Disclaimer-All characters belong to Aaron Sorkin. This is a parody, but a rather serious parody... I couldn't resist doing the story given the novel I'm knee deep in right now. You'll figure out what I'm talking about as you read. No copyright infringement intended. Any similarity to events or persons, living or dead is purely exaggerated. Please don't sue me. I'm a polysci major with no money.
Author's Notes-Thanks to the Admiral, Kasey, for reading this for me. You're great, kiddo. Thanks a bunch. Kerry, too. Don't think I would've made it through Election Night if I couldn't have talked to you. I owe both of you a lot.
This is what happens when I should be studying for an American Lit exam all the while finding CNN and C-Span soo much more interesting, as well as a certain movie on TNT. Plus, I'm sorry for those of you who will be getting this several times.
Spoilers-In the Shadow of Two Gunmen I & II, Let Bartlet Be Bartlet. In This White House merely to acknowledge Ainsley and Tribbey's presence... I hope that's it.
Archive-just tell me where.
Category-General, light Sam/Mal
True Colors-The Administration goes to back a bill in the Senate while trying to do damage control on a possible PR nightmare.
The click of her flats on the tile floor was precise, terse. She was a woman on a mission. She stopped at the first office she came to, poking her head in the door. "Josh." The man in question looked up from a file folder and smiled.
"Have you read-"
"I'm reading, I'm reading. Tell that to your father, will you?"
"I said I'm reading this. junk. on the latest CBO finding. What I don't understand is why I'm reading it and not the OMB."
"That's not what I-"
"For some reason, Leo has decided to torture me with numbers that are all starting to run together. The President is the economist, not me."
"Don't you have school?"
"Shortly, yes." With that, she turned on her heel, deciding that he wasn't going to listen to her at all. She glanced in C.J.'s office only to find it empty.
"She's already in the Press Briefing Room," Carol said, rummaging through a filing cabinet.
"Um, thanks," Mallory said before continuing on. She looked at the novel she held in her hand as she walked to Sam's office. When she reached it, he was hunched over his computer, furiously typing something. "Sam." He responded with little more than a grunt, more focused on the computer screen. She sighed, allowing her posture to slump slightly. "Sam."
"What?" he asked, the voice he was hearing having yet to register.
"A hello might be nice."
"Hello." Then he stopped typing immediately. Mallory smirked; it was like watching the light bulb turn on over his head. "Mallory," he said, turning to her.
"What brings you by?"
"I came to talk about a book."
"A book?" he asked. She nodded. "Unless it's got anything to do with the Federal Election Commission or the electoral college, I'm afraid I don't have the time to look at it. I've got this I have to finish speech."
"Well, it has to do with *an* election," she said.
"Mallory, really, I. I'm sorry." She shrugged and started to walk away. She stopped, though, when Toby rushed past her and to Sam's door.
"I knew it! I knew it!"
"You knew what?" asked Sam.
"Nine times have electors not gone the way of the popular vote in their states during the electoral college vote, not eight." Sam rolled his eyes as Mallory decided it was time to see her father.
"Good morning, Margaret. Is my father in?" she asked. Margaret glared at the chief of staff's office door.
"Yeah," she said.
"Something wrong?" Mallory asked.
"No," Margaret said. Mallory wondered if she was going to get an answer from her that was more than monosyllabic.
"Do you know anything about a book-"
"I didn't even finish the question," Mallory said, slightly irked.
"You didn't have to." Mallory raised an eyebrow. "Because apparently I know *nothing* of importance," she said, speaking loudly for the benefit of the person sitting in his office on the other side of the large wooden door. Mallory suddenly understood.
"Well, do you mind if I go in?" Margaret shook her head, prompting Mallory to enter her father's office. "Morning, Dad."
"Hey, baby," he said, engrossed in writing something.
"What did you do to Margaret this time?"
"What is it every time?"
"I honestly wouldn't know."
