HEART OF THE CAMPAIGN (4/8) 

By LuLu

 

"Good Afternoon, Mr. President." Katrina greeted him as she walked into the Oval Office.

"I told you my name is Jed. Or you could call me Big Brother."

"I thought this meeting was about the campaign so we better keep it to Mr. President. Am I early?" she asked as she looked around the room. "I thought Leo and the others were going to be here?"

"I wanted to talk to you first about the campaign." He had what they had always called the 'serious' look on his face.

She smiled at him. "You don't like the way I'm running the campaign?" His expression didn't change and her question became a statement as her smile disappeared. "You don't like the way I'm running the campaign."

"I talked to John Sr. today and he said Leo asked him to step in and organize New Hampshire because you couldn't handle it.

She could hear the disappointment in his voice. "What did Leo say?"

"Kat, I don't want to involve Leo in this. It would put him in an awkward position since he's been handing out the assignments to you."

"I see. What exactly do you think I'm doing wrong?"

"Well if John Sr. has to step in to bail you out, I guess there must be something wrong." He tried to keep from being annoyed with her. She had worked on his previous campaigns, but usually just to meet and greet or to answer phones in the office. This was big time politics where there was no room for amateurs.

"Are you firing me?"

"I can't fire my sister." Jed tried to lighten the moment, but could see it wasn't working. "We're not just painting posters anymore, Katrina. It's not like running for Class President, this is the big time. I just think you should step aside and let people with more experience do this."

"You think I'm incompetent, your kid sister can't get you elected anymore." She was fighting back the tears caused by his lack of confidence in her.

"I just think this is overwhelming you. You're still a little fragile, take some more time for yourself. In the months right before the election we'll get you out there stumping for me again."

She couldn't say anything to him, afraid that she would turn into the child he was treating her like. "Thank you for your time Mr. President. You'll have my resignation in the morning."

"Kat don't go away mad." He tried to reassure her with a hug.

"Just go away..." they had always said that to each other, but today she said it without a smile.

~O~O~O~O~

"Good afternoon, Mr. President. Leo." Tom Hall from the Democratic National Committee came into the Oval Office with a couple of members from his staff. "We just passed Mrs. Rogers in the hall. I have to tell you Mr. President, I think she had Jason McDonald, Michigan Teamsters' President, crying for his mother last month when she was setting up your office. In fact I thought she would be in this meeting."

The President was shocked. During his conversation earlier with Katrina, she never mentioned being in Michigan or McDonald. "Had the man quaking in his boots?"

Leo was wondering what had happened to Katrina too. She had told him that morning she would talk to him before the meeting.

The President looked a little befuddled, but shook it off. "She had something come up. We'll fill her in later. Leo, do you want to start?"

This was Katrina's plan for insuring a majority Congress the President wanted him to present. Katrina and her people had spent weeks putting it together and refining it, until she was sure it was the best possible expenditure of time and money. Leo didn't like presenting it to these guys from the DNC. He didn't want them giving him credit for something he had very little to do with.

Tom Hall and his group were enthused with the plan. "Leo, you've put together something we can make work. I'm sure this has taken you a lot of time, and we really appreciate it."

"Let there be no mistake, Tom, I only read it over and made some suggestions. Katrina Rogers and her staff did all of the work putting this together. But I'll pass your compliments on to them."

The group filed out, excited to begin implementation of the plan.

"Leo, I'm a little puzzled. I had a conversation with John Sr. this morning and he said that you had taken New Hampshire away from Katrina because she couldn't handle it."

Leo smiled and began to tell the President the plan Katrina had for rejuvenating John Sr.. "Actually, Kat does all the work, hands it to me and John Sr. is none the wiser."

The President leaned forward resting his elbows on his knees, looking down at the floor. "Then this isn't too much for her?"

"No, why would you ask that?" Leo was getting the feeling he knew the answer why Katrina had left early. His anger began to build, "What did you say to her?"

"I just thought it would be easier if she..."

"You asked her to quit?"

Jed was beginning to get defensive, "If you had told me what she was doing, I might not have done that."

"I didn't think daily reports about how many pencils she was buying was a good use of your time. Who do you think researched and wrote that proposal you asked me to present today?"

"I guess I thought you did."

"And when would I have had the time? I thought we decided I would be the Chief of Staff, and we would let someone else run the campaign.

"But you haven't picked anyone."

"I picked Katrina! Where do you think she's been spending all of her time?"

"I guess I didn't miss her."

"How could you not miss her!" Leo's heart ached when he wasn't able to see her for a couple of days. "She's the best thing you've got going for you in this campaign. She believes in you without question and she's able to pass that feeling on to others. Why didn't you ask me before you talked to her? Now, I've got to find her before she does something stupid. Like resign!"

