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Friends are Honest With Each Other
It was so quiet in the small grouping in front of the fireplace that both men could hear the crackling of the fire and the hiss and pop of a knot of resin burning away.
"You ambushed me." Sam broke the long silence.
"I put a lot of work into this. I believe in this. And with a thirty second drop-in, you totally changed the outcome."
"Because the environmental lobby doesn't get us elected." Toby replied.
"Is that what's important to you?"
"In this town, that's all there is."
"Sometimes your cynicism makes me want to vomit."
"My cynicism is a large part of what got us elected in the first place."
Sam took another drink and stared into the fire for a while.
"Why is it that when one of your issues comes up, you always have to be right and when one of my issues comes up, I get fucked over?"
"I get fucked over, too, Sam, more often than you think." Toby replied. "I let Ann ambush me and I wore it."
"Ann ambushes you so you have to ambush me? Cynical and petty as well."
"What happened with Ann and me had nothing to do with this."
"Like hell it didn't. You got reamed and took it out on me."
"No, Sam, I didn't." Toby sighed. "The President should not have been there. Plain and simple. If you have talked to Leo about it he would have said the same thing. In fact, Josh did."
"The President agreed. He thought it was a good idea."
"The President has advisors like Leo for a reason. Without Leo, Josh, CJ, you and me, he wouldn't be the President."
"I believed in this. It's a good bill." Sam said fiercely. "I stood up for the environment to my bosses at Gage Whitney, to the detriment of my career. This matters to me and you screwed it up."
"We got the bill." Toby pointed out quietly. "It's a good bill and a necessary bill. The bill isn't the problem. It's the presentation."
"What was so wrong about having the President championing a bill that he believes in?"
"Several things. One, he was supposed to speak to the AFL-CIO before the South American trip came up. He had to cancel and the unions understood that. What I'm going to have to explain to them tomorrow is why the President made time for the environmental lobby when the trip was cancelled."
"They asked after their keynote speaker couldn't make it. Which brings me to point two. The President of the United States is nobody's stand in. To have him pinch hit for somebody else sends one of two messages. Either he is the kind of guy who will go to the opening of an envelope or he's in the pocket of whatever lobby puts him in that position." Toby explained. "The drop in was not put in specifically to piss off the environmental lobby. It was to avoid pissing off the unions more than they already were by him showing up in the first place."
"The unions are already pissed off. They always are."
"So is the environmental lobby."
"They would have been happy with us if things had gone as planned." Sam said stubbornly.
"For how long?" Toby asked. "A few days? A week? You know damned well they'll be back on our asses in less than a month."
"They should be. These are important issues, Toby. It isn't just about winning votes."
"If we don't win votes, we don't have any chance of dealing with these issues. Losing doesn't help anyone at all." Toby retorted. "We got the bill. That was what was important. So they didn't get their PR coup and you didn't get a personal victory."
"This is not about me."
"No." Sam nailed Toby with a steely glare. "Yes, I am a little upset that the speech I worked so hard to get right was coopted by your politics. I am a little upset that a cause I believe in was compromised by your meddling. But that's not the point."
"So what is the point?"
"The point is, you didn't trust me enough to tell me. You just cut me off at the knees and expected me to take it. You didn't trust me enough to let me talk to the President."
"The President is not a camp counsellor. You do not go to the President when you're upset with me. You come to me."
"Would you have listened?"
"I'm right here. Fire away."
"I know you think you fixed something tonight, but I don't think you realize what it's cost you. You broke something tonight." Sam shook his head. "You didn't trust me. Five minutes, Toby. Five minutes for you to tell me why it had to happen. That's all it would have taken."
"Five minutes was all you needed to tell me about the speech." Toby replied. "But you didn't call. You didn't clear it with Leo. You know why you didn't? Because we both would have said no and you knew it. Who ambushed who?"
"So it is personal."
"For God's sake, Sam. If I had told you, you would have bitched and whined and argued with me. Those five minutes would have been an hour. And you would have changed the speech to give the lobby a heads up as to what was coming."
"You don't trust me to do my job, either?" Sam challenged.
"You're not supposed to go off on your own."
"You go off on your own. You did it with Ann. You did it with Josie McGarry. You do it all the time. The only difference is you can get away with it because you have the power to do it."
Toby started to reply, but Sam continued on.
