Warnings/spoilers/disclaimers/etc: see pt 1
Feedback: samwest5@hotmail.com

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Leo strode down the West Wing hallway like he owned it. Ever since that morning, he'd been feeling... well, almost *giddy.* It was crazy. But it was there, all the same. He'd straightened out the Russian matter for Josh. He'd told Representative Edwards exactly what the President thought of him. And C.J. had told him to go ahead with Eleanor.

He ducked into the communications bullpen where Eleanor had her desk. "Mrs Cregg in, Bonnie?"

"She's on the phone with Senator McDonald, Leo," replied the assistant. "She should be off in a minute, if you want to wait. That's her desk over there." Bonnie pointed off to the right.

"Fine." Leo set off across the bullpen in that direction.

Eleanor caught sight of him coming and flashed him a quick smile totally at odds with her vehement conversation. "No, Senator, you listen. The White House will not beg for what it needs. It will get a warrant and search his files. If Senator Abramson wants to be forcibly removed, we can do it. Yes, ma'am. Thank you, Senator." She put down the phone with a mutter under her breath. "Bitch."

Leo raised an eyebrow, curious. Eleanor explained. "I'm trying to find out exactly what Abramson wants. What's he going to get from blackmailing George Fenton."

"Okay."

"I've been calling his closest friends and colleagues. You know he lives for the fact that he's on the Judiciary."

"Yeah."

"Well, Mary McDonald threatened to set the commission on us." Eleanor laughed. "Called it an invasion of 'Keith's privacy.'" She snorted. "Bullshit."

"Yeah, well."

"I'll find it, Leo, don't worry." Eleanor grinned. "I already gave Josh the names of the fence-sitters in Jacobs's group on the Judiciary."

"Okay. Who are they and how many?"

"There's four. Enough to make a difference."

"Definitely."

"Abramson, three other Republicans, and one moderate Democrat." Eleanor ticked off the names on her slender fingers. "Jennifer Brady, Anne Marks, Henry Dalton, and Ed Klein."

"Dalton can be leaned on; I don't know about the others."

"Okay." Eleanor turned to face him. "Anything on your mind, Leo?"

"Well... yeah." He sighed. This wasn't going to get any easier, he told himself, so he'd just blurt it out. "Eleanor, I was wondering."

"Yeah?"

"Would you care to go to dinner sometime this week?"

For a moment Leo thought Eleanor hadn't heard him. She sat in the same position, eyes pleasantly fixed on his face. The only indication that she was a living being as opposed to a statue was the slight expression of mirth toying with the corners of her mouth.

He was about to ask again when she answered. "Leo, are you asking me out on a date?"

"Yeah." Leo could feel the palpable question mark he tacked onto the end of the word.

There was really no need. Eleanor faced him, smiling sadly. "Leo. I'm really flattered."

*But,* Leo added silently, preparing himself.

"But, it's been a while." The look in her eyes almost touched him. It was if she was sharing a confidence with him, instead of stating the obvious. C.J. had told Leo long ago about her father, who had passed away when she was fourteen. Even though it had been years, C.J. said Eleanor still missed her husband. So Leo was, at this point, expecting to be turned down.

Thus he was rather shocked when Eleanor sighed and tried again. "I'm not saying no right now. Just give me some time to think, all right?"

Leo nodded. He could accept that. It wasn't a refusal, after all. "That's fine. I'm not gonna pressure you."

"Thanks." Eleanor favored him with another sad smile as he left. Of course, she hadn't wanted to tell him that she would most likely be in Seattle for six months come April – coming back for the wedding, of course – with Senator Gordon's campaign. She liked him. But she didn't know if it should be anything more. And what would C.J. say?

Well, here was her chance to find out. Her daughter came into the communications bullpen and over to her desk, dropping a memo. "Hey, Mom, this is from Josh."

"Okay." Eleanor set the memo aside for the moment. "Got a minute, Claudia Jean?"

