Disclaimer: The characters do not belong to me, much as I would like them
to and no copyright infringement is intended.
Rating: PG-13 for adult themes and language.
Archive: Yes, but ask first; it is not formatted for archiving.
Summary: A post-episode continuation for "17 People".
Spoilers: "17 People"

Clay Feet

Sam looked at Toby as they rose to leave. The speech was
done and it was good. They hadn't managed to make Toby laugh,
but his tired, obviously distracted presence spurred all of them
to try their best to make him pull out of whatever he was
thinking about and at least smile.
"You okay?" Sam asked, as they walked towards their
offices.
"Yeah. I'm just tired."
"You've been going after something for a week." Sam said,
following Toby into his office. "Is there something going on
that I should know about?"
Toby paused for a fraction of a second. Yes, there was
something going on that Sam should know about. There was
something going on that the entire nation should know - should
have known - about.
"Go home, Sam." He said abruptly.

Sam went into his office and took his time in getting ready
to go. He glanced into the window from his office into Toby's,
waiting for the thump of a ball against the baseboards. That had
gone on for most of the last week.
The sound never came. Sam positioned himself so he could
see Toby's desk. Toby himself was sitting behind it, and he had
a bottle of Scotch and a glass beside him. Sam frowned. He
didn't know Toby had liquor in his desk.
He watched Toby pour two fingers of the Scotch in a glass
and light a cigar. Sam blinked in surprise. Toby never smoked
in his office. Smoking was not permitted in the White House.
Everybody turned a blind eye to Toby smoking one cigar during
celebrations, but he normally went outside to smoke.
What the hell was that endless meeting all about? Toby had
said he'd be a few minutes, but those few minutes had stretched
into an hour and a half. Toby had come into the brainstorming
session looking very upset. It wasn't his usual rampaging about
injustice or stupidity; it was a deeper, darker feeling. Sam had
never seen Toby look like that.
Toby had hidden it fairly well, but Sam knew immediately
that the meeting had shaken his boss to the core.
Had Toby been called on the carpet for something? Sam ran
through the events of the last week and nothing came to mind. Or
had something happened during the meeting to cause this?
Had Toby yelled at the President again? The President often
referred to his meetings with Toby as his 'ten AM scolding', but
there was a bitter twist to the joke. Even Leo did not talk to
the President the way Toby did. Toby was always perfectly
respectful and followed protocol, but he never pulled his verbal
punches with anyone. Not even the President of the United
States.
Good God, had Toby been mouthing off and gotten fired? Sam
felt a rush of anger. There were times when he felt that Toby
had gone too far with his objections, but there was always an
unpalatable truth to his arguments. The President valued the
fact that Toby was willing to say the things that the others were
too deferential to say. Or so Sam thought.
One of the things that made Bartlet so beloved was his
willingness to hear what his staff thought. The freedom in this
administration was exhilarating at times; being able to
contribute to the conversation without worrying about being
frozen out was one of the most cherished aspects of Sam's job.
Even Toby listened, if only to be able to retort back with some
pithy put down.
Sam knew that Leo was still in the building. With fire in
his eyes for the injustice of it all, he went in search of the
Chief of Staff.