~O~O~O~

Her house was dark when Leo got there. He let himself in with his key, checked the alarm and turned on the foyer light. As he walked through the main floor looking for her, he took off his jacket and laid it on a chair in the sitting room, loosened his tie and undid the top button of his shirt. Then he walked up the stairs to find her lying on the bed.

He lay down behind her. Molding his body around hers. She leaned back onto him and took his hand.

"You've talked to Jed?"

"Why didn't you tell him about all the things you've done for this campaign?"

"He thinks I'm incompetent, it caught me completely off guard. I can handle a Teamster, but I can't handle my own brother."

"He didn't know. I started to fill him in and then I lost my temper."

"I'll give him my resignation tomorrow."

"He doesn't want that. I'm sure I convinced him you're the best thing that happened to his campaign. Anyway, who would go back to Michigan tomorrow and fight with Jason McDonald?"

"He made me feel like I was four again, so I prove it by lying here in a fetal position."

"I thought it was so I could come up here and spoon you." He pulled her closer, feeling the warmth of her body through her tailored business suit. "Actually it's very sexy."

She turned over to face him, reached her hand behind his neck and brought his head down until their lips met.

His kisses became more passionate as his hands began to explore her body. Jed may make Katrina feel like a child, but to him she was all woman. And right now she made him feel like a teenager with raging hormones.

"Mr. McGarry?" Leo's driver opened the front door downstairs and yelled in.

"Yeah?"

"The President's on his way over."

"He can't just drop in like this. Can he?" he whispered to her hoarsely.

"I wanted him to have a place he could go and get away from the pressure of the job, remember? I worked with the Secret Service to make this place secure for him." She stroked Leo's face. "I guess that came around to bite me on the butt."

Leo groaned and dropped his head on her shoulder, waiting for his heart rate and breathing to return to normal. "Remind me where I was later."

"Katrina! Leo?"

"That didn't take him long!" Leo jumped off the bed smoothing his clothes back into place. "How do I look."

"Like you just got caught with your hands where they didn't belong!" She gave him a smile that held a promise for later.

As Leo came down the stairs he saw Abbey had come along with the President. "She's okay. You know you can still hurt her feelings, Jed. I was just going to fix some coffee, would anyone else like some?" Leo casually walked into the kitchen and started fixing the coffee.

Abbey noticed something different about Leo. Was he a bit flushed? She knew he was always protective of Katrina, but there was something different tonight, it was personal. He was angry at her husband for hurting Kat's feelings. And didn't he just call him Jed?

As she watched him prepare the coffee, Abbey was sure Leo knew his way around Katrina's kitchen. He didn't fumble once when getting coffee and cups from different cupboards, like he had done this may times before. Leo was at home here. A small smile crossed her lips. She was now sure the flush in Leo's face was caused by an intimate moment she and Jed had just interrupted.

"I guess this is all my fault" Leo confessed. "I thought you knew when I told you she was opening offices in the Midwest what I meant."

"I thought she was just doing a meet and greet, Leo."

"No, she's one tough campaigner, Mr. President."

"Don't talk about me like I'm not here!" A fresh faced Katrina smiled at all of them.

Abbey noticed Leo's eyes when Katrina walked into the room. For just a second they seemed to light up and then become guarded again.

"I'm sorry, too. I should have known you could do this." Jed walked over and wrapped his arms around his sister.

They spent the next hour like four old friends, sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee and talking about the campaign.

~O~O~O~O~

There was a tap on Leo's door. "Hey Leo got a minute for me?" It was Abbey.

"Come on in, I'll always make time for you?"

As she came in, she made sure all of the doors in Leo's office were closed.

"Is this about the President? A problem with his health?" Leo was beginning to become concerned with the deliberate way she was isolating them from the outside.

"This is about you Leo. What's going on between you and Katrina?" She watched for changes in his eyes.

Leo, didn't know how to answer her. Obviously she suspected something or else she wouldn't have asked the question, but what did he want to tell her.

"Stop being a politician. Leo, you've put me in an awkward place between an old friend and family. Half of me wants you back with Jenny, but if you and Katrina make each other happy, maybe that's where you should be. It's between your past and your future."

"I don't know Abbey." He sat down on the couch next to her. "I always thought when I left the White House I could convince Jenny to come back to me. When she never pursued the divorce, I thought she felt the same way. I never meant to get involved with Katrina and now I don't want to give her up."

"What do they want, Leo? Have you talked to Jenny?" He had always handled everyone's problem, maybe it was time he solved his own. "If I talked to you about the political ramifications of all of this coming out right before elections, would that get your attention?"

"That's not fair, Abbey." He was defensive because he knew she was right. Leo usually thought in terms of the politics but this was his private life, and he'd given up so much of it already. He got up from where he was sitting and walked to the pictures on his desk. Leo had one of the four of them taken the first night Katrina was back in town. It had replaced a picture of Jenny with him.