"Well, then, that makes two of us." He looked up from his notepad. "What can I do for you?"
"Do you know anything about a supposedly fictional novel that-"
"Do I look like I belong to Oprah's book club?" he asked dryly.
"I think you might be interested in it."
"Mallory, I have to help President Bartlet run a country. Do you think I have time to do any reading on any subject that isn't vitally important to the running of a nation, a super-power nation, I might add? The last remaining-"
"I get the picture, Dad, but I think you might really be interested in what it has to say."
"Unless it says, 'I serve at the pleasure of the President,' I really don't think I will."
"It doesn't but-"
"Then I really don't want to read it."
"This book is about-"
"Stop right there please. I really *don't* want to hear it, okay?"
"I have to meet with the director of the National Security Agency in half an hour, Mal."
"Every other sentence I say in this building has been interrupted this morning."
"Probably because everybody's busy."
"Talk to Oprah about it, would you?" Mallory slammed the novel down on his desk and stormed out to Margaret's.
"May I borrow your phone book please?" Mallory asked. Margaret obliged, sending nasty looks Leo's way through the now open door. Leo tried to ignore his assistant. Mallory, armed with the telephone book, stalked back into her father's office.
"Who are you going to call?" he asked.
"The Ghostbusters," she deadpanned.
"NSA Director. Half an hour."
"I have school in forty-five minutes. I won't be here much longer, I assure you."
"Then what are you doing with the phone book?"
"Trying to see if there's a number for a *local* book discussion group." She looked up at Leo. "Isn't there a program on C-Span?"
"For the love of-"
"Now, now," Mallory said. "Say, you couldn't call some of your political contacts in Chicago, could you? Smooth the way for me with Oprah's people?"
"I really don't have time for this."
"You'll wish you had listened to me later, Dad. Mark my words."
"Okay," Leo said. Mallory picked up her copy of the novel and left his office, trying hard not to slam the door; her mission would have to wait until after school let out that afternoon. She returned the phone book to Margaret with a smile.
"Thanks so much."
Leo shook his head after Mallory left, returning to scribbling his own remarks for a speech that he would be giving to Boston University before too long. "Oh, Leo!" beckoned President Bartlet from the Oval Office through the open doors that connected the two rooms. Leo abandoned his work and walked into the Oval.
"Was that Mallory I heard a moment ago?"
"Yes, it was."
"How's she doing?"
"Sir, you're supposed to be focusing on the information coming from Senator Hamilton's office." Bartlet looked in disgust at the information on his desk.
"It's too boring for a Tuesday morning."
"And it'll be too boring for a Tuesday afternoon, too, but you've got to be prepared for this meeting tonight."
"I will be, I will be," Bartlet grumbled. "Y'know, some days you're worse than my mother."
"I'll take that as a complement, sir."
"Take it anyway you like, Leo."
"I will, sir, thank you."
"Out you go."
A little after eleven o'clock, the entire Senior Staff, several of their assistants and President Bartlet were sitting in the Roosevelt Room. "It isn't like I've never done a press conference before, guys," Bartlet said.
"But you've never had to do one that dealt with changing the Constitution of the United States before, sir," Josh said.
"So the Senate wants to get rid of the electoral college," Bartlet said indifferently.
"It's a fairly substantial change to the Constitution," said C.J.
"C.J., if it weren't for substantial changes to the U.S. Constitution, you, Candy, Cinnamon, and Charlie wouldn't have had the power to vote," Bartlet said pointedly. Carol and Ginger looked at each other quickly.
"I'm Carol, sir," she said.
"And I'm Ginger, Mr. President." Bartlet looked at them, only slightly mortified.
"I think I get the message, though," said Leo. "Time for lunch."
"An excellent idea, my friend," Bartlet said. "And I'm terribly sorry."
"Let's meet back in an hour!" Leo said as everyone started putting file folders back together.
"So, what was it that happened with Mallory this morning?" Bartlet asked as he and Leo headed back for the Oval Office.
