See part 1 for disclaimer
Sam was under no illusions as to why he was designated to attend this thing. And despite Tobyís assertions, he knew it was not because he had done anything to deserve Leoís torment. No, he was there because he had a role to play; a function to fulfill.
Leo did not send Sam to New York to expound upon the Presidentís domestic policy with his exquisite eloquence and remarkable rhetorical skill; though he had mastered the art of multitasking and had done that as well. Nor was he there to persuade the guests to donate money to the DNC; though being the resourceful guy he was, he had also found the time to accomplish that. And he was not sent to befriend the gentlemen and charm the ladies; with his wit and natural charisma, though he couldnít be blamed for accomplishing that as well. No, he had a specific purpose that night. An unenviable job. He was to keep an eye on his boss.
As White House Director of Communications; it is Toby Zieglerís job to represent the President to the public with the written word in speeches and press releases, and to represent the President in person to public servants and interest groups in key strategy meetings. It was when those two were combined and Toby had to represent the President in person to the public, however, that made Leo nervous.
Brusque, gruff, blunt, and abrupt were all words that could be ascribed to Toby when it came to personal interactions. His only saving grace being that he was almost always right. In fact, Sam was hard pressed to think of a time when Toby was wrong. Unfortunately, when talking to people who were about to write a check for a few thousand dollars for your boss, that wasnít exactly the best time to beat them in an argument, no matter how wrong they were.
That was where Sam came in. His job for the evening was damage control. Sam was to: if possible, stop Toby from inflicting damage on the guests; and at the very least, apologize and try to make up for it when he did.
Toby had surprised Sam, however. He had remained uncharacteristically quiet and subdued. The evening was almost over and Toby had yet to incite into rage or terrifically insult anyone. And while Sam recognized that this fact should be comforting, it only served to unsettle him. What the hell was going on?
Approaching his boss, Sam recognized the older gentleman talking to Toby as Congressman Gergan from New Yorkís Ninth District. Samís first instinct was to speed up his pace to reach the two men before the inevitable argument broke out. Gergan was generally looked upon by the White House Senior Staff as a snake willing to sell his mother for a vote, just exactly the type of politician Toby abhorred.
Glancing up to Tobyís face, however, Sam was shocked to see not indignation, nor thinly controlled hatred. Sam wondered if Toby was even listening to the older manís ramblings. He looked as if he were preoccupied with his own thoughts. Perhaps, Sam thought, he was rewriting the Presidentís speech to the NAACP scheduled for next Wednesday. Or maybe he was preparing his arguments for the strategy meeting on gun control on Monday. Sam disregarded both of those theories immediately. Neither could account for the almost -- tranquil? --expression on Tobyís face.
"Excuse me," Sam interrupted as he approached the two men. He grinned and reached to shake the older manís hand. "Congressman Gergan, Iím pleased to see you here." To his own credit, Sam thought he sounded rather sincere.
"Mr. Seaborn," the Congressman greeted him. "I was just explaining to Mr. Ziegler how I believe the amendments Iíve attached to WH-204 will serve only to strengthen the bill. They have taken away any arguments Republicans can use to claim we are weak in foreign policy. And with the amendments, the bill will accomplish itís goal of aiding the impoverished citizens of military dictatorships, while remaining tough on the dictators themselves. Donít you agree, Mr. Ziegler?"
Toby blinked, unceremoniously snatched from a daydream of C.J. to the harsh reality of the ignorant Congressman. "No, I donít," he replied calmly after a few seconds. "I believe theyíre only the latest in a long line of examples that prove you give little to no priority to actually helping people and all priority to what will keep you in office."
Sam looked on in surprise at how calm and placid Toby remained while lambasting the Congressman. "The amendments youíve attached only give a very superficial appearance of remaining tough on military dictators," he continued, "when in actuality they will not affect the dictatorships in the slightest. They will, however, limit the number of those Ďimpoverished citizensí that will receive aid. The White House has offered a bill that would aid a large number of the the worldís citizens in significant amounts while simultaneously helping American businesses. Your amendments would, in effect, render the bill toothless and barely worth the paper it would be printed on." He paused to take another drink of his bourbon only to find his glass empty. "Excuse me," said Toby and walked away.
"Well, I,I,-" the Congressmen sputtered. "Thatís completely untrue," he finally declared indignantly.
Taking his eyes off Toby, Sam turned to face the older man. "Tobyís right. The sole issue you care about is your own preservation. Youíre not a public servant, youíre a public parasite. The only thing youíve got going for you is your membership to the Democratic Party, and by the way you continually undermine the Presidentís efforts, soon thatís not even going to be enough to protect you," he snarled. "Youíre up for re-election in less than a year and if you are counting on any financial support from the DNC, you might consider being slightly more concerned with the Presidentís agenda and a little less concerned with your own." With that, Sam left the Congressman standing in the middle of the room speechless.