Toby sat at his desk, one hand absently stroking his beard.
He felt betrayed. Despite the President's assumption, he wasn't
upset that sixteen people knew this before he did. He was more
concerned about the identities of the players in this conspiracy
of silence.
In one sense, the betrayal wasn't personal. He didn't give
a damn that he wasn't part of the cover-up. It was the fact that
there was a cover-up at all.
In another sense, it was intensely personal. He had come to
believe in Bartlet, to believe in the inherent goodness of the
man, to believe that the man in the Oval Office could make his
country a better place. He knew Bartlet's faults and weaknesses.
He knew Bartlet relied a little too much on Leo McGarry, but he
had never before questioned who actually ran the White House.
Leo was a good man, a smart man, a man to rely on. But he
was not the person who should be running things, anymore than
Toby himself was. Leo was the eminence grise of the Democratic
Party, the one who wielded power in the shadows. It was a kick
in the teeth to know just how much power Leo had. And it was
wrong for him to have that much power. It was obscene that the
President allowed him that much power.
It was especially obscene, since Leo had taken on that power
for all the right reasons. Friendship, loyalty, patriotism and
fidelity. He didn't doubt Leo's commitment to the greater good,
and that frightened him. It was easy, far too easy, to slide
down that slippery slope to corruption.
Leo wasn't corrupt in the sense many of the men in
Washington were; he was corrupted by his principles, by his love
for Bartlet, by his childish and naive belief that this was not a
serious breach of trust of the American people, of the
constitution and of everything America stood for.
Toby took another drink and smiled dourly at the thought.
He had been pissed as hell at CJ for taking him to task after the
shooting. He had been so focussed on putting the boots to hate
groups that he had nearly fallen down that slippery slope
himself. His own motives were as pure as Leo's. Racial hatred
was something he had personally experienced, and all he wanted
was to make sure no other kid would have his ass kicked at recess
for being different. That no other young man would get shot at
simply for being a darker colour. That no other respectable man
would be pulled over for driving while Hispanic.
Yet he had been wrong. He had very nearly betrayed
everything he believed in. CJ had pulled him back from that. CJ
and the President; two people he would listen to.
Had the President listened? Had he truly heard what Toby
had tried to say? Had Leo?

Sam found Leo just outside the Oval Office. By the time he
saw Leo, he was in a state of full fledged righteous indignation
and bore down on Leo like an avenging angel.
"Leo, what was that meeting all about?"
"Sam? What are you doing still here? It's two in the
morning."
"What did you say to Toby to upset him so much?" Sam
demanded. Leo didn't answer, so Sam continued. "Toby's in his
office, drinking and looking like he'd just been kicked in the
balls. Did you fire him?"
"What?"
"Did you fire him? Did he say something you didn't want to
hear?"
"The meeting was... intense." Leo allowed, fumbling for
something to say to Sam. "Toby was not fired, Sam. He'll be
here tomorrow."
"Will he?" Both men jumped a little at the quiet comment
behind them. Bartlet, in shirtsleeves and with a drink in his
hand, beckoned to Sam. "Come in, Sam. I've got something to say
to you."
"Sir..." Leo shot a frown at the President.
"No, Leo. It's time." Bartlet looked very serious.
"Are you sure you want to do this now?"
"It can't be any worse than the last two hours." Bartlet
said cryptically. "Sam, get your butt in here. Leo, go find out
if we still have a Communications Director."
"I'm not sure it's a good time for me to approach Toby..."
"I'm not sure it's ever going to be a good time to approach
Toby, Leo." Bartlet shook his head. "Try anyway."
"Yes, Sir." Leo gave one nod and Sam followed the President
into the Oval Office, very puzzled.

"Sam, I told Toby something tonight and he didn't take it
well." Bartlet said, sitting down and motioning Sam to a seat.
"I don't know if you're going to take it any better, but it's
something you have to know."
"Sir?" Now Sam was thoroughly baffled and his heart was
sinking.
"Before I say anything, I want you to promise me that you'll
keep quiet about it until Leo or I say otherwise. You can talk
to Toby about it, but I would suggest you don't for your own
safety."
"Sir?"
"Sam, I have Multiple Sclerosis." Bartlet said bluntly. He
was too tired and heartsick to ease carefully into it.
"MS? God." Sam looked stricken. "Sir, are you all right?
Are you...?"
"It's relapsing remitting." Bartlet said in a reassuring
tone. "It's currently in remission and I haven't had an episode
for over a year."
"That's good." Sam breathed a sigh of relief. "Still...
It's not an easy thing to live with. Is there anything we can do
to help?"
"No." Bartlet shook his head, trying to quell a bizarre
impulse to shake Sam. Funny, when Toby had not expressed any
sympathy, he was angry, but now Sam had done so, he wanted to
slap him silly. Didn't Sam see what had immediately occurred to
Toby? "I was diagnosed eight years ago and very few people know
about it. Toby was the seventeenth person to know when I told
him tonight."
"I can see why it would be upsetting, but surely this is a
private matter." Sam said, with a frown.
"Toby was concerned about the political ramifications."
Bartlet replied. Then he watched the expressions run across
Sam's face as he thought about it. It took him a little while to
work out what Toby had grasped instantly.
"Oh." Sam said finally.
"Yeah."

