Dancing to the Rumour Mill - part 2
Hoynes read the fifth draft of the speech and looked over at Toby with deep respect. He didn't like Ziegler much; found him to be abrasive and rude. But, by God, the man could write. The speech was damned near perfect, with just the right touches of humour. It clearly outlined the reasons for the new initiative while respecting the mindset of the people he would be speaking to.
"I can sell this." Hoynes said finally. "I wasn't sure how to make the point without alienating the crowd."
"I think you're the only one who can make this speech." Toby replied, scratching his head. "Anyone else would sound patronizing. You hit on exactly the right approach for it."
"I know these people. I'm one of them." Hoynes said thoughtfully. "Thanks for not implying that we're a bunch of rednecks."
"I've been to Texas." Toby shrugged. "There's a lot of pride there. I thought that appealing to the idea that Texas was once a sovereign state might work."
"It does." Hoynes nodded. "Thanks. I thought Leo was crazy to send you to help. I didn't think you'd understand."
"I don't." Toby replied, putting his files back in order. "That's where you come in. We need this, Mr. Vice President. We need the support, even if you don't entirely agree with the initiative."
"I don't entirely agree, but we need to do something." Hoynes replied. "Too many kids think guns are toys. They're not. Texans know that as well or better than anyone else. It's time to remind the rest of the country."
Leo sat at his desk, utterly unable to work. Margaret and Toby? If he was to try and pick out a more unlikely pairing, he still wouldn't have chosen that one.
Margaret didn't have the best of luck with men, but she always avoided dating anyone in the office. And it was pretty much a given that Toby still carried a torch the size of Montana for his ex. So what the hell was going on? Was Margaret that desperate for a date on her birthday? Toby was ages older than Margaret, and not just in years. What was she thinking?
And, for that matter, what was Toby thinking? Dipping the secretarial pool was a great big no-no, even if Margaret wasn't his assistant. She totally lacked the sophistication that Toby had; she was a sweet kid who had no defenses against a strong willed man. And Toby was one of the strongest willed man he knew. Was he going to break poor Margaret's heart?
Or would her sweet stubbornness break his? Toby wasn't recovered from his divorce; would she, in all innocence, lead him on and then drop him when she realised that the sardonic attitude was an intrinsic part of his personality? It was all very worrisome.
With a sigh, Leo picked up the phone and ordered flowers for Margaret. She deserved at least that much.
"Wait a minute." Bonnie waved her fork as she hastily swallowed. "You're going out with Toby? Balding guy with a beard? My boss?"
"It isn't like a real date." Margaret assured her. "He has tickets to the ballet and didn't want to go alone. I had just told him it was my birthday, so I guess he felt sorry for me or something."
"Not exactly a flattering invitation." Bonnie opined, taking another bite of salad.
"I would accept a date from the Republican House Leader if it meant going to the ballet." Margaret stated emphatically. "I really want to go and, besides, I like Toby."
"So do I." Bonnie replied. "He's brilliant and witty and dedicated, but I still wouldn't want to go out with him."
"Toby, I just heard the weirdest rumour." Sam met Toby as he was returning from the meeting with Hoynes. "I heard that you asked Margaret out on a date."
"I did. Have you had lunch yet?"
"Not yet." Sam shook his head. "So it's true?"
"Andi gave me her tickets to the ballet this morning. Margaret likes ballet and it's her birthday, so I asked her if she wanted to go."
"You asked Margaret out on a date? And she accepted?"
"What's the matter, Sam? You think I'm so repulsive that I can't get a date with a girl?"
"Um. No. But..."
"But what, Sam? I'm taking Margaret to the ballet, not for a torrid weekend in Baltimore." Toby replied, hiding a smile. "If you're getting lunch for yourself, could you get me a pastrami on rye and a coke?"
"So it's true?" Josh looked wide eyed at Sam.
"What's true?" CJ asked, as she came into Josh's office and dropped a file on his desk.
"Toby and Margaret are going out." Josh explained. CJ looked blank for a moment, then started to laugh.
"You're kidding me, right?" She said, after recovering her breath. "It's one of those rumours that gets started just to see how far it will go, right?"
"Toby confirmed it less than an hour ago." Sam said, stealing one of Josh's french fries.
"It's true?" Josh said again.
"Got it right from the horse's mouth."
"I don't believe this." CJ said dismissively. "You two are just trying to be funny."
"We are funny." Josh said, with a grin.
"Looks aren't everything, Josh." Donna commented, coming in. "Don't forget your two o'clock. CJ, Leo's looking for you."
"Here's the background for Hoynes' speech at A&M." Leo handed it to her. "Toby has the text."
"Thanks." CJ took it. "Leo..."
"I heard a rumour..."
"Confirm it or ignore it, CJ. You know the drill." Leo said tiredly. "Who gave it to you?"
"Josh and Sam." CJ replied. "It's an internal one. Gossip."
"There's a lot of gossip around here, CJ. Does it have anything to do with the President?"
"No." CJ hesitated. "It's nothing more than a stupid bit of office gossip that I don't want to spread."
"Okay, CJ, what is it?"
"Sam somehow believes that Margaret and Toby are dating." CJ said finally. Her eyes widened as she saw the look on Leo's face. "You mean... It's true?"
"Margaret told me earlier." Leo nodded, his expression stern. "I hope she knows what she's doing."
"I hope he does." CJ responded swiftly, appalled.
"CJ, much as I think it's a really bad idea, it isn't my place to interfere. Or yours."
"Toby, can I talk to you for a minute?" CJ knocked lightly on his door.
"Sure." Toby saved his file as CJ came in and shut the door.
"I want to ask you something." CJ sat down slowly.
"I heard a rumour that... Leo and Sam both said..." CJ bit her lip, not sure what to say.
"You just found out that I asked Margaret to the ballet." Toby finished for her.
"And this is any of your business... why?"
"You jealous I didn't ask you?"
"No, of course not."
"You hate the ballet, CJ." Toby reminded her. "Margaret likes the ballet and I'd rather go with someone who appreciates the art than with someone who falls asleep."
"It's her birthday, CJ." Toby said quietly. "I don't like going to something like this by myself anyway."
"So you aren't actually dating."
"No. Margaret's a nice person, but she's not my type. I doubt I'm her romantic ideal, either." Toby said. "How far has the rumour spread?"
"I don't think the President knows yet."
"It's still early. I expect he'll hear it by the end of the day."
"And the rumour doesn't bother you?"
"Why should it? Stopping a rumour around here is like using a teaspoon to hold back the ocean." Toby shrugged. "It'll die down soon enough. If Margaret wants it stopped, she can have it stopped in about thirty seconds."