Friday...

Carol looked sympathetically at CJ as she handed her the morning messages. There were more than usual, considering the half day yesterday and Carol wished she could make them disappear. CJ looked as if she hadn't slept a wink. Then again, all the staff looked bad, ever since Wednesday.

"Thanks, Carol." CJ gave a brief smile as she took the cup of coffee from her.

"Danny wants to talk to you for a minute," Carol said slowly.

"No. No, I can't deal with Danny right now." CJ groaned.

"I think you should," Danny said, from behind Carol. CJ blew out a breath.

"Okay. Two minutes, Danny. Then I'm throwing you out."

"Okay." Danny slipped past Carol and shut the door. "Call on me first this morning, okay?"

"Why should I?"

"Because I'm not going to ask any questions about Toby," Danny said gently. "Katie and Steve both have something that you don't want to answer."

"What?"

"Did you know Toby tried before?" Danny asked quietly. CJ paused for a long moment.

"Yes, I did," she said truthfully.

"So does Katie. She has a question about a 911 call in New York in '91."

"And Steve?"

"He has a question about a three week stay in hospital without any apparent reason for it in '94."

"Oh."

"I'm not going to ask, CJ," Danny told her.

"Why not?"

"Not my story," Danny shrugged. "I was going to ask about Mexico and why we're handing out money to them. And about the Haitian election."

"I'm prepared for them." CJ nodded.

"I'm sorry, CJ. I know you cared about him," Danny offered, stuffing his hands into his pockets.

"I did." CJ tried to control the catch in her voice.

"Look. You've got a briefing. I'll catch you later."

"Okay. And, Danny?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks."

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

Babish took the news without even blinking. He nodded once, slowly and Bartlet wanted to slap him.

"I have to tell the senior staff," Bartlet repeated. "Once I've spoken to them, you can make appointments. Be gentle with them, Oliver. It's not been a good week."

"I can't," Babish said flatly. "I can't treat them with kid gloves. No one else will."

"For God's sake, have some compassion. One of their own just died."

"And you're afraid that if I lean too hard, they'll kill themselves, like Toby did?"

Bartlet felt the breath go out of him. Even in his innermost thoughts, he hesitated to articulate that suspicion.

"I spoke to Toby on Monday night," Babish continued. "He was perfectly coherent and composed. We had quite a productive chat, he and I. He agreed with nearly everything I said and I agreed with him. So when you think I'm being a callous, uncaring son of a bitch, keep in mind that it's exactly the approach the late, lamented Toby Ziegler recommended. He was a smart man. He knew what he was talking about."

"And you're not concerned that the rest of my staff may react the way Toby did?"

"No, because I am a callous, uncaring son of a bitch," Babish retorted mildly. "If you wanted histrionics, you should have hunted up Lionel Tribbey."

"Yeah." Bartlet sighed and slumped.

"Mind you, his death just makes this harder," Babish added. "Not only are you not going to have one of the best political minds in your corner, the opposition is going to assume your revelation was why he did it."

"I know."

"Was it?"

"His ex doesn't think so."

"Do you?"

"Oliver..."

"Do you?" Babish repeated. "If you are asked in front of a grand jury, what will you say?"

"I'll say I don't know," Bartlet replied. "I was stunned by the news. He seemed fine on Tuesday afternoon."

"Was that the last time you saw him?"

"Yes."

"Did you talk to him?"

"Yes."

"What did you talk about?"

"We discussed the progress of a speech I was supposed to give in Chicago to the steelworkers yesterday."

"Did you discuss anything about your illness?"

"No."

"Did you discuss anything personal?"

"No." Bartlett shook his head, then paused. "Yes. He made a comment about how the Yankees had beat the pants off the Orioles on Sunday. He seemed pleased by that."

"You're overanswering again."

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

CJ ushered Andy into her office and closed the door. For the first time in all the years CJ had known her, Andy looked her age and more. CJ had always envied Andy her ability to look mid- thirty-ish no matter how tired she was. CJ knew she looked anywhere between twenty and fifty, depending on the day.

"I'm sorry to have called you here, but I need some information," CJ said, motioning Congresswoman Wyatt to a seat.

"I assume you're referring to Toby." Andy tried to smile. "I've had some questions already."

"New York in '91?" CJ said simply. Andy looked away.

"Attempt number three," Andy replied. "He had a knife. When I tried to take it away from him, I got slashed a little. He called an ambulance."

"Were you badly hurt?"