Leo pause outside Toby's office, making sure that he
couldn't be seen. Toby was sitting in his desk chair, looking
off into space, taking a small sip from the glass in his hand.
Leo's hands curled into fists. God, how he wanted to snatch
that glass out of Toby's hand, resenting the fact that the
younger man could drink and he couldn't. Before he could
suppress the rush of irrational anger, he strode into the office.
Toby didn't look at him.
"Is that how you're dealing with this?" He asked harshly.
"Go to hell, Leo." Toby replied, finishing the last little
bit.
"Sitting in your office getting drunk isn't the way to deal
with this."
"Neither is sitting with your head in the sand hoping for
the best." Toby retorted. "Leo, how in God's name can you be
that naive?"
"Naive?"
"You said that we could control this. We can't." Toby said
flatly. "If I can figure out what the hell Hoynes was doing, so
can the press."
"The press won't find the MS."
"Yes, they will."
"How? You gonna go on a crusade of truth and openness and
tell them?"
"Hoynes will."
"Like hell. He won't say anything if he wants the
Presidency."
"Sure he will. The press are going to start asking why he's
running for the nomination..."
"They aren't going to get that." Leo broke in.
"Grow up, Leo." Toby shouted. "You're too damned busy
looking for the best that you can't see the writing on the wall.
Danny Concannon knows political manouvering almost as well as I
do. And even if the press doesn't, what about the party? Hoynes
is running for the nomination. You don't think the party is
going to ask why he thinks Bartlet won't run?"
"The President announces his nomination and Hoynes backs
off."
"How much does that cost?"
"What?"
"Hoynes backs off and has to wait another four years. Do
you really think he's going to meekly sit by for four years while
he has a hand grenade in his pocket?"
"Yes."
"What do you have on him?"
"Toby... Hoynes is not going to say anything. He opens his
mouth, he's out."
"Have you polled the DNC to make sure the party will line up
with Bartlet?" Toby countered. "Of course not. And then there
is the little matter of the ninety minute coup."
"There was no coup. The President was in no danger."
"The country was, and it wasn't the elected official who was
calling the shots. It was you."
"There was no coup. No taking over, no force."
"There doesn't have to be. Bartlet gave the government to
you, didn't he?" Toby pressed on, relentless. "Hoynes allowed
it because he was afraid of screwing it up."
"Your point?" Leo snapped, annoyed.
"My point is, you're not the President of the United States.
Josiah Bartlet is. To maintain the fiction that he's perfectly
fine is a threat to democracy."
"Bullshit, Toby. The President has MS."
"Which can affect cognitive function."
"Other Presidents have had concealed health problems.
Wilson's stroke was far more serious than this."
"Precedent doesn't make it right, Leo." Toby returned. "If
it was polio, like FDR, fine. If it was something that had no
effect on the mind, I might risk keeping it secret. Not this.
And I don't think it can be kept secret much longer."
"Because of Hoynes."
"Yes. You both said that nobody lied. Maybe that's so, but
the lies are going to start as soon as the party starts asking
questions."
"So what do you suggest?" Leo asked sarcastically.
"I don't know." Toby sighed and poured himself another
drink. "Full disclosure means hearings for the rest of the
term."
"Does it?"
"We stopped the hearings about your past. We can't stop
this short of handing over the store. The most we can hope for
is to make the opposition look petty."
"And non disclosure?"
"Besides being a betrayal of the electorate who have a right
to know? Fear of disclosure. Expansion of the number of people
who know. Some guarantees of following due process in the event
of a health crisis."
"What kind of guarantees? The letter?"
"Something like that. Give it to someone who can be trusted
with it and leave off the date until needed."
"Would that satisfy you?"
"No."
"What would?"
"I don't know."
"Where do we go from here?"
"You know as well as I do. Tell the rest of the senior
staff. Bring in legal council. Look into the possible scenarios
and be ready to deal with it. Get DNC support nailed down."
"Ditch Hoynes."
"No. He has to be on the ticket. Find his price for
silence and support when it does come out." Toby replied. "You
know all of this as well or better than I do. You have to stop
thinking like Jed Bartlet's friend."
"He needs friends. And may I say you were somewhat less
than supportive in there."
"You didn't hire me to be the President's friend." Toby
said tiredly. "It wasn't my place."
"He would have appreciated some gesture of concern, you cold
hearted bastard."
"He was trying to change to subject. To make me the bad
guy." Toby said in a tight voice. "I'm willing to play that
role if I have to, but not for nothing."
"You're not making sense."
"Did you hear anything I said in there, Leo?" Toby sat
straight and, for the first time in the conversation, looked Leo
in the eye. "Did you really hear it?"
"Yes, yes, I did." Leo couldn't keep eye contact. He turned
away. "I was wrong."
Toby said nothing, just took another small sip of his drink.
"Until you said it, it never crossed my mind what was going
on. I was trying to protect my friend - and my President - in
the only way I knew how. You were right on target, Toby."
"I know."
"I can't make plans and decisions tonight." Leo said,
rubbing his face with his hands. "Can you?"
"I can't stop spinning the scenarios, Leo." Toby replied.
"It's all there, all the possibilities. I don't know what to do
with them."
"The President wants to know something."
"What?"
"Will you be here tomorrow?" This time Leo could meet
Toby's eyes and he knew that Toby understood the question.
"I don't know."
"I know this goes deep with you..."
"Right to the foundation." Toby agreed.
"...But I want to know if you aren't coming back.
Personally, not in the Post."
"I signed a confidentiality agreement." Toby replied
softly. "I keep my word."
"Go home, Toby. Go home, get drunk, got laid... whatever
gets you through the night." Leo ordered, with a sigh. "Take
tomorrow off if you have to. I'll call if anything comes up."

