Please see notes and disclaimers in earlier parts.

Part 5

Bartlet and McGarry walked the steps up from the Situation Room. Bartlet reached to his tie and slipped it loose.

"Another long day, Leo. A night ahead, as well, it seems. Am I the only one scared to death by the prospect of these morons in possession of a deadly virus?"

"Not at all, Mr. President. But it appears that several members of our Senior Staff knew about this before we did."

"Yeah. Both Sam and Toby. This woman who's acting as a spokesperson for the terrorist group dated Sam in college?"

"They, of course, deny that they are 'terrorists.' But yes, that's the information we have right now."

"A rose with thorns by any other name--"

"-You're mangling quotes again, but--"

"-But you get the point."


"Sam put his hand through a wall. I think you need to talk to him about that."

"Toby held information from him."

"What's the story there?"

"I really wish I knew."

"I'll be up in the Residence. Check on the kids, then come up. I'll be done with my drink by then."

"Have one for me." Leo smiled at him, then veered off to the Communications Bullpen.

Down the hall, Josh had herded Sam into his office and closed the door.

"Sam, how ya doing?"


"Right. When you're fine, you yell at Toby in the Oval and put your fist through walls."

Sam flopped into a chair and looked up at Josh. "Okay, I'm not having a good day."

"Understating a bit there, aren't you?"

"I'm a writer, I can be subtle."


"Did Leo tell you to read me the riot act, or do I just get fired?"


"Josh, I dated the woman who stole the virus. We were in college. We have a few mutual friends. We are not a couple anymore, but we've been at a few events together over the past few years. That's why Toby knows her. Her father worked with Toby years ago in some campaign in Minnesota or something. When it comes out that I know her and that she's contacted me, no spin cycle in the world is gonna prevent this from trashing us. The call I got wasn't from my contact at the agency. It was her. "

"Why did she call you, Sam?"

"Because I work in the White House. She wants us to say how bad it is that these programs exist. They stole it to prove they could. They stole it to prove they could steal it and sell it or..."

"--Or use it as a weapon or a bargaining tool. Damn. Sam, you have absolutely the worst taste in women. You always have. Leo didn't tell me anything. He knows you aren't actively involved in this. It's not your fault."

"So what if it's not my fault. It looks bad. It looks like I screwed up. Again. Toby's..." His voice trailed off.

"What about Toby?"

"Toby treats me like I'm twelve and at Government Camp."

"He's playing hard politics. We have a war ahead for re-election."

"We've been at war for three years, Josh. I think you even got a purple heart. Or maybe it's just a big nasty scar on your chest. What do you think?"

Josh took a step back. Sam's rancor shocked him. He expected vicious words from Toby and Leo and even himself. The past year had stripped some of Sam's idealism away. Josh felt actual pain in his chest with that realization. And it was no where near his scar.

Josh sat down next to Sam. "I think we'll get through this like we have everything else."

Sam looked up at his friend. "Hey, at least she's a scientist and not a commercial sex worker."

Josh groaned and swatted at Sam's arm.

Back in the Communication Bullpen, Leo found Toby and CJ. Toby took several long swigs from an economy size bottle of Maalox and chased it with Pepto Bismol.

Leo smirked. He leaned into the room and startled CJ. "That combination doesn't work. I suggest you just move up to Pepcid and chase it with straight bourbon. But the Pepto does match CJ's suit."

"Leo. You know this is bad." Toby wiped his mouth and spat out the words.

"We've seen worse. What the hell made Sam put his fist through the wall?"

"I really couldn't say."

"Toby, don't play with me. I play on the big kids team."

"I didn't tell him about the call I got. I knew it could hit but I was hoping she wouldn't involve him. He didn't need to know."

"Bullshit, Toby. You say that to me like it was a political decision. You were trying to protect him."

"And what if I was? In case you didn't notice, this year has been bad for him. His best friend almost died. We ran him over several times for the sake of the politics and it kills me to see a new chunk of his idealism die every day. Don't you think I'd rather just have him keep writing stupid speeches for CJ and the First Lady? He thinks we don't know he sleeps here to get the work done. He could just phone it in. He's that good of a writer. But he doesn't. He works his guts out on everything from the State of the Union to the geranium lobbyists. So what if I tried to protect him a little!"

"Maybe you should tell him that, Toby." Leo spoke and motioned for Toby to throw him the Maalox. "I'm gonna need this tonight." He left with the bottle in his hand.

Toby sighed and looked at a comfortable CJ on his couch. "You have anything to yell at me about?"

"Naah, that covers it for now." She smiled at him and tossed him one of his famous pink balls.




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