Disclaimer: I own neither the characters nor the universe of The West Wing, and make no such claim upon them. I'm simply having some fun here.

Post-episode piece to The Ticket.

Speed Dial

Reprogramming speed dial was a hassle.

Of course, he wouldn't need to if his old Blackberry didn't lie in pieces on the floor of his office, shattered by the force of him hurling it against the wall after that damn interview with her. But he needed a new one anyway, and hey – this one was blue.

Stupid stupid stupid stupid

This wasn't how it was supposed to be at all. Even his victory at the convention in getting the Congressman nominated, improbable and thrilling though it was, and getting Leo on the ticket, tasted like ashes in his mouth. He was completely alone, and it shouldn't have been like that. Toby should have been here with him. Sam should have been here with him.

She should have been here with him.

As he plugged the numbers from his old speed dial into the new Blackberry – Mom at number 2, Leo at 3 – a small part of him knew he just blew his chance at having her there with him. The party needed all hands on deck if they were to beat Vinick in the general, and there wouldn't be any questions from his side about having Russell's spokesperson speaking for Santos. But he knew his decision was the right one – the campaign was stumbling right out of the gate, and her words would be used against the campaign. Probably in attack ads.

He smiled with real pride at how far she'd come in the last eight years. From an eager, wide-eyed neophyte to someone he could honestly see some Republican soft-money ad targeting with a "then and now" ad, contrasting her zingers at the Congressman from when she was with the Vice President's campaign to what she'd be saying if he had hired her. He'd been a victim of those black-and-white, voice-of-doom commercials before – if they were to target her, and they would, well, that would mean she'd made it.

Of course, it would be another blow against the campaign. That's why he couldn't hire her.

He punched the Congressman's number in at 4, Toby at 5...

"I'm good... I'm as surprised as you are." Did she think so little of him? He'd known it from the first Bartlett campaign! Why did she think he let her hire herself? Why did she think he brought her to the White House? Why did she think he didn't want her to leave? He wasn't surprised – he knew damn well she was good. He had eight years of working with her side-by-side to know how good she was. If she wasn't good, he wouldn't have that folder. There would have been a place for her – a low-level place, mind you – but a place. It's because she was good, too good, that he had to say no.

He hated having to say no to her.

CJ at 6, Sam at 7...

"You're not used to me being in a position of authority." No, he wasn't – true enough. But he wouldn't be "uncomfortable". If she'd been a policy strategist, which he of all people knew she could do damn well, or been involved in media buys, or any of a hundred other positions, he could have hired her. He would have hired her on the spot, and cut off his own left arm to be able to do so. He knew she could be in a position of authority. He let her wield it over that pipsqueak Ryan back at the White House. He let her wield it over him, damn it! Couldn't she see that?

He needed to calm down, or this new Blackberry would be in pieces as well.

Ronna at 8, Jade Dragon Take-Out at 9...

He didn't even know if she even heard the most important thing. "And if you don't think I miss you every day..." How the hell was he supposed to do this without her? Why did she have to have been the face of the enemy for six months? Why did she have to leave him in the first place? Didn't she see how hard it was?

And now she was gone. For good. He drove her away again.

He looked at his new Blackberry, sighed, and put it in his pocket.

He left number 1 empty.