Warnings/Spoilers/etc: see pt 1

Eleanor Cregg: mine. Everyone else: Sorkin's. :)

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C.J., meanwhile, was on the phone with Danny Concannon. "Goddamnit," she said,
pinching the bridge of her nose. "Danny, can't you hold off on this?"

"No, I can't." On the other end of the phone Danny was immovable. "My
editor would have me crucified if I held off on a story like this.
The commission is hot news, especially with the fights going on over
the members." There was a time when he would have held off, but now...
well, this story wouldn't cause the administration any great harm.

C.J. sighed. She knew when she was beaten. "Well, at the very least,
thanks for telling me you were going to run it." Just then a knock
came at the door. "Danny, I've got to go, there's someone at my
door." She hung up the phone and called, "Just a minute!"

The door opened by itself, though. "Weren't you expecting me?" The
cheerful voice of her mother filled the room.

C.J. buried Eleanor in a big hug. "Hi, Mom!"

"How are you, dear?" Eleanor pulled back and inspected her
daughter. "You look wonderful, Claudia Jean."

"I told you, Mom – here it's C.J." That was the one downside to
Eleanor.

"Well, I'm your mother, and to me you'll always be Claudia Jean,"
Eleanor retorted. Changing the subject, she said, "So, where's this
fiancé I keep hearing about?"

C.J. smiled fondly. "You have to meet Sam. He's been really excited
about it." She crossed back to her desk. "Let me call Cathy and see
where he is; I don't know his schedule right now." Placing the call
quickly, she turned back and said, "Sam's in his office, but only for
a minute.He's been helping Josh with the Health & Human Services
confirmation hearings, and you know how that can get."

"Yes, that's what I had to speak with Josh about," Eleanor
answered. "He's a nice man, Claudia Jean."

"Josh is great," C.J. agreed. Then the incongruity struck her. "He
asked you to call him Josh?"

"Yes."

C.J. shepherded her mother out the door and down the hall. "That's
fast work."

"What can I say?" Eleanor shrugged, duplicating C.J.'s devastating
smile. "He seems very good at his job."

"He is. But..." C.J. paused. Finally, she decided that the truth was
the best way to go. "He's got an ego the size of Canada."

"Well, so do I." Eleanor tried to change the subject. "So, what's
this guy of yours like, Claudia Jean?"

C.J. had been about to chide her mother, but had to adapt her
response. "Sam is... wonderful," she said, aware of how inadequate
that sounded. "He's sweet, kind, and caring."

She was about to expound further when they came to his door. "Cathy,
is Sam in?" C.J. asked.

"Yeah, for about ten more minutes," Cathy answered. She hit the
intercom. "Sam, C.J.'s here."

"Send her in," the tinny response came.

C.J. pushed the door open and motioned for Eleanor to follow. "Hey,
Sam, how are you?"

"Not too bad." Sam was typing frantically on his keyboard. "I have to
finish the FTAA remarks by tonight, but I'm getting there."

"That's good." C.J. gestured towards Eleanor. "Sam, this is my
mother, Eleanor Cregg. Mom, this is Sam Seaborn, my fiancé."

Sam immediately stopped typing and rose awkwardly to meet her. "Hi,"
he said, game smile fixed on his face. "It's nice to meet you, Mrs.
Cregg."

Eleanor returned the smile. "You're going to be family, Sam; call me
Eleanor."

"Okay, um, Eleanor." Sam couldn't help staring at her face as she
shook his hand. How wrong his first impression had been! Despite the
elegant professional demeanor, her face was a very warm face. She
looked as though one could tell her anything, and she would comfort
and calm until all was well. In short, she looked very motherly and
yet very professional as well.

He tuned back in just as Eleanor spoke, sitting down on Sam's
couch. "So, Sam, how long have you been in politics?"

"Not too long," he responded, sinking back into his chair. I was at
Gage Whitney Pace, then Josh recruited me as a speechwriter on the
Bartlet campaign."

"Gage Whitney Pace, eh?" Eleanor's eyebrows rose. "That's a fairly
prestigious firm, isn't it?"

"Yeah, well." Sam shrugged. "I chose this instead."

"It must have cost you a lot."

Not without bitterness, Sam answered. "Definitely." He was rather
surprised by his own answer. Could Lisa still have that hold on him?

