Author's Note: Thank you for the initial reviews. I hope you will continue to enjoy this story.
It had been a tiring week. Everyone had been working like dogs and they had seen some gains, which was unsurprising since they were in New Hampshire, but it was still positive. Everything seemed to be coming together. They began to know and trust each other even more, which helped the morale given that the governor hadn't seemed to fully embrace the "new" people just yet. The governor had a tough battle coming up in South Carolina and Sam and Toby were holed up tweaking the stump speech, which left CJ and Josh alone to fraternize at the bar.
Ever since their lunch they'd gotten closer. CJ felt like they weren't just co-workers anymore, but close friends. She had caught her mind wandering to thoughts of Josh every so often and it was a little disconcerting. She was professional. They were co-workers, nothing more, but there were still moments when she had to remind herself of that fact.
CJ sat at the bar drinking a beer. Josh sat next to her drinking and thinking he should be feeling down about his breakup with Mandy, but somehow all he could think about was how he was enjoying the silence with CJ.
"Penny for your thoughts," CJ said tapping him with her elbow.
"You're like 5,000 miles away right now," CJ replied taking a sip of her beer.
"I'm here," Josh said giving her his full attention. "Just decompressing."
"Decompressing, huh? Didn't Mandy use that same word to describe things before she left?" CJ asked.
Josh didn't answer her. He just gave her a tiny grin. She thought it seemed a little odd and she looked at him curiously. "Or not?" she asked.
Josh just took a sip of his beer. He thought about reviving their little spat about whether or not he and Mandy were really over. He thought about telling her how free and relieved he felt now. It was a strange compulsion. Ever since their lunch, whenever he was near her, he felt like telling her things that he'd normally keep to himself, or things he's tell Sam when he'd had too much to drink. Tonight he decided he'd try to curb that impulse for whatever reason.
Josh didn't feel like talking about Mandy and so he glanced around the bar. He saw what looked like a first date over in the corner and he nudged CJ's arm.
"What do you think?" he asked gesturing in the direction of the couple.
"It looks like a first date," Josh said.
"You're right," CJ agreed as she sipped her drink. "It looks like a blind date actually."
Josh watched the couple. The man had approached the woman at the table and they shook hands awkwardly. The woman fidgeted with her hair and the man appeared to be sucking in his gut. Josh didn't envy them the horribly awkward feeling of a blind date.
"They look nervous," Josh commented.
"They're sizing each other up," CJ said as she glanced over in the couple's direction. "She's not so sure about him."
"They just met," Josh pointed out. "Give it time."
"They can have all the time in the world. It won't change the fact that she doesn't want to sleep with him."
Josh almost spit out his beer. Conversations with CJ had never delved into the realm of sex, yet she seemed so comfortable assessing the couple across the bar.
"What?" CJ asked looking at his face.
"Nothing," Josh replied. After a beat he added, "Although I wonder how you can make that assumption. It looks like they've known each other for all of five minutes."
"Come on Joshua," CJ said. "You need two minutes to decide whether you want to sleep with someone."
"Really?" Josh asked astounded. "Do you often size up people in that way when you first meet them?"
"Everyone does; especially on a first date," CJ said taking another sip of her beer.
"So you decide within the first two minutes of meeting someone whether you'd sleep with them?" Josh asked.
"Usually," she shrugged. It was then that CJ understood that Josh made the assumption that she had sized him up in the same way when they'd met. She was about to backtrack her comment, but she was interrupted by the arrival of Sam.
"Hey guys," Sam said walking over to the bar and pulling up a stool next to CJ.
"Spanky," CJ greeted him with a mischievous nod and grin.
"Spanky?" Josh asked with raised eyebrows.
"Not this again," Sam said with a smile.
"What?" CJ asked innocently.
"What's going on?" Josh asked.
"Nothing," Sam said.
"Just trying out Sam's new nickname," CJ said over Sam's comment.
"You're gonna call him Spanky?" Josh asked.
"Sure, why not?"
"I think why comes to mind before why not," Josh replied.
"Sam has quite the following," CJ explained. "We were walking over to the campaign stop this morning and Sam caught the attention of some girls."
"They were young women," Sam protested.
"If they were twenty-one, you're lucky," CJ said. But she continued, "They had some very favorable things to say about Sam's derriere."
"They called him Spanky?" Josh asked.
"No," Sam interrupted. "CJ called me Spanky and now apparently it's my new nickname."
"It's a term of endearment Spanky," CJ teased him. "Besides, it's a pretty nice compliment if you ask me."
"Why'd you settle on Spanky?" Josh asked finishing his beer.
"The girls mentioned how tight his butt looked in his pants. One of them said she wanted to bounce a quarter off it." With that both CJ and Josh started laughing. Josh was happy he'd swallowed his beer or else he'd have spit it out. Sam, ever the good sport, just stood there and took their teasing.
CJ put her arm around Sam's shoulder and leaned her head into his neck. "It's a flattering compliment," she reminded him. "It really is."
