Yes, *sob* this is the end. Next story "Wild Night" Coming soon!
Warnings/disclaimers/etc: see pt 1
NOTE: The title used at the end of this part is one I chose that might fit the
situation. I don't know anything about the actual position, so I apologise if it's
inaccurate. Thank God for AU's. :) Enjoy!
Leo strode into the Oval Office at the normal time. "Hello, Mr. President."
"Leo, how are you?" Jed Bartlet always had a smile for his old friend. "What's going on with the confirmation hearings?"
"Haven't heard yet. They'll call us as soon as the decision comes back."
"All right." Bartlet raised an eyebrow, skimming the reports Sam had given him an hour before. "So, Mrs. Cregg was responsible for a lot of this?"
"According to Sam. He couldn't say enough good about her."
"Yes, I know. In these reports Sam says Mrs. Cregg even got Josh to agree with her point of view." Bartlet chuckled. "That doesn't happen often."
"No, sir. I think Eleanor Mrs Cregg knows exactly what she's doing." Inwardly Leo cursed himself for the slip-up and prayed his friend wouldn't notice.
No such luck. " 'Eleanor?' " Bartlet echoed. "When was the last time you called a political consultant by their first name?"
"Mr. President "
"Leo." Bartlet smiled that annoying, omniscient smile he reserved for occasions when he knew something. "Let's just say... I've heard things."
Bartlet closed the portfolio on his desk and gave Leo his full attention. "She's supposed to be a real political animal. According to Lionel Tribbey she can quote penal code as well as if not better than any of his counsels."
"She's a remarkable woman." Leo couldn't keep the warmth out of his voice. Remembering the night before when they had argued for the entire meal about raising the retirement age, and then at the end she had just... smiled. She'd said, "Leo, let's just agree to disagree, all right?" He couldn't have said no if he'd wanted to. That smile had won him over. The only people who ever smiled at him like that were Abbey and Jenny. Even his own daughter didn't laugh with him like Eleanor did.
Bartlet nodded just once. "That's settled, then." He buried himself once more in Sam's report. "Could you do me a favor, Leo?"
"Bring Eleanor Cregg to this office."
"Yes, sir." Leo spun around and left. It was only moments before he found Eleanor waiting outside Josh's office. "Eleanor?"
"Hi, Leo." She gave him that shining smile. "What can I do for you?"
"Honestly? You can come with me to the Oval Office." Leo turned and started to head away, expecting Eleanor to follow.
She stopped in her tracks before she'd taken half a step. "You're kidding, right?"
Leo looked at her entreatingly. "You think I'd lie about this."
"No. I don't." Eleanor was quickly becoming unglued, but she hid it well. "I guess it's just not something I've thought about. I've never been in the Oval."
"You've never been in the Oval?" Leo echoed, shocked. He got her to start walking. "You've been in politics fifteen years, you told me!"
"Yeah, well..." Eleanor trailed off, setting her briefcase in the bullpen as they passed by. "It just hasn't happened. What does he want with me?"
Slightly thrown by the question, Leo was forced to admit ignorance. "I don't know. He didn't tell me."
Eleanor shrugged. "Guess I'll find out. I'm not being fired, right?"
Leo smiled. "Why would the President bother when Josh hired you? And besides," he added, injecting warmth into his tone, "the work you did on the confirmation hearings really saved our asses."
Eleanor smiled. "Hey, you haven't won yet!"
"Call it a hunch."
Mrs. Landingham directed the two to go right in. Leo pushed open the door and ushered Eleanor through. The latter stared at the office around her with an undisguised degree of awe.
In the middle of it all, the President sat in his big chair, glasses on, poring over some report. "Mrs. Cregg, nice to meet you," he said, extending his campaign smile and a handshake.
Eleanor, to Leo's amusement, comported herself well. Though clearly nervous as a schoolgirl, she managed to speak clearly. "The honor is mine, Mr. President."
"No, ma'am, the honor is mine." Bartlet paused. "According to some trusted sources, you saved our asses on the Fenton hearings."
"Well, as I told Leo, sir, you haven't won yet." Eleanor smiled timidly.
