Ruth Hoynes belongs to us. Bayliss, Giardello, and Lewis belong to Baltimore Productions and NBC. All other characters belong to Aaron Sorkin, John Wells Productions, Warner Bros., & NBC. The song lyrics are from "Sometimes" by James. Standard disclaimers apply. Please send feedback. The Flood Violet & Cinnamon
There's a storm outside
And the gap between the crack and thunder,
Crack and thunder is closing in, is closing in
The rain floods gutters, and makes a great sound on concrete
On a flat roof, there's a boy leaning against a wall of rain, aerial held high
Calling: "Come on, thunder, come on, thunder...."
The rain came up as a slow drizzle Saturday evening; by two in the morning it was a full-fledged downpour. The two men stumbling out of the hotel lobby didn't have raincoats, and didn't care. An hour before, they'd each wanted a drink -- just a shot of whiskey, to guard against the cold. One shot turned into many more, and before long they were laughing at each other's intoxication as they stepped out into the rain.
"I can't get over what you said about the Washington Monument," the taller man said.
"Father of our country," his companion slurred. They giggled drunkenly until they'd forgotten why they were laughing.
The shorter man reached out and tugged up the other man's collar. "You're getting soaked."
"Kiss me goodnight," the tall man said.
He chuckled again. "What?"
"Kiss me goodnight."
The shorter man looked like he was going to refuse, until their eyes locked through the mist. He said nothing, only took a step forward. They leaned toward each other, and their hands met at the same time as their lips brushed gently.
There was a soft, small sound: a camera shutter clicking.
The shorter man stepped back. "Did you hear something?"
He shook his head. "No, John..."
Across the street, a light suddenly went out in a window. An instant later, a car screeched around the corner.
"...I heard that," the tall man admitted.
"Shit," John said, anger and panic creeping into his voice. He looked at the other man and hissed, "Go inside, Tim. Go back inside."
The tall man retreated into the lobby. John cursed again, no longer feeling drunk. He was starting to shiver, and not because of the pouring rain. He yanked a cellular phone out of his pocket and hit a number on his speed dial. Someone picked up. "Hoynes," he said into the phone. There must have been static. "Hoynes, damn it!" he repeated. "We have -- oh, God. We have a problem."
* * *
Josh had fallen asleep on the couch, watching reruns of "The Brady Bunch." He surfaced slowly from a dream about Jan Brady, and stared in confusion at the television until he realized the beeping noise wasn't coming from the screen. Drowsily, he picked up his pager and got to his feet. He read the message as he trudged into his bedroom to get dressed, then stopped in his tracks as it hit him. He yawned, distractedly grabbed some clothes from the closet, and started to struggle into them, wishing the Brady theme song wasn't stuck in his head.
* * *
The sound awoke C.J. automatically, and she rolled over reflexively to stop it, promptly going over the edge of the bed and taking most of the sheets with her.
"...The hell?" a muffled voice commented.
"I'm beeping," she said, extricating herself from the tangled blankets.
"Funny; I was sleeping too, until--"
"I'm beeping," C.J. repeated, and felt her way through the darkness to the dresser. "You really ought to get a night-stand."
Toby lifted his face out of the pillow. "To break your fall?"
"I wouldn't have...." She trailed off as the insistent noise doubled. "You're beeping too." C.J. found her pager and tossed his onto the foot of the bed, then fumbled for the light switch.
"This can't be good," Toby groaned, shielding his eyes against the brightness. C.J. was already moving ahead, gathering items of clothing up off the floor, as he read the message. "God. Does this say what I think it says?"
"Unless we're both going crazy," she called over her shoulder.
He stood up, squinting at the nylon stockings hanging from the doorknob. "That's entirely possible," he muttered, and followed her out of the bedroom.
* * *
*My apartment is on fire,* Sam thought. *This is bad.*
Before he got out of bed or even opened his eyes, Sam mentally ran through his escape route. *I can't believe my apartment is on fire. Open the window, climb down the tree, go across the street, call 911. I really need to come up with a better escape plan.*
Thunder rumbled loudly as Sam jumped from the bed, turned on the bedroom light, and realized that the shrill noise he heard wasn't his smoke alarm at all. He reached for his beeper and sat down on the bed. Sam read the message twice, rubbed his eyes and read it again.
*I think I liked it better when my apartment was on fire.*
* * *
Leo looked at the clock. 3:07 am. How in the hell did it get so late? He stared at the wall for a full minute before he forced himself to stand. Leo grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair, and didn't realize how tired he was until he put it on. With a heavy sigh, he placed three files under his arm and walked to the door. Leo turned off the lights in his office and barely made it out the door before his beeper began to vibrate. He read the message, cursed, and turned the lights back on.
Twenty minutes later, Josh staggered in, rain dripping from his tangled hair. "Hey, Leo. Can you believe I got this wet just coming from the car?" He rubbed his eyes and sank into a chair. "How'd you get here so fast?"
"I never went home."
"So is this for real?"
Leo shot him an odd look. "Yeah, Josh; you know, I thought it would be really funny to prank-call the senior staff in the middle of the night and say the Vice President-- "
"Okay. Sorry." Josh yawned loudly. "You have to admit it's pretty surreal."
"It's unquestionably surreal, but it's real."
"He actually kissed this guy?" Sam asked as he entered, leaving his umbrella by the door.
"Yes," Leo assured him.
"I'm under the impression that it was on the lips, but who cares, Sam?"
"No, I meant, where did it happen?"
"Outside the Madison. On the street."
"In an entirely public place," Josh contributed.
Sam shook his head in disbelief and slumped on the couch.
Toby stalked in. "I'm going to kill him," he announced grimly. "I mean it. I'm literally going to kill him myself."
"Please don't let the Secret Service hear you say that," Leo answered wryly. Toby glowered at nothing in particular.
"Speaking of which," Josh interrupted, "how is it that Hoynes managed to lose his protection detail but he couldn't shake off... whoever took this picture?"
Leo frowned. "I don't know, Josh, but rest assured I'm going to have a long talk with him and I'm going to find that out; that, among many, many other things."
C.J. came in behind Toby, as Josh groaned miserably and tilted his head back against his chair. She glanced at him. "Get dressed in the dark there, Joshua?"
He looked down at himself for the first time, and realized his shirt was a shade of orange that could only be described as virulent. "I didn't know I still had this."
"People," Leo said in a warning tone. They looked up. "I don't need to tell you we have a crisis on our hands. Josh, I want you to come with me. We need to get the full story from Hoynes, and we need it fast. Toby, C.J., start making phone calls. I'd like to find out who's behind this before the rest of the English-speaking world does. C.J., you're going to be doing a lot of talking about this at the early briefing--"
"You think?" C.J. broke in, rubbing at her exhausted shoulders.
Leo ignored this. "I'd feel more comfortable if we had a formal statement ready. Sam, put something together. Right now, our position is we don't know anything."
"Why?" Sam asked.
"How about because we honestly don't know anything?"
"It's none of our business in the first place," Sam said quickly. "I mean, I understand it looks bad, but it's his life, right?"
