Out Here in the Fields - Part 3

 

 

Everybody's watching Douglas' latest TV spot, but CJ pauses the tape when
Leo and Josh come in.

Josh sits down on the couch next to Donna, and now Leo's talking about
"the next phase" and Josh tunes out. He's thinking about his father,
instead. He'd never been like this -- Noah Lyman had never screwed up
like this, and Josh hadn't either, until recently. Noah Lyman kicked ass
and took names, and still, he knew the score to Camelot, and sometimes he
would make crepes in the kitchen before anyone was up, and Josh would
come downstairs to find his parents kissing over the sink, dusty with
confectioners' sugar.

Mandy had called every night when Josh was home in Connecticut. She told
him stories about the campaign, about funny things Bartlet did, she made
him laugh. Sometimes Leo would call and he'd talk to Josh's mother, and
she would sit in the Eames chair in the family room and hold her head,
and Josh would come rub her shoulders and when she couldn't take it
anymore, she'd give him the phone.

Leo had been upset that he couldn't make it to the funeral. But Bartlet
had needed him here, and Leo had managed to convince Josh over the phone
that Bartlet needed Josh too. That they were on the edge of something,
that they were peering into the abyss, but that with Josh's help they
could grow eagle wings before they leapt. Josh had believed him, had
believed in himself.

But the day he came back to New Hampshire he fell into Mandy's arms
instead, and hasn't climbed out since.

"What about Damon James?" Toby is saying.

"Ah, nice thought, but we can't take the liability," Leo says. "We're
polling at -- what's it?"

"Twenty-nine percent," Donna says.

"Jesus Christ," Mandy says, slapping the arm of her chair. "How the fuck
did we --"

"I'm not convinced you're the one who should be talking right now,
Madeline. Ask Donna what the numbers were before Miami, sometime," Leo
says. "And that's a no on Damon James. Who else?"

"Brett Fallow?" CJ asks. "I know a guy over at --"

"Brett Fallow's a pedophile," Leo says. "Next?"

"Leo!" Bartlet says. "Brett Fallow happens to be a friend of mine, a
friend of Abbey's, and a major player in the Democratic Party. What
you've just said is patently untrue, and I don't want to hear that kind
of talk."

"I'm sorry, sir," Leo says. "But with that whole thing with the girl --
we just can't. I'm sure he's a very nice man."

"He's a terrific man, and a terrible poker player," Bartlet says. "I've
won hundreds of dollars from Brett Fallow."

"Okay," Leo says. "But since we're looking for a running mate and not a
card partner, let's just table Brett Fallow for now. Who else is on the
list, guys? Come on. We looked at Guin McGovern, David Koben, Jerry Grant
--"

"John Hoynes," Josh says.

"Yeah, right," Mandy says.

"Not Hoynes," Leo says. "Who else?"

Josh sits up a little straighter. "No, listen, I'm serious," he says.
"He's a key member of the party. He's from Texas. He was polling in the
mid-sixties against Wiley."

"He's in bed with big oil, he's got no discernible stance on domestic
policy, and, oh, before I forget, he's an idiot," Leo says. "Not Hoynes."

"Wait," Sam says. "Just think about it."

Josh shoots him a smile, but Sam's looking at Leo.

"I don't want to have to go talk to John Hoynes," Bartlet says. "The man
despises me."

"Who else we got?" Leo asks.

"I was thinking about Andy Stanton," CJ says. "I know he's never been to
Washington --"

"Lots of brilliant men and women have never been in Washington," Bartlet
says. "Stanton's a good guy. He's on the list. Good thought, there, CJ."

"Wait --" Josh says. "Hang on a sec. I could go talk to Hoynes, feel him
out. He's got money, he's got the support of a dozen --"

"Will you just let go of it, Josh?" Mandy says. "We're not putting Hoynes
on the ticket. Andy Stanton's good -- I was also thinking about Gabe
Cox."

"I like Gabe Cox," Toby says.

"I'm saying --" Josh tries again, and Mandy cuts him off.

"Let it go, Josh," she says. She's got that look on her face, the one
that says she's hurt that they don't agree, she's pissed that they don't
have a unified front. He realizes he doesn't care. The room dissolves
around him and it's just Josh and Mandy, and he's damned if he's going to
let her trick him into going against his better judgment again.

"Listen, Mandy --" Josh raises his voice. "Just because you think --"

"We don't have time for this, Josh!" Mandy shrieks. "Tomorrow we've got
to be on the phone to Gabe Cox' people, we've got to get our asses in
gear! Will you stop fucking playing me?"