"It was nothing, sir."
"It was obviously something."
"Honestly, Mr. President, I'm not sure exactly what she said. Something about a book."
C.J., Sam, and Toby started walking out of the Roosevelt Room together. "Have either of you heard about a book?" C.J. asked casually.
"A book?" asked Toby.
"Yeah," she said.
"What kind of book?" queried Sam.
"I'm not sure but I've heard some buzzing about a book in the gaggle for the past two days."
"And you just brought it to us now?" asked Toby. C.J. shrugged.
"Didn't see much point in it at first," she said.
"Mallory said something about a book," Sam said, remembering his brief conversation with her that morning.
"What about it?" C.J. asked quickly.
"I didn't get to talk to her much. I was still working on President Bartlet's remarks. She did say it had something to do about an election, though."
"See, that's what I keep hearing, too," said C.J. "But that's all I've heard."
"Why don't you call Mallory," Toby suggested.
"She's at school."
"You can't say, 'This is the White House, I need to speak with Mallory O'Brien,' and they'll drop everything and bring her to the telephone?" asked Toby.
"I'd like to think that I alone am not the White House."
"You know what I mean, Sam," Toby said, eyeing him evilly.
"I'll leave a message for her to call me back," Sam said, halfway saying it like a question.
"Well, it's a start," Toby said, peeling off from the group to go to his office.
"We're going to change the nature of democracy!" Josh said, rushing up to the pair still in the corridor. "Isn't that great?"
"It's... something," C.J. said.
"He had a point there, Claudia Jean," Josh said. "You can't deny it."
"Man, isn't it a great day? I think, to celebrate, I'm going to order out. You guys want anything from that Italian place with the *fantastic* lasagna?"
"No thanks," Sam said.
"I'll stick with something from the mess."
"You guys are no fun," Josh said before walking off. Sam and C.J. watched him go for a moment.
"I think we ought to have Donna serve him decaf from now on," she said.
"Donna doesn't bring him coffee. He does it to himself," Sam noted.
"Yeah," Sam said.
"You'll call me if you hear anything?"
They were back in the Roosevelt Room, muddling through hours of preparation. When Sam's beeper started going off, everyone in the room save for President Bartlet immediately started going for their pagers. Sam cleared his throat and smiled sheepishly. "If you'll excuse me, Mr. President?" Bartlet nodded as Sam quickly got up from the table and found the nearest exit. He wasted no time getting to his office. "You could have come down to the Roosevelt Room and knocked on the door," he said. Mallory, who was sitting in his chair at his desk, looked up at him.
"Where's the fun in that?"
"So, what is it that's so important?" she asked as he closed his office door and sat down across from her.
"What do you mean?"
"It isn't everyday I get a message from you at school saying, 'Come see me, urgent,'" she read, holding up the note.
"It may be nothing."
"It's obviously something." Sam hesitated for a moment. "What is it?" she asked, moderately concerned going by the look on his face.
"When you came by this morning."
"What book were you talking about?"
"You called me at school, saying it was urgent that I get back to you, about a conversation I tried to have with you this morning?" Sam nodded. "You're going to have to do better than that, Skipper."
"I mean it's going to take more than that for me to talk to you after being slighted this morning."
"Slighted? Mallory, I was working on a speech."
"And it would have killed you to have talked to me for five minutes?"
"Toby would have." She sighed. "I'm sorry, Mallory."
"What's done is done," she said.
"Are you going to talk to me?"
"You're going to have to make this morning up for me." Sam smirked.
"Are we talking about a take-home assignment?"
"I think I can do that." She smiled, satisfied.
"So, what about this book?" She placed the novel on the desk in front of him. "'True Colors?'" he asked. She nodded. "What is it?" he asked as he picked it up, opening it to look at the summary on the inside dust jacket cover. She waited while he skimmed it. "It's a book about a fictitious presidential campaign."