Everyone in the room stared at him for a long, uncomfortable moment. "Sam," C.J. finally said, "You of all people should know...."
"I'm just saying this kind of makes my being friends with a call girl look like a pretty minor--"
"Sam!" Leo was exasperated. "Look, I know it's late. I know you're all tired. I think you all realize how incredibly bad this could, and probably will, get. It's time to get into your fighting stances, guys. Go to work."
They started to file out. "Oh, and Josh?" He stopped, and Leo looked him over. "At least try and get that thing buttoned straight, okay?"
Josh blinked at him and walked out. Leo sat back down at his desk, resting his face in his hands for a few seconds. As rare as they were, there were still times when he wished he was doing just about any other job. But they never lasted. He shrugged it off, and reached for the telephone.
* * *
Hoynes sat shivering on the couch in his darkened living room, eyes closed, fingers pressed to his temples against a raging headache. He did not look up when Leo and Josh walked in.
"I know what you're going to say, Leo." John mumbled.
"Oh, I'm sure you do," he said in a carefully controlled tone. "Mr. Vice President, may I speak informally here?"
"I don't care."
"Good. What in God's name were you thinking?!"
"I wasn't. It just happened." The explanation sounded weak, even to himself.
Josh leveled his gaze at Hoynes. "You went to the trouble of dodging your Secret Service protection -- and by the way, the Secret Service is really not amused. You met this man secretly in an expensive hotel late at night. You kissed this man at two in the morning in a public street. Am I missing anything?"
"That's a hell of a lot to have just happened, John!" Leo said, annoyed. "Don't tell me you weren't thinking. Give me something I can use! You've got a pretty slim chance of getting out of this as it is, and you've got none if you're not going to work with us here."
Hoynes wished the floor would open and swallow him. "I really don't know what to tell you," he murmured.
"For starters, are you...." Leo couldn't believe he was asking this question. "Are you... sleeping with this guy?"
Hoynes raised his head. His eyes were bloodshot, but flashing. "I'm seeing him," he said, with difficulty. "Yes."
"Well, that's something the newspapers are going to love to hear," Josh remarked archly.
"If we're lucky, they're not going to hear it," Leo said.
"Yeah, but we're never lucky," Josh pointed out.
"John, we're going to have to talk to him. And it's going to have to be tonight, before this picture hits the cover of Weekly World News."
Hoynes seemed about to complain, but he stood up. He walked across the room, took a piece of note-paper and a pen, and scribbled an address. He folded the note and gave it to Leo. Outside, thunder rumbled. John hated the way Josh and Leo were watching him.
"Now what?" he asked, finally.
"The President's going to want to see you first thing in the morning," Leo told him. "He'll be expecting you, and he's going to be pretty damn furious. For the moment, there's nothing you can do except go talk to your family. Trust me, you'll be glad they heard this from you."
A stricken look crossed John's face. "Georgia's spending her spring semester at Choate. I'll have to call up there. Jesus, Andrew's only nine years old...."
Josh studied him for a moment. "You have a couple of hours to get yourself together," he said, not without sympathy. "At least, you have until the morning papers hit the street."
Hoynes nodded. Josh walked past him and out the door. Leo went to follow him.
He stopped. They were face to face.
"I was drinking," Hoynes said, his voice trembling.
"I know," Leo said. "I gotta tell you, I'm not inclined to feel sorry for you right now. I'll see you in a little while."
Leo crossed to the door. "We're all powerless over it, John," he said, and left.
Hoynes stood there, thoughtfully. His headache was maintaining a dull roar, matched by the unceasing patter of the rain. "Yeah," he said to no one in particular, and turned to go upstairs and talk to his wife.
* * *
Inside his room at the Madison, Tim Bayliss stood by a window and watched it rain. Brief flashes of lightning lit up the city, and Bayliss desperately wished he had left that morning as he had planned. He fingered the tie in his hand, the tie that John had left behind. Tim raised it to his face and inhaled, but he couldn't smell John's cologne on it anymore. He knew there would be so many questions. What he didn't know was how he was going to answer them.
The knock made Bayliss jump. He quickly stuffed the tie in his pocket, took a deep breath and opened the door. There were two men. The one on the left, the one with the square jaw, carried a briefcase. The man on the right was pale. They both looked very wet, very cold, and very annoyed.
The one with the square jaw spoke. "Are you...?"
Tim nodded and the men entered his room.
"Sam Seaborn, " said the square-jawed man. "This is Josh Lyman. We need you to tell us everything."
Bayliss watched Josh and Sam dripping and tracking mud all over his expensive hotel room, and couldn't suppress a chuckle.
Tim tried not to smile. "They don't have umbrellas in the White House?"
"Do you know where my umbrella is?" Josh asked. "It's in my house, which is where I was, asleep, when I got a page that said the Vice President of the United States was seen tongue-kissing a man in the middle of the street!"
"That's not--" Tim slumped into a chair. "That's not how it was."
Sam turned to Josh and whispered, "Your page really said tongue-kissing?"
"I was trying to make a point."
"Oh. Well, that was a nice touch."
Josh nodded. "Thank you."
Sam sat down on the sofa and opened his briefcase. "Start with your name." He pulled out a legal pad and a pen.
"Are you employed?"
A harsh, dry chuckle escaped Tim's lips. "I'm a homicide detective. Was. Am. A homicide detective."
Josh spoke. "Here in DC?"
"How can a cop afford to stay in a room like this?" Josh already knew the answer.
Bayliss knew it wouldn't sound good. "John is paying for it."
"What are you doing in Washington?" Josh sat on the couch beside Sam.
Tim rubbed his forehead. "I'm here to see John."
"How long have you been in town?"
"A few weeks." Bayliss cleared his throat. "I've taken some time off."
Sam looked up from his notes. "Vacation time?"
"Why did you take several weeks of personal time?" Josh stood and began pacing around the room.
Tim shifted in his chair. "I see dead bodies every day. I've stood over men and women. I've stood over drug dealers and murderers and--" he stopped. When he spoke again, he spoke softly. "Innocent little girls in the rain." Tim's voice caught. "Last year, I was shot, almost didn't make it. I took this time off to figure out what I want to do."
There was no easy way to ask the next question, so Josh just took a breath and did it. "How long have you and the Vice President been lovers?"
"Josh!" Sam exclaimed.
"We have to know," Josh said. "And I sure as hell didn't want to ask Hoynes."
Bayliss couldn't believe they were discussing this. "Six months."
Sam shot Josh an angry glance before going back to his notes. "How did you meet?"
"We met at Jimmy's, in Fells Point. This was right before I started back to work after I got shot. He was in line ahead of me. I spoke to him and didn't realize who he was until he turned around."
"The men surrounding him in dark suits and sunglasses didn't tip you off, Detective?" Josh sat down again.
"I wasn't paying attention," Tim whispered feebly.
Sam looked at his watch. "We need to get back to the White House. This should be all the information we need now. It'll just take me a minute to write something for you to say to the press."
