From his seat on the sofa, Leo scanned the room, his attention hop-scotching from head to head-CJ to Sam, Sam to Donna, Donna to Toby, Toby to Josh, and into the adjacent room of the residence. Animated voices filled the space, mingling with the music-smooth pianos and horns-still streaming from the speakers. Leo half-wondered why none of these people chose to opt for a full night's sleep. The first standard eight hour day in months-a collective Christmas present of sorts. He demanded dedication during working hours and received it without question, but that commitment rampaged non-stop, full-force through each of their bones, in or out of the office. Leo grinned softly to himself; he'd hand-picked a powerhouse, the best group he could have imagined.
"Are you having fun, Leo?"
Leo snapped his eyes to Abbey, who sat across from him, leaning against her husband. She held her champagne flute against her bottom lip before she tipped the glass back, draining it. "Yes. Very much. Thank you. Everything's wonderful." Leo offered her a smile and extended the same one to the President.
"Are you sure?" she asked, setting her glass on the coffee table between them. "You could join us for a little sing-along."
"Us?" The President choked out the question, swallowing his mouthful of champagne in a hurry. "I don't recall putting an 'us' on the table."
She turned her head a fraction of an inch and replied, "It was an executive decision." Shifting her attention back to Leo, she smiled sweetly. "Zoey's been taking requests. I heard a rumor that Sam and CJ are going to tackle It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas in a few minutes. What do you say we beat them to it, Leo? Croon our own version of White Christmas?"
"Croon?" The President asked, putting his empty glass beside Abbey's. "While we're at it, we should give Joey Bishop a call. Re-form the Rat Pack."
Leo smiled around a mouthful of sparkling white grape juice, watching Abbey as her mouth fell open and she shifted sideways on the couch to better face her husband.
"Was that sarcasm?" she asked.
Leo's smile grew wider as his shoulders relaxed and he slumped in his chair, finishing his own drink.
Abbey leaned to the empty side of the couch, sitting straighter. "It was. That was sarcasm. I'll remind you, Jed, that I was cast as one of the female leads for a production of Grease. Did you know that, Leo?"
The President leaned forward and propped his elbows on his knees. "A high school production. She always leaves that part out."
"Was it the blonde one?" Leo asked, pleased with himself for recalling the presence of a blonde at all. He had Mallory to thank for that; she'd traipsed around the house as a teenager, singing something about greased lightning on summer nights. "She was cute."
"No, the other one," the President said before Abbey could reply. "The non-cute, non-blonde."
"Her name," Abbey said, "was Betty Rizzo."
The President rolled his eyes. "With the non-name."
"She had spunk," Abbey insisted as she stood up, wavering before she fully caught her balance.
"Among other things," the President mumbled.
"And what is that supposed to mean?" As soon as she blurted the question, she raised her hands and shook her head, staring the President down with a silent order-stop right there; don't say another word-as clearly as if she'd spoken it. "No. This evening has been much too delightful to ruin with a diatribe about the moral deficiencies of popular American musicals." She grasped her husband's hand and turned away from the couch, undoubtedly intent on leading him to the center of the room.
Despite the temptation to let the scene play out, nearly swayed by the promise of a hearty laugh, Leo's obligations to his job-to the President, all he had-forced him to his feet. He doubted that the President had or would consider the consequences of making a drunken fool of himself. Leo stole a glance at the table, counting the empty tumblers and champagne flutes. Six in one cluster, five in another. The President had drunk enough-more than enough-to impair his ability to make any sort of rational, sensible judgment call. "I don't think you should do this, sir."
"You and me both."
"Having heard you sing before, sir, I'd say there's a strong possibility that you're going to embarrass yourself in front of your staff. You sure you want to do that?"
"I don't think I have a choice." He nodded toward Abbey, who had acquired a glass of wine and was observing their exchange over the rim of the glass, unconcerned. "And it wouldn't be the first time in front of the staff."
"There are worse things he could do, Leo," Abbey said, patting Leo's arm. "Come on, Jed. I want to hear that smooth baritone."
Leo sat back in his chair, folding his hands across his stomach and smirking as Abbey slurred a cordial greeting to her guests. The President's closest advisers-familiar faces, more familiar than family-formed a crooked line across the room and smiled together, laughed together, enjoyed one another. Enjoyed this carefree, sophomoric moment. Mrs. Bartlet was right, Leo thought, his eyes focused on his president-his friend-at the center of the floor. There were worse things he could do.