See part 1 for disclaimers, etc.

Friends are Honest With Each Other - part 2

The President looked over the members of his staff, mentally shaking his head. Josh and CJ were sitting on one sofa, with Leo on the other one. Sam was on the very end of Leo's sofa, as far away from Toby as possible. Toby was standing behind the other sofa, isolated from the rest of the group.

He felt an urge to order Toby to sit with the rest of the children, but quelled it almost immediately. This was something that had to be worked out without interference.

"State of the Union." Leo said, hurling the meeting into high gear without preamble. The President caught the look exchanged between Leo and Toby. Damn. It was starting. He looked at the others, wondering if they had figured it out. The three others were looking expectantly at Leo, without the telegraphing of messages. Double damn.

"We need a kick ass speech." Josh replied. "The latest poll numbers are softer than we'd like."

"Agreed. I've got the media polls and we need to address Social Security, education and trade." CJ consulted her notes. Leo groaned.

"Leo, please do not groan in the Oval Office."

"Social Security is the bane of my existence." Leo muttered.

"If we can't address the issue during a campaign, we really should address it while in office." Josh replied.

"Yes, yes, I know." Leo nodded. "It needs to be in the first part."

Sam nodded, making notes, not checking to see if Toby was doing the same thing.

"Are we introducing any policy initiatives or are we clarifying current positions?" Sam asked.

"Both." Leo said. "CJ, get what has to be in the speech to Toby by the end of the week. Josh, set up meetings with Mahaffey and Breslin and find out what has to be there from that angle. Toby, pull together what CJ and Josh get, as well as what old business has to be there."

"And me?" Sam asked quietly, when Leo didn't continue.

"You, Sam, will be far too busy reading up on issues and finding a way to make it as clear and appealing as is humanly possible." Leo told him. "Clear your schedule, Sam. This needs to be perfect."

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

"Toby, a moment." The President said, as the meeting broke up.

"Yes, sir."

The President waited until the room cleared, including Leo who hovered until he realised that he wasn't welcome.

"Toby, did Leo have a little talk with you after the leadership breakfast?"

"Yes, sir." Toby replied reluctantly.

"And has he talked to anyone else?"

"I... don't think so, sir."

"Okay." Bartlet relaxed and sat down. "You need to get Sam's head out of his butt."

"I know."

"It would help if you got your head out of your butt." Bartlet continued. "I need both of you working on this. Swallow your pride and apologize to him."

"I'm not sure I can do that, sir."

"Toby, now is not a time for pigheadedness." Bartlet said firmly. "Suck it up and do it. You've done it before, more times than anyone except maybe Leo."

"It isn't that." Toby looked at his shoes.

"Then what is the problem?"

"I can't promise I won't do it again." Toby finally replied. "To me, that's part of an apology."

"And you can't explain why." Bartlet said softly. Toby looked up sharply.

"I'm not stupid, Toby. And I know how Leo's mind works." Bartlet replied. "I know what you're doing. And you need Sam to do it."

"Sir, are you telling me..."

"No." Bartlet cut him off. "No, I'm not. All I'm saying is you and Leo can't do what you're doing alone. I don't know if what he's doing is going to happen. But I do know it won't happen without Sam."

"What about Josh and CJ?"

"They aren't writing the State of the Union." Bartlett said quietly. "You and Sam are. I need your vision and I need Sam's words. Do what you have to do to get them."

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

"How long are you going to be mad at Toby?" Josh asked, as they walked through the West Wing.

"How long is eternity?" Sam snapped, taking a file from Cathy and walking into his office.

"Okay, I can see why you're pissed." Josh followed him in. "But this is Toby, Sam. You know what he's like."

"Yes, I do." Sam stuffed the file into the filing cabinet and slammed the drawer shut with unnecessary force. "I can't work with someone who doesn't trust me."

Josh opened the filing cabinet and retrieved the file and handed it back to Sam.

"Toby does trust you."