He started for the bar where Toby was, unable to help the small smile that threatened to dance on his lips. That was the first time he had the opportunity to play Ďbad copí to Tobyís Ďgood-- well, maybe not good -- indifferent cop.í It was fun!
He was almost to the bar, when a small group of partygoers pulled him into a heated debate on campaign finance reform.
"Another bourbon on the rocks," Toby ordered. He glanced at his watch. Just a little longer. Then, he could go back to his room and call her. He wondered what she was doing right now.
"Excuse me," a voice came from behind him.
Toby turned around to see the woman addressing him. His first thought was that she bore a remarkable resemblance to C.J. Except her hair was a little blonder than C.J.ís and maybe a few inches longer. Her eyes werenít quite as large and luminous as C.J.ís. And, her face a slightly rounder than C.J.ís. In fact, now what Toby looked closely, he realized she didnít really look like C.J. at all.
"Youíre Toby Ziegler, President Bartletís Director of Communications," she asked smiling.
"Iím Laney Reeves," she introduced herself. "Senator Atwoodís new Chief of Staff. I overheard what you said to Congressman Gergan and I just wanted to tell you that I completely agree. Too many politicians are overly concerned with what will get them re-elected and not whatís the right thing to do. Iím afraid the phrase Ďvote your consciousí is met with too many blank stares these days."
Toby nodded. "Thatís true. Congressmen should vote their conscious," he said, then added, "as long as their conscious is in agreement with the President."
"And what if the President is wrong," she challenged.
"Itís my job to make sure heís not," answered Toby simply.
She didnít respond immediately, instead gazed intently into his eyes. He didnít as much blink under her intense scrutiny. ĎThis is the big leagues, Laneyí she thought to herself. ĎYouíve made it.í An amused smile spread across her face. "Iíve been warned about you."
"I should hope so."
For a few seconds, Laney wasnít exactly sure how to react to that statement. When she saw a small twinkle in his eye, she started to laugh.
Sam had finally broken free of the anxious crowd of guests and continued to head for Toby, when he saw his boss talking to a stunning blonde. Unable to see Tobyís face, Sam saw the woman smiling and laughing. As he approached them, he could start to hear their conversation.
"Iíd like to talk to you more," the woman said, her voice sultry. "Maybe we could have dinner sometime?" Way to go, Toby!
"Iím going to be busy in the next few weeks with the State of the Union, but if you can call my assistant, Ginger, and see if she can set up an appointment," Toby answered after a moment, Samís trained ear picking up the reluctance in his tone. "Is there a particular issue you would like to discuss?" Toby, are you blind? The woman just asked you out!
"Actually," she replied with a shy smile, " I was thinking more along the lines of a personal, not business, dinner." I told you.
Sam could hear Toby clear his throat uncomfortably. I canít believe it. Heís going to turn her down. Toby, what the hell are you thinking? Here is a beautiful woman asking you out. What could possibly stop you from-
"Iím involved with someone," Toby said quietly.
Sam stopped dead in his tracks. What?!?!
"I canít believe this," Josh exclaimed loudly. "You know what this reminds me of? This reminds me of the story, uh," he struggled to remember the name. "Rumplestiltskin," he snapped his fingers triumphantly.
A look of utter confusion comes over C.J.ís face. "Rumplestiltskin?"
"Yeah. You know, the guy went to sleep and when he wakes up, like 100 years has passed and everything has changed. You know the story."
She sighed, "Thatís Rip Van Winkle, Josh. Rumplestiltskin was the little guy who weaved straw into gold."
"Thatís who I feel like!"
"You have an overwhelming urge to weave straw into gold, huh?"
"No, C.J." he replied almost exasperated. "Iím talking about the Van Winking guy. I feel like him. He-- is who I feel like right now."
"This is exactly like that!"
"Well, not quite, but almost!"
"Josh, what the hell are you talking about?"
"Iím talking about Mr. Van Wimple going to sleep for a 100 years, then wakes up to find everything different! Iím talking about me burying myself in the Breckenridge confirmation for over a month. And when itís finally over and I join the land of the living again, I find out that," he counts off on his fingers, "Joey is moving back to California and doesnít tell me until the day she leaves; Donna gets angry at me when I actually ask for her advice, sheíd rather go out with some nudnik to the Wendyís drive through or something; and now I find out that you-"
"Josh," interrupted C.J. "You constantly belittle and demean any guy that Donna happens to be seeing, yet you expect her to listen to you talk about your love life and give you advice?"