Sam sat silently for a long time, staring at the
Presidential Seal in the carpet.
"Sir..." He ventured quietly. "I don't know which is the
way to go, but I want you to know that I support you. I serve at
the pleasure of the President."
"Thank you, Sam."
"I'm sure that between Leo and Toby, we can work out a way
to deal with this." Sam added earnestly. "I'll help in any way
I can."
Bartlet bit his lip. Sam's trust in him was not broken, not
the way Toby's was. He really did believe that this was another
problem to be solved; for Sam this was not a crisis of faith. He
had faith, a faith that was perhaps misplaced in this instance.
"Go home, Sam." Bartlet said, tired. Sam obeyed.
"Sir... I hope this... doesn't bring on an episode or
anything."
"Thank you, Sam." Bartlett watched to door close behind
Sam and sighed.

Toby wanted to take Leo at his word. Sitting in his office
wasn't helping at all, but he didn't think going home was going
to help any, either. He would just spin scenarios, each more
disastrous than the last. He could not hold onto the edge of
righteous anger, but he couldn't let it go, either. He did not
want to even look at the pain he felt. He suspected that part of
that feeling of betrayal was directed at himself, for not
supporting his President - his friend - at a time of great need.
The politics had to be considered. That was what he did;
consider the political ramifications. He was paid to do that.
So why did it feel as if he had let the President down?
He wished it wasn't so late. The bars were all closed now,
so he couldn't slip into an anonymous dive and drink his thoughts
away. Nor could he find some willing woman to hold; all the
women he would even consider bedding meant too much to him to use
for forgetfulness. Not even.... No.
He got up and started to pack up some files. Then he left
them where they were; Ginger would tidy them up in the morning.
He could just leave it all there and worry about it later.
The laptop had to go with him; there were too many notes on
it for him to want it just lying around, even if no one else knew
the password for his private files. He put the computer in the
case and slung it over his shoulder. As an after thought, he
capped the bottle of Scotch and put it into the outside pocket of
the case. Hitting the lights on the way out and closing the door
and locking it, he left.