"So flattering you two can't stop laughing," Sam said, albeit with good humor. The bartender came over and Sam ordered a beer, while Josh and CJ ordered another.
"Seriously, you're not going to actually call me Spanky, are you?" Sam asked CJ.
"Only on national holidays," CJ said. "And your birthday."
"Thanks," Sam chuckled.
They sat there for a moment, just drinking and assessing the bar. For an average hotel the bar was subpar. It seemed about twenty years behind the times as was evidenced by the fact that they'd heard only one song on jukebox that had been recorded after 1990.
Sam took a sip of his beer and decided it was Josh's turn to fell the pain. "So how's Mandy?" Sam asked Josh with a sly grin.
"I don't know," Josh said with an attitude.
"He denies they're in an off-again phase," CJ informed Sam. "He insists they're actually broken up."
"We are," Josh whined.
"Tell her I said hi," Sam shot back at him.
"I thought you and Toby were locked in tweaking the speech for Charleston," Josh said in an effort to change the subject.
"Andi came to town and wanted to have dinner with Toby," Sam said.
CJ took a sip of her beer. "That's nice," she said. "He could use the distraction."
"Does Toby ever get distracted?" Josh asked.
"Not usually," CJ smiled.
"You two go pretty far back?" Sam asked.
"About seven years," CJ said. "He was running a female candidate that Emily's List backed."
"Has he always been so…dry?" Josh asked.
"Toby is a passionate guy in his own way," CJ said with a speculative face.
"Really?" Josh asked giving her a look.
"Not like that," she said swatting him. "He's honestly a generous, caring, good man once you get to know him. He just lacks a certain finesse with people. It's why I'm here talking to the press and he's not."
"Huh," Josh said. He'd worked with the man for a few weeks before CJ and Sam got there and Josh could see where CJ was coming from when she talked about him being passionate. He just wasn't sure he projected the caring part of CJ's assessment. But, he knew her word was good so he held off on judgment.
"I can see that actually," Sam said drinking down the rest of his beer.
"You two are finally meshing?" Josh asked.
"We've got our rhythm," Sam nodded. "He's an amazing writer. I'm learning a lot."
"I'm sure you are," CJ said ironically. She knew how Toby could be when breaking in new people. He was a bit like the governor in that respect. But, he seemed to really have taken a liking to Sam and his writing so CJ knew it would all turn out for the best.
"Well, it's been fun, but I've got a second draft on the economy to polish before Toby gets back. I'll see you two later," Sam said.
"Goodnight Spanky," CJ said with a grin as Sam tossed some bills on the bar.
"Don't think you're immune," Sam said. "One day you're going to get a nickname and I'm going to make damn sure it's a good one."
"We'll see about that," CJ said.
"'Night Sam," Josh said as he walked away. Once it again it was just Josh and CJ at the bar.
"So you're really gonna call him Spanky?"
"Sure," CJ shrugged.
"You're not worried about sexual harassment?"
"Nah, Sam can take it. Should I be worried?"
"No," Josh shrugged. "Do we all have to worry about getting nicknames?"
"I think the governor and Leo are probably safe," CJ kidded him.
"Seriously though, is it going to be a thing?"
"No. Spanky just seemed appropriate for Sam."
"Because you want to bounce a quarter off his ass?" Josh asked her with a smile.
"That's exactly it," CJ deadpanned.
"Do you have a nickname for Toby?"
"Not one I'd use to his face," CJ replied with a sly smile. "He's not like Sam. He wouldn't indulge me."
"I see," Josh said leaning his elbows on the bar.
"So before Sam interrupted," Josh said winding the conversation back to CJ's earlier comment.
"Now wait," CJ interrupted him before he could continue. "I know what you're gonna say."
"And I didn't mean that I size up everyone I meet earlier," CJ said.
"You said you usually do," Josh pointed out.
"I meant in a dating situation, not in a work situation," CJ said.
"Okay," Josh replied, secretly a little disappointed that CJ hadn't sized him up when they first met. In truth he definitely had sized her up when they first met and his resounding answer was yes, if the circumstances were right, he'd definitely sleep with her. He found himself a little uncomfortable with the thought that he was currently slightly attracted to her.
He took a moment to listen to the song that was playing. "Is this song almost over? If I hear Led Zeppelin one more time…"
"It's not so bad," CJ said.
"After that bar in Nashua I'm really fine never hearing Stairway to Heaven again."
"How many times in a row was it?" CJ asked with a chuckle.
"58," Josh said laughing.
"It was no more than three," CJ protested.
"I don't think you were paying close enough attention," Josh said.
Stairway to Heaven finally ended and Josh sat sipping his beer. CJ decided she wanted to annoy Josh and so she said, "So, how's Mandy?"
"I don't know, I don't have the habit of checking in with ex-girlfriends," Josh said with a smirk. "I thought I made that clear with Sam."