"Like hell he does." Sam threw the file onto his desk and ran his hand through his hair. "You don't get it, Josh, do you?"

"No. How about you explain it to me?" Josh perched on the edge of Sam's desk and looked at him expectantly.

"Look, I do a good job." Sam said tightly. "I took the speech with the okay from the President himself. Who the hell does Toby Ziegler think he is, to overrule the President of the United States?"

"Sam..."

"So it wasn't the best idea politically." Sam continued. "I am sick and tired of not being able to do what we were elected to do because we're afraid that someone's going to get upset. I thought we had more courage than that."

"Um..." Josh was about to respond, but then closed his mouth.

"What?"

"Nothing."

"What?"

"The environmental lobby got upset because we had the courage to point out that extremism is not acceptable." Josh said quietly. "What's the real point?"

"The real point is..." Sam took a deep breath and started again. "Toby is a brilliant writer."

"Yes."

"Josh, I've read stuff he wrote when he was my age. I'm good, but he's better." Sam admitted. "I sometimes feel like a little kid, compared to him."

"Toby was born middle aged, Sam." Josh tried to smile. "We're all little kids, compared to him."

"I've worked hard to learn everything I can. I've earned my place here." Sam said slowly. "If I can't be trusted to know about something that affects my work, I should not be here."

"You are trusted, Sam."

"Not by Toby." Sam shook his head. "He did not trust me to tell me about the drop-in. He didn't say a word about it. He just went ahead and did it, as if cleaning up after a badly paper trained puppy."

"At least he didn't spank you on the nose with a newspaper." Josh replied, with another attempt at a smile.

"He did rub my nose in it." Sam retorted. "And I don't even think the drop in was strictly necessary. We do the speech, we set something up with the labour unions and everything is fine."

"Not fine, but yeah, I guess." Josh ran his hand through his hair. "Look, Sam, Toby was wrong not to tell you. That's the only thing he was wrong about and you know it. Maybe he just didn't want the confrontation."

"Toby? Not want confrontation? Are we talking about the same guy?"

"Look, I don't know what's going on in his head." Josh straightened. "Frankly, I don't think I want to. If you want to know why he didn't tell you, you're going to have to ask him."

"I don't want to be lied to again."

"You know, that attitude is going to be hard to get around for the State of the Union."

"I won't be here for it."

"What?"

"I'm resigning." Sam said firmly. "I can't work with Toby anymore. I can't be in the dark about things that affect my work and if I can't do my job, I'm not staying."

"Shit." Josh slumped his shoulders. "Did you hand in your resignation to Leo?"

"He wouldn't accept it. He told me to give it to Toby."

"And...?"

"Toby told me I had to give two weeks. In two weeks, he said he'd accept it, if I still felt the same way."

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

Sam dragged himself home at a reasonable hour. He had only seen Toby in passing and hadn't spoken to him all day. He had thought, at first, that Toby was avoiding him, but Ginger had told him that Toby was in meetings all day with labour and business leaders. He felt a slight twinge; the meetings were, according to Ginger, acrimonious. They had not been happy about the speech. Then again, his day had been busy, too.

The irony was too sharp for humour. Toby had spent all day defending Sam's actions, which he hadn't agreed with, and Sam had spent all morning defending the drop-in to the environmental lobby. Sam wondered, as he put some food into the microwave to heat, whether the environmental lobby was aware that he agreed with them wholeheartedly.

The microwave had just pinged when the doorbell went off. Sam sighed. This happened all the time, although it was usually his cell that made three quarters of the meals he made at home go cold.

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

Toby was standing at the door when he answered the bell.

"What do you want?" Sam said ungraciously, not inviting his boss in.

"The President ordered me to talk to you." Toby said bluntly.

"You could have done that at work."

"I need to talk to you without interruptions. May I come in?"

"Sure." Sam walked away from the door, going into the living room and not bothering to see if Toby followed.

"I spoke to the President today." Toby began, without preamble and without taking off his coat.

"You talk to him all the time." Sam inserted, a hard edge of bitterness in his voice.