Sam saw Toby leave and shouted for him to wait up. Toby
ignored him. Sam went to go after him, only to be stopped by the
sudden appearance of Leo, who caught his arm.
"Let him go, Sam." Leo ordered softly.
"I need to talk to him." Sam said, looking after the
retreating figure. "We need to plan, to strategize..."
"Not right now."
"But..."
"If you need to talk, come into my office. We can talk."
Leo said soothingly.

Toby sat in his parked car, drinking the Scotch, wondering
what the hell he was doing. Drinking out of an open bottle in
his car in front of CJ's building wasn't the smartest thing he'd
ever done.
He looked in vain for a light, for any indication that she
was still up. Not likely at two thirty in the morning. He may
as well give up and go home.
It was half an hour later and most of the way through the
bottle before he decided what to do. He needed to see CJ. She
had been his friend through good times and bad and he badly
needed a friend right now.
"Who the hell is here at three in the morning?" CJ shouted
through the closed door, after he pounded on it. She opened the
door, her hair askew and wrapping a fluffy robe around her.
"Jesus. Toby, what are you doing here at this hour?"
"I... needed to see you." He said, feeling idiotic.
"You'll see me in another four hours anyway." She snapped.
"Get in here before my neighbours call the cops."
He followed her in and dropped onto her couch. She turned
on the lamp and sat down on the nearest chair, yawning.
"Okay, what was so goddam important that you show up here in
the middle of the night?" She asked, then paused when she looked
him full on. "Toby?"
"I just needed... a friend." He said awkwardly.
"What happened?" CJ asked softly. "You need to talk?"
"I can't talk about this." He shook his head and stared at
the floor. "Look, I... I'm sorry, CJ. I'll go."
"Like hell you will. You're tired, upset and, unless I miss
my guess, more than half drunk. I'm not letting you drive like
that."
"I'll be okay."
"You are in no condition to get behind the wheel." CJ said
firmly. "I don't need to get up in front of the press corps and
try to explain away a drunk driving arrest of the White House
senior staff. And I sure as hell am not going to announce that
you wrapped your car around a telephone pole and killed yourself
because I let you drive like that. You're staying here."
"Thank you." Toby's voice, always quiet, was nearly
inaudible.
"Let me get us some coffee and we can talk, okay?" CJ rose
and went into the kitchen. She was a little ruffled at being
roused out of bed at this hour, but Toby looked awful. He was a
friend; she was not going to turn a friend away, no matter what
it cost her in sleep.
When the coffee was ready, she found Toby still sitting on
the couch, still in jacket and tie. She set the mugs on the
coffee table and sat down, reaching over to undo his tie and take
it off. He allowed her to do it without resistance. Then she
got him to take off his jacket.
"Now. What happened?"
"I can't tell you." Toby said quietly, his head in his
hands.
"Toby..."
"No, I really cannot tell you." He reiterated. "If I
could, I would."
"But something happened."
"Yes."
"And you can't tell me what."
"No."
"Then why are you here?"
"I just... I couldn't face going home. I didn't want to be
alone right now."
"Need a hug?" CJ offered. Toby nodded and they both stood
up. She wrapped her arms around him and squeezed gently. He
held on with tenacious strength.

CJ lay awake later, absently twirling her fingers in the
curls at the back of Toby's neck. They had done this before, a
few times. It was more than sex, but it was not exactly
lovemaking. It was an affirmation that they were not alone in
the world; that there was something beyond the myopia of pain and
bewilderment. Sometimes it had been her, needing to be desired;
sometimes it had been him, needing to be held. It was not
something that ever made it to the light of day and it never
affected their deep friendship.
There was no point in trying to sleep now. She had to be up
in an hour and half anyway. She was a little sore to sleep
easily; he had taken a very long time to reach completion. He
hadn't exactly hurt her; the slight physical discomfort was
nothing compared to the wrench in her heart when he wept in her
arms afterward. His tears were always shed in darkness and only
when the pain inside became too much to bear. She soothed and
comforted as best she could, as much as he would allow, but she
could not offer more without knowing why he needed her.
She wondered what had happened to hurt him so badly. He was
asleep now; a troubled, restless sleep. When it was time for her
to leave, she would let him sleep. To hell with the job. For
once, the White House could wait for him.

