Disclaimers: Characters belong to or were inspired by Aaron Sorkin, John Wells, etc. Thanks to LidaRose for the many times she's read, proofed and encouraged the writing of this story. And thanks also to the WWFFS for their encouragement.
Events take place during the last two years of the first term of the Bartlet Administration.
HEART OF THE CAMPAIGN - PART 1 By LuLu
Leo McGarry was working in his office off the Oval Office when he heard the door joining them open.
"Leo, do you have a dinner companion for the Thing tonight?" It was the President of the United States, his oldest friend Jed Bartlet.
Leo gave him a sour look. He had planned to work in his office right up to the dinner and return when he was finished eating. He didn't have the time or the patience to make conversation with someone who made a large campaign contribution just to sit at the President's table. "Check the guest list. Is there anyone's name next to mine?" he replied, annoyed at the question.
Smiling, the President continued, "Good, I've just invited someone to join us tonight. I'll just have them squeeze in next to you. You can meet her in the Residence for drinks before dinner."
"Who will I be meeting for drinks?" Leo was getting a little perturbed. He knew that these dinners went along with the job, but since his break up with Jenny, they weren't fun anymore.
"I believe it's a widow lady from New England. She wants to talk to you about the next presidential election and how she can organize her county."
"She must be worth big bucks to get a table with you." Leo resigned himself to the wasted evening ahead.
"Make nice to her, Leo. She is worth a lot to me." He flashed Leo his best candidate's smile and left the room.
Leo had brought his tux to the office that morning so he wouldn't have to waste time going home to get dressed. He moved the electric razor he kept in his drawer across his face while he watched the evening news on the TV. "This is such a waste of my time." And there was very little time left. The dinner tonight marked the second anniversary of the Inauguration. They were half way through their term and if he didn't begin to get the Bartlet Agenda through Congress, Jed wouldn't need this woman from New England for any thing.
He gave himself one last look in the mirror and walked out the door. "At least I'll be having dinner away from my desk." Lately it seemed the only times he ate away from his desk were at special events at the White House and fund raisers. Then there were the occasional dinners Mallory prepared for him. Thinking of her always put a smile on his face, and just in time as he approached the doorway to the Residence. He just hoped he wouldn't be expected to stay for the dancing. That would be asking too much.
Abbey Bartlett stepped over to greet him with a smile and a hug. "Jed tells me he got you a date for tonight."
Leo gave her a pained look and sighed, "I believe it was explained to me as a dinner companion." Now he knew he wouldn't get out of the after dinner entertainment and dancing.
Abbey just laughed and shook her head, "Oh, those tricky politicians. You have to watch them every minute." She stopped talking and took Leo's arm to turn him around. "There she is now."
Walking into the room on the arm of a Marine in full dress uniform was a familiar face. He had forgotten how her presence could electrify the room. It wasn't about her beauty, though she certainly was one, but the aura that seemed to be around her. It had been almost two years since he had last seen her, Katrina Bartlet-Rogers; younger sister of Jed Bartlet, widow of Senator John Rogers, Jr. of New Hampshire.
"Isn't she beautiful?" They both beamed with pride at the woman as she walked into the room. "She certainly didn't look like that the last time you saw her." Abbey took his arm and they walked to join her.
Leo caught Katrina's eye and the smile moved from her mouth to include her eyes. She wrapped her arms around him and held on tight. "Chief of Staff, McGarry!" She pulled away and smiled at him.
"Jailbird! You're looking beautiful, Kat, so healthy! Are you sure that was a Nevada pokey and not some kind of spa?" He took her hands and looked at her. She was about 10 years younger then Jed, and Leo had been there to watch her change through the years. He was there when she broke her arm at the State Softball tournament, when she walked down the aisle a beautiful young bride and then John's funeral; too young to be a widow.
John Rogers, Jr. had been killed in a car accident while campaigning for Jed during the New Hampshire Primaries. They all thought Katrina was working through her grief. By spring she was back out hitting the campaign trail for her brother. No one knew about the nights she was going back to her room and drinking until she passed out. The headaches and puffy eyes, they chalked up to the grieving process. He should have seen the signs.
