Title: Look at the Whole Board Fandom: The West Wing Genre: Drama Characters: Sam Seaborn, Josh Lyman, Donna Moss, Charlie Young and more Summary: Sam Seaborn has been Speaker of the House for roughly 4 years. Josh Lyman has been out of Washington for nearly a decade and now hosts an MSNBC style opinion program, while others from the Bartlet administration never left. Sam has struggled in his time as Speaker against a Republican controlled Senate and an tough but fair Republican president. A recent scandal has resulted in the resignation of the Vice President, causing chaos within Washington. Sam struggles to hold his party together while honoring the oath he swore to his country. Tragedy places the ultimate burden on Sam as he must step up and be the leader Jed Barlet always knew he could be. “In five, four, three” Donnatella Moss Lyman watched as the cameraman fell silent, holding up two fingers, and then one. From her chair, she watched as the cameras moved in on the two figures sitting at the desk in the center of the room. Her husband, Joshua Lyman, finished ruffling through some papers and stroked his snow white beard. His equally white cotton hair was, as usual, sticking up in all the wrong places. Josh had long ago accepted that he wasn’t really made for tv, often recalling the disastrous time he ‘joked’ that President Josiah Bartlet had a secret plan to fight inflation. He had always been more of a behind the scenes person. First serving as Deputy Chief of Staff under Bartlet and then as Chief of Staff under Matthew Santos. After many years of marriage, Josh had fallen out of politics and the spotlight, which is the way Donna had liked it. It was therefore an ironic twist of fate for all who knew Josh that he would end up the host of a news opinion channel on a major network. This was a man who, after all, was almost fired for insulting Mary Marsh on a talk show nearly two decades earlier. The intro music faded and the camera focused in on her husband. “Welcome to Lyman Live” her husband said. “I’m Josh Lyman and today my guest is the esteemed Junior Senator from California, Senator Claudia Jean Concannon” The older woman seated opposite her husband had barely changed in all the time Donna had known her. True, her hair was trimmed a little shorter and her temples had hints of grey. The wrinkles and dark circles well earned from an adult life in politics seemed to get just a bit deeper every time Donna saw her. But Donna also saw the earned laugh lines that came from C.J.’s marriage to her husband Danny and from the joys of raising her daughter. A daughter who was now nearly in high school. Time had indeed flown since they had all worked together in the West Wing. Only those who really knew Josh, like Donna, could tell that Josh was nervous. C.J. had been a guest on the program several times now. And every time she seemed to dominate the direction the conversation would go. Perhaps it was her skill as the former press secretary. Perhaps it was her experience as Chief of Staff. Perhaps, it was that even seated, she still towered over Josh. But Donna knew the truth: It was that Josh actually feared C.J. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing. A little fear was healthy. And C.J. would never hurt Josh seriously. Donna smiled as she recalled the time that C.J., then outranked by Josh, had threatened to “shove a motherboard so far up his ass”, proclaiming it for nearly everyone who worked in the West Wing to hear. Donna was sure that Leo McGarry had almost certainly heard it from his office. Or at least Margaret had. Donna smiled at the memory and returned her attention to the monitor as C.J. started to speak. “Pleasure to be here again Josh.” C.J. said. She flashed the tv host a smile, reminding Josh and Donna of when she would do “the Jackal”. It was an opening shot. C.J. had signaled that she was ready to eat Josh’s lunch today and she wanted him to bring his A game. “Let’s dive right in. Senator, what the heck is the Senate doing?” “Excuse me?” CJ asked, pretending to be taken aback by the question. In truth, she knew Josh would go on the attack. He always did. “It’s been nearly one year since the Senate has passed a single bill sent by the House of Representatives.” CJ flashed another predatory grin. “Well Joshua. As you may recall from your civics lessons, Congress is what’s called a bi-cameral legislature. And each chamber has a majority control. As you know, my party, the Democratic party, controls the House. However the Senate is controlled by the Republican party.” C.J. relished taking Josh to school. And making him look dumb was just a bonus. Josh of course knew how the government worked. He’d served in it for long enough to know how a bill became law- hell he helped pass dozens. That however was not his goal with this conversation. Donna bit her lip, wondering again if her husband’s plan of attack was the best one. “Yes, but by a one vote margin!” Josh exclaimed. “Senator, are you really telling me that you and other Democrats can’t get one lousy vote to pass the House’s education reform bill?” C.J. paused for a moment, giving Josh an “Are you seriously wasting my time with this?” look before diving back in. “Perhaps we could if the majority leader would bring the bill up for a vote. However, there is another pressing matter that the Senate has to attend to as you well know.” C.J. replied. And Donna found herself biting on the end of her pen. Josh was about to make his move. “You’re referring to the confirmation hearings for the Vice President.” Josh stated, knowing that his audience understood as well. “But, last I checked, the President had not even sent over a nominee. Why can’t the Senate spend the time until he’s ready by passing, say, the education bill?” “That would be a great question for the Majority leader wouldn’t it?” C.J. said, her voice sounding just a bit less patient with these questions. “Senator, Americans support the House’s measure by nearly 90%. 