Title: " Asking Questions, Making Choices" (a sequel to the "House Divided" series)

Author: Marie Rossiter (jonrie@adelphia.net)

Spoilers: Up through "17 People"

Rating: PG

Synopsis: Lots of questions, many answers, few choices...

Disclaimers: As always...these people are not my creation, so I take no credit for them. That credit belongs to Aaron Sorkin and his team.

POV: LEO/CJ

Feedback: I would love it!

Once again, my strong willed "beta", Jo-Ellen, is on me...so here we go again!

"This had better be damned important, Leo." CJ Cregg growls at me as she storms into my office and slams the door. She isn't usually quite this surly with me, as she is a consummate professional. However, today was the first day she had off in quite some time—so the fact that I had called her at some ungodly hour on her day off was bound to make her at least mildly upset. I had anticipated some displeasure, but not quite like this.

"Good morning, CJ." I reply.

"Is it morning? I can't tell? It's still dark outside!" CJ belts out.

"Oh, bullshit, CJ...I just watched the sunrise with the President, so don't give me that crap."

She shuts right up with that remark. "You watched the sunrise with the President?"

"Yeah."

"What's going on, Leo?" she asks tensely.

"C.J..."

"The President is up watching the sunrise? That's news in and of itself—there's something going on. What is it?"

I simply look at her and say nothing. I motion for her to sit down. She complies.

I slowly take in a breath. I need to deal with this calmly. I haven't been doing that very well so far. "C.J., the President wants you to set up a press conference for this evening."

"Leo, I'm assuming that since I didn't get a phone call in the dead of night, that there is no national or international threat or crisis going on."

"It's nothing like that—so for once, your assumptions are not going to make an ass out of you or me."

She just glares at me. She doesn't see the humor in my comment. Damn. I was hoping that a little humor could help me out here.

There is a deafening silence in the room. C.J. is staring at me, practically right through me, actually.

"This is about the President's health, isn't it, Leo?"

Hello? What the hell is this?

"What do you know about the President's health, C.J.?" I ask with as much composure as I can manage for someone who has been through hell and back in less than 24 hours.

"How sick is he?" she asks, ignoring my question.

I cannot even respond at this point. How the hell does she know anything? I'm sure that Jed didn't tell her—he would have told me that he told her, right???? Oh, hell, who knows what he would do anymore?

"It's not what you think, C.J."

"Leo, I see things. I hear things. I've known for quite some time that he's sick. I need to know how sick he is," she says desperately.

"How long have you known that he's been sick?" I ask her.

"Christ, Leo. What the hell difference does it make?!"

"I'm asking you, C.J.!!!"

"Since the election I had a suspicion that something was wrong. He got tired easily there for a while. Abbey hovered over him like a mother hen—she was in doctor mode, not wife mode. I figured if it was a big deal, I would be told eventually. I kept waiting to hear about it, but never did. So, I convinced myself that it wasn't a big deal, even though..."

"Even though you knew that it was a big deal," I finish for her.

"Yeah," she confirms.

I sigh.

"So, what is it, Leo?"

"He has MS, C.J."

She slumps a little in her seat and sits there in stunned silence for a moment. Then, she sits up suddenly, all business. "All right."

She looks at me in a little bit of a panic—but she's doing her best to hold it together.

"All right," she repeats.

"You o.k.?"

"Is he ok?" she asks.

"He's fine. More than likely, he'll continue to be fine." I try to assure her. Is my lack of confidence showing through?

"So, that 'flu' last year right before the State of the Union..."

"Wasn't the flu. It was an episode—a relapse, if you will."

She just nods her head.

"O.k. So, this press conference is about the MS?"

"Well..."

"Because this is going to be a huge blow, Leo. There's going to be hearings, grand juries...You must know that."

"Yeah."

"And, what about re-election?" Now she's on a roll. The questions are coming fast and furious. "How is this going to affect that? We need a strategy. We need one before he goes to the press. Maybe we can.."

"C.J....the President already has a strategy about that!" I interrupt her.

"Oh. So, what is going to say? Is he going to run?"

"This is bigger than that." I tell her. My headache won't go away. I close my eyes in preparation for the news I'm about to break.

"Bigger than MS? Bigger than re-election? What the hell could be bigger than that, Leo!?!"

I don't even open my eyes. I don't want to see this.

"C.J., the President is going to resign."

I expected to hear things crashing around me. All I hear is deafening silence. I open my eyes to see C.J. sitting across from me, staring blankly. A tear starts to fall from her eye. She stands up quietly, turns her back to me and walks out of the room.

Now it begins....

I couldn't stay there. I couldn't let Leo see me like this. I do my best to no lose it—and I'll admit that I haven't been too successful at that in the past. I have been known to pitch a fit in the middle of the West Wing offices—yelling, screaming, you name it. I do my best to fit into this "politically correct" world, but I have some less than stellar moments. I confess that there are days that I'm shocked to come into my office and not see my crap thrown out onto the street. I have let Leo down. I have let the President down. This is no secret to anyone here, especially me. But, I do my best. I guess that's why I'm still here—because I have those other moments that are pretty damn good, too.

Therefore, it was a no-brainer that when Leo dumped the load he just did, I had to get up and leave. There was no way that I was going to be able to maintain any sense of reason or composure. I just didn't want to do it in front of him.

I think that Sunday is the only day that my office can actually be somewhat of a sanctuary. The Press Secretary is the one person who tends to be the whipping boy (well, woman) when things hit the fan around here—and of course, that is just about every day on some level.

I don't think there's a fan big enough to take the load that is about to come down on me.

During the election, it wasn't my place to ask what was wrong with the then-Governor of New Hampshire. O.k., let's be honest. I thought that the less I actually knew the better. That way, I would not have to cover anything up deliberately.

But, isn't not asking when you know something's wrong the same as lying? I'm sure a grand jury will be deliberating that very question. Yeah, I know. We have this "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in this country. What a load of crap! I KNEW something was up—I should have pursued it. Every journalistic red flag was whipping around in my head. But, I buried my head in the sand, hoping that it wouldn't come back and bite us in the ass.

Well, right at this moment, I'm feeling a big chunk missing out of my behind.

Maybe I could have prevented this. We could have headed it off during the Primaries. Hell, Clinton beat an affair—twice! We could have beaten this—if given the chance.

I believe that I know Josiah Bartlet well enough to know that some illness, MS or otherwise wouldn't make him walk away from his office. So, either he's very ill and Leo isn't telling me...

Or there's more to this story than the health issue.

And you can be damn sure that I'm not putting together any news conference until I find out!

TBC

 

Part 3

 

 

 

 

 

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