See part one for notes and disclaimers.
Dance, Then, Wherever You May Be
Sam sat nervously on the couch in Josh's office, watching as Donna perched on the edge of Josh's desk and scanned a sheet of paper.
"It's... it's not bad."
Donna smiled unconvincingly. "Yeah."
"Yeah?" Sam tapped a pencil against his knee. "You don't think it's too light-hearted for the State Dinner?"
"Light-hearted?" Donna read the toast again, then looked at Sam. "Is this supposed to be funny?"
He placed his head in his hands. "That was the idea."
"Well, you might want to work on that." Donna hopped from the desk and handed him the paper. "Good luck."
"Donna, find out when Leo has a minute for me." Josh entered his office, removing his jacket as he did so.
"What's up?" Sam stood.
"Todd Verrien's holding a grudge about partial-birth abortions."
"Late-term," Donna said from the hallway.
Josh crinkled his brow. "What?"
"Late-term." Donna stuck her head in the office. "You called them partial-birth abortions."
"Well, that's what they are, Donna."
"They are late-term abortions, Josh. That's what they are." She studied him for a moment before slipping from the doorway. "You've got Leo in five minutes."
"Thanks." Josh motioned to the sheet in Sam's hand. "What's that?"
"A rough draft of the toast."
"Very rough!" Donna called.
"Do you have any actual work to do?" Josh gestured to the sheet again. "Can I see it?"
Sam shook his head. "No."
Josh plucked the page from Sam's hand. "It can't be that... whoa. Is this supposed to be funny?" He looked at his friend. "Are you going to touch on the shooting?"
"Toby wants me to talk about human rights and genocide, CJ thinks it should be funny, and you want me to talk about the shooting?"
"It couldn't hurt." Josh grabbed his coat and patted Sam's shoulder. "You'll figure something out."
"It's really not funny?" Sam followed Josh as he walked from the office.
"You remember on 'Full House' when Joey had a pizza delivered to him in the bathtub?"
Sam looked strangely at Josh. "No."
"That was funnier."
"You watch 'Full House'?"
"I caught a rerun the other night."
Sam paused in the hallway outside Leo's office. "That's got to stop."
* * *
"Something he said," C.J. murmured to herself. She meandered through the crowded corridor, engrossed in the file she was reading, and absently bumped into Toby.
He stepped back quickly. "Watch the road."
"Sorry." She reorganized herself. "Hey, you have a minute?"
"No. I have a meeting." Toby kept going as he spoke.
C.J walked with him. "I had Carol pull some background on Verrien."
"He's originally from Cook, Nebraska. Before he was a Senator, he was a district judge in Omaha. He and his wife Trina have three children: Molly, Jason, and Kim."
"And I ask again--"
"He's been a vocal anti-abortion activist for decades; the Nebraska ban was a big plank in his campaign platform." C.J. slowed her pace as she consulted her notes. "It was something he said about his wife."
"I'm sure it's a perfect marriage," he said dryly.
"Right, because the U.S. Senate is the model of -- here we go." She held up a page that was Xeroxed from a magazine. "Katrina Verrien was raped fourteen years ago."
C.J. scanned the text. "I remember reading this during the campaign. She says something here about how her husband 'responded like any normal man would.' She says the way he treated her was wonderful and sensitive. Then she changes the subject."
Toby looked at her quizzically. "Where are you taking this?"
C.J. rifled through the file with a serious expression. "Do you think it's possible that his wife...?" They studied each other, finishing the thought without words. A determined look crossed her face. "I'm going to make some calls."
* * *
Jed dropped the receiver into its cradle and leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes for an instant against the midmorning sunlight that flooded the Oval Office. He opened them again and nodded to Charlie, who motioned Leo into the room.
"Bernadette Bryson," the President said to his Chief of Staff. "I just got off the phone with her stepfather; her mother was too broken up to speak."
"That's the nine-year-old girl?"
"She would have been ten in three months. Made decent grades in school, stayed out of trouble." Jed gazed at the phone. "Sang in church."
"It's nothing but a tragedy," Leo said.
"Yeah." He sat up straighter. "I have a photo-op in five minutes with Dogruyusever. Speaking of which, why did Senator Verrien decline his invitation for tonight?"
Leo looked at him, startled. "How'd you hear about that?"
"I pay attention to things that go on around here," Jed said knowingly. "I have my sources. I listen. I watch. I infer."
"Who told you?"
"Sam. So what's going on?"
"Josh says he's still throwing the Supreme Court ruling back at us."
"Verrien has a pretty definite opinion on abortion."
"Yeah, I'd say his mind's pretty much made up."
Jed hesitated. "I'm not sure mine is."
"It would probably be a bad idea to say that with anyone else in the room."
"If nothing else, I'd like to come down on the side of freedom," Jed concluded, as Charlie approached silently. He handed the President a folded note and stood aside, waiting. Jed put on his glasses, read the note, and looked up at Leo gravely. "They apprehended the shooter."
The smile left Leo's face rapidly. "It was a kid."
"What's his name?"
"Melissa Tompkin." Jed removed his glasses and ran a hand quickly over his face. "An eleven-year old girl."
"Son of a bitch."
"I've got this photo-op." He stood up, and Leo followed suit. "Charlie?"
The President drew a breath and let it out slowly. "Get a hold of Melissa Tompkin's parents for me."
As Leo started for his own office, Jed walked to the main door. He shook his head and spoke softly. "A little girl who liked singing in church."
* * *
To be continued in part three. We'd love feedback.