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single thread of gold, tied you to me

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The door was propped open with the latch. Hesitantly, Sam pushed through the door, glancing around the empty room, a hotel room that always seemed to stay the same even as the cities outside the window changed. 

 

“Hello?” He called, “Toby?”

 

“In here Sam!” 

 

Again, Sam paused on the threshold to the adjoining room, CJ’s room, where CJ sat across from Toby. Toby had brought CJ in a week ago, adding yet another dimension to the campaign’s dynamic, one that none of them fully understood their place in. But here was CJ with her stocking clad feet in Toby’s lap while he appeared to be massaging them. 

 

Sam blinked.

 

“Shining a light to guide the nation into the new millennia?” CJ looked up from the yellow legal pad, “Want to explain that Tobus?”

 

“Cross it out,”

 

“Is the candidate a star? A supernova perhaps?” 

 

Toby flicked his pen at her, “I said cross it out.”

 

CJ pushed up her glasses, crossing out a line, “Sam! Come in, come in. Have a tonic water.” 

 

Awkwardly, Sam took another step forward, “Toby told me to come by…”

 

“Get in here and read this,” said Toby, “CJ give it to him.” 

 

CJ offered Sam the legal pad, all while continuing to tease Toby, “Maybe he’s a spotlight-“ 

 

Tentatively Sam sat down next to her, turning the pages back to the beginning of the speech. 

 

“Aah! Toby!” CJ half shrieked as Toby seized her ankle, tickling the sole of her foot as she tried to pull away. “Sam! Help!”

 

She grabbed his arm, laughing. Tossing the pen, Sam managed to hit Toby on the shoulder. Toby grinned as he surrendered her foot, eyes following as CJ got up, brushing a hand across his shoulder as she moved to get something to drink. 

 

Sam watched them move around each other, move with each other, comfortable and close. For a moment, he’d been in their little bubble but the moment had ended and it was just CJ and Toby again. 

 

 

His hand covered hers, subtle to many but blatant to Leo’s eye. 

 

Air Force One soared above the Midwest, humming and rumbling softly. His thumb moved across her knuckles almost absently. She flipped the pages of her briefing, he scrawled another word on his pad of paper. 

 

Her hand turned over. His fingers interlocked. They pulled away. She showed him something on her page. He replied quietly. Around them staffers moved, chatter filled the space, air flew by outside. 

 

There was something there, just below the surface. The two always seemed to be sharing a secret, their eyes meeting knowingly in meetings and across hallways. It was enough to drive a person mad if they looked too hard. 

 

Toby ebbed and CJ flowed. 

 

Leo turned away. 

 

… 

 

Josh didn’t know what break in time and space allowed two people to fit like that on one couch. 

 

The office was dark. The door pulled almost closed but not all the way, leaving, before he’d opened it, a sliver of light across them both. 

 

Toby lay on his back, on the couch, one leg stretched out, the other foot on the ground. CJ’s head rested on his chest, her legs curled in on top of his. 

 

They were close, CJ and Toby, everyone knew that. Toby has been the one to recruit CJ to the campaign after all- they went back. But that’s how it was, Sam had Josh, the President had Leo, CJ had Toby. 

 

CJ’s breathing was even with sleep, one hand resting on Toby’s chest, loosely gripping at his shirt, crumpling it. One of Toby’s hands threaded gently through her hair, resting on top of her head. It was a protective gesture, one he rarely indulged in when she was awake. 

 

Toby was awake. His eyes were hooded in shadow but his free hand slowly, drawing little circles on her wrist. 

 

“We ready?” Toby asked, voice low enough to not wake CJ but loud enough for Josh to hear, all while his hand didn’t stop caressing her hand. It was… distracting, it drew Josh’s eye. 

 

“Yeah,” Josh said after a moment.

 

“And you’re going to keep this to yourself?”

 

The Press Secretary and the Communications Director, That wasn’t nothing. Josh shook his head, “Yeah.” 

 

“We’ll be there in a minute,” said Toby.

 

Josh hovered in the doorway, still unsure of what he was witnessing. Tony brushed away the hair from CJ’s forehead, pressing a soft kiss to the exposed skin there. It was tender, in a way that Toby wasn’t tender. 

 

“Back to work Claudia Jean,” he said as Josh pulled the door closed again. 

 

… 

 

“Donna! Donna get over here it’s almost the countdown!” Josh yelled over the crowd. 

 

“Just a second! I want to find CJ!” 

 

“Find Toby too! I wanna make a toast that he will not want to miss!” 

 

Donna pushed her way through the crowd and down the hall, weaving through the desks in low lights.

 

“CJ?” Donna called, her footsteps echoing, “Toby?”

 

She rounded the corner, stopping when she saw the light through the office windows. 

 

Soft light, low and tinted by whatever scarf had been thrown over the lamp. It surrounded them, the two lone figures in the office. They swayed slowly, to music Donna couldn’t hear. 

 

CJ in her evening gown, long and silky, shimmering in the light, and Toby in his tux, solem and dapper, holding her close. 

 

Donna watched, transfixed as they moved as one, wrapped up in each other. They looked right, they were right, Donna thought, CJ and Toby. They went together, like the President and the First Lady, and her and Jo-

 

Shaking the thought from her head, Donna crept away, out of the darkness and back to the party. 

 

… 

 

He breathed her in, his nose a hair's breadth from the back of her neck. His arm was wrapped around her middle, their fingers laced together. 

 

In, out, in, out- he tracked her breathes. Counted them, as he tried to settle his mind. 

 

She was settled of course, she was always settled, always a rock. When the world came unhinged, CJ was there, steady. 

 

“Go to sleep Toby,” CJ mumbled from beside him on the pillow, “I can hear you thinking.” 

 

“Sorry,” he pressed a kiss to her shoulder. 

 

She rolled over, untangling herself and facing him. 

 

“It’s loud, your thinking.” 

 

He stared into her eyes, green and shining at him even in the dark. 

 

“What are you thinking about?” She asked. 

 

“You.” 

 

“And how is that going for you?” Her mock seriousness matching his real seriousness. 

 

“Good.”

 

“Good.”

 

She smiled, leaning in to kiss him, slowly and gently. Every kiss was like this, filled with the years and years of tension and trepidation and familiarity. For so long they bumped against each other, never fully crossing the line between friends and lovers until they did, blowing past it and leaving the line as only a distant memory. 

 

“I love you,” he whispered as they broke apart.

 

He says it with utter seriousness but CJ’s smile widened before she moved closer, tucking her head under his chin. Toby sighed a sigh of contentment as he wrapped his arms around her, kissing the top of her head. 

 

“I love you too Tobus,” she said, voice muffled in his chest. One hand gripped his shirt but soon feel slack as she slipped back into sleep, curled against him as Toby lay still listening to her breathe until finally he joined her in slumber.