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The Best Policy
"Do you have a minute?"
Sam looked up and saw C.J. standing just inside his office. "Good morning. You're not going to start with the import-export trivia again, are you?"
"No. I'm over that."
"Good, because the President's bad enough. I'm working on the education package."
"Great." She stepped forward. "I heard you took Toby out to the woodshed last night."
Sam blinked. "I didn't--"
"I heard you did. Anyway, catch me up on the education thing before lunch, okay?"
"Yeah." He tapped a pencil on his desk. "Hang on. Did Toby say something to you?"
C.J. perched on the edge of Sam's desk. "Ginger and Carol were talking when I came in this morning."
"Great," Sam mumbled. "I'm in the rumor mill."
"Smack-dab in your old familiar place," C.J. teased. "Ginger, in particular, seemed to be reveling in making fun of you."
Sam groaned. "She hates me now. I knew it."
"Carol took your side. Actually, I think Carol was taking my side by extension." C.J. regarded Sam seriously. "So, you yelled at Toby."
"A bit. He cut me out of what he was doing with the drop in, and I know he was upset he wasn't here for the meetings, but..." Sam trailed off and shuffled some papers.
"But Toby's been a jerk and you're justified in being hurt," she finished for him.
He considered this. "I don't know when he stopped talking to us, C.J., and I don't know why. Toby's never been, you know, the best listener in the world."
"Toby wouldn't be the best listener in a room full of crying babies," she put in.
"I know. But he used to argue with us. He used to try to change our minds if we didn't agree with him, and lately, he's not even trying." Sam sighed softly. "He used to treat us like we were his friends, you know?"
"We are his friends." C.J. reached out and gently rubbed Sam's forearm. "And he is a jerk. What did you say to him last night?"
"First I almost complained to the President," he admitted.
"But you didn't?"
"I didn't. But I told him I still think he's wrong about the thing, because I do. And that he should have talked to me about the numbers if he felt otherwise. And...."
"And?" C.J. prompted him.
"He's mad at me because of the leadership breakfast fiasco."
She frowned. "You want me to kill him?"
"No, seriously. I have Italian relatives on my mother's side. I can make a few calls."
"I don't want you to kill him," Sam said.
"You want to do it yourself, I understand. I'll hold him down."
"Thanks. Why won't he argue with us any more?"
C.J. hesitated thoughtfully. "He's thinking about the re-election campaign."
"He's scared that we're going to lose." C.J. stood and began to walk a circle on the floor. "He thinks he knows what we need, and he doesn't want to lose, and he doesn't want to be overruled by anyone."
"He's screwing up," Sam said simply.
"Yes. Maybe he needs us, and he hates that. He's insulating." She stopped walking and sat down on his couch. "I don't know, Sam. As much as I'm pissed off, I'm worried about him too. Toby's got to stop being a soloist. We've got to pull together, you know?"
Sam nodded slowly. "And if we can't?"
"We're going to lose this election."
"Yeah." He stood up and crossed the room to sit next to C.J. "I don't want that to happen."
"I know. We're doing the best work of our lives here."
"At least in theory," Sam replied. "This isn't how it's supposed to feel. Remember last spring?"
"Remember how we were going to make things happen? Remember we were ready to push on campaign finance reform and gays in the military and drugs?"
He leaned back and looked up at the ceiling. "Where did that go?"
She sighed. "I don't know. Up in smoke, at least somewhat."
"This isn't how it's supposed to feel."
"I know. But maybe we had our head in the clouds a little."
"Maybe now we don't have it in the clouds enough." Sam ran a hand through his hair. "Toby said we can't govern if we don't win."
"Well, he can't be wrong all the time." C.J. reached for his other hand.
He gave hers a quick squeeze. "So what do we do?"
"We do the best we can at our jobs, and we fix what's broken as we go along. We're going to take a lot of hits in the next two years."
"Yeah," Sam agreed. "But they've got to stop coming from inside our own walls."
"Yeah." C.J. stood up. "I have to get back to my office before Carol thinks I've run away."
"With me?" Sam deadpanned.
"Maybe I'll elope with Ambassador Marbury."
"I hear you've got a long line forming ahead of you."
"Only because he hasn't realized his deep and insurmountable love for me. So I'll stop by later for the education stuff."
"Hey, how'd it go with Cornelius yesterday?"
"He's not going to do the Will Rogers, but he's not thrilled about it."
"He has my sympathies."
"Yeah." C.J. paused in the doorway. "We are Toby's friends, Sam."
"And friends should be honest with each other," Sam murmured.
"Well, they say it's the best policy." C.J. said. "So I'll see you later. If you need to, you know you can come talk to me. My offer to put in a call to my Uncle Jimmy stands."
"Jimmy?" Sam said reproachfully. "That's your Mafia connection? You don't even have a Vinnie or a Vito somewhere in the family tree?"
C.J. smiled. "Sorry."
He returned the smile. "Thanks."
"Yeah." She walked out.
Sam got up from the couch and stretched, trying to shrug off weariness and gloom. A thought struck him, and he stepped out into the bullpen.
She looked up from her desk. "Yes?"
"Are you talking about me behind my back?"
"No," she said, looking him straight in the eye.
"You know, honesty is the best policy," he told her.
"Some politician," Bonnie quipped in passing.
Sam raised his eyebrows and withdrew into his office. He went back to his desk, shaking his head to himself as he went back to work. "Some politician."
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