Title: Adjustments and Arguments
SPOILERS: None. If any come in later, I'll let you know.
CATEGORY: general, new character, may move into couples in later stories
SUMMARY: Second in the New Direction series: Adjustments are never easy.
DISCLAIMER: The recognizable characters belong to Aaron Sorkin. The rest are mine.
NOTES: Thanks to all who sent comments. They were appreciated and I tried to incorporate suggestions. Let me know if this is worth continuing, and if any beta reader wants to work with a new character and a new author, let me know.
"Hey CJ." Josh joined her as she walked towards Leo's office for the Senior Staff meeting. "Did you hire the girl who was here yesterday?"
"Yes, I hired the 'girl' who was here yesterday. Jeez Josh, you make her sound like she was twelve and in pigtails."
He shrugged. "I was just wondering what kinds of credentials she could have if she was that young."
"Good ones. The Washington Post, Georgetown. And both Leo and the President provided references along with several colleagues and professors."
His eyebrows rose when she mentioned Leo and the President. "And how does she know Leo and the President?"
CJ frowned. "I'm not really sure." She shook her head. "But it doesn't matter. She's good."
"I hope so," he muttered as they entered Leo's office. Inside, Toby and Sam were already waiting.
The four were discussing an upcoming education bill when Olivia reached the doorway. She stood there for a minute, watching their interactions. They were amazing to watch, all arguing different points, yet agreeing on the main subject. Then taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, she entered the room. "Hello," she said, grinning when they all jumped at the sound of her voice. "Am I late?"
"No," said CJ, motioning for her to enter the room. "We're just waiting on Leo. There's coffee on the side board."
"Thanks." Olivia dropped her bag by a chair and moved to pour a cup.
Sam came over to join her. "Hi, we didn't get to meet yesterday. I'm Sam Seaborn."
Olivia shook his hand. "Olivia Conroy." They began to make small talk when the door flew open.
"Alright people, lets get through this." Leo stormed into the room and looked over his schedule.
"I take it the Vice President managed to alienate more of the liberals last night," smirked Josh.
"No, he managed to alienate the liberals, the conservatives and just about everyone in the middle." Leo set his glasses on the desk. "What else is up?"
"The education bill." Toby rubbed his forehead. "The Senate wants to cut school funding by 20%."
"After we've spent three years trying to give money to schools," Sam muttered.
Josh cut in. "They're just trying to play hardball. Talk to the President, we'll formally disagree with the Senate, and I'll get to go up to the Hill to yell at a few of them." He grinned. "It sounds like a good day to me."
Leo nodded. "We'll talk to him in a few minutes. Toby and Sam, work up some remarks. CJ, anything?"
"A briefing with the Pentagon, then we need to discuss the nuclear summit for next week."
Leo turned to Olivia, his face stern. "Work on cleaning up Hoynes' mess. I also want you to attend CJ's briefing. You'll probably hold one next week. Also, go with Josh to the Hill to see how that goes. Keep him in line." Leo glared at his deputy. "Toby and Sam will bring you up to speed later today on their remarks. If you have some ideas, throw them in." She nodded. "Also," he continued, "you're going to be hosting a state dinner next month. Work with the planners, but research all the heads of state and prepare press releases and PR opportunities. CJ will show you to your new office. If you need anything, ask Margaret, my assistant." He faced the rest. "Anything else? Then go. Josh, let's talk to the President."
As the others left, Josh turned to Leo. He needed to ask and decided it was best to jump right in. "How exactly do you know Olivia?"
Leo didn't raise his head from the papers he was reading. "I was a friend of her parents'."
"Was? What happened?"
Now Leo did look up. He knew she would want this kept quiet, but some of it would leak soon enough. "Do you remember Virginia Representative Raymond Conroy?"
Josh's forehead wrinkled as he tried to remember why that name was familiar. "Wait...Wasn't he the one who was killed in the plane wreck? Him and his wife?"
"Yep," Leo said solemnly as he opened the door to the President's office.
After CJ showed Olivia her office, they spent the next hour going over the day's news and possible questions from the press. When the 10 o'clock briefing began, Olivia watched from the back of the room. Toby joined her. "I'm meeting with Mathers in an hour."
