Events take place during the last two years of the first term of the Bartlet Administration.
HEART OF THE CAMPAIGN - (7/8)
Special Guest Stars: Geraldo Rivera and Ann Coulter.
The Senior Staff sat in Leo's office grilling Katrina before her appearance on the Geraldo Rivera program that evening. Tonight was going to be the first time she was being put forth as Chairman of the President's Re-election Committee. She had defended Jed before as his sister, but this appearance tonight was to set their policies and issues for the campaign.
The Iowa Caucuses went as planned. There were some viable candidates, but that was expected. And at least she and CJ didn't get stuck in a snowdrift this time. In New Hampshire it was the expected land slide since Jed was the Favorite Son, as well as the sitting President. The Republicans weren't having such an easy time, but it was becoming clear, the Senator from North Dakota was going to be the party's candidate.
Gays in the military, gun control, mandatory minimums, the Staff kept asking the same questions, rapid fire, in different ways.
"I'm sure I know all of this, would you people let me go back to my office?" She was getting a little tired and everything was beginning to swim in her head.
"Don't let them get you off the message, and don't take the bait." CJ was trying to drum that into her one more time.
"CJ, I can handle this."
"How can the Bartlet Administration be tough on drugs when their Chief of Staff is a pill popper and a drunk?"
"They won't ask that Leo! That's a crazy question and it will defeat their purpose!" She had lost her temper with him again. Why did he insist on bringing this up? Why did he always put himself down?
He just gave her a frown. "Don't take the bait." He'd got her again. "Okay, everyone out. Kat just a couple of more things."
They filed out giving her their encouragements.
"What do you want?" Katrina knew she had blown the last question. What she needed from Leo was support, not another lecture.
He took her hands in his and gently said. "You're going to do great, you're ready for this. If you can handle this group, you can handle anyone. I've seen the other panelists, you'll be ok."
She did a quick check to see if all the doors were closed. Katrina moved his hands to her waist, then her arms around his neck. "Tell me again."
"You'll be fine."
"I love you."
"I can handle anything now."
He gave her a long deep kiss, happy to take a chance no one would walk into his office just now.
"Maybe I should stay here and watch the show from your couch." The night before the two of them had watched the show from his office. During commercials there had been some stolen kisses and forbidden touching. She reminded him of that now.
"When you're done tonight, I'll meet you at your house and we'll celebrate your rousing success."
She moved to the door to leave. "Kat two things..."
"I know, stay on message and don't take the bait."
"No." He held up one finger. "You can do this." He held up a second finger and gave her the most wonderful smile she had ever seen from him. "I love you."
Next door in the Oval Office Josh, Sam, Toby and CJ talked with the President about the preparations they had just gone through with Katrina.
"Toby, do you think she's ready?" The President wanted Toby's read on Katrina's abilities.
"She knows her stuff, but she can get defensive if they get personal about you, or actually any of us."
"You told her.."
"Take a breath before answering." Sam knew that worked for him.
"I don't want this to cause her any problems." The President was protective of his sister. Maybe national TV was going to be too much for her. "Do you know how I would feel if she lost her confidence and started drinking again?"
"They won't be throwing any softball questions, sir. They're going to try and nail us through her tonight." Josh hoped Katrina could stay away from the sarcastic remarks that always got him into trouble.
"You checked out the other panelists, it won't be too tough?"
"Do you think we should pull out?"
"Oh for Pete's Sake!" The sudden outburst from CJ caused all the men to look at her with open mouths. "Would you guys quit treating her like some porcelain doll? She's a very strong woman who's gotten through a lot more then you guys. She fell apart because her husband died. NOT because some reporter asked her a tough question. We've prepped her for two days, she'll knock the socks off of them."
"Good Evening everyone, I'm Geraldo Rivera..."
She was at the NBC affiliate in Washington DC. In front of her she had one note card. On it were the Presidential Seal and 'From the Desk of Leo McGarry'. He had written 1) Keep on Message 2) Don't take the bait. She ran her fingers across his signature like a caress. Leo had taken a lot of flak about giving her so much responsibility in this campaign. He didn't say anything to her directly, but she had heard through the grapevine that the DNC wasn't very happy at first, but she had proven Leo's decision justified. She wouldn't let him down tonight.