Abbey took the picture from Leo. "If you want to reconcile with Jenny and she finds out about Katrina, it will definitely be over. And if you want a future with Kat, she needs you to break from your past."

After Abbey left his office, Leo made dinner plans with Jenny for later in the week.

~O~O~O~O~

They planned to meet at "The Grill" in Arlington. Leo knew tonight he must not be late and was waiting at the table when Jenny arrived. The maitre d' escorted her to where he was sitting. After all of these years she was still a very beautiful woman.

They exchanged pleasantries about Mallory, Summer in DC and her vacation plans. The food was its usual high quality, but tonight he didn't have much of an appetite.

"Leo, you've talked all around the subject of why you wanted to meet tonight."

He took a deep breath. "I've always thought when I was no longer Chief of Staff you and I would be back together. Is that possible?"

"You've always believed that, Leo, but it's not true. I didn't make the decision to leave you based on one thing. If I thought things would change after you left the White House, I would have stuck it out. But there will always be something else. Your life wasn't enough for me anymore Leo, I wanted one of my own."

There it was. She couldn't be any plainer. He thought he had been prepared for what she just told him, but he wasn't. The waiter came by to fill their coffee which gave Leo a minute for it all to sink in.

"Then I guess it's time to make it final. I'd like you to file the divorce papers as soon as possible."

Jenny was surprised he gave up so easily. "Have you found someone else?" Even though they had been apart for over a year, Jenny felt a little like the betrayed wife.

"Maybe, but neither of us has a future if we don't resolve the past."

"What if I came here tonight and said I'd take you back? What would you have done about her then?"

Leo hadn't thought about that.

Later that night when he was alone in his apartment, Leo began to wonder what he would have done. Was he completely over Jenny? How much did he love Katrina? Love Katrina. Before he had even admitted that to her or to himself, he was questioning it.

The phone began to ring, that was probably Katrina now. She was somewhere in the Midwest, had been for several days. She didn't know about his dinner with Jenny tonight and he wasn't ready to tell her. He let the machine pick it up.

"Hi Leo, are you there?" Even at this hour she was so cheery. "I just wanted to let you know, I'm taking the red eye back to DC so maybe I'll see you at my house when I get there. If not I'll see you at the office in the morning. I have really missed you! Love Ya!" and the line disconnected.

He rewound the message and played it again. Usually the sound of her voice picked up his spirits, but not tonight. "Love Ya". What was he going to tell her?

~O~O~O~O~

Katrina tried to pull herself out of bed at her usual time, but it had been late when she got in last night. She had hoped Leo got her message and would be waiting for her when she got home. Something must be going on at the White House. She usually spent a lot of time each night talking to him, but this trip she only caught him at home once.

She made some coffee and got her newspaper out of the box. Later she'd take a long shower to revive herself. She could get to the office late since no one expected her to be in before lunch anyway.

She was glancing through the People section of the paper when the picture caught her eye. "What a stud." she thought with a smile. It was Leo. Her hand ran across the image of his face. She knew now she would have to stop by the White House, just to see him. At least this wasn't a picture of them together, he was so paranoid about that. She read the caption under the picture.

"White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry coming out of "The Grill" in Arlington after dinner with wife, Jenny. Sources say the once rocky marriage is back on solid ground as witnessed by the cozy dinner they shared last night."

The breath left her body. She hadn't felt this empty since she opened the door and Jed walked in to tell her about John. She studied the picture again, Jenny was in the shadows. No wonder he didn't answer the phone last night. And the nights before? Something had been bothering him, now she knew. How could she have been such a fool. He had told her he would go back to Jenny, but she let herself forget that.

She couldn't face anyone today. Even though Katrina was sure no one knew about them, she felt it was written all over her face. "LOSER. Dates a married man, and is surprised when he goes back to his wife." She needed a drink.

~O~O~O~O~

Leo had fallen asleep on his sofa and was rushed getting to the office. There were many things he had intended to do after his dinner with Jenny, but his concentration for work was gone by the time he got home. He went straight into his office and yelled for Margaret to bring him coffee.

"Leo.." she started to comment about the picture in the paper.

"Margaret, I don't have any time to talk this morning." He was very short with her, "No calls or visitors until after the staff meeting at 10. Let everyone know I'm pushing that back."

Margaret thought the reconciliation would have improved his mood, but apparently it didn't.

~O~O~O~O~

At 10:00 there was a rap on his door, and the Senior Staff began to file in.

"Well Leo it would have been nice to have a heads up that your picture would be in the Post this morning." CJ gave him a warm smile.

Leo's brow was already furrowed, now he just shook his head not understanding her comment.