"It's all a game to you, isn't it? Nothing matters to you but the game. You don't trust me to understand the ramifications of this Byzantine labyrinth of compromise you and Leo seem to thrive on. Well, I'm not sure I want to understand it. I got into this to stand for something. If compromising your principles is the way you play, I don't want to play anymore. I quit."
"Do you really mean that?"
"Okay." Toby said quietly, sitting back.
"You have to give two weeks notice. In two weeks, tell me that you still feel the same way and I'll accept your resignation and recommend you for any position you want. You're good at what you do and shouldn't find it hard to find another position with better hours and better pay." Toby replied, carefully tracing the rim of his glass with one finger. "Nobody will be surprised that you couldn't get along with me. In fact, they will probably be surprised you hung in this long."
"Yeah." Toby nodded. "For what it's worth, I do trust you. I trust you to be passionate about what you care about. I trust you to remind me that there's more to this than winning. I expect you to trust me to know how to play the game. If you don't, maybe you should leave."
"Oh." Sam didn't know what to say.
"I admit, though, I've rarely been accused of selling out." Toby said quietly. "I've usually been accused of being too damn stubborn to compromise at all. Ann got me on that one. She knew that I was too interested in winning on an issue that I care about to pay attention to how it looked."
Sam said nothing and neither did Toby. Finally, Toby finished the dregs of his beer and rose. As he passed Sam, he put a hand briefly on the younger man's shoulder.
"Let me know how you decide."
Sam dragged himself into work, dreading it. He was still angry at Toby and now he had to work with the son of a bitch all day.
"Hey, Sam." Josh called as he walked by.
"Hey, Josh." Sam tried to smile at him, but the effort was obviously unsuccessful since Josh followed him into his office.
"What's going on? You've got a face longer than my last credit call bill."
"Toby cut me off at the knees last night with that drop in." Sam said bitterly.
"Oh, that." Josh looked unconcerned. "If it makes you feel any better, it didn't matter how you tried to talk him out of it. He was right and you know he won't give in when he's right."
"I didn't even get a chance to talk him out of it." Sam took off his coat and hung it up. "He didn't tell me about the drop in."
"I need to talk to Leo." Sam said tightly.
"Leo, I quit." Sam said simply.
"Don't tell me, Sam. Tell Toby. He's your direct supervisor." Leo replied calmly, not looking up.
"Did he accept your resignation?"
"He told me I had to give two weeks notice. So I'm giving notice."
"Give it to him, not to me." Leo replied.
"Toby didn't tell me about the drop in."
"He should have."
"He should have told me."
"The fact that Toby is lacking in people skills is not news to me, Sam." Leo said slowly. "It shouldn't be to you, either. Hell, it's not news to anyone who's ever met Toby."
"So you think he was wrong."
"I didn't hire Toby for his people skills." Leo continued, as if Sam hadn't spoken. "He wasn't wrong, Sam. The drop in had to be there, no matter how much it puts your nose out of joint."
"What about the way he treated me?"
"Are you filing a complaint?"
"Get it to me by the end of the day."
"So you'll talk to him."
"I already have, Sam." Leo picked up his glasses and a folder. "Toby spoke to me last night and told me that you were unhappy with his treatment of the drop in and of you."
"He went to you?"
"He wanted to warn me that you had a problem with him."
"I hope you reprimanded him."
"No." Leo looked at Sam over his glasses. "With Toby, I don't have to. He can reprimand himself better than anyone I know."
"So he gets away with running roughshod over everyone." Sam said bitterly.
"Not entirely." Leo half smiled. "I'm quite confident that the President will chew him out sufficiently for both of us."
"Toby, do you know how long I was back here last night before I got the call?" Bartlet said harshly.
Toby knew enough not to say anything.
"Three minutes." Bartlet continued. "Three minutes and I was talking to a whole lot of people who are very, very unhappy about what I said last night. It wasn't Sam's speech that bugged them. Sam's speech was damn near perfect. It was the thirty second spanking you wrote."
"I have seven union leaders and twelve business representatives coming to see me today." Toby replied softly. "All of them want to know why you were there in the first place. The AFL-CIO was particularly upset that you could make time to speak to the environmental lobby when you couldn't meet with them."
"I was going to South America." Bartlet pointed out. "I wanted to speak to the lobby. They've supported me and worked hard for me. God forbid that labour and business be upset. I mean, what little support they've offered me was grudging at best and I have to keep pandering to them to get anything at all."