"Really?" asked Olivia, interest showing on her face.
"CJ mentioned you knew a little about him. Would you like to join us?"
"Yes," she said firmly.
They turned back to the briefing just in time to hear CJ say "And we'd like to welcome our newest Senior Staffer, Olivia Conroy, Deputy Press Secretary. Her credentials are in your pack." As heads turned to see her, Olivia shifted uncomfortably. "Thanks CJ," she muttered sarcastically as Toby smirked.
The briefing ended and Olivia and Toby began to exit the room when a redheaded reporter stopped them. "Anything to say to an old colleague, off the record, of course?"
"Hi Danny," Olivia said, giving him a hug. "How are you?"
As Toby glowered slightly, Danny grinned down at her. "Did you really leave me for this? Ms. Deputy Press Secretary?"
"Hey, bigger and better."
His smirk matched hers. "Yeah, and the Post was small potatoes."
"I take it you two know each other," asked CJ quizzically.
"Yeah, I interned with Danny," clarified Olivia.
"Best one I ever had, except she never brought me coffee."
Olivia was puzzled by Toby's snort and CJ's grin. Shrugging, she turned back to Danny as he asked about Phillip. "He's good," she said, glancing at CJ and Toby who were now watching with interest.
Danny nodded. "Maybe we could go to lunch to catch up," he suggested. He knew she wouldn't want her private life exposed, but it would happen now that she was in the public eye. He hoped he could help ease her into it.
Olivia nodded, grateful for his perceptiveness. "Yeah, let's set it up for next week. It was good to see you."
"Likewise." Nodding to Toby and CJ, Danny headed for his office.
"Ok, what's next?" asked Olivia.
It was late afternoon before she got back to her office. After meeting with Toby and Mathers, she had gone with Josh to the Hill. His meeting with the senators had proven to be very entertaining. Secretaries had cowered when Josh had stormed into offices and Olivia was sure he had made one cry. She shook her head at the thought of the senator from Iowa who had though he could out-shout Josh. He'd be hoarse for a week, she thought. The light on her voice mail flashed and she sat to take the messages. Her head was spinning by the time she was through. "Who are all these people?" she asked herself, studying the messages. A list with the heads of state had been placed on her desk. With a sigh, she turned her chair to look out the window, mentally organizing the tasks. Then she picked up the list and moved to the filing cabinet. Hearing a knock at the door, she turned. A slim, blond woman entered the office.
"Hi, I'm Donna Moss, Josh's assistant," she said. "Leo said you might need help finding some files."
"I'm just getting started," said Olivia. "I'm not yet sure what I need."
"I'm not used to the files in this office, but I can show you where to find the general information." Donna pulled open the drawer and made a noise of disgust. As Olivia looked into the drawer, she snickered. "I may be better off burning all this and starting over." Papers were stuffed in the drawer, without any files or apparent organization. After checking the other drawers and seeing the same mess, Olivia slammed the last drawer shut. "I'll take this home and work on it this weekend. Could you show me where the general files are?"
"If you decide to start a bonfire with those, give me a call. I'll bring the marshmallows," promised Donna. "When does your assistant get here?"
"I don't have one," said Olivia as they entered a room filled with filing cabinets. She shrugged. "It's not a big deal. Most of the press stuff I can get from Carol."
"What are we looking for?" asked Donna.
"Information on various heads of state. But you don't have to help," protested Olivia, as Donna took the list from her. "Josh may need you to do something."
It was Donna's turn to snicker. "We'll hear him when he needs something. But he's in a meeting with Toby and Sam about the education bill."
The meeting between Sam, Josh and Toby was proving to be anything but effective. Sam removed his glasses to rub his tired eyes as Josh and Toby continued to yell at each other. They hadn't been able to find a way to admonish the Senate without offending a few key Democrats. Josh, having yelled at most of the Senate earlier, wanted a mild rebuke. Toby favored slapping them all. Finally CJ stepped in and called an end to the meeting, saying she would murder then next one of them who even thought of yelling. Toby sent Sam to find Olivia to get her comments on the speech. As Sam and Josh left Toby's office, Sam asked him for his impressions on Olivia.
