All the pertinent information is in Part 1.

In his weakened condition, Toby staggered back almost falling. Even if had been in peak health, he seriously doubted that he would have been able to stand his ground, she had slapped him so hard. At first, Toby could only stare at her in total and utter disbelief. Finally, he noticed an odd metallic taste in his mouth. He tentatively reached up. The room began to spin a bit as he looked at the blood on his hand. He looked at Abbey again. She seemed to look as bad as he felt. Damn...good thing he was getting away from all these White House women. Pressing his hand to the side of his mouth, he snickered...he chuckled...he laughed...he laughed harder...and harder still.

Abbey froze. That couldn't have been her, right? Someone else just slapped Toby hard enough to make him bleed. There was an odd smarting in her hand that confirmed she had indeed done it. She was guilty of causing Toby more pain. She brought her hand to her own mouth as if to cover a scream.

And now he was laughing?

He was laughing so hard, in fact, that his eyes watered. Suddenly he gulped. His laugh began to change into a whimper. What he had tried so hard to avoid doing that night so many days ago came full force. This time he couldn't excuse himself and rush outside. His whole body began to tremble, shiver with cold. Squeezing his eyes shut, he slipped down onto his knees to the ground. Toby's shoulders began to shake as he started to cry...really...really cry.

Realization had hit too late. He wanted to keep *his* job. He didn't want to get away from the White House women...his CJ, Ginger and Bonnie. He couldn't bear the thought of never working with Josh and Leo again. He didn't want to miss the day he might call a good young man, President Seaborn. Hell...he didn't want President Bartlet and Abbey to fight this "unusual circumstance" without him. But he was just too exhausted...too far find his way back.

Abbey snapped out of her shock when Toby alarmingly began to collapse. She quickly reached for him as he slipped to his knees. Pushing the coffee table to the side, she gently leaned him up against the sofa. His frozen hand told her he was going into shock.

"Toby! My God, please forgive me! This wasn't supposed to happen. When you said that...I...that we...I just couldn't believe you really thought that about us. I got hurt me, Toby." Abbey kneeled down in front of him, touching her forehead to his, as though it would make Toby understand better. She began to cry again herself.

From far away, he seemed to hear it. "You hurt me, Toby." He heard her crying much closer to reality. To the here and now. With a trembling arm he pulled Abbey around to sit on the floor next to him. Keeping his arm around her, he began to whisper words to soothe. "Stop now, that's enough. Of course, I didn't mean it. I just wasn't ready for anyone to read that yet, if at all.

Abbey sniffled and looked at him, "really?"

"What do you think? I look and feel like crap for some other reason? Not because I've been struggling to work this through my head, my heart? I'm sure that it took you and the President more than one night to find a way to reconcile personal feelings with duty. I needed that time too." He motioned towards his desk with his chin. "What you read there, has been on my computer since that night. Tonight, I was coming closer to working it out. To working me out. I was about to decide that I had no intention of handing that letter, our President and this Aministration to anyone." He smirked and peered at Abbey. "But then White House Wonder Woman #1 decided to come and slap me down. No doubt, with the help and encouragement of White House Wonder Woman #2. You two should now better than to try and force me. I never had a chance did I?

Abbey used the back of her hand to wipe her tears. She let out a sigh of relief. Maybe she was wrong, he was smarter than the rest...barely. "No, you didn't. I'll have you know though CJ is not the only one to help in this little..."

"...Mission Incredibly Stupid? Who else is involved? I'm not going to like this am I?

Abbey straightened trying to look indignant. "Did you just call the First Lady stupid?" She hoped it would deflect his question. It didn't.

"With all due respect ma am, quit stalling...who else?"

"Toby, you have to understand. All these people were worried about you and in our worry, we maybe didn't quite think this through as clearly...well, this is your fault too! We thought you were leaving, tonight!" Let's try "guiliting" him, she thought while fidgeting with her fingers.

"MY FAULT!? I'm sorry...aren't I the one on the floor, bleeding? No doubt getting an infection from carpet fiber? Abbey, don't even try to guilt me. May I, and I do this in humble fear, remind you of who exactly, with intent, looked through *my* computer! Spill it...who else?"

"Well, I would be one and Leo here would be another."


Crack the Whip - 17




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