Disclaimer: See chapter 1
Warning: Story has themes of violence
It is amazing how simple it was to get into the White House these days, he thought as he walked down the hallways toward the West Wing. All he had to do was to latch onto to a legislative group and then wander away from them. He wore the ID of that group and if anyone stopped him, he could tell them that he was accidentally separated from the others.
He understood that it was a bold move showing up at her place of work, but he felt he had no choice. He had slept poorly since Friday night and as a result, he was not feeling his best for the week ahead. This plus the unfortunate events of yesterday morning had further strengthened his sense of urgency about getting this situation resolved. He had returned to her apartment twice last night to talk with her, but both times she was absent.
So now he would simply locate her and convince her to give him a few minutes of her time. He had no doubt that if he could get her alone in a room, he could convince her of whatever was necessary to finish this silly misunderstanding.
It was really a fluke that Margaret saw anything at all. Usually when she was in a meeting with Leo, she was all focus. Today, she was dealing with throbbing pain coming from her face, arm, and foot. She was now beginning to understand that the pain medication prescribed to her last night was not necessarily part of a concerted pharmaceutical company plot to bilk Americans out of their hard earned dollars. Luckily, she had her rabbit available to take all of the pesky notes that Leo would need. So she sat there on one side of Leo determined to catch anything missed by the unfortunate young woman who was sitting on his other side. She was trying to follow the reasoning of Senator Billingham when she spotted him walking by the meeting room. Involuntarily, she gave a gasp. She shook her head slightly oblivious to the stares from the persons around her. It was unfathomable to her that he could actually be in the West Wing. Youíre having a hallucination, she tried to convince herself. It didnít work. She struggled to her feet and grabbed her crutches. Leo looked at her quizzically. She made motions to him that suggested that she was going to take some pain medication. He nodded at her, but she didnít notice. She was too busy trying to get out the door and down the hall.
Pushing herself and only half using her crutches, she tried to catch up with him. Up ahead, she could see him stop and talk to a woman. The woman then pointed in the direction of Joshís bullpen and he strode off. Margaret tried to collect herself and think. She was certainly in no condition to attack him again and she never imagined that she would need the baseball bat at work. She looked around for help and saw Ginger walking into the communications area. She saw her solution. Now only dragging her bothersome crutches, she took off after in that direction.
Toby was sitting in his office trying to figure out how to make everything as it was. Toward that goal, he had been putting his staff through vigorous research efforts on the trade bill. He had scowled at Bonnie when she had mentioned plans for lunch and so she was now communicating to him in single syllables only. Plus he was continually harassing Ginger about the Library of Congress documents he needed, forcing her to threaten the unfortunate LOC staff. This left her so angry that she was unwilling to do anything but drop documents in his general area when she brought them into his office. The communications area was not a happy go lucky place to be on this very unique Monday.
Margaret hurried herself through the communications area, pulling herself along by desks, having abandoned her crutches at the door. Without warning, she barreled through his door. Toby jumped back in surprise at the woman who was now lying in a heap on his floor. Ginger and Bonnie were at the doorway with their eyes wide at the sight. Breathing heavily, she looked up at Toby who knelt beside her.
"I saw him. Heís here. Heís looking for Donna," she blurted out in between gasps for air. Tobyís mouth dropped at the audacity of such an idea. He got up and headed out the door. He stopped for a second to regard his two assistants who were still stunned by the scene unfolding in front of them.
"Help her." He gestured to them. Then he turned and ran out the door.
At the communications area, he slowed to a stop. He could see it was empty save one young woman seated at a desk.
"Donna!" he said trying to get his breath.
Startled, the young woman looked up. "Iím Karen, not Donna, Mr. Ziegler."
"Iím looking for Donna," he impatiently clarified.
"Sheís in Joshís office."
"No, a guy is here to see her." The young woman wore a look of puzzlement.
Toby went straight to Joshís door and entered without knocking. Donna was standing with her back to Joshís window while the notorious Tucker Grey was casually seated. They both looked startled at his entrance. Quick to recover, Grey got up and offered Toby his hand.
"Itís a pleasure to meet the great Toby Ziegler," he said smoothly. Toby ignored his hand and looked over at Donna. She looked frightened but in control.
"I donít suppose that itís all that appropriate to come and see a friend during work hours. I hope that youíll forgive this intrusion," he tried again using all of his handsome features in an effort to impress someone this close to the president.
"Shut up, you idiot," shot an angry Toby.
"He knows, Tucker. I told him."