"Oh, yes, we have." Bartlet smiled knowingly, relishing the victory. It wasn't often he knew more than his staff, but this was one of those times. "Leo," he said, bringing his friend into the conversation, "haven't you been watching CSPAN? They just broke in two minutes ago with the notice that Fenton's been confirmed. By seven votes."
"That's good enough." Leo's tone was calm, but Bartlet knew he was very happy.
"That's wonderful." Eleanor couldn't get the stupid grin off her face. She'd just helped confirm a cabinet nominee, and now she was here, in the Oval Office, meeting President Bartlet, standing next to Leo... it was all a bit too much.
Bartlet was watching Leo as Eleanor took in the office. He stared at her without stopping, and a strange look was on his face. There was something in his eyes that had he not known Leo better, he would have mistaken for sentiment. His eyes were holding in that look of respect that Leo usually reserved for Bartlet himself. There was definitely something there. All of which made Bartlet's decision even easier.
Eleanor snapped back to attention. "Yes sir."
"I want to know, do you have any significant commitments after your contract with Josh is terminated?"
"Well..." Eleanor thought about how to say it, then answered. "I've given Senator Gordon a verbal promise to help him with his campaign in a few weeks, but nothing in writing. Why?"
"Because, if you'd like to, I want to offer you a job."
Eleanor was stunned. He could see it in her eyes. She had every right to be stunned, obviously, but he was impressed by how well she concealed her shock. "If I may, what sort of job did you have in mind?"
Leo was also amazed. "Yes, sir, what sort of job did you have in mind?"
"I had Lionel Tribbey do a bit of research on this, and he tells me that one of the Legislative Affairs positions is open."
"What would that entail?"
"Nothing you can't handle." Bartlet grinned. "Just try and keep the senators and representatives in line. You've been a congressional aide, and you know the politics of the Hill." He checked a folder on the desk. "The official title would be Deputy Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs."
Eleanor paused for a moment, thoughts whirling. If she accepted this job, she would have an in to the White House. She'd be working there, day in day out. She'd see all these wonderful people on a daily basis.
But most importantly, she could be there for her daughter as the wedding approached. And she could be there for Leo...
Eleanor faced the President. "Sir, I just don't know."
Bartlet saw the sudden shock on Leo's face before he answered. "Ms. Cregg "
"Fine, Eleanor." Bartlet spoke calmly, not wanting to create a situation for either her or Leo. "It's nothing you haven't dealt with before. And when my entire senior staff tells me individually what a remarkable politician you are, I have to see for myself."
Eleanor faced the President. For better or for worse, he was honest. And it would definitely be an adventure. "Sir, I'll take it."
"Great." Bartlet shook her hand. "Eleanor, I welcome you to the White House." He turned to his Chief of Staff. "Leo, would you mind handling the logistics? Getting Eleanor an office or something?"
"Yeah, she can have Mandy's." Leo turned to Eleanor. "Welcome, Eleanor."
"Thank you." Once again that smile was turned up at him. Leo found himself thinking that if nothing else, the White House would be a lot more interesting with her working here. "Sir, is there anything else?"
"Nope!" Bartlet turned back behind the desk. "Go get settled in, Eleanor; I warn you that you won't have long."
"Thank you, Mr. President." Leo and Eleanor chorused and walked out of the Oval.
Once in the hall, Eleanor turned to Leo. "I can't believe this is happening."
"You better tell C.J."
"I will, right now. She wanted my help about Carol."
"What's with Carol?"
"She's mad over the whole maid-of-honor thing."
Leo shrugged. "She'll be all right." Changing the subject, he asked, "So, feel like going out tomorrow?"
"Sure." Eleanor grinned. He was a lot less nervous the second time. "But I gotta clear it with Claudia Jean."
"I promised her I'd help out on more wedding stuff."
"But you'll come to dinner, right?"
"Yeah." Eleanor stopped, oblivious to the strange and/or dirty looks she drew for halting traffic. "Leo, I gotta tell you, I like you. But I need to take it slow."
"I can deal with that."
"Good." Eleanor started to walk again. "After all, it's just a date, right? Not a wedding."
"Right." Leo nodded. "Just a date."
"See you later."