Something worth fighting for
All of the characters herein are the property of Aaron Sorkin and whoever signs his paychecks. I use them because they are wonderful and complex and because I cannot get them out of my head.
This story is best read after Something To Talk about which can be found on Qdamanís, Testytoads, and Janiceís sites. This story is a continuation of that storyline.
And, yes, it is primarily a Toby story. And, yes, there are some CJ/Toby dynamics. But itís a long story and there are a lot of your other favorites in here as well. There is a lot of Josh, Donna, Sam, Leo, Margaret, Jed and Abby Bartlett.
One last thing; this story has some stuff about computers and the internet in there. Basically I am an idiot when it comes to those subjects. Cindy from the RS e-group helped me some, but basically I made things up. Please forgive me if anything sounds blatantly wrong to you.
I hope you enjoy it and I would love to hear from you. My e-mail address is SMORIA9016@prodigy.net
The mama duck turned once to count her large brood before launching herself with a plop into the reflecting pool that stretched out in front of the Washington Monument. One by one, her plump, yellow-gray offspring tumbled in after her. They lined up behind her as she swam lazily across the pool.
She stopped once to fluff her down. Then she circled around her ducklings as if to ensure of their presence. They seemed content merely to follow behind her, making up a long, crooked tail.
"God, I wish my life could be like that," CJ said with passion. "Clear cut. Simple. Serene."
"Okay, so now I am confused." Puzzled Josh beside her on the park bench.
"I am sitting here prepping you for the AFL-CIO dinner tonight and you jump in with how you want the simple, serene life of a labor organizer. Have you been smoking something, CJ? The words, simple and serene, have never been uttered by a labor organizer. Havenít you ever heard of Jimmy Hoffa?"
"Oh shoot, Josh, Iím sorry. I wasnít really listening to you. I was thinking about something else." CJ was gathering up the remains of her hot dog.
"Okay, well, thank you for that."
"Josh," She said ignoring his attempt at self-pity. "I was watching that family of ducks over there." She pointed at them meandering slowly across the water.
He looked at the ducks and then took note of the wistfulness in CJís eyes as she gazed at the reflecting pool. He sighed briefly and caught her eyes.
"Are we about to have a Toby conversation?" He asked warily.
"Why, is there something more to say?" She said defensively.
"Sure and not really."
"What do you want me to say? I donít get it. Three months ago, the two of you left Camp David as flushed as a couple of kids on prom night, all glances and giggles. It was cute as hell. We all thought you were going to be happy people.
Later, you tell me that the two of you are going to take it slow. So far, so good, I think. Then the craziness starts." Josh shook his head at her and continued.
"Now, CJ, you have to understand that we expect it from Toby. We know that he is an insane, maniac person.
You were the surprise, CJ, you and your 10,000 steps to the perfect relationship."
"I got scared."
"Iíll say. Single handedly, you turned dating into something along the lines of quantum physics. I have never seen so many complex expectations in my life." Josh adopted a feminine tone. "He should have talked to me before the briefing, but he didnít. He shouldnít have talked to me after that meeting, but he did. He looked at me. He didnít look at me." "Who could navigate all of your fears and insecurities? It never had a chance." He finished with a look of frustration. CJ had a stricken look on her face. Josh was suddenly sorry that he had been so flippant.
"Josh, I thought that if we were careful, really careful, we wouldnít get hurt. If we had all the right boundaries, did all the right thingsÖ" She paused for a minute trying to put her feelings into words. "Falling for him was so intense. I guess I thought that I might lose myself. I donít know. But it doesnít matter anymore Ďcause he let go."
"No, he didnít," Josh countered passionately. "He was very patient, eerily patient for Toby, in fact. He would still be hanging in there today if it wasnít for the fact that you chipped away at the already tenuous belief he had that he could be good for you. You convinced him of what he had been worried about all along, that he would only hurt you."
CJ remembered her last strained conversation with Toby. It had been about a month ago and they were talking on the phone. She was frustrated at her inability to let the relationship take its own course. Toby was confused. His confusion and her fears boiled over into anger and she exploded. "It hurts too much to keep trying at this!" She yelled into the phone. The response was silence. Then he apologized softly and hung up the phone. After that, they had both withdrawn into themselves, returning to the isolated existence that so threatened any chance they had at happiness.