"Not quite." He looked up at her.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I mean I was quite surprised when I put it all together, Mr. Tom Sanders." He looked at her quizzically. "'Young and idealistic, a sharp wit with intelligence to match but tragically clumsy,'" she recited from memory.
"I don't get it," he said so she continued.
"'Leaving an upscale New York law firm for a return to politics, having cut his teeth on Capitol Hill right after graduating from law school...'" Mallory smiled, realizing his light bulb was on one of those dimmer switches and was slowly brightening. "'A man who would enjoy arguing court cases as much as he would sailing on the high seas.'" Sam's jaw dropped open. "My sentiment exactly."
"I only have one question for you, Sam," she said, taking the book back from him, and flipping through it. "Who's this 'Anna' character? Were you really engaged once upon a time? And, if so, how come you've never told me?"
"I... I... I need to talk to C.J."
"No, no, no," Mallory said. "C.J. is actually K.C. And you really need to answer my question."
"I plead the fifth."
"Oooh, no, Skipper. I don't think so," she said. "You and all your pals here are planning on changing the Constitution if I heard NPR correctly. You can't hide behind it."
"We're not doing anything to the Bill of Rights."
"You haven't answered my question."
"Can I get back to you on that?" he asked, standing up.
"Sam," she said sternly. Sam looked at the floor before sitting back down.
"Her name was Lisa Allen," he said. Confirmation of Sam engaged to someone else was almost too much for Mallory to handle. She was thankful she was sitting down. "I thought I loved her." She was silent, waiting on him to continue. "I thought we were going to be together forever." He looked at her. "Does the book say how this Anna character left the relationship with the me character?"
"Doesn't really go into much. Just says that, 'Had the two gotten married, Anna would have left after a few weeks of wedded non-bliss, claiming irreconcilable differences.'"
"She didn't like that I was going back into politics," he said slowly, quietly. "She thought I had left politics to practice law for good."
"But you hadn't." He shook his head.
"I thought I had. But I hated corporate law," he confessed, looking up at her. "It was terrible. I knew big companies were using us to screw the little guy. We covered their asses. It was the worst thing I think I have ever done with my life, with my career. And I stayed long enough to be two months away from earning a partnership in that firm," he said, shaking his head.
"Why'd you stay?" Mallory asked gently.
"Because of Lisa. She wanted to be part of the high society crowd. If I worked hard at Gage Whitney, I could give her what she wanted. When I told her I had left the firm and was going to go with Josh to join the 'Bartlet for America' campaign, she seemed okay with it at first, asking me about travel. Then she asked about the money that I was going to be making working for a former governor. When I told her how it would be substantially less than my paycheck with Gage Whitney, she started packing her bags. I thought she was eager to go with me... I was wrong." Mallory slowly stood up and walked around to him, feeling horrible that this Lisa woman had used Sam. And what was worse was that he probably didn't fully realize it. She sat down beside him and placed a hand on his arm.
"She broke your heart, huh?" Sam nodded. "I'm sorry I asked... I didn't mean to bring up old demons."
"The last thing she said was she didn't love me," he said, closing his eyes as the memory of Lisa's voice rang in his head. Mallory's eyes started to water.
"She didn't deserve you, Sam," she said quietly. "You were too good for her."
"More like not good enough."
"Oh, Sam," she said. "That's not... That's not true."
"It isn't?" he asked, looking at her. She shook her head.
"You're compassionate... And caring... And very smart. You have a big heart, Sam, big enough to encompass your work and your personal life. She probably didn't believe that you could keep up with both her and a national campaign." 'More like she didn't want him to do both,' thought Mal, 'even when she *knew* he could.' His intense and pain-filled blue eyes cut through to her soul. "Do you ever think," she began slowly, "that maybe it's a good thing you didn't go through with the marriage?" He nodded.