"Donna, this is something that you and I can handle. What would you need any extra muscle for?" He was trying to look hurt, but only succeeded in looking tense.
"Iím extra muscle, huh? And Iím not necessary becauseÖ. What? You donít plan on raping or beating any more of the West Wing staff? Is that why Donna wouldnít need extra muscle?" Tobyís voice dripped with angry sarcasm.
"Sir, I assure you that there are two sides to this story. Donna and I had a misunderstanding and she is a little angry with me because I donít see a future in this relationship as she does. Surely, you have had to deal with situations similar to this yourself?" Grey was trying to appeal to what he assumed Toby would understand as another man.
"Donít reason with me, you fool." Toby said disgustedly.
"Toby!" Donna got his attention. "Letís find out what Tucker wants."
"Iím all ears."
"I would prefer to speak with Donna alone."
"Fat chance, you piece of trash."
"Tucker, I am not willing to meet with you alone. Toby stays," she said firmly. Tucker looked at the ceiling for a moment and then turned to Toby.
"I will not be treated like shit by you. Iíll have you know that I come from a very important family," Grey shot in Tobyís direction.
Toby laughed at the spoiled rich kid. "Kiss my ass, Grey. I know all about your family. I grew up in Brooklyn about five blocks from one of your uncleís warehouses. I used to throw rocks through the windows Ďcause your uncle was such a jerk to people in the neighborhood. Never got caught. I treat you any damn way I please, you piece of crap."
"Iím going." Tucker was up and out of his chair.
"Wait!" Donna pleaded.
"Donít beg him, Donna. Heís not going anywhere. Look at him. He keeps showing up to see you. Says that he wants to know how youíre doing when the truth is that he doesnít give a ratís ass. Heís not here because heís concerned. Heís here because heís a scared little man. Isnít that right, Grey?" Toby was talking to Greyís back as he stood at the door.
"Sheís making accusations that could be problematic for me. Iím not worried about legal consequences. I know I got that covered. But this talk needs to stop. I have a reputation, you know," he said slowly, his face getting red with rage. Toby and Donna looked at one another. The idea that he imagined that they could relate to this ignorant explanation amazed them both.
"Sheís going to talk to anybody she wants, Grey, and I am going to help her." Toby responded.
"You two think that I am just a aide to a senator. And you are so sadly mistaken. I am heir to one of the largest fortunes in the world. And I will use all of that and more to bury both of you." Toby listened to his speech carefully. He knew that stupid and mean together were a dangerous combination. It was clear to him that this fool was capable of anything.
"Well, weíve heard your threats. Anything else, before we have your ass thrown out of here?" Toby was nonchalant.
"Donna, I want to avoid any gossip from you and from that crazy red-haired bitch that you had at your apartment yesterday. Iíd like to make a deal." He was looking at her in an effort to avoid Tobyís glare. Toby was gripping his chair with both hands. He wanted nothing more than to have one minute at this manís throat and damn the consequences.
"What is your deal?" Donna struggled to return a steady look.
"You and the bitÖ"
"You say that word again and Iíll kill you with my bare hands." Toby hissed at him menacingly. The intensity of his face seemed to fluster Grey. He forgot what he was saying for a moment, but then gathered himself and began again.
"The two of you sign an affidavit agreeing that nothing happened and I return the disc to you. There will be no trade bill crisis. And I imagine that you will be able to keep your job."
"Youíve made copies of the disc by now. Iím sure of it." Donna returned.
"No, I havenít. I needed some insurance and so I held onto it. Sherman doesnít even know it exists."
"I certainly donít trust you."
"You donít have to. I will have my lawyers draw up an affidavit that gives you free rein to pursue this absurd accusation if Sherman displays any knowledge of your strategy at Fridayís vote. Clearly, itís a win-win situation for you. You keep your job and the trust of your boss. Plus you can stick it to me if your bossís strategy is revealed before the vote."
"Win-win, my ass." Mumbled Toby.
"I want to see the affidavits before I even think about signing," said Donna.
"You donít have much time, Donnatella." She winced at his use of her given name.
"Sheíll take all the damn time she wants," growled Toby.
"I call you tomorrow," he said.
"You do that, and Iíll have the CIA murder you," Toby said darkly. "Sheíll call you when sheís good and ready. In fact, if you attempt any sort of contact, I will have you in handcuffs within the hour."