"This is seriously how you want to play it?"
"I don't know how I could make it any clearer that Mandy and I are over. I could hire a sky-writer. Or maybe I should just go make out with that waitress over there?"
"Yes, do that," CJ said gamely.
"Hire a sky-writer?" Josh asked.
"Make out with the waitress," CJ said with a mischievous look in her eyes.
"You want me to make out with the waitress?"
"Sure, why not?"
"Well, this is a whole new side of you," Josh said hiding a grin. "Why don't you make out with her?"
CJ glanced over at the waitress, gave her a quick up and down and replied, "She's not really my type." She held a straight face for a moment before she burst out laughing at the look on Josh's face.
"Okay, you can't just do that," Josh said. "For a minute I thought…"
"That I might make out with the waitress?"
"No," Josh said unconvincingly.
"Okay then," CJ said, still smiling. Josh realized them how bright and beautiful her smile was. When CJ smiled, her whole face lit up including her eyes. He caught himself staring at her and knew he had to change the subject before he did something he shouldn't.
"This song is awful," he said.
"You think?" CJ asked cocking her head to the side to listen. She was somewhat happy and somewhat disappointed that the moment between them had ended. "I kind of like it."
"Sure, why not?"
"If I'm not mistaken they just rhymed I adore and mi amour," Josh scoffed. "Shakespeare this group is not."
CJ chuckled before Josh continued, "I'm also completely ignoring the fact that Americans will have hard time singing along because we should never use the term mi amour."
"Why not?" CJ laughed at his indignation over a pop song.
"I don't know," Josh shrugged. "You need to have an accent to pull something like that off."
"I'm sure people from any other countries would tell you that we have accents," CJ said.
"But mi amour? You need to be French or Spanish…Italian to really sell it."
"You really don't," CJ insisted.
"It's like calling some ma Cherie," Josh protested.
"Stevie Wonder pulled it off. Ma Cherie Amour."
"These guys are not Stevie Wonder. Pop songs should stop with the foreign languages," Josh said. "It just sounds wrong."
"Aw, come on mi amour, lighten up."
"What?" Josh asked.
"Don't be so prickly mi amour."
"I just got myself a nickname didn't I?"
"You know you wanted one."
Josh had to smile to himself. In a way she was completely right. For some reason hearing her call Sam Spanky ignited a twinge of jealously in Josh. For a minute he thought that it was because her nickname for him was a compliment to his looks and although Josh had a healthy ego, he felt slightly inferior. However, with CJ adopting 'my love' as her nickname for him, he wondered if that's just how she was. It didn't really matter. He liked the way it sounded on her lips.
"You're not going to call me that," Josh said. He protested, but the smile in his eyes seemed to say that he liked it.
"I am," CJ nodded. "And not just on national holidays and your birthday."
"You're sexually harassing me," Josh teased her.
"Is it sexual harassment if you like it?" she asked.
"Who says I like it."
"Your eyes give you away mi amour."
"Said the sexual harasser."
"Don't worry. It'll be our little secret." CJ continued to tease him. Josh, for his part, continued to enjoy it. He was suddenly very interested in just spending time with CJ.
"Is that so?" Josh asked a bit flirtatiously as he turned his body to face her more squarely.
"It is," CJ said, pulling back on her stool a little. She quickly realized that maybe she'd stepped over the imaginary line. She liked to have a good time. She was one of the guys, but occasionally she like to add a little sauciness to conversations and she wondered if she'd gone too far. Like it or not, Josh was either still with Mandy, or had just broken up with her. But, what made her even think about Mandy? It was the fact that she knew she was looking at Josh differently than she did two days ago and it made her feel slightly self-conscious.
CJ turned to the bar and caught the attention of the bartender. She decided another drink wouldn't be a good idea. She already felt like she might be close to saying something that she shouldn't and she felt it would be best to keep that information to herself.
"You're leaving?" Josh asked when the bartender had walked away.
"It's getting kind of late," CJ replied.
"That's no fun."
"It's a big day tomorrow. I've got to be on top of my game."
Josh considered that for a moment and glanced at his watch. Once again the time with CJ had flown by faster than he thought. It was almost eleven and he felt like they had just sat down. "You're probably right."
"You can drink if you want. I just want to be prepared for tomorrow."
"It won't be so bad. We're gonna win the New Hampshire primary. What's not to like about talking to the press about that?"
"It's big time," CJ said.
"So are you," Josh reminded her.
"Yeah," CJ replied considering that for a moment.
"I'll square up with the bartender," Josh said.
"You don't have to," CJ protested.
"Don't worry about it," he insisted.
"Okay, thank you. I'll see you tomorrow."
"'Night Claudia Jean," he said.
"'Night mi amour," she gave him a wide grin before she walked away.
Josh watched her walk out of the bar and shook his head. He was unsure of what was going on, but he was fairly certain that the more he saw of CJ Cregg, the more he felt he liked her as more than just a co-worker.