"How dare he, Abbey?" Bartlet kept his voice low so the limo driver and the Secret Service agent couldn't hear him.

"Jed..."

"How dare he stand there in the Oval Office and preach at me for not disclosing my illness when he had something far more serious that what I have."

"Maybe that was projection." Abbey looked out the window, so she didn't have to look at her husband's face.

"Tell me about it, Abbey. Tell me about this illness."

"I'm not a psychiatrist, Jed," she said softly. "I don't know all that much about that form of depression."

"Tell me."

"It's a brain chemical imbalance," Abbey said slowly, trying to recall what she did know. "It's an affective disorder that causes severe mood swings. The onset and the episodes can be triggered by outside events, but the underlying cause is an underproduction of serotonin and other chemicals in the brain. Unipolar depression acts like manic depression, but without the highs. Zoloft keeps the serotonin in the brain long enough to do its work in modulating mood swings. One of its side effects is insomnia and restlessness. That's why its usually taken in combination with diazepam and clonazepam."

"And what does Mogadon do?"

"It keeps the mood swing from flipping over into rage," Abbey said quietly. "Brain chemicals are tricky, Jed. These drugs are effective, but it's still a hit or miss proposition."

Bartlett fell silent for a moment and Abbey looked at him anxiously. She was about to say something when he spoke again.

"What is an agitated depression?"

"I'm not sure," Abbey admitted. "I think its a state where the depression has taken hold, but instead of collapsing into near catatonia, the person gets restless."

"How does it affect cognitive function?"

"Intellect isn't impaired, so far as I know," Abbey said carefully. "However, it has an enormous effect on the emotions and reactions."

"So for the last three years, I've had a Communications Director who was suffering from a mental illness." Bartlet's voice was silky smooth with rage.

"Serving a president with a degenerative neurological disorder," Abbey agreed. "What's your point?"

"My point is, he should have told me."

"Like you told him about yours?" Abbey said coldly.

"Don't try that with me, Abigail. You and I agreed not to discuss the MS with anyone."

"So it's okay for you, but not okay for someone else?"

"Dammit, Abbey, this could not have happened at a worse time. Last Friday night, Toby was in my office yelling at me for lying to the American public. Now, he's dead and I find out that he lied to me."

"You didn't cause this, Jed."

"Like hell I didn't."

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

Sam dithered for a moment or two by the doorway. After Andrea's statement, they had all gone. The President and the Frist Lady had leave. CJ had gone to talk to Toby's family, Josh and Donna to get something to eat and Margaret and Leo to make sure the arrangements were set for the trip back. He was left without anything in particular to do.

Through the open doorway, he saw Andrea half lying on the bed, her arms wrapped around a pillow, crying bitterly. He approached carefully.

"I'm sorry, Toby. I had to tell them. I'm sorry. I broke my promise and I'm sorry," she murmured, over and over. Sam reached out a gentle hand and touched her hair, smoothing it off her face.

"Sam." Andrea tried to sit up, but Sam smiled at her and shook his head.

"Is there anything I can get you?" he asked.

"No." Andrea's voice was muffled by the pillow.

"I'm sorry, Andrea."

"For what? It isn't your fault he had this illness."

"May I ask a question?"

"Sure."

"When was he diagnosed?"

"About seven, I think." Andrea sat up and this time Sam helped her.

"Seven?"

"There wasn't anything they could do then. Lithium wasn't even available then. Not that Lithium worked for him anyway."

"If he had this illness since he was seven..."

"He was born with it, Sam. They only diagnosed it at seven," Andrea corrected swiftly.

"There were no treatments?"

"No. He just learned to cope with it on his own."

"But he finished school. He even went to law school." Sam sounded puzzled.

"Toby wasn't stupid, Sam. He really was a brilliant man," Andrea pointed out. "I learned early on that if you got him intellectually excited about something, it helped chase away the depressions. It didn't matter what it was, as long as it was something he could concentrate on rather than his own demons. I remember one time..."

"Yes?"

"I remember once when he was going through a really bad patch, he read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. No matter how many sleeping pills he took, or how much exercise he did, or how many relaxation exercises he did, he couldn't sleep until he dropped from sheer exhaustion. So he read. I think that's one of the ways he learned to cope with it."

"So that's how he knew everything." Sam gave a half smile.

"Yeah." Andrea nodded. "It used to drive me crazy sometimes."

"Me, too." Sam sighed. "He'd come up with some obscure fact and I'd stand there feeling inadequate. Did you ever feel that way?"

"Yeah." Andrea looked away. "I couldn't do anything about his mood swings. I felt helpless."

"That must have been difficult for you."

"It was. I used to have this image of a sampler in my head..."

"A sampler?"

"One of those embroidered things with sayings on them," Andrea explained. "Mine said 'he's not doing this to piss me off'. It was a great comfort to me to know he wasn't deliberately setting out to hurt me."

"Weird." Sam shook his head. "I think I had one of those, too. Whenever he did something that annoyed me, I would think to myself 'it's nothing personal', that he was doing this because of the job and not because he was trying to shoot me down in flames."