"Leo, got a minute?" She asked, a few minutes before her
first briefing.
"Sure. What's on your mind?" Leo replied. CJ paused for a
moment. God, Leo looked tired.
"Any idea what happened last night to Toby?"
"Why do you ask?" Leo carefully put down the file he was
reading.
"He showed up at my place in the middle of the night." She
said. "He was really upset. Did something happen during the
speech rewrite?"
"No, it's fine." Leo said, with a fine attempt at
indifference. "He was upset over something else."
"What?"
"You know how Toby gets." Leo said vaguely. "Aren't you
supposed to be at the morning briefing?"
"Right." CJ frowned. She narrowed her eyes. Something had
happened and it had to do with work. Leo looked as if he'd been
put through a wringer. There was something going on and she was
being left out of the loop. Again.
"CJ..." Leo was almost pleading. "Look. See me later
today. I'll explain as much as I can, okay?"

After the briefing, she got so caught up in work that she
didn't have time to breathe, far less confront Leo, until
lunchtime. She decided to eat first and confront later. She was
always much sharper with her blood sugar up.
She returned to her office after a quick trip down to the
mess for a salad. On her desk was a bouquet of spring flowers.
"They arrived a few minutes ago." Carol told her. "I put
them in water for you."
"Thank you. Who are they from?"
"I don't know. There's a card."
CJ took the card and opened it. It read: "About last night
- Thanks." There was no signature.
CJ smiled and inhaled the fragrance of the flowers. Toby
really could be very sweet sometimes. And the flowers meant he
was up and about and at least semi-functional. She made a mental
note to call him.
"Hey, CJ." Josh strolled into her office. "Nice flowers.
Who sent them?" Without waiting for an answer, he plucked the
card from her fingers and read it. "Ohhh. Claudia Jean, I am
shocked."
"No, you're not." CJ retorted mildly, taking a bite of
salad.
"Well, no, I'm not." Josh agreed. "So who's the lucky
guy?"
"If I wanted you to know, I would have said something at the
briefing." CJ replied, composedly.
"You don't need to announce it to the world." Josh returned.
"Just to me."
"Same thing." CJ shrugged.
"Where's Toby this morning anyway?" Josh wondered. "He
looked like shit last night after he met with the President, but
he wasn't here much later than I was."
"He met with the President last night?"
"Yeah. For well over an hour. We could have used more of
his input on the speech." Josh replied, offhandedly. "Okay, CJ,
what's the matter? You've got your sourpuss face on."
"What's going on, Joshua?" CJ's voice was low, dangerous.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, what do you guys know that I don't?"
"I'm still not tracking..."
"Okay. Let me put this in small words. I went home at six
last night. You and Sam and Larry and Ed..."
"And Ainsley." Josh added.
"Were working on a speech. Toby and Leo were here, too." CJ
continued. "Toby met with the President..."
"I think Leo was there." Josh added.
"And with Leo. He's in there for more than an hour and
comes out looking like hell. What was the meeting about?"
"I dunno."
"Josh."
"No, really, CJ. I don't know. I figure Leo'll tell me
soon enough." Josh protested. "Secrets don't stay secrets very
long around here and I have enough on my plate to worry about not
being the first one told about something. It was probably
something that Toby knows about and they wanted his input before
presenting it to the rest of us."
"So you don't know what they talked about."
"No." Josh repeated. "I was busy with the speech last
night, CJ. We finished and I went home."
"What time?"
"What, I have a curfew now? About one thirty."
"Was Toby still here?"
"Um. Yeah. He and Leo and Sam were still here when I left.
Ainsley left when I did and Donna left a little bit before that."
"I wonder if Sam knows." CJ mused.
"Based on how wiped he looked when he came in, I doubt Sam
knows his own name." Josh said casually. "Leo told him to go
home."
"So who's running Communications today?"
"You are." Josh replied, with his most annoyingly smug
grin.