"Yeah, what's going on?"

Eleanor bit her lip. What *would* C.J. say? *Well, here goes nothing,* she thought. "Leo McGarry asked me out on a date."

C.J. sat down abruptly on the spare chair. So he had done it! A thousand thoughts ran through her head, not least of all that Mallory would have a positive shit fit. It wasn't that Leo's daughter was possessive, she was just... well, possessive.

She had to say something, though. Cloaking her reserve with another emotion, C.J. said, "Wow. I didn't think he'd actually do it."

"Yeah." A faint smile spread across Eleanor's features. "I told him maybe."

"What!" C.J. spun to face her mom. "Why didn't you say yes?"

"Because." Eleanor suddenly looked away. "It's been a long time since I've gone out with anyone."

C.J. wasn't sure what made her say it. "Mom, if you want it, go for it." *Why did I say that?* she thought. *It'd be too strange for words!*

"Yeah, well. I'll think about it." Eleanor let the subject drop. She turned instead to the memo C.J. had brought. "Did Josh tell you what this was?"

"No. He just gave it to me and told me to show it to you and Sam."

"Okay." Eleanor ripped open the memo and started to peruse. "Interesting," she said to no one in particular.

"What?"

"Josh pulled some strings and talked to his contact in the judiciary. Evidently Abramson wants to be nominated for the SEC, and he wrote to Josh asking for the nomination."

C.J. snorted. Like her mother, it was instinctive. "Like Josh would give it to him after what he's planning to do with H&HS."

"Yeah, well. Could you run this to Sam, Claudia Jean?"

"Sure, I have to talk to him anyway."

"See you later, honey."

"Bye." C.J. quickly ran over to Sam's office and walked in.

Her fiancÚ was literally up to his knees in paperwork. "C.J., what's up?" Sam said, trying to be sweet while immersed in facts and figures.

"Here." C.J. handed him the memo.

Sam didn't read it right away. "You all right, sweetheart?"

"Not really, but there isn't a lot you can do about it." C.J. gave him a very fake smile. After all, he hadn't come home the previous night. He didn't deserve the ego boost.

Sam had a hunch. "Is it your mom and Leo?"

"How'd you know?"

"Leo walked by whistling." Sam raised his eyebrows to emphasize this. "He mentioned that he might be out with Eleanor on Friday, and something in his tone told me it wasn't world related."

C.J. felt her heart start to sink. "Yeah, well."

After all this time Sam knew C.J. well enough to know what to say. "C.J., your mom's her own woman. It's not going to be bad."

C.J. raised her eyebrows. "Sam, have you considered the possibility that you might have Leo in your family circle after all?"

He hadn't, and she could tell. Still, besides paling visibly, he reacted fairly well. "C.J., you can't jump to conclusions. Again."

"Shut up."

"Seriously. It's one date. Not a wedding."

She wasn't convinced. Fixing him with a stare, C.J. said, "I seem to recall hearing those words last Valentine's Day."

Sam flushed. "C.J., that reminds me – the florist called me earlier."

"Yeah?"

"We can't have orchids – the crop was destroyed by a flood."

C.J.'s favourite flower was the orchid. She had wanted them badly. To hear Sam dismiss the call so cavalierly almost brought tears to her eyes. "Great. It's official."

"What?"

"This day can't get *any* worse!" Taking a deep breath to calm her voice and quell the angry tears, she said pointedly, "Sam, I'll see you at home tonight, I presume?"

He knew when to agree. "Yes, C.J., I'll see you at home."

"Fine. I have one more briefing, then I'm leaving." She turned to leave.
He had to say it. "C.J., I love you."

That brought a soft smile to her face through her frustration. "I love you too, Sam. Thanks. And don't forget that memo!"

"Right." Sam grinned at her brightly, trying to be optimistic. Still, he could tell it hadn't worked as she closed his door.

 

Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown - 10

 

 

 

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