Josh shrugged. "She's smart. She slipped into 'good cop, bad cop' with me pretty well at the Hill. I'd yell and she'd patronize." He grinned. "It scared them more than me just yelling. Any ways, CJ seems happy with her and I doubt Leo would have recommended her if she wasn't good."
Sam's eyebrows rose as they moved into Josh's office. "Leo recommended her? How does he know her?"
Josh sat down and read the messages waiting for him. "He knew her parents," said Josh, not paying attention to what he was saying.
The throbbing in Sam's head increased. "What are we, a babysitting facility?" Disgusted by the idea, he left the office before Josh could correct him. He couldn't believe Leo would stoop to an indirect form of nepotism. As he neared Olivia's office, he could hear her and Donna laughing. It annoyed him for some unknown reason. "Great," he thought. "I have to listen to the 'baby girl' critique my speech."
He knocked at the door, interrupting Donna. "Sorry," he said briskly, "but are you ready to look at the education speech?"
Olivia raised an eyebrow, wondering about his mood. Donna had been filling her in on everyone in the West Wing, and had described Sam as easy-going. But the dark look on his face spoke otherwise. "Of course," she said coolly, turning to Donna. "Thanks for your help."
"Anytime." Donna shot Sam a puzzled look as she left the office.
"Have a seat," Olivia gestured as she sat behind her desk. Sam handed her the speech, then settled in the chair across from her desk. He watched her as she began to read. He was still staring at her when she raised her head. "May I write on this?"
"Of course," he answered, rolling his eyes as she turned back to the speech. He knew he was being irrational and taking his bad mood out on her, but couldn't help it. She began to make notes and marking out sentences. By the time she was finished, he was fuming. She could see the anger in his eyes, although he tried to keep his face stoic. "Oh well," she shrugged mentally. "Here we go."
"You're missing the point that the Republicans are trying to make. They want you to spread out the money over more programs for children rather than have to ask for additional funds for additional programs."
Sam tried to rein in his anger although she was right. "I don't care what point the Republicans are trying to make. This is the path we're taking."
His attitude was beginning to annoy her. "By addressing their point, and then showing why yours is better, you'd make a stronger argument." Her voice was firm, but shaded with irritation.
Standing, Sam leaned over her. "My argument is better because it's the right side."
Refusing to be intimidated, Olivia stood also. "Oh, that's convincing," she sneered. "Yeah, let's take that on as a new policy strategy. 'It's right because we say so.'"
Infuriated, Sam let his anger get the better of him. "I'm not sure what you'd know about policy strategy, considering the only reason you got this job was because Leo knew your parents!"
The room was quiet for a moment. "Get out." Her voice was cold, her face stony.
"What?" he said, surprised when she didn't continue to argue with him.
"Get out." The words were quiet. She turned away from him and moved to the filing cabinet. He watched her pull papers from the cabinet for a moment before leaving the room. As he walked down the hall, his anger subsided and was replaced with guilt. He never should have said that to her. Leo would never have hired her if she couldn't do the job. He didn't hear his name being called until Josh grabbed his shoulder. "What's wrong, buddy?" asked Josh. "You're out of it."
"I just met with Olivia," Sam said, continuing to his office.
"Oh, how'd it go?"
"I was annoyed with the earlier meeting and mentioned her parents."
Josh turned to face him, his eyes wide. "Please tell me you didn't say anything."
"I said the only reason she got the job was because Leo knew her parents." Sam sank into his chair, resting his head in his hands.
"Sam, her parents are dead," Josh said quietly.
Sam's head shot up. "Ah, hell," he sighed.
Sam had decided to make it up to Olivia, but she seemed to be avoiding him. They had to attend Senior Staff meetings everyday, but she was able to leave before he could stop her. Various meetings and assignments kept them both busy, and she seemed to work on a schedule different from everyone else's. He got the feeling that Donna and CJ knew about his remark, because both appeared to be running interference for her. It wasn't until a week later until he found his chance. He was working on the speeches for the upcoming state dinner, and needed to discuss the various heads of state with her.
He stopped her after a noon briefing. "We need to go over some information for the state dinner."