"Every time I look at you," he said, his voice barely audible. Mallory wasn't quite sure she had heard him correctly but when he leaned over to kiss her lips tenderly, she was most certain she had. When the kiss ended, the two looked at each other for a few minutes before Sam finally stood up. "I, um, have to go back to the prep." Mallory nodded, drying the tears that she hadn't noticed falling. "Can I borrow your book?"
"Sure," she said. "I've read some of it so many times now that I... I know it by heart," she said as she stood up.
"What are you doing tonight?" he asked quickly.
"Probably just grading some papers," she said. "Why?"
"Come to this meeting tonight," he said. She nodded.
"When will you be there?"
"I'll be there by a quarter till."
"Thanks," he said.
"Sure." Her lips brushed past his quickly, just to say goodbye, but the kiss wound up lasting a little longer. "See you tonight," she said before slowly leaving. Sam grabbed the novel and headed back to the Roosevelt Room, quietly slipping back inside and taking his seat.
"Everything okay, there, Sam?" Bartlet asked.
"Yes, sir. I'm very sorry for the interruption."
"That's okay, we're back down to the do-I-take-my-jacket-off conversation again." The staffers glanced around at each other at the President's comment. The last time they had that particular conversation about a Presidential appearance, it had ended in gunfire and with one of their own fighting for his life.
"So, in other words, are we done here, sir?" Leo asked.
"I'd say so. Thanks everybody." As the meeting broke up, Sam headed straight for C.J.
"I haven't read it yet but this is the book," Sam said as he handed it to her. "And it's Mallory's so I'd like to return it to her at some point."
"What is it?"
"Let's go to your office," Sam said. The two quietly and quickly slipped out of the Roosevelt Room and to the press secretary's office. C.J. skimmed the book jacket as they walked.
"It's a fiction novel."
"So then, what's the problem?"
"You're going to want to be sitting down when you figure it out." She glanced at him.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean," he said as they walked into her office, "that you're going to want to sit down." She pushed the door closed and sat down on her couch. Sam gingerly sat down in the chair in front of her desk
"It's a fictional novel about a presidential election."
"That's what I thought, too."
"Apparently it's about us."
"I haven't read it but Mallory has. One of the characters in that book is just like me." C.J. quickly started reading the first pages of the novel. "I'm the Tom Sanders character. He's just like me, my history, my love life... It's really rather disturbing, actually." C.J. ran a hand through her hair.
"Let me guess who I am. 'Six foot three with high heels, the willowy PR expert had just been fired from her high-paying job in L.A. to be recruited by Maxwell Adams, a pathetic...' Toby's not going to like that," she said before continuing with the quote, "'political operative from upstate New York."
"'A weak and insecure candidate?'" she asked, looking up at Sam quickly. "This is blasphemy."
"But true," Sam said. "President Bartlet wasn't ready for the office when we started."
"No but we shouldn't have to deal with crap like this," she said, closing the book and putting it on her desk. Sam took the opportunity to pick it up.
"Freedom of speech. We keep coming back to that. West Virginia White Pride... Toby tried for months to get around that." She nodded. "What are we going to do?"
"How many people here know about this?"
"You and me. Mallory but she's gone home."
"Then it's a safe bet Leo probably knows about it."
"More than likely."
"All right," she said. "I've got to prepare for my next briefing. Could you read it?" He nodded. "Good. Then, hopefully, we can both go to Leo and get his take on how I handle this with the press."
"Okay," Sam said, standing up.
"Who's the author?" she asked. Sam looked at the cover before turning to look at the spine of the book.
"It can't not say," she said, getting to her feet.
"It doesn't," he said, opening the book and looking over the inside jacket again as well as the first few pages.
"Call the publishing company."
"I can't," he said.
"Because it'll look bad if we start investigating this book."
"This book has our lives detailed in it."
"But the names were changed..."
"It's still us. Talk to Ainsley about it."
"I'm not going to talk to her about it."
"I might go to him. I'd like to read this first, though."
"You'll hold the press off?"
"As I have been." Sam nodded. "Go read."