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 seventh in a series of stories introducing Kate Harper and establishing her as 'one of the gang'. Mid ep missing scene for Episode s5 ep 20 'No Exit' (immediately following Kate's departure from Josh's office).
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To ncruuk[at]gmail.com

Relationship Management according to CJ Cregg
By ncruuk


"Knock knock?"

"Kate! Come in," invited CJ, only to add, "…leave the door open?"

"I brought you something," said Kate, holding out the water bottle she had grabbed as she walked away from Josh's office.

"Wonderful, thank you," said CJ, setting upon the water bottle with enthusiasm, glad too of the illusion of ventilation the open door created.

"No problem," replied Kate, not entirely sure what had prompted her to even detour via CJ's office. It was past ten o'clock on an unseasonably warm, sticky Friday night so why exactly was she lingering in a building that still didn't have its air-con back on?

"Did you tell him about Panama?"

"Yes, just now; he also told me I needed to work on my communication skills," added Kate, not sure why she brought it up.

"Ignore him, he's just not used to you yet," dismissed CJ easily, "you just had an awkward first meeting – he'll get over it."

"So far, I think I've had awkward first meetings with everyone."

"Including me?" asked CJ, coming around to sit on her couch, gesturing for Kate to do the same.

"No, but then I did meet you bearing food," concluded Kate, wondering if she should just travel everywhere with doughnuts – she could see that working on Josh.

"I don't think the President can be influenced with doughnuts the same way Josh can, but I wouldn't worry, they both like you," reassured CJ, taking another long swig of her water.

"Not so sure about that," disagreed Kate recalling how horribly awkward her first meeting with the President felt, although she couldn't stop herself noticing how the muscles twitched in CJ's neck as she swallowed the water, but that was just because she was paying attention, wasn't it?

"He likes you – you're smart, informed and intriguing – he just wasn't expecting you to prove him wrong inside of five minutes but don't worry, he's over that now," explained CJ, remembering half listening with some amusement to the President's grumbles on the flights to and from Brussels as he moved from disbelief to admiration.

"You sure?" asked Kate, relieved. As first impressions went, it wasn't positive.

"Absolutely, and once Josh remembers he's the super-cool Democratic Party Politics expert and not James Bond he'll stop worrying that you are way more badass and classified than he ever could be, forget you're a girl who he tried to impress and failed miserably with and think you're scary but good, not that he'll ever admit to any of that of course," summarised CJ, able to picture exactly how badly their time together must have gone.

"You think I'm a badass?" asked Kate, her head canted to one side as she considered the phrase with a mix of amusement and serious thoughtfulness.

"And probably hot too," confirmed CJ, deciding she could always blame this conversation on hypoxia and dehydration.

"You are too," concluded Kate quietly, wondering where this unexpected confidence to voice these inner thoughts was coming from.

"Thank you…" Blushing, CJ suddenly found her water bottle fascinating.

"Why are you still here?" asked Kate curiously, finally deciding that CJ wouldn't normally be wearing jeans and a figure hugging t-shirt in the West Wing this late on a Friday night for no reason.

"Now? Because I'm waiting for the Secret Service report so I can brief tonight."

"Tonight? Is that normal?"

"To issue a short statement following a White House lockdown? Yes. On the same night? Sometimes." CJ paused to work out how to best phrase what she wanted to say next, stretching out her legs as she thought about it. To her great surprise, Kate didn't immediately leap in to fill the silence, evidently quite content to wait for CJ to continue, "It depends on the news cycle, what is already being talked about, what we want to talk about next."

"You don't want to be talking about the lockdown, so a late night briefing on a Friday…" Kate paused, wondering if CJ would be insulted if she ventured her opinion bluntly before deciding to risk it, "…is the ideal time to bury something you want to be non-news?"

"Especially when 99% of the Press missed it because they're still stuck into the free bar at the Hilton," confirmed CJ, starting to pull on her bootlaces.

"I should let you get changed then," decided Kate, standing up before adding, "interesting outfit choice for the dinner," prompting CJ to laugh as she gestured to the dress hanging on the back of her door.

"Vera Wang for dinner, this was for camping."


"I was going camping this weekend, with Ben."

"Lucky guy," said Kate, only to blush when she realised what she'd said – she was supposed to be better than this. Fortunately, CJ was too engrossed in her own thoughts to notice the poor control being demonstrated by the former CIA agent.

"He decided that I was cancelling on everything, not just the weekend," explained CJ, kicking off her boots.

"Ah, I'm sorry."

"Don't be – it wasn't really anything," dismissed CJ, presuming Kate's comment was out of obligatory politeness rather than any real opinion.

"You were going camping with him," reasoned Kate seriously, wondering why that didn't suggest something significant, after all, the last time she'd been camping… actually, that was classified, even for CJ's Senior Staff level.

"It…" running her finger through the surface of Gail's water, CJ sighed before saying quietly, "…it is easier to say yes you know? Easier to say yes to something knowing this place will destroy it and rescue me rather than say no."

"What if you could say yes to something you wanted to happen?"

"I suppose I'd find a way," concluded CJ thoughtfully before asking Kate, "what are you still doing here?"

"Originally?" asked Kate, resting her briefcase on the end of the couch.

"Yes, and subsequently."

"Originally? Avoiding painting my new place. Now? Waiting for my Secret Service briefing about tonight."

"The Secret Service is briefing you tonight? They worried about a news cycle?" asked CJ, only partially in jest as she pondered the significance of the timing.

"Something like that," conceded Kate, unwilling to consider the real reason Ron Butterfield was apparently 'very relieved' she was still in the building, "… but I think I'm going to be very grateful to you for making this a non-story."

"I should probably change," decided CJ thoughtfully, eying her suit wearily.

"I'll leave you to your briefing… sorry about the camping," volunteered Kate, shouldering her briefcase.

"Thanks, and don't be – as you said, if I wanted it, I'd have made it happen," or better yet, thought CJ, asked for what I wanted.

"Goodnight then," said Kate, her more familiar social awkwardness returning as she turned and moved towards the door.

"Goodnight…" called out CJ, still lost in deep though, only to suddenly call, "Kate?"

"Yes?" Kate reappeared in CJ's office doorway.

"Want some help with the painting tomorrow?" Maybe it was time for CJ to try asking for what she wanted…

The End

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