"CJ? Josh? Would you come with me, please?" Leo said, as
Josh went to leave her office. "The President would like to have
a word with you both."
"Hey, Leo. Why the formal summons? I didn't set the place
on fire last night." Josh said, teasingly. Leo just looked at
him. "Is it just me, or am I the only one not in a really crappy
mood this morning?"
"Settle down, Josh. This is serious." Leo ordered.
"Leo, does this have anything to do with what you and the
President and Toby talked about last night?"
"Yes, it does."

If CJ thought that Leo looked tired, it was nothing
compared to the way the President looked. He looked almost as
bad as Toby had, last night on her doorstep.
"Come on in." The President invited. "Sit down, please."
CJ and Josh glanced at each other and sat down on the sofa,
almost exactly where Toby had sat last night.
"I want to tell you something that I told Toby and Sam last
night." Bartlet began.
"We told them first because Toby had some questions that
needed answers. After he was told, Sam was concerned and asked."
Leo added.
"What is it?" Josh asked, leaning forward.
Bartlet told them, fully and completely, about the MS and
the cover-up. He did not mention the points Toby had brought up.
Neither one of them said anything, although their reactions were
clear from the expressions that flitted across their faces.
"Okay, okay." Josh ran his hand through his hair as he
thought. "Before anyone else knows, we need to bring in legal
counsel. Not Ainsley, she's too new. Not Tribbey, either. It
can't be the chief counsel. And we need the medical records.
All of them. And a specialist in MS to give us a report on
expected progression of the disease."
"Slow down, Josh." Leo ordered.
"Leo, this is going to break eventually. Whether it's
tomorrow or two years from now, it's going to break. We need to
be prepared with facts." Josh replied. "And we need Toby."
"I'm not sure..." CJ said quietly.
"CJ?" Bartlet encouraged.
"Sir, how upset was Toby about this?"
"He didn't take it well." Leo allowed.
"We also need to let everyone in the know about what
triggers episodes." Josh continued, heedless of the others. "We
need to do what we can to keep you healthy and fit, Sir."
"Thank you, Josh." Bartlet said dryly. "Josh, we need to
keep this under wraps..."
"I'll say." Josh muttered.
"...For a while. Until we know where we stand with
everyone." Bartlet finished. "Think about it."
"Sir..." CJ spoke up. "I'm sorry to hear about this. I
hope you stay in remission for a long, long time."
"Thank you, CJ."