"He's not saying anything to the press." Josh turned to address Tim. "You're not talking to the press."
"Why the hell not?" demanded Sam.
"Leo's orders." Josh looked at Tim again. "You are to avoid members of the press at all costs. If you have to speak to them, do not lie. This is very important. Do not lie. Just say 'no comment.' Do you understand?"
"Why can't he talk to the press, Josh?" Sam still hadn't put away his legal pad.
Josh was stunned. "Leo's orders, Sam. What is wrong with you?"
Sam shook his head and closed his briefcase. As he put on his coat, he walked over to Tim. "Things are going to be really bad for a few days."
"Things are already really bad." Tim realized that his teeth were chattering.
Josh shook his head. "Wait until sunrise. They'll get worse."
Sam stood by the door. "Josh, this is...I think this is an invasion of privacy, and I think any citizen of this country they should have the right to tell the cameras and the newspapers to get the hell out of their face."
"Sam--" Josh began to speak, and then thought better of it.
"I should have seen this coming," Bayliss rested his head in his hands. "We should have seen this coming. How could we have been so stupid?"
"You might want to call your family, friends, your bosses in Baltimore, whatever," Josh said softly. He and Sam took a final look at the man on the couch. They both felt sorry for Tim, ashamed of Hoynes, and sick at the whole situation. Without a word, they walked out of the hotel room and closed the door behind them.
It's a monsoon, and the rain lifts lids off cars
Spinning buses like toys, stripping them to chrome
Across the bay, the waves are turning into something else
Picking up fishing boats and spewing them on the shore....
"A police officer?" C.J. asked incredulously, her coffee mug paused halfway to her mouth.
"On top of everything else," Josh said.
"The Vice President's boyfriend is a police officer."
"You may not want to start the briefing off with that information."
"Seriously, Joshua?" C.J. snapped, setting her coffee down. "Because I was all set to go in there and provide explicit, graphic details--"
"You don't need to bite my head off, you know."
She looked contrite. "I'm sorry. You're right. It's just that... It's five o'clock in the morning and we're living a complete nightmare. I'm dreading the headlines we're going to see in a couple hours. 'Secret Vices of the Vice President!'"
Josh suppressed a chuckle. "Do we know who's running this?"
"The morning papers aren't out yet. They were probably held up to rush this onto the first page. My line is, until we see the picture, we're not confirming its existence."
"What about who took it?"
"So far, all the usual sleaze hounds are proclaiming their innocence. Toby's on it."
"He'll find out eventually."
"When he does, he'll probably tear them limb from limb." C.J. stood up. "I have to go do this. Keep your fingers crossed for me. God, I just -- I can't imagine how Hoynes could have done something so incredibly, unequivocally stupid."
"Neither can I," Josh said. "But you know what's weird? I think they actually cared about each other."
C.J. looked askance at him. "Okay, but it's not my job to know that. I'm trying to keep this from being a total embarrassment to all of us."
"It's going to be an embarrassment no matter what you tell the press."
"I know. I have to go." She gathered her files, brushed past him and then stopped in the doorway of her office. "You think they care about each other."
Josh met her gaze. "Yeah."
C.J. turned and walked down the hall to her briefing. The overcrowded press room exploded when she entered, in a chaotic rush of flashing cameras and competing voices. Well, she thought, that answers the question of who knows about it.
"Good morning," she said, acerbically. "I see the weather and the early hour didn't keep anybody home."
At least a dozen voices called her name at once.
"Easy there," she replied. "I'm only going to take a couple of questions right now; everything else will be covered at the regular noon briefing. Victor."
A young reporter stood up. "Does the White House have a comment on this photograph of Hoynes kissing another man that's floating around?"
"Now how did I know that was going to be the question?" C.J. answered lightly. "You guys are so predictable."
"We haven't seen this picture, if it exists," she said, having memorized Sam's prepared statement during the last half hour. "At present, we're inclined not to dignify dubious gossip about the Vice President's personal life with a comment. If someone actually produces this picture, we'll consider making a further statement on the subject later in the day."
The young reporter opened his mouth to protest. "I hope that answers that," C.J. said. "Danny."
He stood up. "You have no comment on this picture?"
"Gee, I think I made it pretty clear, Danny. At the moment, the White House has no comment on this supposed--"
"It's a real picture," Danny interrupted.
C.J. was thrown. She glared at him. "We've seen no evidence of that."
"Every paperboy in the city's carrying a bag full of evidence of that," he told her, a trifle smugly. "Early edition should land on your doorstep any minute now."
She cast a fierce glance into the wings. Someone scurried away down the hall. She tried to recover her poise. "Danny, what--"
"I'm saying it's not some kind of unfounded rumor. I'm saying someone took a photograph of the Vice President kissing a man, and I was wondering if you might want to think about making some kind of comment on that now."
"We'll consider making a further statement later in the day," she recited, coldly. "Does anybody have any questions on any other subject?" There was a brief pause. "We're done. I'll see you all this afternoon."
The room broke into a loud chorus of complaint. "We're done," she reiterated, picked up her papers, and stormed out. Her assistant Carol was standing just inside the hall, waiting apprehensively. "Do we have it?" C.J. asked.
"Ginger went to find out if the paper's here yet. Do you want--"
C.J.'s eyes were glowing with rage. "Danny," she hissed, her teeth clenched. "Five minutes."
"I'll send him in."
She was seated at her desk, focused on the blurry photo and the blaring headline, when Danny appeared. "Shut the door," C.J. ordered, without looking up.
He obeyed, then stood awkwardly just inside her office. "C.J., we've had this argument before."
"No, Danny, I don't think we have," she said bleakly. "Are we off the record?"
"I mean completely, really off the record. No anonymous quoting, no--"
"I said we're off the record."
"Good, because I'm not exactly predisposed to trust you today." He waited for her to continue. She whipped off her reading glasses and looked up at him. "The front page, you son of a bitch?"
Danny was taken aback. "That's uncalled for."
She jumped to her feet. "Uncalled for? This article isn't uncalled for? You had to do this. You couldn't have held off on it for a few hours? You couldn't have kept it back until this afternoon?"
"By this afternoon it would have been all over the Internet!" he retorted defensively. "I have a responsibility--"
"You have a responsibility to the truth. Journalists are supposed to have ethics." She held the newspaper towards him like a stick of dynamite with a lit fuse. "What's ethical about this?!"
He moved forward. "While you were reading that front page, did you happen to notice the motto under the masthead? 'News of the World,' C.J. News of the world, and this is news."
"It's cheap, Danny!" She slammed the paper down on the desk. "It's supermarket-tabloid crap!"
"It's a matter of national interest!"
"That doesn't mean you have to pander to it," she yelled back. The anger and frustration crackled the air between them, and Danny was the first to blink. C.J. ran a hand through her hair. "Get out of my face, Daniel."
"I stand by my decision, C.J., and my editor does too."
"Get out of my face and get out of my office."