"Playing you?" Josh clears his throat, trying not to scream. "This
doesn't have anything to do with you, Mandy, this is about the campaign,
about what I think is best for --"

"You don't know shit, Josh," Mandy says.

"Excuse me, but after what just happened in Florida I don't think --"

"If you disagreed with me you should have had the balls to say
something," Mandy says. "I didn't see you arguing in Delray Beach."

"You didn't see me arguing? What are you, like, like, off in some
psychotic Mandy world where everyone who disagrees with you just vanishes
off your radar?"

"Oh, fuck you," Mandy says, tossing her notebook in the air.

"Enough!" Leo says, leaping to his feet. "Get the hell out of here, both
of you. Right now. Out."

Mandy stands up on wobbly legs. Josh snorts and shifts in his seat.
Everybody else is still and quiet, Toby coughs.

"Oh, I am so fucking serious," Leo says. "Get out. I don't care where you
go, just get out. I'll let you know if I want you to come back."

Under the porte-cochere where the cars are pulling up to the late-night
check-in window, Josh makes Mandy give him a cigarette. She lights it
without speaking, close to his face, then lights her own. It's raining --
unimpressive diagonal rain -- and the pavement's still hot from the day
so steam rises from it, smelling mossy. Thunder cracks. Heat lightning.
Josh backs a little closer to the wall of the hotel.

"Look --" he says. This is a disaster, and he knows he should fix it. He
doesn't know how. "Mandy."

"Whatever," she says, exhaling a thin white stream. "It'll blow over."

Josh plays with his cigarette. He drops his chin and raises his eyebrows,
groaning. "Yeahhhh, I don't know," he says. "We can't -- what was that
about, in there?"

"You know, it's not easy to be me," Mandy says. "I'm not sure you know
that."

This is new, and absurd, and not a conversation he wants to be having,
now, or ever.

"Mandy --" he says again.

"Yes. What? What, Josh?" She spins a little, steps out into the rain and
comes back under the porte-cochere.

"This isn't gonna --" He sighs and takes a drag off the cigarette. "This
isn't working, Mandy. This sucks."

"Bigtime," she nods. "This sucks."

"I don't want to fight," he says.

"Too bad," she says, and it surprises him that she says that. "It's your
job, sweetheart."

"Yeah," he shakes his head. "That's not -- I mean, I don't want to fight
with you. I hate that I'm always fighting with you."

She comes a little closer to him. "No, you don't," she says. "What
happened, Josh? You used to love to fight with me."

"My dad died!" he says, widening his eyes, his voice going up a half-step
in surprise. "You can't expect -- I mean --"

"You don't want to talk about this?" She tips her head to one side and
draws on her cigarette.

"I can't," he says. "It's not that I -- we should get Hoynes."

"This isn't about Hoynes, Josh. Except, no, we shouldn't. That'll be the
kiss of death, I'm telling you."

"When I came back from home --" he starts again, and then stops and
wonders what the rest of that sentence was supposed to be.

"It's only been a couple of months," she says. "You'll get your stride
back."

He thinks that maybe it's not his stride they're talking about. He thinks
maybe it's hers, and he just hasn't noticed until now. "Maybe," he says,
furrowing his brow.

"So Hoynes was a bad idea. Leo'll get over it. He'll forgive you, Josh."

Josh shakes his head again. This is impossible, and there aren't any good
words left. "I don't -- I just -- and I don't think it's my dad. I just
-- I think Hoynes is a good idea. I think maybe we --"

He can't be here anymore. He flicks his cigarette into a puddle and it
breaks in half and sizzles out. "I gotta go," he says.

"Where?"

"I need a drink, or something," he says.

"You want me to --"

"Nah," he says. "We'll do this later. I just need to, like. Something.
Regroup."

"Okay," she says. "I'm gonna go up to the room, then. I have about fifty
thousand phone calls to make tomorrow and I need to memorize the inner
workings of the Suffolk County Democratic headquarters."

"Uh-kay," he says, pushing open the glass hotel door with one splayed
hand. "I'm -- I'm going in."

She waves her cigarette and shrugs. "Okay," she says, and he turns around
and goes inside and leaves her there, in front of the hotel in the rain.

Sam finds him in the bar two bourbons later. He sits down before Josh
says a word.

"What the hell is wrong with you?"

Josh closes his eyes for longer than a blink. "Beats me," he says.

"No, man, I'm serious," Sam says. "You can't do this."

"I know," Josh says. "I totally know. I don't know what's wrong with me."

"Listen," Sam says. "Do you understand that no one knows what to do with
you lately? Leo was so completely incensed after you left that the
meeting fell apart. The Governor started yelling at CJ, and Toby started
yelling at Bartlet and then Leo was yelling at everyone."