"Sir... Yesterday, you agreed with me about the drop in." Toby said, hesitatingly. Bartlet sighed heavily.
"Yeah. I still do. I can't single out people I don't like for scolding when they refuse to censure extremism in their ranks. It was the right thing to do." Bartlet replied. "I'm trying to hold onto that thought, but it isn't easy when you have a dozen people screaming about political opportunism."
"Political opportunities and the right thing to do aren't always at odds, Sir. I'd rather that was always the case."
"Yeah, me, too." Bartlet replied. "Sam pissed with you?"
"What are you going to do about it?"
"Give him time to calm down."
"How much time is he likely to need?"
"I gave him two weeks to think over the resignation he offered me last night."
"Resignation? God, Toby, can't you even get along with your friends?" Bartlet exploded.
"It would appear not."
"Fix it, Toby. I want both of you here working for me."
Sam kept to his office, working on position papers. His conversation with Leo hadn't gone the way he expected. Toby must have talked to Leo after that disastrous couple of drinks. And somehow got Leo on his side.
That was Toby all over. Fuck up royally and somehow make it okay by sheer force of will. And Leo thought Toby didn't have people skills. Like hell he didn't.
He finished the paper he was working on and read it over. It was terse and uncompromising, but all the points were there, neat and easy to read. There was no way in hell he was going to take it to Toby himself; that's what he had an assistant for.
Cathy looked at him as if he was completely insane when he asked her to take it to him. Cathy just glared at him and told him that he didn't have a piano tied to his ass. Really, Cathy's attitude could use improvement.
"Ginger!" Sam called. Ginger appeared at his door.
"Could you take this to Toby?" He held out the paper. She looked blankly at it.
"Because Toby wants it."
"Okay." Ginger took the paper. "You know, Toby isn't anywhere near as mad at you as he could be."
"Toby? Mad at me?"
"Because of the speech. I thought he'd be biting nails over it, but he didn't say anything about it. He didn't even say anything to me about helping with it."
"Wait a minute. Toby would have yelled at you?"
"I expected him to. I knew he wasn't going to be happy about it." Ginger said softly. "You really should have called to get his okay on it."
"Just give him the papers, Ginger."
"CJ, could you explain something to me?" Sam asked CJ later.
"I doubt it, but give it a shot."
"How does Toby do it?"
"Manage to convince everybody he's right."
"By being right most of the time." CJ replied immediately.
"So you think he was right about the drop-in."
"Yeah." CJ looked surprised. "I would have liked a little more of a heads up on it, but I was too busy flying to New York."
"I would have appreciated a heads up." Sam said angrily.
"What?" CJ's jaw dropped. "He didn't tell you?"
"No. So much for friends being honest with each other."
"Bastard." CJ muttered. "Honestly, I could kill Toby sometimes. What the hell is the matter with him these days?"
"So you think he should have told me?" Sam asked for a clarification.
"Yeah, I think he should have told you." CJ said emphatically. "He didn't have to punish you like that for setting up the speech. It isn't like Toby to be such a hypocrite."
"Oh, he's a hypocrite, all right." Sam corrected her. "He said he didn't want to listen to me bitch about the drop-in and that's why he didn't tell me. That's such utter bullshit. He was just looking for someone to ambush after Ann Stark ambushed him."
"Wait..." CJ held up a finger. "You talked to Toby about this?"
"Last night. I went to have a beer and the son of a bitch shows up and tries to talk to me." Sam fumed. "All I wanted was some time alone and he had to invade my space. As if I didn't already have enough of him yesterday."
"Toby went to talk to you?" CJ asked carefully. "He knew you were upset and he went to find you?"
"Yeah. I don't know why he had to rub it in."
"Sam, did it occur to you that maybe, just maybe, Toby was trying to apologize to you?"
"Like hell he was. There was nothing apologetic about what he said."
"Are you sure?"
"The words 'sorry', 'apology' and 'I might possibly have been wrong' never crossed his lips." Sam said, with dignity.
"Sam, I've known Toby for nearly twenty years. In all that time, I have heard Toby say the word 'sorry' exactly twice." CJ said slowly. "Once was to Andrea on the day she left him."
"And the other?"
"Is not to be discussed." CJ said firmly. "Look, if you're waiting for an explicit apology from Toby, I'm afraid you're going to be waiting a long, long time."
To be continued in Part 2