"It's going to be a beautiful day, Bonnie."
Toby could hear Sam's voice drifting into his office. He shook his head and returned to the notes he was writing.
"The rain has gone, the sun is smiling down on us and the sky is blue."
"Did you get me a bagel or not," Bonnie asked, unimpressed with Sam's assessment of the morning.
"I did, I did get you a bagel and whilst I was getting it I noted what a beautiful day it's promising to be. The sky especially was winking at me."
"Winking?" Bonnie titled her head to one side and frowned and took the offered bagel.
"Yes, it was winking. For, I saw a star, I reached for it, and I missed. So I accepted the sky." Sam nodded wisely at the aptness of his quote and took the coffee that Ginger offered.
"Staff's in ten and Toby's waiting to see you. I'm not certain, but I don't think he's picked up on the beauty of the day just yet."
"I'm going in here," Sam whispered as he pointed to his office but Toby's bark of his name made escape impossible and he resignedly handed Bonnie his coat and changed direction.
"When you've finished waxing lyrical about how you find the day maybe you could tell me why you saw fit to meet with Phillips even though I told you not to!"
"I didn't meet with him, I ran into him on the Hill. It wasn't a meeting!" Any joy that the morning sky had brought was lost on Sam now as he stood facing an extremely volatile Toby.
"The fact that you spoke to him at all shows that you weren't listening to a word I said and you need to listen, Sam, because you obviously haven't learnt any lessons from your previous debacles." Toby ignored the indignant look on Sam's face.
"Previous debacles! Are you seriously thinking that I went ahead to meet with Phillips even though we agreed not to? Do you think I was stomping my feet?"
"Phillips is a liability and one we agreed we were going to steer clear of. And yes, I think you were stomping your feet. I think, once again, you've let naivety get in the way of what we're trying to do here. I'm sorry that you think he's a good man but the Washington Post thinks otherwise and until CJ's had a chance to get to the bottom of it we stay well away."
"I hear what you're saying, Toby, and I agree. I agreed with you when we discussed it with Leo. I can understand this could look bad if someone was to twist it that way but what I don't understand is why you're so willing to."
Toby walked over to the door and closed it as Bonnie quickly looked down at her work. "Willing? You think I want to be having this conversation? You think I want a Deputy who seems to stumble from one PR blunder to another just because he thinks he's got some sort of divine highroad to take?" The question was punctuated by the sound of Toby's hand slamming against the desk.
Sam took a deep breath that was equally as ineffective as Toby's. "We're done."
Toby put his hands on his hips and laughed. It was a short cynical sound that was more threatening than his words. "No we're not. I'll tell you when-"
"We're done," Sam repeated and he proved by the point by walking from Toby's office and slamming the door to his.
Apart from staff, Sam stayed in his office for the rest of the morning. He tortured himself for a few moments by looking at the blog that had the picture of him and Phillips. The picture was innocent enough but it didn't show the truth of the fleeting greeting the two men had shared. It was enough though for the lobbyist who had somehow got hold of the picture to imply relations were good between one of the President's closest aides and the congressman currently being investigated for embezzlement and blackmail.
Sam read the blog three times and shook his head. It was carefully written. There was not one libellous word. Sam scrolled down to the comments below. The blog was innocent but, as intended, the posts that followed it were anything but. He was just about to close the page when a name he recognised caught his eye. Midshipman42, had many things to say about Sam Seaborn and none of them were to do with Phillips. The post was a rant centred on the President's last speech and questioning if his speechwriters should be free to wander around Washington if that was the level of oratory they could accomplish. The following posts also had nothing to do with Phillips. Midshipman42 had derailed the topic which had now spiralled out of control and somehow become a war between two posters about the right to work at home. Sam shook his head and smiled. He turned back to the notes he was working on and made a mental note to phone Darren, whom he suspected was Midshipman, to see if he wanted to meet for a drink later on.
Two hours later, Sam had managed to finish his notes, write a first draft, eat his lunch and email Darren. He pulled his glasses off and rubbed at his eyes. When he removed his hand he found Josh standing in front of his desk. "Who's Midshipman42?"
Sam smiled and nodded to an empty chair. "I suspect it's Darren."
"Your friend from Gage?"
Sam nodded. "He derailed the posts questioning my ethics which is a shame as they're always fun to read."
"Ethics alone do not make a man; it is how he lives his life that shows us truly what his ethics are." Josh nodded wisely at his own words.
"Yeah, well, unfortunately it's apparently that shows us as well." Sam returned to his notes. He knew Josh hadn't come to see him for a reason except to show his support. Sam was secretly grateful for it.