"And that's different from our normal meetings how?"

"You weren't there," Sam says. "And the truth is that you haven't been
there for two months. You checked out after the funeral, Josh, and that's
understandable, but it still doesn't work for the campaign."

"Ah, I'm no use to anyone," Josh drawls, finishing his bourbon.

"Stop," Sam says. "I can't feel sorry for you right now. I just -- I came
down here to try and talk to you, because if it wasn't me it was going to
be Leo, and I wanted to spare you that."

"He's gonna --" Josh hiccups. "He's gonna fire me?"

Sam nods. "Yes."

"Fuck," Josh says.

"Josh," Sam says. "He's been trying to fire you for two weeks. Since
Pennsylvania. Toby and CJ and I have each had a turn talking him out of
it."

This surprises him, through the bourbon stupor. "I had no idea."

"Yeah," Sam says. "He's upstairs doing damage control and trying to get
it in order so we can vet Gabe Cox and Andy Stanton --"

"We need Hoynes!" Josh moans, slapping the bar with a hand.

"I agree with you," Sam says. "But no one's gonna make a case for him. I
tried. They don't listen to me. And because of your intense stupidity,
now they don't listen to you."

"So we're pretty much fucked," Josh says.

"I haven't talked to you in two months," Sam says, more quietly. "I've
avoided you for two months. Have you even noticed?"

Josh presses four fingers to his forehead. He hadn't noticed. In the last
two months, he can't remember anything but Mandy. "Yeah?" he says, and it
comes out like a question. "Sorry."

"Also. Do you know that Toby never liked you?" Sam asks.

"He doesn't?"

"He thinks you're -- and this is a direct quote, now -- 'an arrogant
fuckhead whose only redeeming quality is that he possesses a sick kind of
serial-killer-like intelligence'."

"That's funny," Josh laughs. "I like that."

"Stop it," Sam says, and he's not smiling. "I've known you seven years.
And I'm not even sure I like you now."

Josh stops laughing. "Sam," he says. "Come on."

"I'm not telling you this to offend you. I'm telling you this because --
I don't know why I'm telling you this." Sam stands up. "Anyway. Leo wants
to talk to you."

"Sam!" Josh says, feeling like he's in slow motion. "Don't go. Come on.
What's up?"

"I think it's clear how I feel about Mandy," Sam says, sitting down
again. "I respect her, when she's not being a raving lunatic. And I
respect your relationship. But." He stops.

"But?"

"Do you remember that guy who wanted me to move to Italy with him? And
you told me he was just trying to have it all?"

Josh nods.

"You told me he was a manipulative prick. You were right. So I'm telling
you now."

"That Mandy's a manipulative prick?" Josh starts to laugh again, but
Sam's face is steel.

"That your relationship with her isn't good for you. That she's found the
person she wants you to be, and she's made you into that. And it's less
than what you are."

"That's not fair," Josh says, and he throws a look over his shoulder,
expecting Mandy to be standing there. She's not. He turns back to Sam.

"Maybe not," Sam says. "I know you care about her. And, believe it or
not, I don't blame her for this. It's you."

Josh sits very still, weighing his options. Mandy's probably upstairs by
now, and he knows he can go up there, he can climb into bed with her, he
can ask her to go down on him, he can fall asleep from the bourbon and
the sex and deal with this in the morning. He wants to ignore Leo. He
wants to ignore Sam. Because the rest of them might hate him, but Mandy
doesn't. And maybe that's how it's always been, Josh and Mandy against
the world. At least that way he wouldn't have to fight with her.

He can't imagine what any of the other options could be.

He stands up. "I'm tired," he says. "I can't talk about this now. I can't
do this now, Sam."

"Whatever," Sam says. "Neither can I. I was paying you a courtesy. It's
up to you."

Josh opens his mouth to say something, but closes it again. He slaps a
couple bucks on the bar and looks at Sam. He doesn't have anything to
say.

But later, when he's in bed, and Mandy's got her fingers locked against
his ribs and her mouth wrapped around him, he can't shake it. And even
later, after she's switched off the light and she's asleep on his arm,
cutting off the circulation to the tips of his fingers, he can't sleep.
Sobriety comes back, with a headache and a gritty throat. And Josh lies
awake and thinks about his father, and about the campaign, and about Leo,
and about Hoynes. And about Sam.

He thinks about the fact that something's gotta change.

Leo finds him in the morning, in the campaign's private dining room on
the twentieth floor. Before Leo can say anything, Josh starts talking.

"We need Hoynes," he says, and Leo rolls his eyes. "We need Hoynes," Josh
says again, louder, gesturing with a strip of bacon. "And I'll tell you
why."

