Warnings/spoilers/etc: see pt 1. Any resemblances to anyone living or dead (unless invented by Aaron Sorkin) is purely coincidental. :)

Eleanor Cregg - mine. Everyone else - Sorkin's.

Less than an hour later Josh was back in the office, cursing steadily. "That son of a bitch Abramson. I ought to eat him for breakfast."

Donna sighed, not in the mood for Josh's grumblings. She had been told to come in to assist with any secretarial work necessary. "Isn't this just the latest in a long line of shady deals for him?"

Josh stopped for a moment, wind momentarily out of his sails. "Yeah," he said. "But it doesn't piss me off any less!"

The pair ran into Sam and Eleanor in the hall near the bullpen. "What's going on?" Josh asked.

Eleanor spoke up, telling the entire story as she had heard it from Senator Ross. "And he says Abramson really can't be appeased," she finished gloomily. "No matter what Fenton comes up with, Abramson will just keep asking for more."

"Damn it, that's what I was afraid of." Sam turned to face the wall moodily. "Let's go in my office and talk."

The group assented. "Donna, could you go pull the files on Senator Abramson, please?" Josh asked her before he went to follow Sam.

"Sure." She disappeared, on her way to the White House Records Room.

Sam led the rest of them into his office. "Okay. The floor is open to any and all suggestions. Because frankly," he said, shrugging, "I don't have the faintest idea what to do."

Silence reigned for a moment. Finally, Eleanor spoke. "I think you should stick him," she said firmly.

"What?" Josh wanted to make sure he'd heard correctly.

"I said stick him." Eleanor answered. "Abramson is a slick, cold-hearted son of a bitch. He doesn't understand anything except his own language. Threats and blackmail."

"Is that viable?" Sam asked. "I mean, does Abramson have anything he could be blackmailed over?"

Eleanor snorted. "What *hasn't* he done?"

"It won't work." Josh sounded dogmatic right from the start, which annoyed Eleanor. "If we blackmail him and Abramson cries foul – hello Bartlet-gate!" He gestured numbly. "I move that we drop Fenton as a nominee."

"Why?" Eleanor smelled blood. "If we drop him, more questions will be asked. And President Bartlet will look very weak for giving in. Besides, it'd be a bigger Bartlet-gate, as you put it, if the truth ever comes out that we didn't stop the blackmailing shit."

Her plain language shocked Josh into a response. "Eleanor, you don't understand. No matter what we do Abramson won't be appeased or threatened. You heard Sam. He's got enough indiscretions of his own, yet he keeps getting elected. He's impervious."

"You'd be surprised," Eleanor answered. Sighing, she elaborated. "Josh, you haven't worked on the Hill since you've known Josiah Bartlet. I can tell you that Abramson is not nearly as infallible as he imagines himself to be."

Sam had been following this exchange like a ping-pong match, head twitching back and forth like spectators. Finally he became aware of both Eleanor and Josh's eyes on him. "Sam, what do you think?" the latter asked.

Sam twitched as if a spotlight had been shined in his eyes. "Me? Uh..." At first he tried to hedge his bets. "I think both ideas have merit."

It did not work. Eleanor shook her head, and Josh went on the attack. "Sam, you gotta decide," he said urgently. "There's three of us. You're the deciding vote."

"I was afraid of that," Sam mumbled.

"What's to decide?" Eleanor asked. "It seems to be self-explanatory to me."

"Me too." Josh looked defiant, which only gave Sam a bigger headache.

Eleanor noticed. "Josh," she said, voice giving way to that calm just before she pounced, "who could replace Fenton as a nominee if we drop him?"

Josh had to think for a moment, which made Eleanor look every moment like the cat who swallowed the canary. Finally, he had an answer. "Emily Legault could do it."

"Judge Legault?" Sam echoed. "Of the Court of Appeals?"

"Judge Legault?" Eleanor's tone was blistering. "I don't think so, Josh. Wasn't Emily Legault the one who turned the Court's decision on McDonald v. Kane last year? Five to four, turned down the right of a rape victim to have an abortion in that state. The opinion was one of the most cutting I've ever read. And you want her for Health & Human Services?"

Put that way, it sounded ridiculous. Josh flushed angrily. "Well, do you have anyone else?"

"No, I don't." Eleanor's tone was patient. "That's why I think we should stick with Fenton. And screw Abramson first chance we get."

By now Sam was dead tired, and his neck hurt from following the train of thought back and forth. "You guys, lemme think about it. This isn't a split-second decision."

"What's to think about?" Josh said. "Just remember who you're dealing with, Sam."

Sam was confused. "What, Abramson?"

"No. Me." And with that Josh turned away, yelling for Donna.

Eleanor stared after him. "You know, Sam, as a person I like him. But as a politician..." She broke off. "Well, apparently being male and an asshole is enough to get your voice heard."

Sam chuckled. "Eleanor, you need to understand. Josh is the political animal around here. Having you here – and you think like him – is hard for him."

"Well, he'd damn well better get used to it." Eleanor turned to leave. "Think about it, Sam."

"I will." Sam hadn't liked her tone. Though she'd tried to sound nice, it hadn't worked. It was coming down to the choice he hadn't wanted: his best friend or his mother-in-law. And he wasn't liking it.


Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown - 8




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