She sat down at her desk and picked the paper up again. He lingered for a few seconds, shrugged, and walked out, slamming the door behind him. When he was gone, she leaned back in her chair, trying to shrug away the tension in her neck and shoulders. She looked vacantly into space for a few seconds, then exhaled sadly and forced her attention back to work.
* * *
Toby paced anxiously back and forth, pausing occasionally to read along as Sam wrote.
"I think it's coming along fairly well," Sam said, hopefully.
Toby peered over his shoulder. "You don't want to use the phrase 'coming out in support' there, do you?"
Sam thought about it for a moment. "No, I really don't." He scribbled it out. "We'll just make it 'being supportive'."
"How about just 'supporting'?"
"Yeah, or that."
"Simple words, Sam!" Toby reminded him.
"You always say that, and then you write speeches with phrases like 'enlightened populism' and...."
"Those are speeches. This is a statement to the press. Reporters need small words. They have very small brains."
"And their brains are in their vestigial tails," Sam added, getting into the spirit.
"Exactly. Their brains are in their tails and they breathe through their--" Toby looked up. A slender, dark-haired woman stood in the office doorway, hands on her hips, her eyes blazing.
"Hello, Mrs. Hoynes," Toby said.
She strode into the office. "I actually prefer Ms., Toby, but this is really not the time for formality. Call me Ruth. Hey, Sam," she greeted him.
Ruth sat down on the edge of Sam's desk. "I assume that the two of you are in the process of working out how to manage my foolish bastard of a husband?"
"We're working on the situation with the Vice President, yes," Toby said, diplomatically.
"In other words, you're trying to manage him. I should know; I've been doing it for eighteen years." She rolled her eyes in disgust. "Personally, I find it frightening that a grown man could do something so self-destructive, unthinking, and just plain idiotic."
Sam and Toby exchanged a look. "Mrs. Hoynes--" Sam began.
"Ruth," she corrected, irritably.
"Ruth," he said, uncomfortably. "I know it's unpleasant to have your private life torn apart by the newspapers; believe me, no one knows that as well as I do."
Toby cut him off. "That being said, what your husband needs, and what the White House needs, is your public support."
"I wasn't going to say that," Sam grumbled.
"I know; that's why I said it," Toby replied.
"I'm perfectly aware of what you want me to tell the press." Ruth affected a stoic expression and spoke as if she was reading a TelePrompter. "Marriage is a serious commitment that requires hard work. My husband and I are coping with a deeply personal struggle, but we are both devoted to our marriage and hope to resolve our problems. We appreciate our privacy during this stressful time."
"That's about right," Toby said.
She laughed ironically. "I can play that role out there, and I will. I'm good at it. But in here, I have to tell you, I'm pretty pissed that I have to deal with this nonsense."
"You don't sound very surprised," Sam put in, cautiously.
Ruth folded her arms and looked at him. "I know my husband very, very well," she told him. "It's hard for me to be surprised by anything he does, though he usually has the sense not to do it in public. Don't misunderstand me." Her tone softened. "I like my marriage. I love my children, and I do care about their father. And I know that's exactly what you need the media to hear, as annoyed as I may be." She stood up. "You do your jobs; I'll do mine."
She walked out. Sam and Toby stared after her.
"She's good," Sam said after a while.
"Yes, she is," Toby agreed. He stood behind Sam and scowled at the hand-written draft. "I don't like the word 'understanding' there."
Sam turned back to the notepad. "Should I change it to empathy?"
* * *
After Hoynes told his wife, he made a call to his mother. As he listened to Betty Hoynes cry on the other end of the line, John found himself thankful that his father hadn't lived to see this day. Ruth had taken the phone and tried to comfort Betty, all the while shooting very pointed glances John's way. When he couldn't take anymore of it, Hoynes showered, shaved and dressed in his best suit. As Ruth knotted his tie, he had wanted to apologize to her, but he didn't know how. He took her hand, and she gave his a quick squeeze before she pulled away and walked out the door.
When he got to the White House, Hoynes navigated the halls quickly. He wanted to delay the inevitable meetings with Leo and C.J., not to mention the President, for as long as possible. As he passed people in the halls, he sensed their eyes following him. The back of his neck prickled, and his face was hot. He kept his head down and walked faster. Hoynes breathed a sigh of relief when he got to the small office he used and could shut the door behind him.
"Hello, Mr. Vice President."
Startled, John looked up and saw Agent Ron Butterfield waiting for him.
"Agent Butterfield," Hoynes walked past Ron and sat down at his desk.
"We need to talk, sir."
Hoynes motioned to a chair. "Yes, why don't you have a seat?"
Ron shook his head. "No, thank you, sir. I'd prefer to stand."
Hoynes eyed Agent Butterfield for a moment before looking down at his desk. "I take it you know about Justin."
"Yes, sir, I do know about Agent McCorkle. I know about how you paid him four hundred dollars to leave you alone last night. I know how you've been paying him to leave you alone for the last six months." Though Ron was restraining himself, the anger was evident in his voice.
"Has he been fired?"
"Yes, sir, he has been terminated."
"And he's been instructed not to speak to the press?"
"Yes, sir, but--"
"I wish you'd stop saying yes, sir," Hoynes interrupted.
"Yes, sir." Ron coughed politely before he continued. "If I may be so bold?"
John shrugged. "Everyone else has been."
"I'm curious as to why you think it matters that Agent McCorkle was told not to speak to the press."
"You were able to buy him with four hundred dollars, sir. I can guarantee you that reporters are on the phone with him as we speak, offering him substantially more money than you did."
This time it was Ron who interrupted. "You've made a joke of the Secret Service!"
Hoynes stood. "I resent that!"
"And I resent looking like a fool!" Butterfield's voice echoed through the room, and he realized that he had just yelled at the Vice President. Lowering his voice, he spoke again. "Sir, it is my job -- no, my responsibility to keep you safe. If you go off without proper protection, you could get attacked. If you go off without proper protection, you could get shot. If you go off without proper protection, you could die. If that happens, sir, it's on my shoulders. Whatever it is that you're doing -- is it worth your life?"
John took a deep breath, and a silence filled the room. He looked at the walls and his desk, his books and the hallway beyond his office, and finally responded. "No."
Ron nodded quickly. "Okay." He turned to leave, and his hand was on the doorknob when Hoynes called out.
Ron looked over his shoulder. "Yes, sir?"
* * *
The day, Leo decided, was never going to stop getting worse. "We look like idiots," he declared.
"You don't need to tell me that," C.J. said, following him into his office.
"You went in there uninformed." He held up a hand when she started to speak. "I know, it's not your fault. Still. It's embarrassing. What do you have for the next briefing?"
"I have Sam's statement of vague support."
"Good." Leo sat down behind his desk. "And?"
"And I'm denouncing the picture as misleading, biased, and unreliable."
"Are you really saying unreliable? It's a photograph."
"It's blurry. I'm working with that." She yawned. "Excuse me. Is the President on his way over yet?"
Leo glanced at the clock on his wall. "Ten of six? Charlie's probably waking him up right now."
C.J. smiled dryly. "I'm not jealous of his job, at least."