"What do I do?" CJ hissed trying to hide the tears spilling onto her cheeks.
"Give it up, CJ. Neither of you can stand much more of this. Youíre torturing yourselves. And none of the rest of us can bear to watch it anymore."
CJís heart sank. "Tell me to keep fighting!" She wanted to scream at him. "Help me, Josh. Be my encouragement." Her heart cried out, but her mouth couldnít form the words. She so depended on Josh. He was all strength and courage and persistence. He never gave up on anything.
He seemed to be reading her mind. Gently, he put his arm around her and pulled her to him.
"CJ, itís hard to watch you hurt like this. Itís hard to watch him too. He looks so miserable all the time, much more than is his natural state of being."
"Josh, I think I love him."
"The two of you are proof positive that it takes more than love to make a relationship work."
She laid her head on his chest and he stroked her hair. Josh hated the tone he had taken. He was a fighter and he wanted to help CJ fight for Toby. But it was going nowhere and taking a toll on both of them.
Sam entered Tobyís office tentatively. The older man was looking out the window lost in thought. He didnít hear Sam enter which did not bode well. A startled Toby was generally a crabby Toby. Sam cleared his throat for effect. Tobyís dark head didnít move. Sam was considering his next move when a sharp "what!" resounded from the still figure at the window.
"Well, sorry to disturb you, Toby. I want to go over some revisions with you for the presidentís speech this evening."
"Yeah." The head nodded slightly but still he didnít turn.
Sam hesitated for a moment to consider the possible consequences of an observation he wanted to make. His best-case scenario had him merely being yelled at. His worst-case scenario had him being thrown bodily out of the White House. "Or you donít say anything at all." He thought to himself. This would be the path of most people, but Sam was just trying it on for size. He knew he was going to say his piece and damn the consequences.
"Uh, Toby, before we look over this stuff, I wanted to say something to you."
"What." Demanded Toby. He turned to regard Sam with a suspicious eye.
"Itís just that, well, you should be a happier guy."
"I should be a happier guy?" Tobyís face wrinkled in confusion.
"You had the beginnings of some happiness," Sam soldiered on. "At Camp David, I mean. And Iím not clear why that hasnít continued."
"What do you want from me, Sam?"
"I want you to not be miserable. I want you to figure out a way to get through to a certain press secretary that we both know."
"And you would like to offer me some dating advice, I suppose."
"I might know a few things."
"You!" Toby gave him an incredulous snort. "Arenít you the guy who canít recognize a call girl without a name tag?"
"Well, I Ö"
"No, no, no. I know you. You are the guy who has spent the last year letting the bossís daughter lead you around by the nose hairs. Every time she swoops in, you wear a "deer caught in headlights" look on your face for at least a week."
"You would like to give me some advice, huh?" Toby gave him a pointed look.
"Forget it." Sam mumbled. He hadnít considered humiliation among his case scenarios. But now it ranked right up there with being booted out the door. Forgetting his original purpose, he headed for the door.
"Sam, wait! Please!" It was Samís turn to eye him suspiciously.
"Sam, sit down. Sometimes the "pain in the assí in me needs to get out and take a little spin."
"Would this be your version of an apology?"
"Well, I wouldnít go that far, Sam."
They looked at each other silently for a moment. Despite himself, Sam broke into a grin. It was just too hard for him to stay sullen. Toby allowed him a twinkle in his eye.
"Sam, you are a horribly good man. And although this irritates me immensely on a daily basis, I appreciate your attempts to help. Itís just that I think this thing has sort of run its course." Toby sighed deeply and then shook his head a little as if trying to loosen the demons within. Sam sat beside him silently.
"Sam, show me the revisions." Toby said quickly before Sam could ooze any more support in his direction.
"I threw in a little imagery. I thought we would have the president wax poetic a little."
"Well, you said that the president seemed a little dry lately."