CJ tossed the paper onto his desk, folded to show his picture.

He hadn't taken the time to look past the articles on the front page. Leo saw his picture and read the caption. "Oh, God." He felt frozen in time.

"So are congratulations in order?" Josh strutted in ready to slap Leo on the back.

Leo finally found his voice. "No, we had dinner to iron out the divorce. Jenny will be filing in the next couple of weeks."

"I'm sorry, Leo. What do you want me to tell the Press?" CJ wanted the floor to open up and swallow her.

Tell the Press, what was he going to tell Katrina? "It's my private life, tell them that. Let's get on with this meeting, I've got too many things going on today to deal with this now."

As soon as the meeting was over, Leo punched Katrina's office number into his phone. "We haven't heard from her today, but then she's not expected until after lunch."

Next he tried her at home, but got the answering machine. He grabbed some files, gave directions to reschedule the rest of his meetings for another day and left.

It was quiet when he walked in the door. A quick search found the coffee maker on, a full cup of cold coffee on the counter and the newspaper lying open to his picture. Upstairs her bed was left unmade, and her luggage still packed. On his way out the door, he passed by her sitting room. The door of a cabinet was open exposing several liquor bottles. "What have I done?" He looked at an open bottle with a glass sitting next to it. Like many times in the last few hours, he was tempted to find himself a drink, but this time it was sitting right in front of him. Leo picked up the bottle and put it away. He quickly walked out of the room and the house.

~O~O~O~O~

Katrina usually liked sitting here watching the world go by, but today she felt like having her own pity party. Some of the tourists looked at her like she was familiar, but they really couldn't place who she was. They were taking pictures of all of the Memorials around the area, but they didn't know if they would just point that camera at her they could have a picture of the President's loser sister. "Maybe I could make the Post too."

When she saw the clipping about Leo and Jenny, she almost fell back into her destructive patterns. She had several bottles of liquor in the house that she kept for guests. It had never tempted her before, but that morning she went straight for the cabinet, took out the Scotch and a glass. She tried to pour herself a drink but her better angels were with her. She ran upstairs, got dressed and found a meeting.

After the meeting she walked until she found herself on The Mall. She watched the people stand in line to go up in the Washington Monument. She hadn't put her watch on when she left and had to ask someone the time. She knew she should get to her office, but her late night was catching up to her. She had left the house without much money, and didn't have enough to get a cab ride home; now she was too tired to walk. "I suppose I could go over to the White House, and get a ride from CJ." But then she would have to explain too much, and what if she ran into Leo. Katrina wasn't ready to face him yet.

She spoke too soon. Ahead a car had pulled over to the curb, and out stepped the Chief of Staff.

"I've been looking all over for you." He was relieved to find her. She looked tired and angry at him, but she didn't look like she had been drinking.

"You're really not the person I want to talk to." She started to walk past him. In all of the time Katrina had known Leo, she had never felt this kind of anger toward him.

"Jenny's filing for divorce. That's what the dinner was about. I would have told you, but I didn't know anyone got a picture of us together." His eyes pleaded for her to stop.

Relief flooded over her body. "I'm sorry." Not for herself, but for Leo. She knew what it was like to have your marriage end. No matter what the circumstances, it was the end of the dreams you held onto for many years.

"I saw the bottle." He was concerned.

"It was a reflex I thought I had gotten over, but I guess not. It took a lot of will power, but I went to a meeting instead. I've been walking around here trying to stay away from home and being tempted again." She started to laugh. "Now I'm so tired, and I forgot my money. Do you think you could give me a ride home?"

It was good to see her smile again. "Yeah, that can be arranged, and I need to talk to you anyway."

She walked into the house and as she passed the sitting room, she noticed the bottle had been put away and the cabinet closed.

They sat at her kitchen counter and drank coffee. "Jenny asked me what I would have done if she said she'd take me back. It threw me for a loop. I thought I knew what she was going to say and I was all prepared for that. But what would I have done if I had to choose between the two of you. Abbey told me.."

"Wait, you told Abbey?"

"No, Abbey came to me after we were all here. I'm not sure how she figured it out."

"It was probably just a woman thing. Do you think she'll tell Jed?"

"No, I'm sure she doesn't want to get in the middle of this." They had gotten off the subject, and he really did have something he had to tell her. "Abbey said I was choosing between my past and my future. Last night I knew my decision. I love you, Katrina. If I would have had to choose, I would have chosen you." He took her hand into his and kissed it. Then he wrapped his arms around her and held her tight.

She couldn't believe what he had said. After all of these months together, he had never told her he loved her. "I love you Leo. I have always loved you."

 

 

Heart Of The Campaign - 5

 

 

 

Home        What's New        Author Listings        Title Listings