"This is the right thing to do, Donna." Greyís eyes were pleading with her. She felt disgust at his statement. She turned her back to him and looked out the window. Toby kept his murderous glare on what he considered to be a poor excuse for a man. Grey stood in the silence for a minute and then turned on his heel and left. Toby immediately went to the phone and notified the Secret Service that an unauthorized person was wandering the West Wing and needed to be ejected. He gave them a description of Grey and then hung up.
"Iíve never heard you talk like that before," said Donna still looking out the window.
"Well, Donna, I did grow up on the streets of Brooklyn. Did you somehow imagine that I spent my formative years attending teas and debutante balls?"
Donna giggled despite her pain at the thought of Toby at a tea party. Toby smiled in response. The outrage of what she was facing overwhelmed him and he was hopeful about her brief moments of normalcy.
"Donna, seriously, he is not offering any kind of a good deal. None of it is worth a damn. I wouldnít even waste my time thinking about it," he said sincerely.
"Itís a way to salvage the trade bill. I will be responsible if that bill doesnít pass. I canít carry the burden of that," she said to him softly.
"Donna, promise me that you donít anything before talking to me. You have to understand that I am working on a solution. You have to give me time to do that."
"I wonít do anything today. And I will talk to you before I decide to do anything."
"Fair enough," he said. "Donna, are you okay? Do you want to go home?" He winced when he realized that this was clearly not an option for her. "I could take you to Margaretís."
"Itís okay, Toby. This place offers a much needed distraction. Thank you anyway." She smiled at him.
"Hey, whatís going on in here?" Josh was standing at the doorway. "I think I saw your old boyfriend getting dragged down the hallway. He wasnít here to see you, was he?" Donna frantically tried to compose herself for Josh.
"Do you have to sneak up on people?" asked an irritated Toby.
"Listen, itís hardly sneaking if Iím coming into my own office," he defended.
"Yeah, well you still shouldnít prance around like an idiot," added Toby, making no sense at all. Josh chose to ignore him. He knew all about Toby in a foul mood. Ignoring him was the best thing when a person had other things to do.
"Any luck finding my disc?" he asked Donna. Inexplicably, she turned away from him and stared out the window.
"Why donít you leave her alone?" Toby suggested. "Look for your own damn disc."
"Are you hanging around for any discernible reason, Toby?" shot Josh.
"Donna, Iím around all day if you get any more information on that project I am working on." Toby said to her back. She nodded from the window.
"What project? And why the hell is Donna helping you? You got a whole bunch of people working for you. Leave my people alone." Josh was tired of feeling left out in his own office. Ignoring Josh, Toby looked at Donna one more time and left.
"What the hell was that? What are you doing for Toby?"
"Josh, I didnít have time for lunch," she mumbled. "I would like to take a late one. I donít feel like working straight through today."
"Yeah, okay, but you didnít answer my questions."
"I gotta go. Weíll talk when I get back."
"Iím going to be on the hill all day. I wonít see you again." Josh said. There was definitely something going on and he wanted in on it.
"Iím sure Iíll see you later," she said as she brushed past him. Before he could protest further, she grabbed her purse and headed out the door. Josh stood watching her retreating back. "Whatever is going on, Donnatella, Iíll find out," he promised himself and to her.
Jed Bartlet was lying flat on his bed staring at the ceiling. He was supposed to stay this way for another two days. Nazis couldnít of dreamed up a better torture for him. Abbey was finishing up a visit in Luxembourg and wouldnít be back until tomorrow. Zoey was taking a summer course in Russia that was driving Ron Butterfield out of his mind. He was in contact with his people constantly trying to determine which tourist sites were the least hazardous. Only Charlie was around. Jed had hesitated to call him in for company. He had been doing that for the last six days and Charlie had begun to adopt a rather vacuous demeanor during their discussions. He figured the kid needed a rest from trivia marathons and other fun games. So he was waiting for his next victim, choosing to pull this one from his mid-day duties. Just when he was ready to scream from the boredom, Charlie stepped in and announced Leo.
"Hello Mr. President," Leo said tightly. "How was your MRI? I talked to the doctor and he said that you are confined to your bed for a few days. I think the rest would do you some good. What can I do for you on this busy afternoon?"
"Hi Leo. Sit down and wipe that sour look off your face. I just want to hang out for a moment or two," Jed replied cheerfully.
"Sir, I have four members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sitting in my office waiting on me."
"Do they serve at the pleasure of the President?"
"Yes sir, I believe that they do."
"Okay, then let them wait. Call Margaret on my phone. Have her send in a deck of cards and a chip caddy. Thatíll keep them busy," said the President solving the crisis at hand. Leo winced at the mention of Margaret. He hadnít been able to concentrate well all day on account of her condition.
