CJ threw herself into her work for the rest of the day. Toby's funeral was tomorrow and there was no way in hell she was going to miss that. In fact, so many people wanted to go that Leo had arranged for a flight for everybody who wanted to go. The White House would be closed at eleven, unless something pressing came up.

Simon took over the afternoon briefing, since she wasn't sure she could set foot into the press room after this morning. The press corp were being quiet and well behaved. CJ wanted to think that they were being respectful of Toby's memory, but she knew better.

They were as confused by this as she was. Why had Toby done this? That was the story they were after and they didn't need to badger her to get it. They needed to investigate. Even now, less than twenty four hours later, all sorts of bizarre conspiracy theories were being circulated. CJ wanted to respond to them, but Leo said no.

Leo was right; let them speculate. Toby's friendship with an Indonesian dissident was hauled out and examined. The man was in prison and hadn't seen Toby in nearly two years, but that didn't stop the speculation that he had been involved in some kind of international left wing protest conspiracy. The CIA was implicated, but their spokesperson just shrugged it off. CJ knew him; he said that speculation would have been laughable if it wasn't so sad.

Then there was the wild rumours involving Ann Stark and some kind of star crossed lovers scenario. That one did make CJ laugh briefly. Ann, for all her meanness, was genuinely sorry to hear of Toby's death and called CJ to tell her that. CJ could almost like Ann for the way she had expressed her sympathy. Almost.

The drug scenario was more worrisome. CJ didn't believe that Toby had a problem of that kind, but the mere hint haunted Leo's eyes. The Surgeon General had pooh-poohed the idea of addiction; there simply wasn't any evidence of heavy drug use, based on the autopsy report.

CJ didn't know what to believe. She knew there had been something he was worried about. Big potatoes, he had said. She put a hand to her mouth. He had said that on Monday. And on Tuesday night, he had killed himself. Was that what he was referring to? Dear God, had he been planning this since Monday? Or before?

---------------------

The President shook hands with his Secretary of State and watched him leave. The Mexican economic collapse was not a good sign for the US economy. And Canada's economic slowdown was not a good sign, either. The market adjustment for overvalued internet companies was causing a downturn in consumer confidence. He jotted down a few ideas to raise confidence in the economy. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the economy, just people scared that the internet boom was over. A lot of people made a lot of money on it and now that people were losing money, the markets were a little nervous. The internet stocks were grossly overvalued anyway; an adjustment was inevitable.

Some people had made money on it, though. Toby had made over a hundred grand on the wave of... Bartlet sighed, throwing down the pen. He had almost forgotten, in the busyness of the day. Toby's windfall was not that much of a windfall after all. To allay the fears of impropriety, he had worked for a year without salary, using his small investment to live on. He hadn't been happy about it, but he had. And it had made no difference whatsoever in how hard he worked.

The funeral was tomorrow. He had to be there. It was a logistical nightmare, but he had to. He had to get some kind of closure.

Closure was going to be difficult, for all of them. Not knowing why he did this left them all open to their own fears. Leo was so afraid that he had missed the signs of addiction. John Hoynes was being a smug little prig, hinting at some kind of inside information that would make this all make sense.

Damn John anyway, for his little 'you may be a Nobel laureate, but I'm smarter than you where it counts' games. He played that with Toby, daring him to figure it out. Toby had risen to the challenge and look what happened.

Bartlet felt a rising rage at his Vice President. John had a hand in this. If he hadn't dared Toby to figure it out. If he hadn't played his little game. If only he hadn't told John in the first place. If only he had told his staff. If only.

-----------------

Josh waited until the coast was clear. He worked insane hours all the time, so nobody would think it weird that he stayed late. After all, it was a short day tomorrow, what with the funeral.

He sent Donna home early. She had been useless most of the day anyway, wandering forlornly around, looking for someone to talk to. That was how she dealt with things; she talked. And no one wanted to listen to her talk about Toby except Margaret.

She and Margaret left together, weeping and talking it all out. It was good for them, he supposed, but it hurt like hell to hear them.

He looked around, then darted down the hall to Toby's office. As far as he knew, everything was still there, even his laptop. Ginger had brought it in that morning when she opened the office, since Sam needed some of the notes on it.

The door was locked, as it usually was at night, but Josh had the key. Ages ago, Donna had made copies of all the keys and put them away in the safe. Josh was forever leaving his keys on his desk.

He unlocked the door and slipped in, turning on the desk light. Toby had the second best office in the west wing, with only Leo having a better one. It was not all that big, but it felt spacious. Maybe that was because it was almost always immaculate, without papers overflowing every surface.

How in hell did Toby keep the paper explosion to a minimum?

'Because I put things away when I'm done.' Josh could hear Toby's voice in his head as clearly as if he was standing in the room. Josh shivered, feeling Toby's presence haunting him.