Josh stops in the middle of his rant to think about what she was saying. His eyes narrowed. "Whatís your point?"
Oh, boy. C.J. hated to bring out the big guns, but he had forced her into a corner. Besides, it was about time he faced up to his feelings. "My point is, I think you automatically consider any man in Donnaís life a loser, because youíre jealous."
"Wha- Jeal- C.J.- Iím not-." The words tripped and fell off his tongue, slightly slurred from the combination of three beers and a sensitive system. Finally, he gathered his thoughts and replied indignantly, "Iím not jealous!"
She shrugged. "Iím just saying-"
"Thatís ridiculous," he cut her off. "Donnaís my assistant. Nothing more. I mean, she doesnít even get me coffee," insisted Josh. "Iím not jealous," he reiterated, though not quite convincingly.
C.J. decided not to call him on it, though. "If you say so, Josh." Heíd have to learn to deal with his feelings for Donna eventually. Besides, she had gotten him off track, and that was enough.
"Iím not," he said again. "And donít think you can change the subject, Claudia Jean."
"Now, you tell Uncle Josh everything."
"Uncle Josh?" She smiled bemused and sipped her beer.
"Whatís his name?"
"Iím not telling you his name, Josh."
"Because youíd take that information and do something stupid," she replied matter-of-factly.
"I would not!"
"Yes, you would," she argued. "Youíd pull some strings and have the FBI check him out. Youíd call the IRS and talk them into auditing him." C.J. sighed. "And in your incredibly sweet, but exceedingly bothersome way, youíd probably confront him yourself and demand to know what his intentions towards me were."
Josh was silent for a few seconds, then said, "Those arenít necessarily bad ideas, C.J. I could-"
"Okay, okay," he relented. "What does he do? Does he have a job?"
"Yes, but Iím not going to tell you."
"So itís someone I know," exclaimed Josh. "Now, weíre getting somewhere!"
"I didnít say that," she said defensively.
"Oh, come on, C.J. You wonít tell me, because I know the guy and youíre afraid Iíll figure it out." When she didnít say anything, he persisted. "Youíve got to give me something, Claudia Jean." He paused, then grasped her forearm and spoke dramatically, "Heís not a Republican, is he?"
Josh let out a deep breath. "Oh, thank God. You had me scared there, Claudia Jean." He smiled. "So, how long have you been seeing this guy?"
"About four months," answered C.J.
"Four months," he exploded again. "Four months and you didnít say anything?!"
She shrugged. "It never came up."
His eyes grew wide with surprise. Never came up?! Finally, he settled on asking her, "Why are you here with me, and not with Mr. You-Wonít-Tell-Me-Anything-Except-Heís-A-Democrat Guy?"
"Because you are a near and dear friend that I havenít spent enough time with lately," C.J. responded sincerely. And then added, when Josh looked at her skeptically, "And, heís out of town."
"Ahhh," he replied understandingly. He finished his beer. "Four months?"
"Get over it."
"Okay." Josh reached across the table to hold her hands. "Tell me, C.J., and this is important." He gazed into her eyes. "Are you happy?"
"Yes," she answered softly.
"Good," said Josh. His eyes began to twinkle and he smirked mischievously. "Is the sex good?"
"Whatís Mr. Best-Youíve-Ever-Had gonna think about this?"
C.J. flipped the switch inside the door, flooding with bright light, causing Josh to groan in pain. "Josh, if you donít stop calling him that, I swear Iíll call Donna and tell her youíre drunk."
"I am not drunk," he denied vehemently.
"Iím not," he yelled, then quickly grabbed his head and moaned.
C.J. turned him around and pushed him down the long hallway. "Last door on the right."
"Take off your clothes, except your boxers," she emphasized. "This is extremely important, Josh," C.J. called after him, then muttered, "Iím not ready for a surprise like the last time."
"Iíll try to find those sweats you left here and be in there in a minute," she said as the phone started to ring. "Hello?" Her eyes light up and her voice softened. "Hi."
She heard a yelp and turned to see Josh bounding down the hallway, his headache long forgotten. He had obviously been in the process of getting undressed as his shirt and pants were now gone, leaving him in his white undershirt and blue pinstriped boxers. Amusingly enough, he had failed to remember to remove his tie before taking off his shirt, so it now hung around his neck in a loose, haphazard manner. Before she could react, he grabbed the phone from her.
"Hello, Mr. Magical Mystery Man," he said into the phone, then flashed C.J. an arrogant smile.