Also on the panel was Ann Coulter, a Constitutional lawyer and Republican who constantly tried to talk over Katrina with her own opinions. Katrina gripped her card tight. Keeping her comments to the point and remaining calm when she wanted to shout "You're an idiot!". Her hour was finally winding down and Katrina was feeling comfortable that she had done everything right.
"I'll give each of you 20 seconds for your final comments. Ann you first."
"We've watched over the last three years as the Bartlet Administration has moved its policies further to the Left. Setting these policies are guys who are notorious for their missteps. Josh Lyman the attack dog of the administration, almost indicted for perjury; Toby Ziegler, who's picture is next to the definition of Liberal in Webster's Dictionary; and Sam Seaborn. Well Sam has his own problems. Now we have the incestuous triangle. Not only is the Campaign Chairman the sister of the candidate, but she's also sleeping with the White House Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry. A man who's an admitted alcoholic and drug addict. We're putting our country's future into the hands of people of questionable character. We wouldn't want them as friends, let alone leaders of our country."
'Keep on message, don't take the bait.' She hoped the expression on her face hadn't changed. She continued to smile into the camera and shake her head. "Well Ann, as a Republican President once said. 'There you go again.' President Bartlet's approval numbers are off the charts. The people of America like the exact programs you're complaining about. That only leaves the personalities and private lives of the Staff behind the President and his policies for you to criticize." Katrina took a deep breath. "Ann, if you don't want friends who are loyal, dependable, caring people who share the same love for this country that you do, and are willing to sacrifice everything for that love, I wouldn't want those kind of friends either."
The red light on the camera went off. The director told her she was off camera and finished. She looked down at his signature one more time and placed the card in her jacket pocket.
Sally her assistant was standing there with her mouth hanging open. "I thought that went really well." Katrina said as casually as she could. Maybe no one would notice that throw away phrase from Ann.
She looked again at Sally. "What?"
"Are you sleeping with Leo McGarry?"
"I talked for an hour and that's all you heard?"
Leo had decided to watch the broadcast alone in his office, too nervous to watch with anyone else. He was sure he was wearing his heart on his sleeve. If any of the questions were too tough, he felt like he would have to beat up the bully for being mean to his girl. So far she was doing everything right.
Things were going so well between them. When the news of his divorce broke, it didn't last more then one news cycle. It was reported as a casualty of the job. He was sure Mallory had told her mother about Katrina, but when Jenny was questioned by some tabloid reporters she had never mentioned her.
He was glad he had decided to tape the show, they had intended to go over her answers later. But as well as she was doing now, he would use the tape to show her how beautiful and confident she looked on TV. Another minute and it would be over.
"We've watched over the last three years as the Bartlet Administration has moved its policies further to the Left. Setting these policies are guys who are notorious for their missteps. Josh Lyman..."
"God, it looks like she's going to take a shot at each of us, I can imagine what she'll say about me."
"...Now we have the incestuous triangle. Not only is the Campaign Chairman the sister of the candidate, but she's also sleeping with the White House Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry. A man who's an admitted alcoholic and drug addict..."
Leo, didn't even hear Katrina's reply.
CJ was going to watch Katrina's appearance from her office. "Hey Danny" She noticed the red head standing in her doorway.
"Hey CJ, can I watch Katrina with you?"
"Katrina? Since when does the Press Corps get so familiar?"
"I was sent to cover her trip to California last month. Remember? Those Bartlets love those late night talks. Off the record of course."
"Do you think she's a puppet of the White House?" CJ wondered if Katrina had told Danny about her relationship with Leo. Or more importantly, CJ's feelings for Danny.
"I watched her work with the people in the field, getting them fired up to do voter registration. And I watched her make some tough decisions when she didn't have time to call and ask Big Brother's permission. It wouldn't matter if Jed Bartlett or Leo McGarry were behind this, Katrina is the heart of the campaign. Spend any time with her and you know she's in charge."
"Maybe Katrina had been right," CJ thought, "you could keep a personal and professional life separate." Neither Danny or Katrina had told her about these late night talks. Danny's columns regarding the trip were good reporting and didn't hint of any bias.
She told him with a smile. "I might shout some inappropriate comments at the TV, so this would be off the record."
"I don't have my notebook on me."
"I can see it in your pocket."
"Okay, but I promise it will stay there."
They settled on her couch, sipping some sodas CJ had found for them, cheering on a friend they discovered they had in common.
From her angle on the couch, CJ could see Danny's reflection in the TV. She noticed the intense look on his face. "He's probably looking for something for tomorrow's column." She thought as she watched him.