"Sam, I have a little imagery for you. I want you to picture the average teamster. Heís a big guy, Sam, a real physical kind of guy. He considers himself the salt of the earth. This is a guy who believes that the federal government is putting the screws to him on a daily basis. He trusts us as he would a pet rattler. He is going to be listening to every word that the president says tonight. Then heís going to order a transcript of the speech so that he can study it for the next three months for all of the suspected hidden meanings. This is your audience, Sam."
"SoÖno imagery then."
"Youíre really picking up my meaning there, Sam."
"Dry as toast, then."
"You are a smart boy, Sam."
"Nothing left to guesswork, then."
"Now you are just annoying me, Sam."
Leo winced as another round of coughing came from the desk outside his office. He had just returned to his briefing memo when the coughing erupted again.
"Thatís it!" He said throwing his pen onto the desk. He grabbed the phone, prepared to implement the plan that he had been forming in his head all week.
"Abby," he said into the phone. "Sheís going to drive me into my grave. I swear to you that she is."
A few minutes later, he put down the phone and sat back, waiting for the first lady to appear. "Margaret wonít get by the first lady," he thought with some satisfaction. He closed his eyes and waited for the drama to commence. He opened his eyes a few minutes later to see a startled Margaret being ushered into his office in front of a firm Abby Bartlett with medical bag in hand.
"Margaret," Leo began, "You leave me no choice. I canít have you starting some manner of epidemic in my front office."
"But Leo, Iím fine." Sniffed a flushed Margaret.
"No, Margaret, you are a crazy person who has been trying to cough up a lung since Tuesday. And you apparently need to do it in front of me because you donít believe in sick days."
"You never take them." Margaret said accusingly.
"Margaret, it doesnít matter how punctual and consistent you are, the White House does not have a perfect attendance certificate for you."
"Okay you two, thatís enough." Abby warned. She led Margaret to a chair and motioned her to sit.
"Margaret," She said, "I heard your coughing from down the hall. This is not something you can ignore. I am going to listen to your chest, check your temperature, your pulse, and a few other things."
"Abby, all week long, Iíve asked her, Iíve begged her, Iíve threatened her, all in an effort to get her to a doctor. I even fired her!" Leo complained.
"Yeah, that always works." Mumbled Margaret through the thermometer.
"I heard that, Margaret." Leo growled.
"Enough!" Abby thundered. She was trying to listen to Margaretís lungs with her stethoscope. Leo and Margaret had to content themselves with competing glares. Not daring to further irritate the first lady, they both refrained from further conversation. Abby pulled out the thermometer and made tsking noises, shaking her head at the both of them.
"Well." Braved Leo. Abby ignored Leo and turned to Margaret.
"You have pneumonia, Margaret. You have a temperature of 103.3, your lungs sound like Niagara Falls, and your pulse is fast. You canít be at work like this. You need antibiotics, some rest, and some attention immediately."
"I donít feel so bad."
"Yes you do," Abby insisted, "Donít fight with me on this. Leo will be fine without you."
As she said this, she noted the look on Margaretís face.
"Okay, he wonít be so fine," She added hastily, "but he will manage. You deserve a break, Margaret. You have taken excellent care of Leo. The success of his hip rehabilitation is due in large part to your diligent attention. Itís time you took care of yourself."
Margaret sat silently through this. She seemed to sense that all her escape routes were blocked. Realizing she was cornered, she threw out one more shot before capitulating.
"You canít wait to get someone else at my desk."
"Oh right, Margaret. This whole thing is some sort of Machiavellian plot on my part to violate your files."
"Well, this has been fun," said Abby barely able to maintain her patience, "Margaret, my assistant, Sally, is going to take you over to Bethesda Naval for a more thorough exam and treatment."
Margaret looked heartbroken. Abby patted her back gently and kneeled beside her.
"You are going to be fine. They are going to take good care of you. By tonight, youíll probably be at home watching old movies and feeling much better. Sally is waiting right outside. Sheís going to take you over now."
"Get better soon, Margaret." Leo said to her retreating back. The fun of his victory had dissolved quickly in the face of her despair. As she disappeared out the door, he looked at Abby.
"Sheís gonna be okay, right?"
"Pneumonia is a serious thing, Leo. But sheís going to get excellent care."
"Okay, but youíre going to keep me updated, right?"