It was Valentines Day, just a couple of weeks after Jed's swearing in, when Leo received a call from some Secret Service agents who had followed her to a bar in a seedy part of DC. She was drinking heavily by then and Leo had gone to the bar to take her home. He had stayed the night forcing coffee down her and trying to talk her into getting help. All the anger came out of her that night. The anger at Jed who had won, and John was dead. She was sure Leo was only there to protect Jed from scandal, but he was there to pay back Jed from picking him up off of a parking lot and getting him into treatment.
Leo had hired a private plane to take her to a facility Abbey had arranged for her in Minnesota. He sat holding her as she cried all the way. Her body wracked from vomiting, so thin from not eating. Her eyes were sunken with dark circles under them. He knew all too well what she was going through.
After Katrina had finished her treatment she had decided not to return to Washington DC. She had spent most of her life involved in politics, getting Jed elected to some office, and then helping John. It was time to find out about herself. She had been traveling the country for almost two years volunteering wherever she was needed.
Until tonight. Who was this beautiful woman who glowed all over? She was no longer Jed's little sister with braces, or even John Rogers' wife who had handled the duties of a Senator's wife at such an early age. Leo couldn't believe the transformation.
Katrina was wiping some lipstick off his cheek, a soft intimate gesture . She was smiling at him and the weariness from the days work began to leave his body. "It's good to have you back, Katrina."
"It's good to be here." She raised her head and looked past him, "But be sure to keep me away from that woman, because she will get me into trouble!"
Leo followed her gaze and looked around to see CJ Cregg walk into the room.
It was January in Iowa. Katrina and CJ were traveling between rural towns introducing Governor Josiah Bartlet to the people of Iowa.
"I think the turn should be right up here." CJ was reading the directions that the state party chairman had given to her.
"Turn right?" Katrina had asked her staring intently at the road. They had driven into an Iowa blizzard. The wind was whipping the soft snow around the car so they felt like they were insulated in a cocoon.
"CJ, where's the road?"
"Kat, can you see past the end of the hood?"
"No. How about you?"
Looking out her side window CJ saw the intersection they were looking for. "Stop...Turn...Here's the road."
Katrina slammed on her brakes and put the car in a spin on the snow packed road. "HANG ON!"
"WHOA, WE'RE OFF THE ROAD"
THUNK! They were in a snow drift.
"Are you okay, CJ? I'm really sorry. You would think growing up in New Hampshire I would remember not to put on the brakes like that. I'm glad John insisted on this SUV with 4 wheel drive. I'll have us out of here in a minute."
Katrina tried to rock the car back and forth to get them out of the snow, but to no avail. "I'm not even sure which direction the road is?"
"NEWSBREAK, the National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for the following counties..."
"I wonder if we're in the warning area?" CJ said to the radio sarcastically.
"Everyone is asked to stay off the roads. Only travel in cases of emergency."
"Well this is an emergency. Send someone after me." CJ continued berating the announcer on the radio.
"Now CJ, you don't want anyone out on these roads looking for us. We're safe for the time being. Hand me your cell phone and I'll just let John, Jed and Leo know where we are."
"How long is the time being? Because the battery in my phone is dead. I was planning on recharging it when we got back to the motel tonight."
"OK, don't panic. Keep your hands to yourself. Don't wring CJ's neck."
"Hey, where's your phone?" CJ was getting defensive. After all putting the car in the snow drift wasn't her fault.
"John took it."
"I'm walking to the nearest farm house!"
"Don't be silly, CJ. We can't be wandering around in a storm like this. We'll just wait until the storm passes or it gets light, then we'll be able to find help. There's an afghan in here that one of Jed's supporters made for him. That should help keep us warm. And I think someone slipped in a bottle of brandy."
"And where did they put the bathroom on this bus?"
"We're going to have to play that by ear." Katrina gave her a grin.
After an hour or so, CJ and Kat were settled into their temporary home. Sitting in the back seat of the SUV, they were sharing the afghan and brandy.
"You know, all we need is to have this bottle in a paper sack, and I think we would feel the pain of the homeless."