Danny could hardly concentrate on what was being said. He had often imagined sitting with CJ on this very couch, and oh so much more. "CJ why don't you wear short skirts like Ann Coulter. I'm sure your legs are better."
"Danny! The woman's a respected lawyer and all you notice are her legs!"
"Well if she didn't want me to notice them she would put them under the desk or wear pants. That's all I was saying."
The program was almost over and CJ was proud of her friend. "Kat looked so smart here, people aren't even going to know how compassionate and funny she is."
"They know out there where it counts, at the local level. She can relate to them whether they live in the projects or at the best address in town." He sneaked a peek at CJ to gauge her reaction to his next comment. "It's obvious why Leo McGarry is head over heels in love with her."
CJ choked on the soda she was drinking. "Who told you that?"
"Nobody had to tell me, I observe for a living. I'm not just a good reporter, CJ," Danny told her as he patted her on the back. "I'm the best."
"We've watched over the last three years as the Bartlet Administration has moved its policies further to the Left. Setting these policies are guys who are notorious for their missteps. Josh Lyman...
"I wonder what shot she'll take at me?" CJ said under her breath.
"...Not only is the Campaign Chairman the sister of the candidate, but she's also sleeping with the White House Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry..."
"See, I could have broken that story weeks ago." Danny gloated over his scoop to CJ.
"Why didn't you?" To CJ a lot was riding on Danny's answer.
"As long as you're doing your job, it shouldn't matter who you're in love with." He answered softly.
It was the perfect answer and CJ rewarded him with a long, unexpected, kiss on the lips.
Josh, Toby, and Sam had gone down the block to a popular watering hole frequented by Congressional Staff members. Instead of sporting events on the TVs this place seemed to run the news shows. They sat in the section showing the CNBC show, ordered some drinks and sat back to watch the work they put into Katrina about to come to fruition.
"Look at those legs!"
"Josh, the woman would have you for breakfast."
"Many have tried."
The comments had been directed to the TV. "Way to go Kat! Nailed it! Yes!"
They were waiting for the last comments before they would go home.
"We've watched over the last three years as the Bartlet Administration has moved its policies further to the Left. Setting these policies are guys who are notorious for their missteps. Josh Lyman the attack dog of the administration, almost indicted for perjury;
"Didn't get me, did they!"
"Toby Ziegler, who's picture is next to the definition of Liberal in Webster's Dictionary..."
"Funk and Wagnall too!"
"...and Sam Seaborn. Well Sam has his own problems."
"Hey Sam, she's got you pegged!"
"Now we have the incestuous triangle. Not only is the Campaign Chairman the sister of the candidate, but she's also sleeping with the White House Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry..."
Josh stood with his arm frozen in the air, about to give Sam a high five, when Ann dropped the last bomb. He listened to Katrina's comment. "Leo and Kat? Sam?"
"I didn't know. Mallory never said anything."
"Toby?" Josh realized he was the only one who didn't seem surprised.
"Well, if you guys weren't always so busy getting out of trouble, you'd notice other people actually have lives."
The President and First Lady sat on their bed to watch the Geraldo Rivera show. Jed was giving a running commentary of the show, while Abbey looked over a newspaper.
"She looks great doesn't she? CJ told us today she was strong. Watch her handle that woman."
"It's good to have her in town, I like seeing her all the time."
"I don't think you're listening to me, Abbey." Jed put his arm around his wife pulling her close. "As soon as this is over, maybe I'll interview you." He was planting some kisses on her neck when Ann Coulter gave her final statement.
"We've watched over the last three years as the Bartlet Administration..."
"Blah, blah, blah" The President imitated.
"...Now we have the incestuous triangle. Not only is the Campaign Chairman the sister of the candidate, but she's also sleeping with the White House Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry..."
He stopped dead. "What did she say? My sister and my Chief of Staff sleeping together? That's preposterous."
Abbey didn't meet his eyes.
"Isn't it Abbey?" Her silence spoke volumes to him.
"Now, Jed." She was trying to pacify him.
"He's sleeping with my sister, I thought he was my friend? He seduced my little sister!"
"Honestly, Jed? I don't think it was Leo who did the seducing. Katrina's always had an itch for him."
"You're blaming my baby sister for this mess?"
"No, actually I think it's your fault, Jed. You're the one who told her to keep him busy."