"We need to get past this so we can do the State of the Union." Toby continued as if Sam hadn't spoken. "He needs your words."

"You write as well or better than I do."

"Not in his voice."

"You do it. You're going to anyway."

"I will write the majority of it, yes." Toby allowed. "I need you to make my words into President Bartlet's words. I can't do this by myself."

"So you admit I have some uses."

Sam, get your head out of your ass." Toby ordered. "You're the President's speech writer. I can't write the way you do."

"Flattery will get you nowhere."

"Will truth?"

Sam paused at the soft question.

"What?"

"Sam, the drop-in was necessary."

"Yeah. So Josh has been saying all day. The politics..."

"That's not what I meant." Toby sighed and sat down. "Sam, it isn't the politics that I'm worried about. We've fixed worse problems in more elegant ways. The problem is time."

"Time?"

"We didn't have time to fix this any other way." Toby ran his hand across his head. "We need labour and business support and we need it now."

"We have another year to get them on board." Sam pointed out. "They won't remember this next year."

"We don't have another year, Sam." Toby said quietly.

"We do not need their votes yet." Sam said stubbornly.

"No, we don't. We need their money."

"Money? The drop in was a damned fundraising exercise?"

"Yes. We are going to need a massive influx of cash soon to start the re-election campaign."

"That's a year away."

"No, it's not. It's already started, Sam." Toby said softly. "It started with Ann Stark and her ambush."

"What?"

"In all but name, her guy announced his candidacy for President." Toby replied. "We're in an election, Sam. And right now, we need to get the financial support in place as soon as possible."

"Back up here, Toby." Sam waved a hand, then ran it through his hair. "Josh didn't say anything about that."

"Josh doesn't know."

"Wait a minute. You're holding out on Josh?"

"Leo approached me after the leadership breakfast. Only me."

"Why?"

"Because I've fought more ugly campaigns than either you or Josh have ever seen. And this one is going to be very ugly."

"Leo is holding out on Josh?"

"No. Leo's holding out on the President."

"Bartlet doesn't know he's running?"

"Not officially, no." Toby said, very seriously. "Sam, you remember what it was like when Bartlet was running for the nomination. It took him a long time to decide he really wanted it. Leo doesn't want to force the decision on the President yet, but he needs to have the pieces in place when the President does decide."

"But Josh isn't part of that."

"Josh's skills are in persuading support on the hill. He can get the political support when we need it. We don't need that yet. Right now, we can't look like we're campaigning, but we need money and we need it soon."

"Why did Leo tap you?"

"Experience." Toby shrugged. "Leo and I have the most experience in this sort of backroom campaigning. Leo doesn't want this discussed in case it puts the President in an awkward position."

"I have less experience than Josh." Sam said thoughtfully. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because I need you to understand what the drop-in was about." Toby said quietly. "It wasn't about ambushing you. It wasn't about personal revenge. It wasn't a lack of trust."

"So it wasn't about Ann, then."

"Yes, it was." Toby admitted, with a wry smile. "It had everything to do with Ann and her ambush. And about the meeting I had in Kansas City."

"Kansas City? What were you doing in Kansas City that affected this?"

"Other than not be there to tell you and the President that the speech was a bad idea?" Toby lifted a brow. "Picking up three million dollars of contributions for the DNC."

"From....?" Sam looked slightly ill.

"The very people who the President declined to meet with because of the South American trip." Toby finished.

"Did we lose that?" Sam asked quietly.

"No." Toby shook his head. "It's fine, Sam. We moved fast enough to keep it. All things considered, Sam, I couldn't give you a heads up on the drop-in."

"Why not? You're telling me now. Why not yesterday?"

"I was afraid you'd convince me."

"What?"

"Normally, the drop-in wouldn't have been necessary. We could have let it go and do something else to make labour and business happy. A decent photo op and a small tax break would have done it." Toby admitted. "But not when we're facing campaign level financing. I didn't have any other argument to use and I didn't have Leo's permission to bring you in."