Margaret opened the office door and leaned in. "Leo? Toby's--" Toby stepped past her. "Here," she finished, lamely, and shut the door again.
Leo and C.J. looked at Toby expectantly. Toby brandished a folder. "We got him."
Leo leaned forward. "Tell me."
"Does the name Christy Cable ring any bells with you?" Toby asked. Leo shook his head. "Well, that's probably because you're a rational, thinking person."
"I know that name," C.J. said, thoughtfully. "Is he the one who drives around shouting ethnic and sexual slurs at tourists?"
"Out of the window of his yellow Chevette," Toby confirmed derisively. "Guy publishes a newsletter -- and by 'publishes' I mean he drops it off at Kinko's -- called 'Right Power'. He's also a frequent caller to right-wing talk radio shows."
"He hates our guts," C.J. summarized.
"Him, and a couple million other people," Leo said. "Well?"
"Christy Cable has a criminal record -- a couple counts of trespassing from protest rallies, a couple disturbing the peace -- but he's stopped short of actual stalking." Toby didn't need to consult the file; he'd already memorized its contents. "His cousin, Travis Cable, seventeen years old, flunked out of high school, helps him deliver these newsletters."
Toby smiled humorlessly. "Travis Cable works at the Madison."
"A teenage boy," Leo said, flatly.
Toby continued. "Phone records show that someone called Christy's apartment from the pay phone in the lobby of the Madison, twenty minutes after midnight. The call lasted about five minutes."
"A teenage boy."
"And a radical bigot," C.J. added. "The biggest newspapers in the country bought a cruddy picture from a guy who painted 'Slaves obey your masters' on the hood of his El Camino."
"Chevette," Toby corrected, automatically.
"Whatever!" C.J. was exasperated. "Isn't there something we can do about this guy legally?"
"Technically, Cable didn't break any laws," Toby said, frowning. "You'd think it would be libel, or something."
"Unfortunately, it's not libel if it's the truth." Leo sat back in his chair and consulted some notes. "I'm having this Tim Bayliss brought in. C.J., I want you in there with me."
C.J. looked uncomfortable, briefly. "Yes, sir."
He turned to Toby. "Good work finding this guy. The President's going to want everything you've got on him."
"By the end of the hour I'll know his damn genetic code," Toby guaranteed.
As he left Leo's office, Margaret hovered in the doorway. "I didn't know he was going to march past me like that, you know," she said, abruptly.
"For heaven's sake, Margaret, who cares?" Leo put his glasses on and rummaged through the files on his desk. "It's Toby, not the Iraqi president."
"Can I get anyone anything?"
"More coffee," C.J. requested, plaintively.
Leo got up and handed Margaret a sticky note with a phone number. "I need you to make a call."
The boy is hit, lit up against the sky, like a sign, like a neon sign
Then he crumples, drops into the gutter
A cut string, legs twitching
The flood swells his clothes and delivers him on, delivers him on....
Tim sat in the chair where Josh and Sam had left him. Still utterly horrified by what had happened and what it could mean for John, Tim replayed the event over and over in his head. The whiskey, the rain, the kiss. He was the one who asked for a kiss. This was his fault.
The ringing of the phone broke the stillness of the room. Bayliss knew that reporters would start calling sooner or later, and braced himself as he picked up the receiver.
Bayliss didn't recognize the voice on the other end. "Who's this?"
"Is this Tim Bayliss?"
"Danny Concannon, Washington Post. How're you doing this morning?"
*How do you think, jackass?* thought Tim. "Can I help you with something?"
"As a matter of fact, you can," Danny ignored Tim's tone. "I have a few questions for you, Detective Bayliss. May I?"
"You like exercises in futility?" Bayliss put his feet on the coffee table.
Tim rolled his eyes. "Knock yourself out."
"How long have you known John Hoynes?"
"Will you confirm that you do know John Hoynes?"
"Will you confirm that you are the man seen kissing Vice President Hoynes outside the Madison Hotel early this morning, the very hotel you are in now?"
Tim shifted in his seat. "No, I won't."
"Will you deny it?"
"No, I won't."
"Was last night the first time that you've kissed the Vice President?"
"Was it the first time you've kissed a man?"
"No comment." Tim wondered why he'd stayed on the line so long and was about to hang up when Danny spoke up.
"Just one more question, Detective, and then I'll let you go." He paused for a beat before continuing, "Are you and the Vice President engaging in anal sex?"
Bayliss bristled, and his blood pounded in his ears. Whatever warnings he'd received from Josh Lyman flew out of his head. "You son of a bitch," Tim seethed. "The fact that you have the audacity to--you're a goddamn weed. Go to hell."
Tim slapped the phone down and found that it was hard to breathe. He held his hands out in front of him and watched them trembling; when they finally stopped, he picked up the phone and called Giardello.
"Well, well, well, what do you know?" Detective Meldrick Lewis said with surprise. "How goes it, Bayliss? Or should I call you Monica?"
"Oh, God, Meldrick--" Tim did not want to be having this conversation.
"Ain't nobody hear a peep from your sorry ass in months, and then one day, boom! You're on the cover of the Sun, droolin' all over the VP."
Tim could just see Meldrick sitting at his desk, probably playing with that damned football, and getting a hearty laugh at Tim's expense. Bayliss decided to change the subject.
"How's business at the bar?"
"Oh, no, no, no." Lewis wagged a finger. "We ain't done talkin' 'bout this yet, Deep Throat."
Tim overlooked Meldrick's comment. "Is Gee there?"
"Yeah, but he ain't gonna be for long. Yesterday, Gee put in his proverbial two weeks."
"What?" Bayliss was astounded.
"Yeah, Gee quit." Meldrick looked around the squadroom at Sheppard and Falsone. "The place is gonna go to shit when Gee's gone."
"I can't believe it. Why did he quit?"
"Here's another shocker for you: he's running for Mayor." Lewis picked up his football again and tossed it in the air. "Hey, you think you could get him a Presidential endorsement?"
"That's cute, Meldrick. Can you put him on?" Tim started walking around the room.
"Sure thing," Lewis covered the mouthpiece with his hand. "Hey, Gee! You got a phone call!" He turned his attention back to Bayliss. "Take care now, Timmy."
"Thanks, Meldrick." Tim heard Lewis hang up and then heard the lieutenant's gruff voice.
Al sat back in his chair and smiled. "Tim Bayliss, Baltimore's prodigal son. Long missing, long wandering, you've finally surfaced."
"I think I've surfaced on the front of every newspaper in the country, Gee."
"So it is you."
"Don't tell me there was a pool going," Tim groaned.
"I think Lewis is calling Griscom as we speak, to divide the spoils."
Bayliss stopped pacing and sat down on the floor. "What am I going to do, Gee? Everything is such a mess."
"I don't know what to tell you, Bayliss," Gee replied. "But may I ask, what the hell were you thinking?"
"I wasn't, Gee."
"That's pretty clear."
Tim sighed. "This is a man's career."
"Not just one man's." Gee said quickly. "What about yours?"