"Did it work?"

"Sometimes."

"Toby liked you, you know," Andrea said softly.

"Really?" Sam blinked. He was never entirely sure on that point.

"Really." She smiled a little. "I know. Sometimes it was hard to tell what Toby felt about anything." She went pensive again and Sam looked at her with concern.

"What?"

"Things were going so well for him," she said softly. "He was doing what he always wanted to do, with people he liked and respected. He had medications that worked. He was happy. I guess I started to hope that it would be enough."

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

The flight back was very quiet, each of them lost in their own thoughts, feelings and memories. Andrea asked to fly back with them, much to the surprise of everyone but CJ.

"Had enough?" CJ said sympathetically. She knew Toby's family; they were wonderful people, but a bit much to take in large doses.

"Yeah." Andy nodded. "When the extended family starts to show up, it's time to go. After all, I'm an outsider. I'm not Jewish, I didn't give him any kids, and I left him. His parents and sibs understood, but the rest of the clan don't know what to make of me."

"Andy... I need to talk to you about the press," CJ said carefully. "The speculation has been..."

"Intense." Andy finished. "I've read every word of it, CJ. I know what they've been saying."

"I want to leak it. About his illness," CJ said bluntly. Andy bit her lip and looked away.

"Andy, they're talking corruption. They're talking about some deep dark secret he had. They're saying a whole lot of horrible things about why he did this. I want to tell the truth."

"No."

"Andy..."

"No, CJ. I promised." Andrea looked her in the eye and CJ flinched at the pain she saw.

"Someone will find the truth, Andy," CJ said gently. "Illness is nothing to be ashamed of."

"He was ashamed of it." Andrea's voice went low, fierce. "It destroyed our marriage. It stopped him from telling you how he felt. It got him fired from a hundred jobs. It took so much away from him. No."

"I don't understand," CJ replied, with a frown. "Andy, people will understand."

"They'll use terms like how brave he was to fight this illness. The press will leap on it and go on and on about his heroic struggle. They'll talk about how this illness spurred him on to achieve great things, which is unmitigated bullshit," Andrea hissed. "He had no choice, CJ. He had to deal with it. And he didn't succeed, did he, CJ?"

"No," CJ said softly, feeling tears prickle in the back of her eyes.

"No."

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

The pen was in danger of being driven through the table. President Bartlet tapped it over and over, with increasing violence. Abbey bit her lip. It was Jed's turn for anger and she didn't think that his anger was any less intense than hers had been.

"Don't even say it, Abigail," he said to her, after the third of fourth time she opened her mouth to say something. "Don't give me that look."

"Which one?" Abbey shot back. "The one that says I care that you're upset? Or the one that says get your head out of your ass?"

"When I first found out about the MS, I was angry. I was upset and angry," Jed said slowly, fury in his voice. "But I took comfort that it isn't fatal, Abbey. You told me that. Four specialists told me that. It won't harm anyone to keep it to myself. You told me that. Leo later told me that. I told myself that. But it was fatal. It was fatal to someone who gave me three years of his life. Three years of a talent so profound it made me weep at times. Don't even try to tell me that I am not responsible for this."

"You aren't," Abbey said flatly. "Whatever Catholic guilt you feel and whatever hair shirt you feel you have to wear, you did not put the gun in his hand."

"I pulled the trigger."

"No. No, Jed, you did not."

"How could he do this to me?" Jed suddenly shouted, the pen snapping with the pressure of being driven into the table. Ink spattered, and Abbey stared at the pooling ink, as if it were blood. "How could he let his illness take control of his life? How could he fall so far into despair? Will that be me?"

Abbey blinked back tears. God, he wasn't angry. He was afraid. She wanted so much to wrap her arms around him and hold him safe. She knew he had to fight this demon on his own; no one was going to banish this fear.

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

Leo had his eyes closed, his body relaxed, but his mind was racing. That was what John was talking about. John had seen the personnel records. He had known that Toby had this illness.

Was that why he challenged Toby to look? Why had John felt Toby had to know? Did John know that knowing about Jed's MS would be what tipped him over the edge? Or did he think that Toby would somehow be more sympathetic to Jed and his struggles?

Leo gave a half smile. Toby hadn't exactly been sympathetic. He had raked both he and Jed over the coals about it. And he had been right; they had betrayed the public. Unwittingly so, but they had. It was Toby's passionate defense of honesty and integrity that had driven them to go see Babish, to see how this situation could be rectified.

Why had John precipitated this? Was he playing some kind of Machiavellian game, one that would rob the Bartlet administration of one of its best strategists?

Leo thought back to what Jed had said about John's reaction to the news. John had agreed to keep his mouth shut. Leo had thought that John kept quiet willingly, but now he wasn't so sure. There was that odd look of - relief? - when Leo told him he knew.

He had to talk to John when he got back. He had to know which way John had meant this revelation to play out. Had he done so out of malice, knowing how it would affect Toby, or had he done so out of desperation, knowing that Toby would set them on the straight and narrow?

Part 8

 

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