Eleanor misinterpreted Sam's last answer. "Please, forgive me if
anything I say sounds intrusive," she said, trying to sound
appeasing. "It's just that Claudia Jean is my only daughter. I want
to know about my future son-in-law."

Sam chuckled. "Oh, don't worry, Mrs. Cregg – Eleanor," he corrected
himself. "My parents practically made C.J. run the gauntlet before
they told me she would be okay." Realizing too late how his remark
could be interpreted, he hastily added, "That is to say, okay for me
to marry her. I mean, I'm the youngest in my family, and they're
really protective, and –"

"Sam!" Eleanor cut him off, laughing, and laid a gentle hand on his
shoulder. Claudia Jean had been right. It was adorable, in every
sense of the word. And he seemed a good sort overall. "It's all
right, Sam. I think we're going to get along just fine."

C.J. watched this whole exchange, smiling. "I have a briefing," she
told them. "Sam, we have senior staff in an hour, I'll see you then.
Mom, I'll see you tonight, I guess."

"See you later, Claudia Jean."

"Later, C.J." Sam caught his fiancée by the arm and gave her a
slightly embarrassed kiss. She smiled softly at him and left.
Once she had gone, Sam tried to make his graceful excuses. "If you'll
excuse me, Eleanor, I have a meeting with Josh on the Fenton
confirmation hearings."

"Oh, yes." Eleanor was composed, her face blank. "What are you
dealing with right now?"

Sam hesitated, then changed his mind. There was no harm in telling
her if he was vague. "Oh, just a list of questions we should be
prepared on. Some of the Senators have some very pointed questions,
and me and Josh need to work on them."

"Josh seems very busy." Eleanor smiled. "I told him I could get him
the names of Jacobs' fence-sitters by tomorrow."

Sam's jaw dropped. "You're joking."

"I am not."

"You have the connections to do that by tomorrow?"

"You better believe it." Eleanor smiled evilly. "Just a matter of
certain pressures on certain people." Seeing his sceptical mien, she
went on. "Sam, I've been in politics for fifteen years. I know
people."

Sam smiled. "Well, Eleanor, it's just a little surprising. Senator
Jacobs is the most tight-lipped man I've ever met. They say his
office is littered with little traps, just in case."

Eleanor snorted. "It's the office of a Republican Senator, not Fort
Knox. It can be done. I tell you, I'll have it done."

Something sounded in Sam's head, and he had to ask it. "Eleanor,
forgive the question, C.J. wasn't exactly clear... are you a
Republican or a Democrat?"

"A Democrat, dear."

"Then why do you work for Senator Jacobs?"

"Claudia Jean didn't tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"I'm a freelance political operative," Eleanor explained. "My
services are basically for use by the highest bidder."

"Oh." He understood now. "So whoever pays you, that's your party
affiliation?"

"Not really." Eleanor stood, flashing her brilliant smile. "I'm a
Democrat, and Jacobs knows that. He just wanted the best." She turned
to the door. "But I'd better go and let you get to your meeting.
After all, Senator Sherman won't exactly wait forever to bring up the
abortion question with Fenton. After all, it *is* Health & Human
Services here. It's not exactly Secretary of State material."

Sam spun around in utter shock. "How did you know that?"

"Know what?"

"About Senator Sherman and his question?"

"Common sense, Sam." Eleanor sniffed. "Sherman is from the Deep
South. It only makes sense that he would ask that, at least to
satisfy his constituency."

"True."

Eleanor went on. "I would try and prepare Fenton very well,
especially since his views are in agreement with a lot of the
Judiciary. He's pro-choice, right?" Sam nodded. "Sherman is in the
minority here. He's also an arrogant old so-called `rebel,' but he's
smart and he'll back off when he knows he's been beaten. So exploit
that."

"I don't know." Sam was sceptical. "We were thinking that we should
go with the via media."

"Why?" Eleanor said impatiently. "It's not what Fenton thinks, and
it's not what most of the Judiciary thinks. Go with the truth." She
walked to the door. "I'll see you later, Sam. It was very nice to
meet you."

"See you later, Eleanor." She walked out, leaving Sam alone with his
thoughts. Was she right? It could explode in their faces... but so
could the via media. Still musing, he called Josh. "Hey, it's me.
I'll be right over. I have a new approach for Sherman's question.
Yeah. But the thing is, this is coming from the strangest place..."

 

Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown - 4

 

 

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