Bayliss scoffed. "What about it?"
"I don't know if Meldrick told you, but I'm leaving the department."
"He did, but--"
Al took a deep breath. "I can't guarantee that your job will be here for you when you get back."
"I don't know if I want it," Tim said honestly.
Tim looked at his watch. "I have to go, Gee."
"Good luck with your campaign."
Tim hung up and ran his hands through his hair. Daylight was starting to filter in, so he closed the curtains. He wanted the room to be dark. The phone rang again, and Bayliss stared at it as it blared five, six, seven times. Finally, he picked up.
"We need you to come to the White House."
* * *
"I don't think it's ever going to stop raining," C.J. stood by Leo's office window, peering through the blinds.
"Probably not. Do you know what you're going to say to this Bayliss kid?"
C.J. drained her coffee cup. "He's not a kid, Leo; he's forty years old."
"I'm just--" Leo was interrupted by Margaret.
"Tim Bayliss is here. Should I send him in?"
"Yes, thank you." He looked at C.J.. "Do you want more coffee?" She nodded vigorously. "Bring us more coffee, too, please."
Margaret nodded and motioned the waiting visitor into the office. The tall man entered and looked around shyly.
"Good morning, Detective Bayliss." Leo gestured towards a chair. "Have a seat."
Tim obeyed. He was shaky, half from nerves and half from the hangover gnawing at him. "Um. This place is really... wow."
"It's the White House," Leo said.
Tim looked at the floor. "Yeah."
Leo indicated C.J., who was standing near the window looking Tim over. "This is our press secretary, C.J. Cregg."
He nodded. "Hi. I thought I recognized you."
"You spoke to Josh Lyman and Sam Seaborn earlier," Leo said.
"Yes. Last night. Which is, I guess, this morning." Tim half-smiled at the recollection. "They were very damp."
Leo did not react. "Have you also spoken to your family?"
"I've called everyone I needed to talk to," Tim said, then thought of Frank Pembleton, which always hurt. *Almost everyone,* he added silently.
"I'm going to cut to the chase here, Detective." Leo folded his hands and looked intently at Tim. "We need to know whether you're a threat to national security."
Tim was unnerved. "What?"
C.J. spoke for the first time since he'd been in the room. "We need to know if you're going to sell your story."
"Sell my story," he repeated.
"Don't keep calling me that," he interrupted. His voice had a sudden edge. "I -- call me Tim. Please."
C.J. stepped forward. "Okay, uh, Tim. Obviously there are a lot of people who would like to use your relationship with the Vice President to damage the credibility of the administration."
Tim looked back and forth between Leo and C.J. "You must think I'm some kind of horrible person."
"We don't think that," C.J. replied.
"You do. You think I'm a liability." Tim stood up. "You're wondering how much money I'll make off bedding the Vice President. Like I'm in this for a book deal!"
"Detective--" Leo began.
"Tim. See, the thing is, I wasn't sleeping with the Vice President. I was--" Tim blushed, but his eyes were fierce. "I was sleeping with John Hoynes. Not the office, just the man. I realize it was selfish to think that that would work, to ignore his career and -- and I didn't care. I didn't care what he did when he went to work. I was...." He placed a hand on the back of the chair to steady himself. "It was just good when we could be together."
Tim paused, remembering where he was. C.J. and Leo were quietly studying him. He took a breath and let it out slowly. "But you don't really need to know that, I guess."
C.J. looked directly at Tim and repeated herself. "What we need to know is that you are not going to sell your story."
Bayliss stared at his hands. "As far as I'm concerned, there is no story to sell." He looked up suddenly. "You must think I sound pretty stupid."
"You do," Leo spoke candidly.
Tim looked at his hands again and spoke very quietly. "Yeah."
C.J. found that she couldn't tear her eyes away from Tim. "I'm sure Sam and Josh told you not to speak to the press."
"I should tell you -- I got a call a little while ago from Danny Concannon."
"What?" C.J. was startled.
"I let him get to me, and I said some things I shouldn't have." Tim looked at her. "I'm sorry."
"What exactly did he say to you?" C.J.'s tone was measured.
"Uh... honestly, I'd rather not repeat it."
"He was trying to elicit a negative reaction from you, Det--Tim," Leo stared at him.
Bayliss blinked back unwanted tears. "Well, it worked."
C.J. looked at the wall. "Danny has that affect on people."
"Is--" Tim suddenly didn't know what to say. "Is it going to be a problem, what I said to him?"
"I'll take care of it." C.J. walked to the door and opened it.
Bayliss stood, wondering if he should extend a hand to Leo McGarry. One look at Leo's face told him that he should not. Tim left the office without a word. When he was gone, C.J. called to Margaret.
"Call Danny Concannon. Now."
* * *
C.J. stood very still in the dim light, scanning the books on her shelf. Carol leaned into her office. "He's here."
She nodded slightly. Carol vanished. A moment later, Danny came into the office, softly closing the door. He waited for C.J. to speak, but she didn't acknowledge his presence. The silence was broken only by the patter of rain outside. At last Danny began, tentatively, "Off the record." When she still did not face him, he added, "You already yelled at me an hour and a half ago."
C.J.'s voice was calm. "That was then; this is now."
"You really think it's the best use of your time and mine to keep calling me in here to argue with me?"
"I didn't call you in here to argue with you."
Danny frowned. "Then...?"
"I called you to warn you."
He was caught off guard, and took a step back. In an even tone, she continued, "We're not on the same side anymore. You've got to know you've slammed a door on yourself, Danny. I've let you get away with a lot around here--"
"I don't work for you, C.J.!" he replied indignantly. "This is news. I'm a journalist. You can't hold it against me if I act like one. If you don't like what I print, that's your problem, and you can't expect me--"
"I expect the same from you as anyone else in my Press Room, except that I've cut you more slack. We've disagreed before, and who knows, maybe you've even been right once or twice. But this crosses every line I ever...." Her voice turned colder. "It's over, Danny. Call up the Enquirer and ask if they'll give you a column, because you're not going to win back the trust or respect of this administration."
"I don't believe this. You're threatening me. Here in this office -- in the White House, you're threatening me!"
C.J. ignored this, and did not turn around. "Christy Cable is a sick man."
Danny couldn't dispute that, but he defended his source automatically. "He's entitled to his views."
"Of course he is. Of course. But his views are twisted, Danny, and for a respected national paper to put its weight behind them is wrong, because it's not news. It's perversion. You bought this man's perversion and you put it on the front page."
"A source is a source, C.J., whether or not they're politically correct enough for your tastes!" He raised his voice shrilly. "For that matter, who the hell are you to tell me what's right and wrong? I reported some facts, and I don't see anyone stepping up to dispute them! The Vice President walked out of a hotel and stuck his tongue down another man's--"
"You had to call him," she interrupted, quietly.
Danny flinched. "What?"
"You called him, not just to get your story, but to humiliate him. This naive, stupid, sweet man -- you crushed him, Danny. You treated him like he was less than human." He moved towards her, but she tightened her stance and stared at the wall. "You know, I think that's even sicker than taking the picture itself."
