Crack of the Whip - 4
See all the pertinent information in Part 1.
They were just about to meet with the President. It was the first time they had been in the same room since that fateful night. All the physical abuse to his body was now catching up to join his mental anguish. Toby could not stop his hands from shaking. More and more he couldn't look people in the eye simply because it was all literally too blurry. Sam, Josh and Leo exchanged concerned glances. Thank God CJ wasn't around to see this. She had really needed this week in California with her family. The three hoped though, that when she came back tomorrow and saw Toby's state, he'd get an ass kicking by the Enforcer.
Toby was at least grateful that CJ was away. He knew his ass would be kicked from here to kingdom come if she saw him like this. Especially after lying to her about being fine and encouraging her to not change her plans. Right now it was hard enough to contend with Sam, Josh, Leo and...the President. "God help me."
Charlie opened the Oval office door to them. Toby had intended to take his usual spot standing away from the group near the fireplace. Although he wasn't sure how long he be able to physically stand. Before he could reach it though, Sam raced passed him to stand there instead. Sam crossed his arms and glared at Toby with a "go ahead...I dare you to make me move" expression. Just then the President walked in. After exchanging rather subdued greetings, President Bartlet invited everyone to sit. Sam cocked his head at Toby and gestured with his hand for his boss to sit on the sofa. A glimmer of old Toby surfaced when he shot Sam an evil look before taking a seat. "Hmmm...maybe this was the way to get through to Toby...piss him off," Sam
If Toby Ziegler had been nervous about this meeting then it stood to reason that Jed Bartlett would be a total wreck. Fidgety and terse, the President looked around the room. His eyes settled first on Leo. His old friend, his staunchest supporter, looked unsure and hesitant. Josh sat quietly and seriously next to Leo. Jed missed the sparkling mayhem he usually brought to these gatherings. Sam was not in his usual spot. Looking up at the youngest member of his staff, the President saw that worry and concern had replaced the mirth that usually played in his startling blue eyes. Jed had a pretty good idea why Sam had that look. Gathering all his strength, the President reluctantly began to shift his eyes to look at Toby. With a sharp intake of air he took in the sight of his completely destroyed Communications Director. Jed's eyes slid closed and he dropped his head. He knew that this man, whose opinion he respected and even feared a little, would never be his guiding conscience, one of his better angels again.
Jed damned himself for every cruel word he had said to Toby that night. He knew perfectly well why Toby had been so angry. He had seen Toby begin to cry as he breached protocol to leave the room. That was not the act of a man who cared about being the 17th person to know. Toby was a man whose beliefs had been broken by someone he truly care for and trusted. He was a man whose heart had broken for a friend and a Nation. At the time it was more than Jed could handle so he had lashed out at Toby, trying to convince himself that he had a right to be indignant. Now the President understood he had lost the right to Toby's trust and counsel. He had lost the right to be Toby's friend. He had lost Toby for everyone in this room, in this country.