The President gave her a puzzled look, until he remembered what she was referring to. "That was one weekend last year! Is that how long this has been going on? I'm asking for my money back." He leapt off the bed, walked to the door and opened it. "Charlie!" He turned his attention back to his wife. "An 'itch', Abbey? You've been hanging out with Zoey and her friends too much."
Leo was sitting at his desk when Charlie knocked on the door. "Leo, the President would like to see you in the Residence."
"You're here awfully late, Charlie." Leo could not meet his eyes.
"Yes, Sir. Zoey and I were watching her 'Aunt' on TV." Charlie couldn't help grinning at the obviously uncomfortable Chief of Staff.
"Did he say anything else?"
"Well he was talking about that dungeon again, sir." Charlie left with a large smile on his face.
She was glad she had arranged for a car and driver for the night. It had given her time to think and relax on the trip to the studio, now she wasn't sure she was even capable of driving. Her cell phone began to ring. She had turned it off as soon as the show was over not ready to talk to anyone. It had taken approximately 10 seconds to begin ringing after turning it back on.
"Hi Charlie...Yeah, I'll come now. Thanks Charlie." She flipped the phone closed and turned to the driver. "Would you please take me to the White House?"
When she arrived at the reception area CJ was waiting for her with a smile and some encouraging words. "I thought you could use a friend."
Katrina tried to return her smile as she signed in, but she was deeply shaken. "I was brilliant for an hour."
"Yes, you were."
"I stayed on the message."
"Yes, you did."
"I didn't take the bait."
"No, you didn't."
"Yes, you are."
Katrina went directly to Leo's office. She knew he would have gotten the same call she did. Maybe they could walk in together and present some kind of a united front.
He was sitting, staring out the door. "They let me know you were here. I was hoping you'd stop before going up."
She walked into his office and into his arms. "I don't know how she knew about us, unless she was using 'sleeping together' as some kind of metaphor."
"I'm surprised it hasn't come out sooner. It's not like we wear disguises to meet, or switch cars several times. I guess I won't be getting any covert assignments from the CIA." Leo's voice became a whisper in her ear. "I should have figured someone would follow me, looking for dirt. I'm the most vulnerable staff member. I'm the drunk, the druggie who was recently divorced. Now they'll turn us into something sleazy."
She tried to give him a smile to comfort him. "We'll just wait and see how the news cycle plays out. Maybe no one will care?"
"The insinuations will be nasty, from the dark ages. 'You only have the job because you sleep with me.' They won't appreciate how much hard work you've put into this campaign. This is your campaign Katrina, you know I don't have that much input anymore." He gave her a reassuring smile. "I just make you call me every night so I can hear your voice."
"You know I'd sleep with you even if..."
"Yeah," He interrupted her, "and definitely more often. I miss you when you're out of town."
They stood holding each other in the middle of Leo's office. Both knew that things were about to drastically change for them.
"I told CJ I could give this all up if there were problems. Easy to say when you're feeling safe, but I don't think I can now. I've worked too hard to get Jed re-elected. I've worked too hard to get him a majority Congress elected. I don't want to give it up now."
"You're leaving town tomorrow afternoon for California, maybe it will all pass by the time you get back."
"And I have to waste what time I have left with you, trying to fix this."
He didn't say anything for a minute. "They'll be waiting outside your door to see if we're together. I can't go home with you tonight."
The reality hit her. It wasn't going to pass in one news cycle, they would be scrutinized from now until November. "I'm supposed to just give up you or the campaign?"
Leo couldn't give any assurances. "We'd better go."
"No, they'll be plenty of time to deal with Jed. I just need you to hold me a little longer." Finally she released the tears she had been fighting to hold back. Slowly they made their way down her cheeks
Jed Bartlet was growing impatient waiting for everyone to join him in the Residence so he went on a mission to find them. The door between his office and Leo's wasn't completely shut and he could hear their voices on the other side.
He heard them talk in the soothing sounds of lovers. How could he have missed this happening right under his nose? How long had it been going on? Katrina's voice sounded like her heart was breaking. He knew she and Leo had always shared a special relationship, always teaming up against him. Now, when it seemed they had found the special love that he and Abbey shared, could he ask them to put their lives on hold for him?
He passed Charlie in the reception area of the Oval Office. "Charlie, tell Leo and Katrina I've retired for the night. I'll talk to them in the morning."