He was stung. "C.J., look at me--"
"I can't look at you, Danny." She folded her arms around herself. "You should leave."
"I did my job," he reiterated, sounding less certain than he had before.
"And I need to do mine."
She tapped her fingers on her arm impatiently. He ran a hand through his hair, trying to think of something he could say. Failing, he whimpered softly under his breath, turned, and walked out heavily. She didn't move until she was sure he was gone.
There're four new colors in the rainbow
An old man's taking Polaroids
But all he captures is endless rain, endless rain, endless rain
He says "Listen," takes my hand, puts my ear to his
And I swear I can hear the sea....
From the hallway, Josh heard laughter. It was an unexpected sound, considering what kind of day it had been. He stopped short as he tried to figure out where it was coming from, causing Donna to run smack into the back of him.
She walked around Josh, pretending she hadn't been following him.
"You're like a puppy, you know that?" he called after her.
Donna replied without turning around. "Everyone loves puppies."
Josh listened again and followed the sound of laughter down the hall and into C.J.'s office. He found her door open and raised his arm to knock when she saw him.
"Josh!" C.J. was laughing so hard, she could barely speak.
"Hey. What's -- what's funny?"
"Did you--" C.J. tried to regain her composure. "Did you know that the Vice President is sleeping with a man?"
At this, she burst out laughing again, this time pounding her fist on her desk as she did.
"C.J.? I did know that."
She took a deep breath and wiped her eyes. "Did you know that the photograph on the cover of every single newspaper in America, the photograph that the Bartlet administration will be remembered for, was taken by a deranged, unemployed, greasy-haired skeeve?"
Josh stepped out of the doorway and into her office. "How do you know he's a greasy-haired skeeve?"
"You're missing the point, Josh!" She leaned back in her chair and put her feet up on her desk. "You're missing the irony! Christy Cable, the greasy-haired skeeve, got the most powerful man in the world out of bed before sunrise."
She stifled a giggle. "Yeah?"
"You're wearing a skirt."
Josh cleared his throat. "So... I see London, I see France."
Her face crumpled and she quickly took her legs off the desk. "You saw my underwear."
"No, C.J., it's okay." Josh walked over to her desk. "They were...pretty."
"You saw my underwear!" she wailed. Twirling her chair around, she stood up and began walking the floor in mad circles. "You saw my underwear, Margaret can't make a decent cup of coffee and I hate these stupid shoes" -- she kicked them across the room -- "I only slept for half an hour last night, my hair is frizzy because of the rain, I haven't taken a shower since Friday, and I made a forty-year-old policeman cry!"
She stopped short and burst into tears, half-sobbing and half-laughing, and gasping for air. "Should I get her a paper bag or something?" Donna offered from the doorway.
"Go get a glass of water, would you?" She hurried off. Josh held C.J. by the upper arms and looked into her eyes with increasing worry. "Claudia Jean? Calm down."
"It's just...." She couldn't finish.
"I know. It's bad. But you're kind of scaring me here, so would you mind maybe stopping to breathe?"
"It's bizarro world!" C.J. managed to choke out. "I keep waiting to wake up."
"It's going to be all right," Josh assured her. "You're going to be fine. You're going to sit down and relax, and you're going to get yourself together, and then you're going to do your briefing and bring the house down." She started to compose herself, and he continued in a steady voice. "You are. You're going to be fine, C.J., 'cause you're platinum, and platinum--"
"--Shines in the dark," she finished for him, catching her breath.
"Yeah." Josh beamed. "I've given that pep talk before, huh?"
She returned the smile. "You didn't call me a rock star this time."
She let him guide her to the couch. "I'm just so damn tired."
"I know. Look, why don't you lie down for a little while?"
"I can't!" She jumped to her feet, then wavered and sat back down. "I shouldn't stand up that fast."
Sam passed by the doorway and looked in. "What's going on?"
"C.J. freaked out," Josh told him.
"I did not," C.J. insisted. "Well, a little."
"She completely freaked out. Full-throttle."
Sam looked at her with concern. "Do you need anything?"
"I need to get back to work. That's all."
"You should lie down," Sam advised.
Josh nodded. "That's what I'm saying."
"Two against one." Sam said.
C.J. stretched. "I should--"
"Stop it," Josh instructed her. "Take a break. I'll come get you in an hour."
Sam and Josh started to leave as Donna came in and handed her a glass of water. "Half an hour," C.J. protested.
"No dice," Josh called back over his shoulder.
C.J. wiped her face with one hand and settled into the couch. She glanced around the room, dissatisfied. "Donna? Do me a favor?"
She stopped in the doorway. "Sure."
She waved a hand towards her desk. "Take Gail -- take the goldfish. Flush it. Or take it home with you, or set it loose in the canal, or something. Just -- could you please get it out of my office?"
Donna looked at her for a few seconds, then nodded. She crossed the room and picked up the goldfish bowl gingerly. "No problem."
"Thanks," C.J. said wearily, and closed her eyes. Balancing carefully, Donna carried the bowl away, as the fish inside circled in confusion.
* * *
"For Christ's sake, Leo!"
Charlie and Mrs. Landingham exchanged a look as the leader of the free world pushed into his office with the force and fury of an express train. "I mean, mother of God. Why the hell didn't you call me when this happened?"
Leo followed in his wake. "What would you have done? Run around, yelled at everybody, and put your fist through a wall?"
"You're damn right I would!" Bartlet stormed over to the desk.
"You can do that now," Leo pointed out. "It'll make the same amount of difference."
Jed circled his desk with short, angry strides. "You should have woken me up."
"Everybody's pulling their weight around here," Leo assured him. "Trust me, you wouldn't feel any better if you'd been up three hours ago."
"I sure as hell wouldn't feel any worse!" Jed stalked over to the armchair. "Sam and Toby?"
"They're putting the finishing touches on a statement. C.J.'s doing a full briefing at noon, and Josh is meeting with Ron Butterfield, and then he's going to talk to Hoynes' wife."
Jed sat down. "You talked to him already?"
"I figured. I meant the other guy."
"His name's Bayliss." Leo paused. "He's pretty wretched, but he's not going to the press. He won't be a problem."
"He's already a problem," Jed pointed out. "A ridiculous, very serious problem."
Jed rapped his knuckles on the arm of the chair in restless anger. "I want Hoynes in here. Now."
Leo looked at him suspiciously. "Are you going to hit him?"
"Of course not!"
"Because if I think you're going to hit him, I really shouldn't leave you alone with--"
"I'm not going to hit him, Leo."
Leo headed toward the door. "Might still hit that wall, though," Jed muttered.
"I'm not crazy about the paint anyway," Leo shot back as he left.
Minutes later, Charlie silently motioned the Vice President into the Oval Office, tactfully closing the door behind him.
"Sit down, John," the President ordered.
"Yes, sir." Hoynes obeyed and took a place on the couch.
"I like to think I'm a reasonable man," Jed said in a menacing voice. "If you've got any kind of explanation for your behavior, make it now."