"CJ I don't think you're feeling any pain right now."
"I am too!" CJ had a big frown on her face. "Tonight I sprang for a room that had a Jacuzzi tub. My body is so tired, I thought a nice soak in the tub would really pick me up. And here I sit with you."
"Ok, CJ. Between you and me, who would you rather be stuck in a snow drift with?"
"Probably Harrison Ford, because Indiana Jones would know how to get us out of here. Or maybe MacGyver! With that Swiss Army knife he could at least build me a bathroom!"
Trying to keep CJ's mind off their plight, Katrina tried to turn it into a game. "No really, who do you know in the campaign that you would like to be stuck with in a snowdrift?"
"John doesn't count, because he's your husband. And even though the Governor's your brother, and I'm working to get him elected President of the United States, that would be cruel and unusual punishment. 'Did you know that no two snow flakes are alike? Did you know...?' "
For the next twenty minutes they laughed uncontrollably as they took turns imitating Jed Bartlet.
Kat continued with their game, "Ziegler would have busted out like a caged animal by now. He'd be up on the corner waiting for a cab. I don't think Toby does the country. And of course Sam Seaborn," with a sigh "he's so dreamy."
"Dreamy! Now that sounds straight out of 'Mystery Date' Open the door and here's Sam, he's so dreamy."
They looked at each other and sighed.
"What about Josh Lyman?" It was CJ's turn. "He is sooo full of himself, but a lot of fun. And by the way, do you think there's something going on between him and Mandy Hampton?"
They gossiped on into the night, the level of the brandy in the bottle going down and down.
"That just leaves Leo." CJ said trying to keep her eyes focused on Katrina, "but I guess he's like your brother too."
"Oh no, Leo's not my brother. I think from the first time Jed brought him home, I've been in love with Leo. Now he's my best friend, but back then I had this terrible crush on him. You know everyone thinks that John is like Jed, but actually he's more like..." She paused wondering where her thoughts were going. "Have I been drinking too much? You know who else we forgot, CJ? That press reporter with the red hair and beard. Davy or Dickie, I can't seem to remember his name."
"Danny something. But I don't think that's a good idea. I'm sure it's against ethnics or conflict of incest...," CJ's words were slurring together.
"All I'm saying is he looks like he could keep you warm in your old age."
"You don't think we're going to be here that long do you?"
When the wind finally died down and the sun came up they found they were 50 feet from a farm house. Katrina and CJ were rescued by the farmer with a warm breakfast and LOTS of coffee.
As CJ walked into the room, she saw a finger pointing at her. Her gaze went up a woman's arm until she was looking into the face of an old friend.
"KAT!" Now she knew why the President had been so happy all day. "When did you get into town? How long are you staying? You look fabulous!" The two women began to laugh and hug each other. "And it was you who got me into trouble in Iowa."
"I told you, we women of New Hampshire are a tough breed. Didn't I get you through the night without freezing to death?"
"You and that bottle of brandy! Let's get to the bar and see if they have one so we can toast your return!" CJ felt her foot moving quickly towards her mouth. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have suggested that."
"Yes you should have, CJ. I think a toast is in order, I'll just be having mine with diet soda." Kat's smile put her friend back at ease.
Abbey stepped in, "Let me find a waiter with a tray of drinks and we can all join in that toast to welcome you back."
"Doesn't my little sister look great!" The President, Sam, and Josh joined the group. "Must be the family genes!" He was beaming as he looked at her. Proud of how she had recovered from the pit she had found herself in after John's death.
Josh gave her a hug, "You know I never did hear the whole story of that snow drift."
"I'm saving it for my tell all book!" CJ gave him a wink.
As Sam gave her a welcome hug, she looked over his shoulder at CJ and mouthed "Dreamy".
"Now where is that photographer. Abbey, Kat, CJ stand here with me. Hanging around beautiful, smart women will improve my image." Jed Bartlet took them all into his gaze, "Especially the smart part."
When dinner was announced, Kat took Leo's arm. "I guess I'm your dinner companion tonight, Leo."