"Do you have it now?"

"No, but a direct Presidential order trumps Leo's any day."

"I thought you said the President isn't in on this."

"The President knows Leo as well as Leo knows him. He knows what Leo's doing. He told me that when he told me to do what I had to do to get you to write the State of the Union."

"He said that?"

"Yes."

"So none of this is a trust issue." Sam said slowly.

"It's all a trust issue." Toby shook his head. "Josh is going to find out that Leo's holding out on him. CJ is going to be madder than a wet hen to find out she's out of the loop. And Leo's not going to be pleased to know that Bartlet can see right through him. We have to trust each other to do what has to be done, even when we can't talk about it."

"So much for friends being honest with each other." Sam said, without rancour.

"You're expecting honesty in politics?" Toby snorted. Sam looked at him, startled at the bitterness in his tone.

"Toby..." Sam said, after a moment. "CJ said something to me today..."

"What?" Now the soft voice held nothing but weariness.

"She said you were trying to apologise to me." Sam stated. Toby didn't answer. "You were, weren't you?"

"Yeah." Toby answered finally. "And I couldn't."

"Yeah, I know it's hard for you to..." Sam began, softly.

"I won't apologise for something when I can't promise I won't do it again." Toby cut in. "I couldn't promise that. So do I look for a new deputy? I need to know soon, Sam."

"I'll... think about it. You did give me two weeks." Sam replied. His anger was pretty much gone, his natural tendency to forgive urging him to let it go. Yet, he hesitated, wanting to think about what he had learned.

"Want to think about it over dinner?" Toby asked suddenly. "I haven't eaten yet and I doubt you have, either."

"Sure."

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

"Oh, damn." Sam swore softly as he was served his pasta.

"What?" Toby looked up from his own plate.

"I forgot to congratulate CJ on her award."

"Don't worry about it. I sent flowers and congratulations from all of us. She'll get them on Saturday."

"Why Saturday?"

"It's the only day she'll be home to recieve them." Toby shrugged.

"You sent flowers?" Sam's mind was boggling at this unprecidented thoughtfulness on Toby's part.

"I've learned my lesson where CJ is concerned." Toby said cryptically.

It was on the tip of Sam's tongue to ask for details, but he saw the look in Toby's eyes. He recalled CJ's reference to an apology; and Leo's assertion that Toby could reprimand himself better than anyone else.

He ate silently for a while, thinking. He opened his mouth once or twice to tell Toby to forget about the resignation, to pretend that their conflict never happened. Yet, the words remained stillborn on his tongue.

He was no longer angry, nor did he believe that Toby's trust was not his. He would not resign in a fit of piqued pride.

He might resign in a sudden understanding of what politics did to men. He looked across the table at Toby. Toby was looking particularly tired tonight. Tired and sad and disillusioned. Sam wondered if he, too, would look like that; whether the energy and fire he brought to politics would be crushed out as it seemed to have been for Toby. Did he really want to stay in a job that did that to a person?

"Sam?" Toby's voice brought him out of his thoughts. Toby was no longer looking pensive, merely weary after a long day.

"Friends are honest with each other, aren't they?" Sam asled quietly.

"In so far as they can, yes."

"Do you ever regret going into politics?"

"No." The denial was swift and sincere.

"Why not?"

"Because it's what I am." Toby did not misunderstand the question. "I regret many things, Sam, but getting into politics isn't among of them."

"It's taken a lot from you."

"Yes. And it's given me the opportunity to make a difference." Toby allowed. "Besides, I can't think of any other job that allows me to yell at very powerful people with impunity."

Sam grinned at that.

"So when do we let the world in on the fact that Josiah Bartlet will be President in 2002?" He asked offhandedly.

"The State of the Union will be the wake up call." Toby replied. "You in?"

"Considering that somebody has to translate the grumpy brilliance of Toby Ziegler into the charming brilliance of Josiah Bartlet, I guess I am."

END

 

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