See warning and disclaimer in part 1
"Sir, if I may say something?" Toby hesitated as he folded up his papers. Bartlett looked up over his glasses.
"Yes, what is it, Toby?"
"Steve Fairbairn and the Medicare committee." Toby began. "We got into a bit of an argument this afternoon."
"Why? Fairbairn is on the same page as we are."
"Does this have something to do with that extraordinarily entertaining bit of gossip that made the rounds last week?"
"Yes, Sir." Toby sighed. "Andi told me that Fairbairn is harassing her. Fairbairn talked to me after today's meeting and made some unflattering remarks about Andi and women in general."
"I hope you told him to back off."
"Did you offer to rip his arm off and beat him over the head with the mushy end?"
"You should have. I wouldn't have put up with comments like that about Abbey." Bartlett said calmly. "Or any of the other women around here. I assume he blustered that he has powerful friends in the party?"
"So do you. So does Andi. My status is better than his any day. If he doesn't back off with her, I'll have a word with him."
"Sir, it really doesn't merit..."
"Sexual harassment certainly does merit my attention, Toby." Bartlett said firmly. "He's got a point; his popularity makes him pretty much untouchable. Except by me. The party will shrug off the concerns of a junior congresswoman when up against somebody like Fairbairn. They shouldn't, but they will. They won't shrug off my concerns."
"Thank you, Sir."
"You son of a bitch." Fairbairn stormed into Toby's office a few days later. "How dare you?"
"How dare I what?" Toby replied, carefully marking his place in the reference book he had been reading.
"You went to the President."
"Yes, I did."
"You went to the President and made up some story to discredit me." Fairbairn said, with rising fury. "You'll pay for that, Ziegler. You'll pay."
"The gloves are off, Ziegler. I play hardball and you're finished in this town. You and your pretty little piece of tail."
"Get out of my office." Toby ordered. "Get the hell out of the White House."
"No, Ziegler. It's you that will get the hell out of the White House. I'll have your ass fired so fast your head will spin."
"I've been fired before." Toby said as calmly as he could, although he was starting to shake with anger.
"Nobody messes with Steve Fairbairn and gets away with it." Fairbairn hissed and walked out.
"Okay, Toby. Explain to me how you managed to piss off Steve Fairbairn." Josh ran his hands through his hair. "My God, Toby. He was our best chance to get somewhere with Medicare reform and you have to fuck it up by getting in the guys face about something. Just what the hell was it?"
"He's been harassing Andrea."
"That's it?" Josh bounded to his feet and began to pace. "He comes within ten feet of the woman who left you and you get all bent out of shape? Andrea's a big girl. She can take care of herself."
"Josh, when Andrea comes to me and asks me to help her get this guy off her back, it's more serious than a few risque comments." Toby replied. Josh stopped pacing and faced Toby.
"Andrea asked you to help her?"
"'Cause this guy won't leave her alone."
"Toby, I watched Andrea rip you to shreds and leave you bleeding on the floor."
"I remember." Toby gave a wry smile; Andi had been in fine form when they had crossed paths during the campaign.
"Any woman who can do that to you isn't too shy to let her feelings known."
"Man." Josh walked over to his chair and sat down with a thump. "It is serious. Has he... you know... hurt her?"
"Not yet." Toby frowned. "He did threaten her."
"How? What did he say?"
"He said he was going to make sure I was finished in Washington. Me and my pretty piece of tail."
"He called Andrea a piece of tail?" Josh echoed, shocked. "What kind of a guy talks about a US member of Congress like that?"
"Or any woman." Toby murmured. "The kind of a guy we don't need around us."
"No... That whole Medicare thing will fall apart without him." Josh moaned.
"Not necessarily. The committee has a lot of good people on it. All we need to do is find another front person and groom them for it."
"No, Toby. If we pull Fairbairn off it, the committee dies. Unless we have something on him, we can't dump him." Josh shook his head. "About the only thing we can do is get Andrea off the committee and you off the issue."
"I know, I know. But we need him on the committee and he won't do it unless you and Andrea are out."
"So he wins."
"We win, Toby." Josh said slowly. "Look, I know you have a problem with him and I'm not too keen on him myself right now, but we can't dump Medicare reform because he talks about women like they're trash, okay? I'll talk to him and smooth it over. Then I'll talk to Callighan and Fenris and explain that this is a personal thing between you and him and we can save this."
"I don't like that option."
"Neither do I, but the Party warhorses are asking questions." Josh countered. "They want to know why their newest shining light is complaining about being insulted by the White House. I tell them that he got into a conflict with you and they'll understand. I can get Andrea on the President's Advisory for Human Rights, which will give her as much profile as Medicare, so she won't be hurt by it."
"And he gets away with harassment."
"You have any usable evidence and his ass is grass. Tribbey is livid about it, but he can't do anything without evidence."
Toby didn't know exactly what Josh told people, but it appeared that Fairbairn had not been able to made good on his promise to get him fired. Toby's abrasive attitude was too well known for Fairbairn to get a lot of support from the other Democratic senators and party officials.
Most of them seemed amused that the new Senator had survived an encounter with Toby at his most annoying. Steve Fairbairn had gone through his first trial by fire and had remained standing.
"I don't know what you said to Steve, Toby, but he sure was pissed about it." Senator Peckford chuckled at a meeting. "I'm glad you haven't lost your touch. Anyway, about the position paper on bill 204..."