"Well the President didn't tell me it was you, but he did mention that my companion wanted to talk to me about working on the upcoming Presidential campaign. Is that true?"
"Yeah, I think I'm ready to come back to Washington. But let's talk about that tomorrow. Tonight I want to enjoy this party, since it's my first White House Dinner since Jed was elected President. Let's catch up on what's been happening since you gave me back my life." Katrina leaned into him, hugging his arm. She looked into his eyes and softly whispered, "And by the way, thank you."
As they ate she regaled the table with stories about her travels and the jails she ended up in protesting nuclear disarmament and nuclear waste. "I was also involved with some shelters for the homeless." She didn't tell them this is where she regularly attended AA meetings. "The story I heard most often was they never thought it would happen to them. Mother's just trying to feed their children, get them health care. It really put my troubles into perspective."
"Looks like you saw a lot. Are you ready to help us out now?" The President challenged her.
"I may be pretty tough on you, big brother."
"Like that will be something new? When I was ten years old, my mother showed me this little bundle wrapped in a pink blanket. 'Josiah,' she said 'this is your little sister.' I knew then I was in for trouble. Sign her up Leo, looks like we're ready to start the campaign."
"I've been painting posters for you since you ran for Class President in Junior High. Have we ever lost?" She raised her glass and gave it a slight tip. He toasted her back.
Leo found himself having a good time. The other guests at the table were old friends from the Hill and they discussed all the campaigns they had battled together. Jed and Abbey were holding hands like newlyweds, and Katrina had a maturity he had never seen in her before. She had really grown over the last couple of years. She was never a spoiled person, but her brother and parents had indulged her. She had fallen head over heels for John Rogers, maybe because he seemed to be a younger version of Jed Bartlet. That's probably why she crumbled when John died, she had never had her mettle tested. Now as she sat beside him she had a confidence won in a hard fought battle.
The music began to play for dancing. The President and First Lady walked onto the dance floor and began to dance. They were so lucky to still be together, two separate careers yet they were a team. They'd raised wonderful daughters, but he had a pretty wonderful daughter himself. He looked over at Mallory sitting at a table across the room with Sam. Mallory had a small smile as she leaned in and whispered something into Sam's ear. He returned her smile and said something back. Leo still didn't know how he felt about them being together. Dating a member of the boss' family never seemed to work out.
He turned to look at Katrina sitting next to him. She was watching Jed and Abbey dance around the floor.
She knew his eyes were on her, "It's okay Leo. Before I couldn't stand to watch Jed and Abbey happy together. I missed John so much. 'Change the things I can, accept the things I can't, and the wisdom to know the difference.' I turn the pain of losing John into happiness that after all these years, Jed still has Abbey."
"Would you like to join them?" He stood to take her hand and lead her out on the dance floor. Leo took her into his arms and was surprised at the involuntary reaction his body had to her. The smell of her perfume was going to his head like the alcohol he had given up long ago. He felt the softness of her body under his hand, her breath on his cheek.
"Do you remember the first time we danced together? You and Jed we're trying to get me ready for that big school dance."
"You had just broken your arm breaking up that double play! Then we danced at your wedding, you and John made such a perfect couple. I remember old man Rogers working the room trying to get a political appointment for John."
"Hey wait a minute here. When didn't you and Jed work a room?" She questioned him with a twinkle in her eye.
"And the last time we danced was at the Inauguration."
They stopped talking, both lost in a moment a few years before. After all of the Inaugural parties Katrina had come up missing. Leo found her at her house passed out. He managed to get her into the shower, still in the beaded dress she'd worn the night before, and proceeded to turn on the cold water.
"I think you still owe me for ruining that dress." And once again she began to tease him, "but I'm sure I'll win it back at cards."
He laughed out loud like he hadn't for a long time. "And you'll cheat like always!"
"Mallory, looks happy. No help from you, I'm sure. CJ told me all the nasty things you did to Sam." Katrina was looking over his shoulder.
"I was only protecting her. I'm sure Jed would do the same if it were you." He thought about what she had said. He hadn't talked to her since he left her in Minnesota. "You talk to CJ?"