She didn't slow her pace as she walked back to her office. "Send it over and I'll take a look."
Laying a hand on her arm, he stopped her. Although he tried his most charming smile, when she turned to face him, her eyes were hard. "Maybe we could go to lunch?" he asked.
"I have plans." She relented enough to ask, "What do we need to go over?"
In his mind, it was a sign of encouragement. "Who will be speaking, potential topics, that kind of thing."
Looking at her watch, she said, "I'm free after three, but I'm leaving by six." Looking up at him, she raised an eyebrow. "Good enough?"
"Perfect." Looking over her shoulder, he noticed Danny approaching. "Your lunch plans?"
She turned and smiled at Danny. The change startled him. Gone was the aloof lady; now she looked like any young woman waiting for a date. "Yep," she said.
Danny grinned at her. "Ready?"
"Yeah," she replied. "See you at three, Sam."
As she left the afternoon briefing, Olivia wondered how tedious the next meeting with Sam would be. She had to admit he had been in a much better mood today than the last time they met. She knew he was aware she avoided him, but didn't care. Yes, it was childish, but effective. He had tried to hurt her, and hadn't missed the mark by far.
He was waiting in her office. "How was lunch?" he asked brightly.
Glancing at him out of the corner of her eye, she wondered what he was up to. "Good," she replied slowly.
"How do you know Danny?" he tried, hoping to break the ice.
"I interned with him." She sat at her desk, pulling out her information on the heads of state.
Sam frowned slightly. "You know you have to be careful about the things you talk to him about now," he said hesitantly.
She glared at him. "Yes, I know that." Her words were snide. "Since you so clearly doubt my abilities to do my job, why are we meeting? Why aren't you talking to CJ and Leo about firing me? Because if that's what you want to do, get it done before I work on this stuff anymore." She threw down the information in her hands.
"No," he said, eyes wide. He hadn't meant anything by his words; he just wanted her to be careful in her interactions with the press. Knowing anything he said would be taken in the wrong way, he raised his hands in surrender. "Can we start over?" He offered his hand. "Hi, I'm Sam Seaborn."
Olivia looked at him strangely for a minute as if deciding whether this was worth it. Then, taking his hand, she replied, "Olivia Conroy." She still looked unsure of his actions, but was willing to go along with it.
Smiling slightly, Sam said, "Now, I'm working on a list of possible topics for speeches..."
The two worked for the next three hours, putting together a mock itinerary for the event. By the end, they were joking about the various topics and easing some of the tension between them.
Olivia glanced at the time. "I've gotta go," she said, gathering up some of the files.
"Listen, we're making progress. Why don't we get a pizza and continue this," said Sam, wanting to keep this fledging working relationship on good terms.
"Thanks, but I can't." Distracted by the papers she was organizing, she continued. "The boys are home."
Before Sam had a chance to ask what she meant, Leo stepped in. "Packing up?"
Olivia smiled. "Yeah, I need to go. By next week I should be able to stay later." Turning to Sam, she said "I'll work on the PR opportunities and get them to you first of the week."
Realizing he was being dismissed, Sam grabbed his files. "No problem. Have a good weekend." He left the office, wondering who the "boys" were and more about Olivia's life.
Leo waited until he thought Sam was out of earshot. "Have any of the others asked about you?"
"Not yet. They're curious, but giving me space. It'll come," she mused.
"You're not going to shock them," he said, his face serious.
"It's not the shock that bothers me. It's the pity." She sat behind her desk, looking very tired. "I'm still adjusting and I'm not ready to deal with other people's reactions yet."
"You need to. They could help." Leo touched her hand. "I wanted to help."
She smiled. "You are." She dismissed the subject. "But now I need to get out of here."
"You make it sound like you're never coming back," he commented dryly.
She slanted him a glance. "Worried?"
"Nah," he said as she turned out the light. "I know where to find you."
As they moved through the West Wing, neither noticed Sam, or the fact that he had heard their conversation. He was curious, he thought. Opening his desk, he pulled out a list of Senior Staff contact names. It had been updated to include Olivia's information, including her street address. "There's only one way to find out," he said to himself, gathering up his things and leaving the West Wing, address in hand.