next week," declared Kate confidently.
"Somehow, I think you will " agreed CJ readily, recognising the determination and confidence as being genuine and not bravado.
"So, thing two?" asked Kate, having finished both her dinner and beer.
"Can wait until tomorrow Commander, I've monopolised enough of your time and food," observed CJ, a little embarrassed at how rapidly she'd consumed the unexpected dinner.
"Call me Kate " encouraged Kate immediately before adding, "and tell me about the other thing," before taking another small swig of beer. She refused to acknowledge the voice in her head that was calling her on her uncharacteristic voluntary conversation extension by tomorrow she could have dealt with thing two by phone assuming it hadn't gone away. Surely she could blame uncharacteristic behaviour on the White House, there had to be something in the air, didn't there?
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