"If I hear anything, you will be the first to know. Hey, why donít you come over with me to our quarters. Weíll have cup of coffee before the teamsters descend upon us."
"I wish I could, Abby, but I gotta prepare for these guys. Economists and labor leaders mix like oil and water. I get to be the presidentís blue-collar connection tonight. I gotta convince these guys that Jed Bartlett is more than just an economics professor who sees issues from the perspective of management."
"Iíll tell Jed to play up that summer he spent picking cabbages for Caesar Chavez." Abby said, her eyes twinkling. She blew him a kiss before sailing out the door.
Toby tried to keep his eyes open as he sat in his regular place at temple. He liked to get there early, at least half an hour before services began. It was a contemplative time for him. He would talk to God a little, reviewing for him the events of the week and his part in them.
But today, he was too tired to concentrate on his weekly chat with God. The dinner had been long and arduous. Toby hadnít even gotten to bed until 3:30 a.m. Still being a creature of habit, the previous nightís events didnít stop him from being in his regular seat at his regular time.
He found himself replaying the disaster that would forever after be known as the labor disunion dinner. It had started with Samís speech which read just a little drier than one of the presidentís textbooks. By the end of it, he knew that they would all be ordering transcripts because half of the room was asleep. Several people had to be poked just so they would be awake for the soup course.
The president sat with the head of the teamsters. A friendly discussion about the incongruence of labor unions in a free market economy turned into a full-fledged battle. By the dessert course, the two men were studiously ignoring one another. Leo was no great help either. He was distracted the entire evening. And when he wasnít, he was busy terrorizing the two young women personnel had sent over to replace Margaret. Margaret apparently was not answering her phone at home and Leo wanted her replacements to get to the bottom of it. Leo was exhibiting no patience. One of them asked him why Margaret would be hiding from him. The look he gave her was truly dangerous. Josh had Donna hustle them off before any real damage could be done.
The situation with CJ wasnít even a little better. She had done her utmost to put as much space between herself and him as humanly possible which left her barely within viewing range at the other end of the dining room for most of the evening.
The only saving grace had been Josh whose maternal grandfather was a famous labor organizer from the 30ís. He regaled his table with tales of lockouts, strikes, and fights with company paid mercenaries. They ate up all that agitator history. Toby wished that someone had shown the good sense to seat Josh between the president and the teamster head.
Toby noticed that the synagogue was starting to fill up. He nodded at Mrs. Wise as she took her usual place several feet to his left. He was always comforted by the presence of this grand old lady, herself a survivor of Buchenwald. He missed her when she didnít show. And yet he appreciated that she always allowed him space for his own thoughts and worship.
The singing was beautiful today and he found himself feeling refreshed and hopeful about the week to come. He even considered the possibility of a civil conversation with CJ. The rabbi entered and Toby waited for the service to begin. Then he heard a hissing sound. It was persistent like steam escaping from a radiator. A strange feeling began to invade his stomach. He stood up determined to locate the sinister noise. The people around him were beginning to shift in their seats. Convinced that the noise was coming from somewhere behind him, he headed for the aisle. He never made it. The explosion was heard four blocks in all directions.
Leo was in his office that morning. He enjoyed Saturday mornings at the office. The West Wing was usually quiet and he was generally allowed to work undisturbed. Today had not started out that way. He still had not heard from Margaret. First, Bethesda said that she had been discharged. Now, they werenít so sure. They would get back to him. Her apartment was empty. He had woken her super last night to check and then again this morning. He knew that she had a sister in town, but he couldnít think of her damned name. The replacements were here again this morning. They reminded him of rabbits. They jumped every time he made a noise. He prayed that competency would wander into the lives of both his rabbits and the staff at Bethesda soon.
He had no time to further ponder Margaretís disappearance as Ron Butterfield strode unannounced into his office and closed the door.
"Does Toby Ziegler attend services at Temple Zion on Delaware? He asked without preamble.
"I donít know. Whatís happened, Ron?"
A few minutes later, he was on the phone with all of his key people. His stomach sank as all of his calls to Tobyís many numbers went unanswered. Sam then confirmed that Toby did in fact worship at Temple Zion. Leoís bad day became a nightmare.