"I have to keep up on the real White House news some how." She pulled back from him, "I was sorry to hear about you and Jenny. How's that going?"
"We live apart, but there's nothing legal yet." Talking to her was so easy, he realized how much he missed the causal conversations that he used to have with Jed. "I keep hoping she'll call and tell me to come home. Maybe when we're out of the White House...?" he left the rest of the question unspoken.
The music changed to an up tempo number. "Can you still cut a rug, Leo?" He proceeded to show her by twirling her out and back. Their laughter could be heard over the music.
"Hey, Danny. I didn't think I'd see you tonight. Pretty tame event for you." They stood watching the couples dance.
"I thought I might try and get a dance with a member of the Senior Staff."
"Let me check my dance card. I have an opening in my office in about 10 minutes. Unless you were hoping to get some action from someone else?"
He gave her hand a discreet squeeze. "Who's that dancing with Leo? And why are you looking at them that way?"
"It's Katrina Rogers, doesn't she look great? And to answer your second question, something in the back of my mind is telling me something, but I can't remember what. Like a dream I had one time," She gave him a puzzled look "and I think you were in it too!"
"I'm glad to see Katrina having such a good time, and Leo too!" the President was sitting at the table holding hands with his wife.
"They've been friends for such a long time, and don't forget, they've been through a lot together."
"I miss him Abbey." He said wistfully. "He calls me Mr. President, even when we're alone. 'What will you be having for breakfast Mr. President? Pass the jelly please, Mr. President.' I know he holds his tongue when he wants to tell me I'm full of crap."
"I promise you honey, I will never hold my tongue." She squeezed his hand and smiled at him.
As the music ended Leo, lowered Katrina into an elegant dip, and the couples around them began to applaud their performance. Kat gave him a deep curtsy, threw her head back and laughed. Leo squeezed her hand and bowed at the waist.
"Well Leo, who is your wonderful partner?" A tall man with movie star good looks and a Texas accent approached them.
"Congressman Jordan Alexander, Katrina Bartlet Rogers." Leo made the introductions.
The music began again, "Would you mind Leo if took a turn with your partner? Oh course I'm not quite the dancer you are." He had a several inch height advantage over Leo, and gave him a patronizing smile.
Before waiting for an answer he took Katrina in his arms and began to dance her away leaving Leo standing alone on the floor. There was something gnawing at Leo's stomach. Was it the way the Congressman had dismissed the Chief of Staff, or was it the way he was looking at Katrina?
After the first dance Congressman Alexander kept Katrina on the dance floor. It was two more numbers before she finally made it back to the table.
"Good job, Kat. He was voted one of Washington's most Eligible Bachelors, and it looks like you've caught his eye." Abbey was thinking romance might keep Katrina in Washington.
Katrina turned to Leo with her best political smile. "Tell me you didn't actually put money into that man's campaign. He is a self-centered moron!"
Sitting next to her Leo could see the look in her eye didn't match the smile on her face. Tonight had turned out to be much better then he had anticipated. He laughed with her until the tears were running down his cheeks.
"Leo?" Margaret quietly entered his office. "Katrina Rogers is here to see you."
"Kat, come on in!" Leo stood up and rounded his desk. "What's up?"
"I'm here to get my assignment for the campaign."
"What do you want to do?"
"I think I'm ready to head the committee to re-elect the President."
"Oh, you want it all!" Leo was a little startled by her request. They hadn't picked a guy yet, but Leo had run the campaign last time and knew how overwhelming it was. He didn't know if Katrina was ready for it yet. "I'm not sure how it will look, the candidate's sister..."
"Bay Buchanan did it for Pat."
"And he lost."
"Is it because I'm, a woman? Mary Matalin ran George Bush's campaign?"
"And he lost."
"I've got to get better arguments." She laughed, "OK, I want control of all fund raising, that includes all printing and mailing. Then I want to begin organizing the offices at the grassroots level. When we've won in Iowa and New Hampshire, you'll be ready to hand it all over to me."
Katrina knew she would be lucky if he gave her the office in New Hampshire to organize, but she remembered how Leo loved to negotiate everything.
"Sit down, we'd better talk about this."