Crack the Whip - 14


All pertinent information located in Part 1.

Part 14

Abbey checked every detail one last time. She kissed her husband and turned slightly to gently pat his best friend on the cheek. Both Jed and Leo gave her a nod and smile. Taking a deep breath, she turned and stepped into the hallway heading towards the Communications Bullpen.

In Josh's office, CJ and Donna had exhausted every idea to keep the "fidget boys" occupied. With popcorn strewn around the room, the four were finally sprawled around the floor quietly reading Donna's beauty magazine stash. Josh and Donna were huddled together looking at their intertwined hands now resting on a magazine. Donna squeezed his ever so gently. CJ leaned over to touch Sam's shoulder in reassurance when she noticed his watery eyes staring out into the hall. Sam reached up and caressed hers in return, never looking away from the door.

Sam suddenly perked up, as he heard the clicking of heels heading towards them. Josh began to get up, turning to help Donna to her feet. Wiping his eyes on his shirt sleeve, Sam also rose. CJ smiled up to him, as she took the hand Sam offered her. She unfolded her legs to rise as well.

Abbey stopped in their door. For just a moment, her eyes rested on each face. She saw the anticipation etched there. Abbey was determined not to let them down. Winking, she continued on her way.

Toby had been struggling through the remainder of the day and not just with what he was writing. He sighed and stopped typing. Grabbing the pink rubber ball, he turned away from the screen. Scanning *the* office,he at least was satisfied that it was less cluttered. He had begun to meticulously dispose of unnecessary *things*...old press releases...speeches...mementos.

He looked at the photos on the walls and on the credenza next to *the* desk. His eyes rested on the one of them victoriously huddled together after winning the election. Nothing could touch them that day. They were so filled with the hope of doing good things in the world. They were going to make a difference together. His lips pressed hard into a firm line as he launched the ball as hard as he could. The picture went flying with a satisfying clatter.

He recognized the voice before he even saw her.

"Nice throw Toby. You could "Dunk the Clown" for a living." He did not notice her very slight smirk as she affectionalty thought of her own clown.

He rose from his seat, begging his hand to stop trembling as he discreetly closed the lid of his laptop. "Good evening, Mrs. Bartlet. I thought you weren't expected back until tomorrow." He coughed a little to mask the quaver in his soft voice. She was leaning on the doorframe *the* office...and...she was holding her medical bag.

To her credit, Abbey's face did not register the shock of how he looked or the fact that he was trying to hide something on his computer. She noted the tremor of his hand as he tried to nonchalantly close the lid. Ignoring his comment, Abbey stepped into the room and sat down on the couch. She could make him keep standing if she wanted. It would afford her an opportunity to do a quick visual exam. But she relented when she saw he was on the verge of collapse.

"Toby, sit." Even though it sounded more like a dog command, he gratefully obeyed. "You know I don't get to see my husband's Senior Staff that often. So imagine my surprise, when I get to one day. In a matter of a few hours, in fact."

Panic...he began rubbing his forehead, "Mrs. Bartlet..."

"Shut up, Toby. You don't get to talk." She started sweetly again, "As I was saying, imagine my surprise," she begins to count off on her fingers, "when Leo calls me this morning, telling me to come back. When Josh and Sam are literally fighting to open my limo door." Abbey stands up and moves towards the desk leaning in to glare at him. "When CJ is standing in my office, crying." She waits a moment to let *that* sink in. Then Abbey straightens to her full height, to intimidate, and succeeds.

"Funny thing too. You were the topic of all their conversations. You, Toby, the one person I haven't seen today."

She turned and headed back to the couch to grab her medical bag. "Now, don't take this the wrong way, Toby, but take your shirt off. It's your turn to be seen."

"With all due respect, Ma am," he said with barely a whisper, before exploding,



Crack the Whip - 15



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