Okay, enough with the imagination, Josh scolded himself, sitting down behind the desk.

He started with the drawers. Spare keys, office supplies, a stack of notebooks, pens, pencils, change and the like took up most of the drawers. He flipped through the notebooks. They were all empty.

One of the drawers held some interesting things. A rubber ball. A lighter. Three cigars. A New York subway map. A novel, with a bookmark at the two thirds mark. A substantial stash of Belgian chocolates, with one box partly eaten. Josh grinned to himself. Toby was a secret chocoholic. Nobody had that much chocolate in his desk if he wasn't. Taking one of the chocolates, he popped it in his mouth and ate it while continuing looking.

"What are you doing?"

Josh looked up, guilt and chocolate all over his face. Donna and Margaret were there, looking at him.

"I... Um..." Josh stuttered for a moment, then got up and went past them to close the door. "I'm looking for something."

"In Toby's office?" Donna inquired, raising a brow.

"Yeah." Josh swallowed the last of the chocolate and faced her. "I want to know why. None of this makes any sense to me. I want to see Toby's notes. Maybe they'll shed some light on this."

"You think there was some kind of conspiracy?" Margaret asked in a hushed tone. Josh felt a tingle of apprehension down his spine, but ignored it.

"Yes," he said simply. Donna looked at Margaret, then both of them nodded.

"I'll help," Donna said briskly, going to the bookshelf by the door.

"So will I." Margaret nodded. "Leo's tearing himself up inside about the pills. I sure wish we could find something to reassure him on that point."

--------------------

Andrea sat in her darkened living room, with the papers on her lap. She had not been surprised at what she found in the safety deposit box. Toby's will, made over a year and a half ago, was there, as she expected, and his insurance policies.

There were four different insurance policies in there, all paid up and all well past the suicide clause. His mother was the beneficiary on one of them, his sisters on another. She was named on a third one and Ginger and Bonnie on the last, most recent one.

Ginger had cried out in shock on that, while the bank manager looked on in mild curiosity. Andrea knew what Toby had done; he had taken care of all the women in his life. Ginger and Bonnie had been good to him and they needed the money more than any of his family did. This was his way of thanking them. It wasn't a lot of money, but it was enough to help them along.

It was very like Toby, to do a kindness for someone in such a way that he'd not have to acknowledge that he had done it.

Their marriage certificate was there, too, along with the divorce decree. All the papers were the legal aspects of his life; there was nothing personal or sentimental in them.

She smoothed the letter he had written her and placed it on top of the papers. It was as personal as Toby could possibly get.

The letter was beautifully written and heartfelt. If she ever doubted his love for her, the letter would have proved her wrong. He wrote about his fears, his love for her, his growing feelings for CJ, his confusion and his pain. He wrote about his friends and his regret that it had come to this.

"Why didn't you show me this before you picked up the gun, Toby?" she whispered, tears falling. "I would have been there for you. We all would."

She wiped away the tears and folded the letter up, putting it away. No one else could ever see the letter. CJ didn't need to know about his feelings for her. And no one needed to know how he had suffered. He was at peace now.

---------------------

Sam read over the obituary. It had taken all day to write it. It was, he knew, the best writing he had ever done.

He could not write very much about Toby's personal life. He didn't know much about that. He did know a great deal about the effect he had on the people around him, and about the passion and intelligence he brought to his work.

Sam wondered how anyone so cantankerous could possibly have touched so many people, himself included. He recalled the number of times he wanted to strangle Toby. The rubber balls. The bell. The snide comments about punctuation. The teasing about Laurie. The curt dismissal of his conversation.

Yet, there was something about Toby that forced him to do his best, that made him want to excel.

"Good work," Toby had said to him once, tossing one of those damned balls. Sam had caught it, surprised at the compliment. He had been astonished, but he had caught the ball.

The metaphor weaved its way around his mind. Toby had expected him not to drop the ball. And he would expect it now. Now, when the White House needed someone to craft the administration's message. Now, when they had to find a way to deal with this.

Toby trusted him not to drop the ball. Sam paused, then picked up the phone. He would tell Leo that he would try to fill Toby's place, at least until they could find someone more suited to it. Toby had taught him how to do it. Toby knew he would not drop the ball.

Sam put the phone down again. Had Toby planned this that far back? How like Toby to quietly put everything in place for when it was needed. Toby was a master at planning, staying ten steps ahead of the game. That was why he could always beat the President at chess.

How long had he planned this? How long had he been in such pain that he felt that suicide was the only way out? And why hadn't he told anyone? Surely he would have said something?

No. No, he wouldn't. Toby kept his innermost self tightly buttoned up inside and no one was allowed in that far. Not even CJ, who was one of his dearest friends.

"Why didn't you say something, Toby? Did you think we'd think less of you for it?" he whispered. "I would have been there for you. We all would."

Part 5

 

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