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Summary: Margaret has a date and Leo is worried.
Dancing to the Rumour Mill - part 1
"Andi?" Toby looked up at the knock, surprised. "What are you doing here?"
"Doing my good deed for the day." Andrea Wyatt replied lightly. "You heard that the Winnipeg ballet is in town tonight?"
"Yes. I tried to get tickets, but they were sold out." Toby replied regretfully.
"Want mine?" Andi pulled a pair of tickets out of her pocket. "I can't go. Scott Richter, that miserable excuse for a human being who just happens to be committee chairman, called an emergency meeting for tonight."
"Why? What sort of emergency?"
"There isn't one, except in his own mind. He's flexing his political muscles." Andi grimaced. "I have to be there. I know you like the ballet, so I thought I'd be nice and give you my tickets. It'd be a shame to waste them."
"How much to I owe you?" Toby smiled, taking out his wallet.
"Oh, just take them." Andi snapped, with a returning smile.
"Thank you. You sure you can't duck out of the meeting? We could go together." Toby asked hopefully.
"I wish." Andi sighed. "Anyway, enjoy. Maybe you'll put in a good word for me at my trial for strangling Richter."
"Try not to kill him, Andi. A murder charge looks bad during a campaign."
"True. But it would make me real popular with the rest of the committee." Andi replied.
"Margaret!" Leo bellowed, then did a double take as Margaret magically appeared by his elbow. "How do you do that?"
"I had classes on it in secretarial school." Margaret replied, so deadpan that Leo wasn't sure if she was kidding.
"Get me the Vice President."
"Vice President Hoynes?"
"No, Margaret. The vice president of Cuba."
"Raul Castro is visiting Venezuela." Margaret informed him. "I'll get Hoynes instead."
Leo watched her leave, shaking his head. Strange, strange girl, our Margaret.
"Leo? I have Hoynes on line one." Margaret popped her head around the open door.
"Good. Tell Toby that I want to see him as soon as possible."
Margaret nodded and left.
"John." Leo said into the phone. "About that speech in Texas..."
"Hey, Margaret." Toby said pleasantly to her, as she typed.
"Good morning, Toby." Margaret replied absently, glancing at the phone. "Leo will be with you in a minute."
Toby nodded, leaning against her desk and opened the file he was carrying.
"Toby?" Margaret ventured.
"Is it against policy for employees to accept personal calls while at work?"
"Technically, yes. But we all do it." Toby replied, still buried in his files. "I don't think anyone is going to fire you for talking to your mother for a few minutes."
"But I can tell her that I can't talk, right?"
"You can tell your mother whatever you like, Margaret. It's a supposedly free country."
"Okay." Margaret nodded. "Leo can see you now."
Toby closed the file and went in, wondering what that was all about.
"Toby, I need you to go talk to Hoynes." Leo said as soon as Toby walked in. "He's going to be making a statement about the new gun control initiatives in Texas and try to shore up some support. I need you to write his remarks."
"Hoynes hates me." Toby pointed out. "He's not going to like the interference. What's wrong with his own communications staff?"
"Besides the fact that none of them can write the way you do?" Leo asked rhetorically. "You have a better grasp of what we're trying to accomplish. Work out his remarks and make sure he doesn't say anything that contradicts our position. I already cleared it with Hoynes."
"Okay." Toby sighed. "If I'm not back by five, you will send out a search party?"
"We'll release the dogs and everything." Leo assured him.
Toby paused for a moment outside Leo's office. He didn't have much contact with Hoynes, but the few times he had talked to the vice president, it was clear that he and Hoynes had absolutely nothing in common. There was no meeting of minds at all. Toby didn't exactly dislike Hoynes, but he was well aware that Hoynes disliked him. Normally, being disliked didn't bother Toby in the slightest, but it didn't make working with someone easier. The day had started out very well and he had been hoping that it would continue.
"I'm sorry, Mom. I can't talk to you right now." He heard Margaret say stiffly. "It's against policy.... No, I really can't. My boss is standing right here... Yes... Yes, I know... I'll call you later. Love you."
"I'm not your boss, Margaret." Toby pointed out with a slight smile.
"Close enough." Margaret shrugged.
"I just don't want to get into an argument with my mother so close to the Oval Office." Margaret replied, starting to type. "What's the matter?" Toby asked gently. He really didn't care what problem Margaret had, but he really didn't want to go face Hoynes yet.
"Nothing." Margaret replied.
"Okay." Toby turned to go.
"It's my birthday." Margaret said suddenly.
"Happy birthday." Toby replied, automatically.
"Thank you." Margaret nodded. "My mother gets a little weird around my birthday. She wanted to hear all about my plans."
"Do you have plans?"
Toby paused for a moment, trying to curb a sudden impulsive idea.
"Margaret, do you like ballet?"
"Yes..." Margaret looked up, surprised.
"Would you like to go with me to the Winnipeg ballet?" Toby found himself asking, before he thought better of it. "Andi gave me her tickets this morning and I don't want to go alone. Would you like to accompany me? I know this is short notice."
"I'd like that very much." Margaret smiled suddenly. "Thank you."
Toby wondered what he had gotten himself into. A date with Margaret was a daunting prospect. Still, he didn't exactly know a lot of women who would be willing to go out with him on a moment's notice. And he really didn't want to go by himself. And it was Margaret's birthday. He was just passing on Andi's good deed. Besides, if it wasn't Andi sitting beside him, it didn't really matter who it was.
"Toby." John Hoynes smiled and held out a hand. "It's good to see you."
"Thank you." Toby replied, returning the smile. "Leo asked me to go over your remarks for the speech at A&M."
"Leo wants to make sure I don't say anything to the Aggies that the White House will have to clarify later." Hoynes replied. "I've got a first draft, but it needs work."
"Then let's get to it."
"Margaret, is there something I was supposed to remember about today?" Leo asked mid morning. Margaret sighed. Leo had done this every year and every year she hoped that he would actually remember her birthday, rather than just vaguely recall something. She would not put the date on his calendar; if he didn't remember, she wasn't going to remind him.
"No, Leo." She said slowly, waiting.
"Wait a minute." Leo frowned, looking at a scribbled note in his own handwriting on his desk calendar. "It's somebody's birthday, isn't it?"
"Oh, God, Margaret. It's your birthday, right?" Leo's face cleared. "I'm sorry. I do try to remember."
"I know. And you did real well this year." Margaret said forgivingly.
"Happy birthday, Margaret." Leo said sincerely, with a warm smile. "Did you manage to avoid your mother this year?"
"Mostly." Margaret replied. "I told her I couldn't take personal calls at work."
"Good for you. Stand up to her." Leo encouraged. "You can't let her run your life. You're - what? - thirty five now?"
"Something like that." Margaret said, trying not to let Leo see a sudden pinprick of tears.
"How about I take you out for a celebratory dinner tonight?" Leo offered. "We could go to that new place in Georgetown, the one that's been getting all those great reviews."
"Thank you, Leo, but I have a date tonight." Margaret lifted her chin proudly.
"With who?" Leo demanded.
"Toby." Margaret said and left.