90%! When do Americans ever agree that much?” “Yeah Josh, it’s popular” CJ said, her veneer dropped as she rolled her eyes, “But the president will never sign it.” “Last I checked, the Senate had its own ability to write a bill and propose changes.” Josh countered. “Oh thank you Joshua. I had forgotten that, because I’m a complete idiot” C.J. replied sarcastically. “Give me a break! We both know Sam Seaborn’s bill is dead on arrival in this Senate” C.J. sighed, realizing that Josh had gotten what he wanted. For weeks, the Senate Majority Leader had dragged Sam’s name through the mud. He and the other Senators had claimed it was the House holding things up. Of course, Josh knew that was bunk. Which is why he was so surprised that no Democrats had chosen to back Sam up. He assumed it was because Sam didn’t want them to. But C.J, was a friend and a respected member of the Senate. Though technically the junior senator from California, she carried far more weight in the chamber then her senior counterpart did these days. Josh had therefore been angling to get a clip of her saying exactly what she had just said: that no one in the Senate was taking Sam’s plan seriously. That the Senate was just stringing Sam and the party along to get what they wanted. And for some reason Josh could not understand, Sam was letting it happen. With a smile, Josh turned to the camera and said “We have to take a break. But when we return, more with Senator Claudia Jean Concannon” **** “Ginger! Turn that trash off!” Toby Ziegler bellowed as he brushed past the television showing Lyman Live. The gruff older man was barreling through the office and headed toward the exit and out toward the bustling capital hill lobby. Toby was a man on a mission. Dressed in a suit that was, as usual, disheveled and with a jacket unbuttoned and fluttering in his wake like an brown ominous cape, he was carrying a handful of folders and trailed by several very timid young aides. His once jet black hair was now completely grey, and he wore a pair of glasses that were always in danger of flying off as he pushed through the halls of the House of Representatives at top speed. Toby may have gotten old, but his fire had certainly not gone out. “Toby! Wait up!” Charlie Young called. In contrast to Toby, the younger man was impeccably dressed in a neat navy suit, white shirt, and blue tie. His goatee was neatly trimmed and his hair was kept short. Aside from the goatee, Toby would swear that Charlie had barely aged from when they had first met. Toby slowed his walk as Charlie effortlessly caught up, ignoring the aides that trailed in the older man’s wake. “Talk fast Charlie. I am on a mission” Toby declared. He was strutting toward the exit like a prized fighter ready to enter the ring and knock out his opponent. “I know. Sam told me to tell you that the mission is aborted” Charlie said, waiting for the other man to stop. Toby did, abruptly, nearly causing a young male aide to collide into Charlie. He managed to effortlessly side step the collision while grabbing hold of the aide’s arm to steady him. “Sorry sir” the young man replied. “Give us a minute.” Charlie said, flashing the aide a smile. The aide nodded and turned to rejoin his fellow terrified colleagues. They scattered back towards the relative safety of Ginger and Bonnie’s desk area. No one wanted to be near Toby when he received bad news. Toby turned to face Charlie, a look of amusement on his face. “And why has Sam cancelled my mission Charlie?” Charlie winced as he knew how the older man would react. “Will” he said. “Bonnie! Call Congressman Bailey’s office and inform them that I will be over to kill him momentarily!” Bonnie, having spent over a decade of working with Toby, knew better than to make that exact call. Still, she picked up the receiver and said “I’ll let the Congressman’s office know to expect you.” “Toby-” Charlie started to say. “I am going to kill Will today. It’s that simple. He has crossed me so he must die. Any objections?” “Several” Charlie answered, motioning with his hand to stop Toby from going any further. “We need him.” “Do we?” Toby asked, his voice raised slightly as he began pacing like a caged animal around the seating area at the front of the room. “There’s what? 239 other Democrats. Do we really need to cater to the wishes of one insistent pain in the ass?” In answer, a voice behind Toby said “Yes. We do” Toby spun around to face the Speaker. Sam Seaborn stood in the entryway to his office ignoring the hustle and bustle of the aides and congressmen in the hallway. Younger than Toby, but older than Charlie, Sam was dressed in a sharp navy blue suit, crisp white shirt, and bright red tie. His short black hair was starting to lose its sheen and grey dotted his temples. The Speaker of the House cut an imposing figure to most people. But not to Toby. Especially since Toby was only in this position as a favor to Sam. When Sam had finished his time in the Santos administration, he again pursued a run for Congress and had asked Toby to run his campaign. Still a pariah for his actions during the end of the Bartlet administration, Toby had tried to convince Sam to get someone else to run it. But Sam had been insistent. Figuring that Sam would probably lose again and that it would be a fun hobby to undertake before returning fully to the joy of retirement, Toby had eventually agreed. And then Sam had to go and ruin it by winning. And then he won again. And somehow, Toby had ended up being the Chief of Staff to Sam Seaborn for the past four years. He regretted every day of it. Or so he