Part 4

"Toby, when are you meeting with the Hollywood lobbyists?" Leo asked as the daily staff meeting began to close.

"They’re flying in this afternoon. We’re meeting at the Watergate at six," he replied quietly.

Leo nodded his head approvingly. "Good." Then, surprising everyone in the room he added, "I want C.J. to go with you."

C.J. immediately started to protest as Sam, Josh, and various assistants in the room quickly turned to see Toby’s reaction. He had spent the entire meeting sitting isolated in the north corner of the room; his eyes never leaving the large stack of memos and briefs he held in his lap. Unusually quiet and withdrawn from the heated discussions, he commented only when Leo called on him to.

"Leo," C.J. pleaded. "I need to stay updated on the railroad situation and be here to issue a press release if something happens."

"They’re not going on strike today, C.J.," the Chief of Staff replied. "And I doubt anything substantial will happen in the negotiations tonight."

"Yeah, but-"

"If something does happens, Sam can handle it."

"I can handle the meeting by myself," Toby finally spoke, raising his eyes from his briefs to look at Leo. "It’s just a couple lobbyists. It’s not that important."

Leo couldn’t remember the last time he had seen such desperation in Toby’s eyes. He had heard the rumours of his Press Secretary and Communications Director’s latest fight, but until that morning hadn’t taken it very seriously. Observing the two during the staff meeting had changed his mind, however. He had practically had to force Toby at gunpoint to contribute to the discussion. C.J. had been slightly more communicative, but pointedly careful not to address Toby specifically or look in his direction. What the hell was going on between those two? Even during their hellacious fights in the beginning of the campaign, they never acted like this. Well, whatever was going on, Leo was determined they deal with it and get past it.

"It is that important," he responded forcefully. "The Federal Trade Commission report is pretty incendiary. Not only are Republicans foaming at the mouth to place all of the country’s evils at the feet of Hollywood in conjuncture with the White House, but some members of the DNC as well, including our old friend, Lloyd Russell. Aside from that, a big debate on this will only work to divert public attention from the Education Bill." He paused. "I want C.J. there. Work with them. Come up with a reasonable compromise I can take to the Senate Commerce Committee. We need this settled quietly and as quickly as possible."

Toby looked like he was about to argue, then thought better of it and sighed in resignation. Leo looked over to C.J. questioningly. She nodded reluctantly and shuffled her papers on the desk. Sam and Josh sat in uncharacteristic silence, regarding the entire exchange with undisguised curiosity.

"Okay, that’s it," Leo said and stood up from his desk. He handed a few files to Margaret in exchange for several more as he left the room and headed towards the Oval Office for an intelligence briefing.

"Good morning, Mrs. Landingham."

The older lady looked up from her desk. "Good morning. I hear you’re sending C.J. with Toby to meet with the MPAA lobbyists."

Leo opened his mouth to ask her how she knew that since he had just announced it on a whim a few seconds ago, but then remembered that Mrs. Landingham was always aware of everything that happened in the White House. Rumour had it she even knew the secret codes to the nuclear missiles. "It’s for their own good, Mrs. Landingham. They have to deal with whatever is going on between them."

"They will," she answered with such confidence, Leo wondered exactly what she knew about the situation. Probably much more than she would say.

*******

Toby was walking back to his office, when he heard Bonnie and Ginger talking in the bullpen.

"Carol said C.J. didn’t come in until a few minutes before the staff meeting," Bonnie spoke in a conspiratorial tone. "And she didn’t look like she had gotten much sleep."

"Sarah said she saw her leaving with Danny Concannon last night," Ginger said.

"Bonnie," he hollered breaking up their gossip session before they could say any more. "I need a copy of the FTC report on the Motion Picture Association of America. Ginger, get me a transcript of the MPAA lobbyists’ most recent appearance before the Senate Commerce Committee." After barking a few more orders to junior staffers, Toby went into his office and slammed the door shut. Ginger and Bonnie looked at each other silently. They had also heard via Carol that Toby and C.J. were talking in her office when Carol left for the evening. The assistants all hoped that meant their bosses had reconciled, however, the morning’s evidence indicated otherwise.

Inside his office, Toby sat slumped at his desk staring at a photo on his wall. It was of the senior staff taken the night President Bartlet accepted the nomination for President at the Democratic Convention. As always happened, his eyes were drawn to the right hand corner of the picture. His arm was wrapped around her slender waist, pulling her tightly to him. Her head rested comfortably against his. Large smiles decorated their faces. She was so beautiful.

"Toby?"

He blinked and turned to see Ginger looking unsure of herself.

"Here are the papers you asked for," she said quickly and handed them to him. "Is there anything else you need?"

He paused for a few seconds, then answered softly, "No."

*******

For the third time in as many minutes, the words on the page began to blur. Frustrated, C.J. tossed her glasses on her desk and began to rub her tired eyes. The entire night had turned out a disaster. Although Danny had done his best to impress her and keep her entertained over dinner, she was preoccupied with thoughts of Toby and their fight. She couldn’t even remember what excuse she gave him for cutting the evening short, but she was fairly sure he was suspicious. He never gave any indication, though, and graciously offered to drive her home.

She then spent the entire night tossing and turning in her bed. Her mind filled with memories: meeting Toby for the first time; their knock down, drag out fights in the first few months of the campaign; celebrating after they won the New Hampshire primary; dancing at one of the Inaugural Balls; the way his black eyes gazed into hers as he apologized earlier that evening; the betrayal reflected on his face when he found out that she was having dinner with Danny. Memories, good and bad, collided; one leading to another, precluding any hope of sleep.

Sighing, she replaced the glasses on her face and tried to read the report once more. She glanced at her watch. Ten o’clock. It was going to be a long day.

 

Battlegound - 5

 

 

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