"So, you meeting up with Darren tonight?"
"Yeah, you want to tag along?"
Josh leant back in the chair and stretched. "CJ said something about drinks tonight. I was meant to ask you...I think...you or Toby."
"I don't think Toby's happy being in the same building as me right now so..." Sam shrugged. "Maybe next time."
Josh nodded and jumped to his feet. "I should be getting back." He turned at the door to see Sam pretending to read the notes in front of him. A quick glance into Toby's office revealed the same pretence at concentration. He shut the door and walked back to the desk. "What did Toby say about Phillips? You two were pretty tense in Leo's office."
"It's fine. He's pissed and he has every right to be. A story like that no matter how unfounded is the last thing we need right now."
"Yeah," Josh nodded but he knew there was something else. "He's okay then, Toby?"
Sam made a show of realising his coffee cup was empty and rose to get it refilled pushing past Josh in the process.
Josh ignored Sam's ploy to get them out of the privacy of his office and asked the question again. Sam took a sip from the coffee he hadn't really wanted and smiled. "He's fine. Really, Josh, it's fine. He's just pissed right now. He'll get over it and be his usual warm and jovial self."
Josh patted Sam on the back. "Just the thought of that makes me shudder."
Sam returned to his office and spent the rest of the afternoon completing more work than he had managed in days. Being ignored by Toby, he decided, had its advantages.
By the time seven o'clock came around, Sam was more than ready for a drink. He cleared his desk and quickly left his office purposely avoiding Toby. He didn't think the slight would be noticed, Toby had certainly gone out of his way to avoid him all day. He thought he'd made it when CJ's voice stopped him in his tracks as he was signing out.
"Hey there, Samson."
"What happened to Samshine?"
"Is it sunny in Sam land?" CJ asked as she took the pen and signed her name.
"Not so much, no."
"Well, there you go then." She turned around but Toby, who had been right behind her, was nowhere in sight. "Josh said you're meeting up with a friend tonight. Sure you don't want to join us?"
Sam followed CJ's gaze towards the stairs. "Toby won't be down until I've gone if that's who you're looking for. And, that's the reason I won't be joining you tonight." He shrugged and smiled at her.
CJ frowned as she studied him. His attempt to appear unbothered was soon broken by her scrutiny. She reached out and rubbed at his arm. "He'll get over it. It's not that bad, not as bad as we thought. A few mentions here or there, nothing we can't handle."
Sam nodded and smiled again, this time with more feeling. "It's fine, CJ. It's just better that I stay off his radar for a few days." Sam knew he was going to be blasted with another piercing, searching gaze so he made sure he looked as if he believed the words he had just spoken.
The bar was crowded. Sam ordered a drink and then went in search of a table. He had arrived early and was glad of a few moments alone before his friend arrived. By the time Darren spotted him, Sam had rid himself of the physical signs of tension and believed he looked relaxed and unfazed by the day's events.
"You look like crap!" was Darren's greeting as he pulled a chair up to the table.
"I thought I looked like a man who had stood firm against the ravages of DC life."
"You look a little like that but mainly you look like crap."
Sam nodded. "I used to wear the ravages so well."
"You're getting old. We both are. Too old for the games that I bet you've had to play today."
"It's not too bad, nowhere near as bad as...you know."
Darren nodded. He knew Sam was referring to Kevin Kahn. Neither of them talked about their mutual friend now. "Did my internet stunt cheer you up?"
"It did." Sam smiled.
"Well that's a good day's work. I achieved very little else today, that's for sure."
Sam leant forward to hear the latest news about Darren's quest to make partner. An hour passed and both men had managed to leave the stresses of the day behind them in reminiscing and coming up with absurd plans to aid Darren's career. Darren soon realised that Sam wasn't going to talk about Phillips and so he sat back and listened to his friend's advice instead.
"You need to sleep with someone."
"That's it? That's your advice on how I make partner!"
Sam nodded slowly. "Now, I assume you would prefer to sleep with a female?"
"You assume correctly."
"In that case you need to think of all the women associated with the firm and draw up a list of their positions."
Darren frowned. "How am I meant to know what positions they...oh, you mean positions within the firm."
"I do, although,knowing the other would be a helpful strategy." Sam continued to explain his plan including a sleeping reference chart based on influence and possible connections. Darren decided that he would consider sleeping with a man if the outcome was absolutely guaranteed to achieve the required result. Sam agreed that this was a sensible decision, especially as Darren had been unable to think of one single woman who matched the criteria.