"Don't waste your breath, Josh," Leo says. "It's over. We gotta move on."

"No," Josh says. He's been thinking about it all night. "The Governor --
Governor Bartlet is nine hundred times smarter than anyone the American
people are used to seeing on the stump, right? And because of that, we
have to dumb him down in order to make our points. And it's a waste, Leo.
So we get Hoynes up there. We send him to the rural districts, to the
South, we let him do his shtick. It's good shtick -- it'll be even better
once we've got Sam and Toby writing for him -- and he's got those people
eating out of the palm of his hand."

Josh takes a breath, takes a bite of bacon. Leo's interested, now. "Keep
going."

"We beat him because after two months it was clear he wasn't a president.
We trounced him in the debates. Of course we did. But -- dig it -- we
beat him according to members of the Democratic Party. Now we've got to
broaden our horizons. And the people who like us don't like Douglas, but
that's a given. We need the people who DO like Douglas. And those guys
like Hoynes too. More than they like Bartlet, anyway."

"It's a good point," Leo concedes. "I'm just not sure --"

Josh waves a hand. "You don't have to be sure," he says. "I'm sure. I can
talk to him. I'm telling you, Leo."

Leo takes a drink of orange juice. "You really think so?"

Josh nods. "I really do."

"Okay. Do it. Talk to him," Leo says. "But first, I gotta say, your
behavior last night was so off-the-charts unprofessional --"

"I know, Leo," Josh says.

"Please let me finish."

"Sure," Josh leans back and takes a sip of coffee, and then is
embarrassed for his cool. He sits up a little straighter. "I'm sorry."

"Yeah," Leo says. "I'm just saying. I was offended. Your dad wouldn't'a
--" Leo stops himself. "You get my meaning."

"I really am sorry," Josh says. "Does the Governor --"

"The Governor's gonna listen to whatever advice I give him," Leo says.
"I'll push Hoynes. He's not gonna like it, but you've got a fair point
and I think it merits some exploration. But as for you -- I wouldn't be
alone in a room with the Governor or Mrs. Bartlet any time soon, if I
were you."

"Yeah," Josh cracks a smile. "I kind of figured."

"Do this one right," Leo says. "You'll bounce back."

"What's going on?" Sam says, pulling up a chair and sitting down. His
hair's mussed from sleep, parted on the wrong side and sticking up in
four directions. Leo laughs.

"You recently in a wind tunnel, there, Seaborn?" Leo asks. Sam rakes his
fingers through his hair.

"I think I used too many pillows," Sam says. He looks at Josh. "Hi."

"Sam --" Josh starts. "Was I -- I can't remember all that much about what
I said to you, what I might have said to you last night. Did I --?"

"Yeah," Sam says. "You did."

Leo looks at Sam and then looks back at Josh. "Oh, Jesus Christ, don't
tell me the two of you -- hell, I don't wanna know. Don't tell me."

"No, not this time," Josh says with a grin. "I was just -- I was pretty
much an asshole. And I'm so sorry, Sam."

"Tomorrow is another day," Sam shrugs. "Today, actually. Is another day."

"Ain't it the truth!" CJ says, sitting down at the table as well. "What's
going on here, partners?"

"Josh is gonna vet John Hoynes for us," Leo says.

"You're kidding me," CJ says over the rim of her coffee mug.

"It's a good idea, CJ," Sam says. "Hoynes could really help us."

"Hoynes could really screw us," CJ says.

"We'll see," Leo says. "We're gonna give him a chance."

"What's going on, guys?"

Mandy shuffles up to the table, rubbing her eye with a fist like a four
year old. Josh looks up at her. "Nothing," he says. "We're just having
breakfast."

Leo raises his eyebrows. Sam and CJ look at their food. Josh isn't sure
why he doesn't want to tell Mandy about Hoynes, but he can't help feeling
like there's a train coming at him at a hundred and fifty miles an hour,
and any misstep is gonna wind him up dead on the tracks.

"Sam? You wanna come help me talk to the Governor about Denver?" Leo
stands up. "CJ, you should come too."

"Is the Governor even awake yet?" CJ asks, but one look from Leo to Josh
and she gets the picture. She stands up too. "Well, if he isn't, we'll
wake him up. Lead on, MacDuff."

"Actually," Sam says, following them out of the dining room. "It's 'lay
on, MacDuff.' A lot of people get that wrong."

"You really are a spectacular geek, Sam," CJ says, and then they're gone.
Mandy sits down.


(concluded in part 4/4)

 

Out Here in the Fields - 4

 

 

 

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