Hoynes bowed his head and said nothing.
"No? Well, I have to say, I'm impressed." Jed leaned forward and glared at him intensely. "You managed, with one mindless action, to decimate your career, devastate this administration, and provide the material to keep the press as happy as pigs in shit for the next several months."
"I--" John began.
Bartlet cut him off, shouting, "What the hell were you -- you've been asked this several times by now, I'm sure I'm not the first -- but what were you doing?! Where exactly did your mind go, that you could forget yourself so completely?"
"It was stupid," John agreed.
"On a monumental scale."
"And you're absolutely right to be angry."
"Well, thanks for your permission," Jed snapped. "Of course what you did was stupid, but I'm not sure you're quite aware how stupid. Your family, your career -- you screwed yourself over. And I don't give a damn about that!" He lowered his voice to a growl. "The damage you've done to your office and mine may never be repaired. I have a staff -- they're good people, John. They're committed and smart and strong, and right now each one of them is devoting his or her day to covering your ass. I can't even put into words how pissed off they are at you, and that's nothing compared to me."
Hoynes shrank back on the couch, looking lost. "You're right."
"You could have told me," Jed added, irritably.
John snorted. "With all due respect, sir, we've never been friends."
The President looked at him. "Still."
John made eye contact with him for a moment. "Yeah."
"Tell me now," Jed said, the wrath ebbing from his posture and voice.
He took a while to gather his thoughts before he spoke. "Ruth slapped me when I told her."
"I imagine she did."
"I met her in college, you know, in law school. It was my first year, and even then, I knew. I knew where I was going with my life, I mean. There were people who didn't believe me, but I knew." He paused and saw that the President was listening intently. "I knew what I could become; I just had to choose to make it happen. Obviously, I chose Ruth. And this." John sighed. "You know, Illinois was the first time I ever lost an election. I still think I could've beaten you."
Jed paid no attention to this last statement. Instead, he leaned forward and studied John's face. "Do you love him?"
"This man. You risked a lot to be with him; I assume you didn't take that lightly. Do you love him?"
John considered this for a long time, then looked down at the floor and shook his head miserably. "No. No. But -- I could have. I cared."
"Makes it harder," Jed said.
Bartlet stood up, and Hoynes followed suit. "You understand, don't you, that this means I can't guarantee you the ticket next time around?" Hoynes looked sick, but nodded. Bartlet nodded along, thoughtfully. "Okay. Go back to your office. I'm sure I'll talk to you later."
"I'm sorry things had to happen this way," John said, and started out.
"So am I."
Jed looked out the window for a moment as Hoynes walked away. "Charlie?" The young man took a few steps into the office and waited. "Get Security on the phone for me. I need to set something up."
* * *
Sam knocked on Toby's door and found Toby hunched over his desk, writing frantically. "Hey, Toby."
Toby didn't look up for a moment, not until he was finished. "It's done."
"The President's speech?"
Sam stepped forward and took the papers from Toby's hand. "You missed it."
"What?" Toby rubbed his eyes.
"C.J. She freaked out."
He looked up. "What?"
"Yeah, she got hysterical, starting crying and talking about her underwear."
"Why was she--"
Sam shrugged, paying more attention to what he was reading than to Toby. "I don't know, I just saw the end of it. Josh made her take a nap. This is shameful."
"Shameful?" Toby furrowed his brow. "Well, if the only people who heard her talking about her underwear were you and Josh, I don't--"
"I'm not talking about C.J. and her underwear, Toby. I'm talking about this speech."
"It's shameful?" Toby raised his eyebrows.
"Would you care to elaborate on that?"
Sam threw his hands up. "We're treating this thing with Hoynes like it's some sort of embarrassment."
"That's because that's exactly what it is." Toby looked at Sam.
"Why? I don't--why is it such an embarrassment, Toby? What's the big deal?"
"I'd like to know, Toby. What's the big deal? Why does the President have to give a speech about it, a speech in which you have him saying things like, 'This is a difficult time for the administration'? Why can't be go out there and say, 'Shame on Christy Cable for taking this picture, shame on Danny Concannon for writing a story about it, and shame on America for buying these newspapers'? Or, better yet, why does he have to say anything about it at all?"
"This is a man's private life, Toby! How would you like it -- you, or Leo, or Josh -- how would you like it if it was your picture out there, if people were making speeches about what you do when you go home at night?"
Toby studied Sam for a moment before responding. "First of all, I don't think that Leo, or Josh, or myself, would be so thoughtless as to carry on an adulterous affair under a streetlight."
"Well, what if you did? Why would it be news? Why is something so private, news?"
Toby sighed. "You know why it is, Sam."
"I--" Sam looked around the room, defeated. "I know why it is. I just don't know why it has to be." He locked eyes with Toby. "Will we get past this?"
Sam swallowed. "It's a good speech, Toby."
Sam was halfway out the door when Toby called to him.
"Is she okay?"
He turned around. "Who?"
"C.J." Toby looked at him. "Is she okay?"
Sam half-smiled. "She's platinum." He walked out of Toby's office, shutting the door behind him.
* * *
As Bayliss entered the Mural Room, the guard closed the door behind him. He looked around, wide-eyed. "This room is so beautiful."
"It really is," Hoynes agreed drearily, from a chair by the window.
Tim paced around the room and stopped across from John. "So. Hi."
"I'm a little surprised," Tim confessed. "I didn't think we'd see each other again."
"The President arranged it," Hoynes told him.
"Really?" Tim was awed. "That's incredibly -- nice."
"It makes me wish I'd voted--"
"I don't have a lot of time," John said, gently.
Bayliss and Hoynes regarded each other without speaking until Tim broke the silence.
"Your tie." He rummaged around in his pocket. "You left it. You look nice, by the way."
"I feel like hell." John reached out and took the tie. His fingers brushed against Tim's for a moment, but instead of letting their touch linger, he pulled away.
Bayliss folded his hands behind his back. "Are you angry?"
"Not at you."
"You should be."
Hoynes looked Tim in the eye. "I'm an alcoholic."
"John--" Tim shook his head. "God, I was the one who said we should get a drink."
Hoynes chucked dryly. "And I didn't refuse."
"If I could change things, Tim, I would."
Tim shook his head. "No, you wouldn't. This is what you want."
"I just--" Hoynes fingered the tie. "I don't know what to say to you."
"You can admit that you want to be here, John."
"It's all I've ever wanted," he said softly.
"Well. I hope it makes you happy." Tim looked at the carpet. "I should go."
John rolled and unrolled his tie. "Yeah."
"Can I just -- I don't want to remember us in that picture." Bayliss couldn't look at Hoynes, and his voice cracked. "Can I have..."
"I can't." John couldn't look at Tim, either.
Hoynes cleared his throat. "Because this is the White House."
Tim walked slowly to the door. "Tell the President I said thank you."
"Yeah," Hoynes whispered, knowing he wouldn't. The door closed, and he looked out the window. It was still raining.
When I look deep in your eyes
I would swear I can see your soul...