"Leo, may I talk to you for a moment?" CJ murmured to Leo
as they left the Oval Office.
"Okay." Leo nodded, although he heard the brittle note in
her voice.
"Okay, Leo, do you have any idea what you've done?" She bit
out as soon as they were alone in his office.
"Yeah." Leo faced her unflinchingly. "Toby was pretty
thorough about it last night."
"You betrayed him. You betrayed us. Hell, you may even
have betrayed the whole country." CJ said fiercely. "How could
you not tell us? How in hell can we do our jobs when the whole
thing could fall apart in a heartbeat? We need to be prepared
for every eventuality, Leo."
"Yes, I know. But it wasn't my decision to make." Leo
retorted. "I only found out myself a year ago and I've known Jed
Bartlet for forty years. Don't hop on the indignation bandwagon
too quickly."
"Is that what Toby did?" CJ demanded. "Did he let you have
it with both barrels and now you're feeling defensive? Well,
dammit, you should be. I can excuse the President. He's living
with his disease and I can understand why he doesn't want
everyone hovering around him all the time, wondering if every
little tremor or forgotten item is a symptom. But he listens to
you, Leo. You could have convinced him to let some people know.
For God's sake, Leo, the President trusts you with everything.
Why can't you trust us?"
Leo flinched. Yes, Jed did trust him. Trusted him enough
to let him take over in a crisis, trusted him to deal with it,
and he had, superbly. It hurt to hear CJ unconsciously confirm
Toby's accusations.
"It wasn't mine to tell, CJ." He said quietly. "And before
you yell at me some more, I reiterate that I heard all of this
last night from Toby. I'm not sure I'm in any shape to deal with
it right now."
"Okay." CJ blew out a breath. "I knew there was something
big going on when Toby showed up at my place last night."
"He did?"
"He was drunk and upset and he needed a friend."
"But he didn't tell you."
"No. He wouldn't betray you or the President that way." CJ
shook her head. "This really hurt him, Leo."
"I know." Leo sighed. "I'm not sure why, but it did."
"Toby is a funny mixture of contradictions." CJ said
softly. "He's pragmatic and practical and he's worked in
politics all his life. Yet he's never stopped believing in
honest or integrity. He's an idealist and a capital "r" Romantic.
He lost his rose coloured glasses years ago, but he still
believes."
"He did believe."
"He'll come round, Leo. It just hurts to have your idols
fall off their pedestal."
"Toby put the President on a pedestal?"
"You bet." CJ smiled sadly. "He worked hard not to, so it
hurts to find out he did anyway."

"We can't do this without Toby." Josh nibbled on a
fingernail. He and CJ were in her office, putting out ideas for
how to reveal the news.
"Sam's a good writer, Josh."
"Yeah, but that's not what we need Toby for." Josh said,
seriously. "We need him to talk to the party. Toby's reputation
is gonna count for a whole lot in this."
"His reputation?"
"CJ, when Toby says something is right, people tend to
believe him. They know he can't be bought or bamboozled easily.
Sure, he gets caught up in things sometimes, but if he says he
supports Bartlet it'll swing a lot of the backroom boys to our
favour."
"What happens if Toby won't do it?"
"It's going to be a hell of a lot harder to get DNC
backing." Josh fretted. "He'll do it, CJ. He has to."

Toby sat at his kitchen table, with the open laptop in front
of him. He stared at the screen without knowing quite what to
write. Writing out his ideas had always given him clarity and he
badly needed that now. With a sigh, he put his fingers on the
keyboard and started to type.
He typed for nearly an hour, finally finding his voice. He
stopped only when the coffee he had drunk to chase away the
lingering effects of last night's Scotch forced him to go to the
bathroom.
When he returned, several paragraphs caught his eye; ones he
did not remember writing.
"... President Bartlet is an inspiration. Not only has he
upheld the ideals and principles upon which our country was born,
but he's done so with grace and aplomb. Recently, it was
revealed that he is also an inspiration to those who suffer from
chronic illnesses, in proving that an illness need not bar anyone
from participating in even the highest levels of public service.
"Although his concealment of his illness may seem to be at
odds with our need for sound and reasonable decision making, it
can also be seen as a valiant struggle with between the public
and the private man. Josiah Bartlet is not just the President of
the United States. He is a loyal husband, a loving father and a
faithful friend. He is also a citizen of the United States and
fully entitled to the same right to privacy as any other citizen.
His illness, while serious, has not affected his ability to
govern and, should it ever do so, there are proper precautions in
place to ensure a smooth and fair transfer of power. Surely we
can trust our system to protect us well enough to allow us to
protect and preserve his privacy..."

Toby read the whole document twice. It was the statement he
had not been asked to write. It was the statement that had to be
written. And sent out when the time was right. Until he read it
over, he had not realised how true those words were. Or could
be. Bartlet had shown his feet of clay. So had Leo. They
needed him and his words more than ever now; his own clay feet
were going to help carry them through to where they needed to be.
To where the country needed them to be. There was no one else
to lead; Bartlet was the real thing, feet of clay, flaws and all.
Decisively, he save the document, encrypted it, and emailed
it to Leo, with a short note.
"I'll be back tomorrow. I serve at the pleasure of the
President."

END

 

 

 

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