"I think that they will be just fine for a little while." Leo concluded before the President could grab the phone.
"So howís your day been?" the President began.
Leo considered his answer carefully. If he said too much, he would be sitting by the Presidentís bed for the rest of the day. He wished it were time for the President to have another sedative. "Well, you might say that day has been challenging," he said carefully trying to soften his true thoughts about this sorry, manufactured in hell kind of day.
"I hear that CJ is around. I thought she and Toby went camping?"
"I donít know what the hell is going on there. Sheís walking around about as pleasant as a wet badger. Says that Toby is going to pay for this or some such sinister talk."
"Whoa. Well Iíd hate to be Toby right now," said Jed fully involved in the gossip. "How is everyone else?"
"Well, get a load of this, Jed. Josh comes to me a couple of hours ago and says he canít go to the hill. The trade bill is four days away and, all of a sudden, he canít go to the hill."
"Well that doesnít sound like Josh. He loves to be up there harassing various individuals."
"I know, but he says the Donna seems out of sorts and he wants to talk to her. Whatís wrong with these kids, Jed? Do they think weíre running some kind of summer camp here? Well as you can imagine, I sent him on his merry way and told him not to come back until he had all of the votes sewn up."
Jed shook his head sympathetically for Leo.
"And then thereís Sam. Josh put him in some sort of tour around 10 this morning. As far as I can tell, heís still in there. Came out long enough to order lunch for the room and tell Kathy to reschedule his afternoon. Well you know thatís easier said than done. I had the environmental lobby crawling all over the place demanding to be seen and no one to see them."
Jed added some tsking noises. He wanted to show as much support as possible so that Leo wouldnít be inclined to leave.
"So I have that group making all kinds of unsatisfactory noises and I think that maybe Toby would be the guy for them. Heís here too, you know. I figure that Toby may not be the poster boy for environmental issues, but he is a warm body and he has a name in this administration. So I go to his office and find him on the floor surrounded by mountains of paper like you have never seen before. We all know that he is something of a pack rat, but even considering that, it was a striking sight. You should have seen it.
Well anyway, I ask him to help out. And he fixes me with such a glare. Jed, you wouldnít have believed it. Says heís in the middle of something important and is not to be disturbed. I really donít know why I didnít just go in there and haul his ass out."
Jed suppressed a small smile. Leo didnít haul Toby out because he knew that if Toby said something was important, it was important.
"So there I am, stuck with the tree huggers in my office. And then MargaretÖOh Jed, have I told you about Margaret? I am absolutely beside myself with her."
Jed shook his head emphatically. There was nothing like the good Margaret story as told by Leo.
"I can see your gleam, Jed. Put it away. This is not a funny story. She came in today all banged up. You should see her. Sheís got crutches, a thing on her arm, and her face is six shades of purple."
"What happened?" asked the President.
"Thatís the other weird part. She wonít tell me. Says I have to trust her. Says she knows what sheís doing."
"Itís not a car accident?"
"Is she dating someone?" the President asked apprehensively.
"I donít think so. The last one I knew about was that no good doctor from Bethesda. All she will tell me is that she is trying to help a friend. I have half a mind toÖ"
"Leo, you do have half a mind if you finish that thought. There is to be no surveillance or bugging or anything done by the government in order to delve into your assistantís life. I thought you would have learned the last time. She almost quit when she found out you had her tailed on her date with the doctor. Not to mention the litigation that could arise from further violation of her privacy."
"Jed, I know all of that. But I canít sit by and watch her get hurt. There is something very serious going on. In the middle of my meeting with the banking committee, she jumps up and disappears. Half an hour later, I find her stretched out on Tobyís couch of all places. Her foot looked terrible. Bonnie and Ginger were hovering around her like a couple of student nurses. Bonnie told me that she crashed Tobyís office. She was loopy on all the pain medication they gave her and so I told them to take her home. What am I supposed to do?"
"Do you trust her? Do you think that Margaret is a bright and capable woman?"
"Of course, I do. Do you think she would be running my office if she wasnít the best there is."
"Give her a little time, Leo. My guess is that she has a perfectly good reason for all of this craziness."
"She wants me to be patient," he said.
"So be patient with her, at least for the time being, Leo," the President said gently trying to smooth out Leoís alarmed expression. Instead of being entertained, Jed Bartlett found himself worried. It definitely sounded like something was up and here he lay confined to a bed and unable to help.
Feedback is appreciated- Sheila