"I've had more serious paper cuts. Toby, on the other hand, was bleeding pretty badly."

"Did they try to keep him there at the hospital?"

"No. Toby lied and said the knife slipped and we both tried to grab for it. The doctors didn't believe it, but the staff psychiatrist agreed that he was capable of making decisions and let us go home."

"A hospital stay in '94?"

"That was the adventure of the search for anti-depressive medication." Andy shook her head. "For some weird reason, he was given phenobarbital."

"For depression?"

"It's for epilepsy. They assumed his explosions of temper were a form of grand-mal seizures, despite the diagnosis of the unipolar depression," Andy explained.

"That's... peculiar."

"Yeah, well, the whole mental health industry is peculiar," Andy said, with a twist of her mouth.

"What happened?"

"They gave him convulsions," Andy shrugged. "The convulsions were so bad he would black out. It seems Toby was allergic to phenobarb. He was in hospital for three weeks while they tried to find a medication that would work without killing him."

"And he got on the Zoloft." CJ nodded.

"No. The search for an effective treatment went on for several years," Andy corrected. "He went on Zoloft just after he joined the Bartlet campaign. Between the new meds and the distraction of work, I don't think he had a major episode since then. At least not until..."

CJ let the silence grow, then cleared her throat.

"Andy, the press have those two incidents. Not the details, but they know something happened," she said earnestly. "I don't know if I can keep the story from getting out."

"I see." Andy went still. "I don't want it confirmed, CJ. Let them speculate. All the people who he cared about know. nothing else matters."

"It might matter to the President."

"You didn't know about it. Leave it at that."

"You want me to lie?"

"Yes."

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

"CJ, the President would like to see you," Leo said, as CJ walked Andrea out. "Andrea, if I could have a word with you?"

"Of course," both women said at the same time. CJ went towards the Oval Office, finding Josh and Sam arriving a step or two before her. Andrea followed Leo into his office and, at his invitation, sat down.

"There is something that I think you should know..."

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

"Sam, Josh, CJ, there's something that you must know," President Bartlet said, motioning them to a seat. "This isn't easy for me to say, so I'll just say it. Eight years ago I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis."

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

"The President has Multiple Sclerosis," Leo said bluntly. Andrea did not even blink.

"I know."

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

"What?" Sam exclaimed as Josh leapt to his feet and CJ's jaw dropped.

"I have relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis. It cause plaque to form on the spine and brain," Bartlet said quietly. "It isn't fatal."

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

"How?" Leo demanded.

"Toby told me in his letter."

"He told you?"

"Among a great many other things, yes."

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

The questions came fast and furious, all of them talking at once, but the one that came out clearest was from CJ.

"Did Toby know?"

"Yes, he did. Leo and I told him last Friday night."

"Is that why...?"

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

"Andrea, I have to ask." Leo's face was drawn and old. "Is that why...?"

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

"I don't know," the President replied painfully. "I would give a great deal to know that."

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

"No, of course not," Andrea replied immediately.

"Are you sure? That meeting didn't trigger some kind of episode?"

"It may have contributed a little bit." Andrea sighed. "No, Leo. He did not go out and kill himself because of that. That's not how his illness went. Yes, it may have been a factor, but I doubt it."

"So why...?"

"He stopped taking his medication. That's the biggest factor. I'm not sure why he stopped. Maybe he just wanted to sleep. One of the side effects of the medication is insomnia. Considering he had already taken the diazepam and a couple of drinks, I think the episode hit before he could fall asleep."

"What would have triggered the episode?"

"It can be anything, Leo. Anything at all. Or nothing in particular," Andrea explained. "Once he went into a rather bad episode when his computer crashed. He told me that this was not about the President and his MS."

"Why didn't you say anything? The President has been castigating himself all week."

"It never occurred to me. I guess I know too much about the illness to even think about it," Andrea said, covering her mouth with her hand. "I wasn't supposed to know about the MS, so I kept my mouth shut."

"Andrea, why did Toby kill himself?" Leo asked harshly.

"He was afraid." Andrea looked down and picked an invisible bit of lint off her skirt. "He was afraid that his illness would come out and he'd become a detriment to the President. He was afraid that he'd go into an episode and do something stupid and cost the President his job. He was tired, Leo. He was so tired of fighting off depression and he was afraid that this time, he wouldn't win." Andrea covered her face with her hands and started to cry. Leo got up and left the room, feeling like he had been torturing her.

Margaret saw him come out and rose, with a box of tissues in her hand. Bless Margaret.

Part 10

 

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