The food arrived and their plans were left unfinished. Sam sat back and took a slow sip of his coffee. For the first time that day he had managed to spend more than five minutes not reliving his meeting with Phillips, conversation with Toby and every word of CJ's briefings. He thought about Josh and how he had shown his support. He absently wondered where they had gone to eat and opened his eyes to see Josh in the doorway to the bar. The coincidence of his random thought and the appearance of Josh made Sam wipe at his eyes. On opening them, Josh was as clear as day in the doorframe and Toby and CJ were clearer still behind him. "Of all the bars in DC..." Sam mumbled.
Darren followed his gaze. "There's Josh!"
"Yeah." Sam smiled as Josh spotted him and made his way over. He noticed Toby lead CJ to a table on the over side of the room.
"Have you eaten already?" Josh asked. "Come and join us."
Sam glanced over at CJ who was waving him over. Toby had sat with his back to Sam's table. "Tempting though the idea of being ignored by Toby is, I think I'll just finish this drink and head off."
Darren decided that Midshipman still had work to do. "Oh come on, Sam. You've got to face him tomorrow, might as well break the ice tonight. I'll warm him up with my innate charm and endearing nature."
"Darren's never met Toby has he," Josh stated.
Reluctantly, Sam agreed to come over for a drink when Darren went. "Believe me you don't want to end the evening with the Director of Grouch over there."
They had one more drink before Darren decided he should call it a night. "Go see your boss. Remember, innate charm and endearing nature- works every time. Of course, you'll have to work on the charm. Don't leave it until I have to save your ass online next time!"
Sam laughed and promised he wouldn't. He drained the remnants of his glass and with a deep sigh walked over to join his friends.
The conversation was halted by Sam's arrival at their table. Josh insisted on buying Sam a drink despite Sam's insistence that he wasn't going to stay. Sam cursed Josh silently as he pulled up a chair next to CJ. She made several attempts to start a conversation that included both Sam and Toby but Toby was clearly intent on having no part of it and Sam was too tired now to keep up the pretence that Toby's mood was having no effect on him.
After an awkward few minutes, Josh returned with drinks for them all. He made the same effort as CJ and gave up as quickly. Finally, Sam drained his glass and stood. "Thanks for the drink," he said to Josh as he pulled on his coat.
Realising nothing was going to be resolved Josh and CJ finished their drinks too. Toby drained his bourbon and then he too stood and reached for his coat. They walked out of the bar and stood on the sidewalk.
"You two really should be aware of the ramifications of when you aren't talking. It makes Ginger unhappy and when Ginger's unhappy, Donna's unhappy and when Donna's unhappy...well you can see where I'm going with this."
"I'm not ignoring Sam, and I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't comment on how I handle my staff."
"Handle! You need to handle me?" Sam asked.
"I'm sorry, did I miss the memo telling me my Deputy had turned into a ten year old brat?"
"Well, I don't know, but I sure missed the one that explained why you're treating me like one!"
Josh held his hands up hoping the action would stop Toby's reply, which, he was certain, would not be one conducive to making amends. "You know what, it's late and this isn't the time to be having this discussion."
Toby ignored him. "Okay, Sam, you want to know if I need to handle you. Well let's see, has my day been mostly spent dealing with something you did despite what we discussed? Is this the first day I've spent like this? Do I have use for a Deputy who seems to spend as much time in the papers communicating the wrong message as he does in his office trying to write the right one?"
Josh knew which words would sting Sam the most. He winced inwardly as did CJ.
"Trying to write?" Sam's eyes widened.
"Ok, that's it." CJ stepped between the two men. She hated seeing Toby and Sam fighting but she'd hate it even more for a member of the press to see it. "I'm ending this before one of you says something you'll regret."
"You don't think he'll regret that?" Josh said of Toby's words.
Josh wasn't sure how this had happened. He'd got Toby and Sam together, he'd broken the ice and he'd bought drinks. Now he watched as Sam took a deep breath as if forcing all the things he wanted to say back inside. Sam shook his head and shrugged. "He won't regret it. In fact, I think he's been waiting to say that for some time." His words were quietly spoken, almost too quiet for Josh to hear. Sam patted his pockets for his car keys and then quickly walked away.
Josh shook his head as he watched Sam get into his car and pull into the road. "You shouldn't have said that."
"We needed to blow off some steam that's all," Toby answered. "It'll be fine tomorrow."
"I hope you're right because there's no way I'm-"
Noises. He would always remember the next few moments of his life as a string of noises. There was the crash, sudden and deafening and followed by a brief silence. Continuous car horns, then words were the next sounds. Then curses coming from somewhere near him and the clacking of stiletto heels running away from him. It was only when he matched the last sound to the sight of CJ running towards Sam's wrecked car that he finally managed to move.