claimed. His wife, Senator Andrea Wyatt knew that he loved every moment. He wasn’t made to stay at home she had told him repeatedly. And now, with their children away at college and Andrea busy in the Senate, Toby needed to keep busy. Or in her view, keep out of trouble. Toby turned to face the man responsible for the misery he pretended to feel. “And why exactly is that Mr. Speaker?” he asked, shrugging his shoulders. Sam smiled and chose his words carefully. “Toby, Will has been a great friend and ally to us. So if he wants us to look at the bill one more time-” “-The bill has been looked at over a dozen times.” Toby said, emphasizing this by waving his arms, which still contained folders, up and down several times. Papers flew about the seating area as Toby continued “We have personally written and rewritten it over ten more times. In one of those ten times, perhaps that Congressman could have deigned to share his request then?” “Will needs this Toby.” Sam said, making it clear that there would be no room for negotiation. The Chief of Staff scoffed. “I wasn’t aware that the world revolved around the great Will Bailey! Shall I go ask him for permission to take my break? Perhaps Charlie should send his vacation requests to him?” Sam rolled his eyes. He was used to Toby’s rants of course. And he knew why Toby was choosing to take his anger out on Will. Aside from still being angry at Will’s “no” vote the year prior on HR-6941, Toby was also angry with the recent bait and switch by the White House. Toby and Charlie had spent weeks going back and forth to the White House to hammer out an education bill that everyone would agree on. Expanded funding for the arts and after school programs seemed like a no brainer. Which is why Toby nearly hit the roof when the President indicated in a news conference that he had intended to veto it, sending the whole thing back to the drawing board. But as mad as Toby was about that, he was more furious at Sam for letting his office be the one to bear the brunt of the backlash in the news. Democrats had wanted to use this moment to go against the president. But Sam had to work with the man. And he was firm in his position that the best path forward was a carrot and not the stick. Toby preferred stick and a Louisville slugger. Sam understood the frustration and in truth, he shared it. When he had accepted the position of Speaker of the House for the first time four years earlier, he had hoped to effect real change, the kind he had dreamed of working for the Bartlet administration and that he had come so close to achieving working for the Santos administration. That was why he had agreed to run when the party turned to him. In truth, they had few choices and with losses in the Senate and the White House in republican hands, they had promised Sam whatever he wanted to get him to say yes- even though he had barely finished his first term before assuming the role. But politics was a fickle mistress and Sam found himself spending more time currying favor than actually passing bills. And the bills that he did manage to pass seemed to end up languishing in the Senate Majority Leader’s office or ended up with a veto courtesy of a president whose political whims seemed to change depending on the day at times. The President wasn’t a bad man in Sam’s view. But he also was no Arnold Vinick. And despite appeals from the former Secretary of State himself, Sam had still failed to engender an agreement from the White House on the education reform bill. But Sam refused to give up the good fight. He owed it to the many men and women who had elected him. And he owed it to his mentors who had supported him. And, of course, he owed it to his team and people like Toby and Charlie for all the work they did. “We’re pulling the bill. That’s my decision.” Sam stated. “The vote is cancelled.” “As you wish” Toby said, giving a slight bow to signify how he really felt about the decision. He spun on his heel and moved towards his office, causing several of the interns to scurry out of his way or risk being run down. Sam winced. He really hated how Toby terrified the kids. As if to emphasize that, Toby slammed the door shut behind him, causing several aides to drop the papers they were holding. Charlie simply rolled his eyes and looked over at Sam. “That went well.” “He took it better than I expected.” Sam admitted. And he meant it. He looked over to see his personal assistant walking over at a brisk pace, pausing only to step around the aides trying to pick up the papers that had been strewn about the office as a result of Toby’s latest tirade. “Mr. Speaker, we need to discuss your schedule for the rest of the day” Cathy said, hurrying over. Cathy, like Bonnie and Ginger, had worked for years with Sam. When he had joined the Santos administration, they had stayed on through the transition, initially only planning to stay for a time. Instead, they had stayed through the entire first term. And when Sam won his seat for Congress, they had joined him. While the office of the Speaker of the House was not exactly glamorous when compared to the trappings of the West Wing, they never once complained. Cathy continued. “You are scheduled for lunch with Congressman Daniels today and you have a 2pm photo op with the local 4th grade class. Sam grimaced. He remembered the first time he had spoken to a fourth grade class. His now wife Mallory would never let him live that embarrassment down. He nodded to acknowledge that he had heard Cathy and she continued. “And you are scheduled for a phone call at 4pm with the President to discuss the nomination process.” Sam resisted the urge to sigh. While he respected the president, he often found it difficult to speak to the other man. A man pushing seventy, the president had just secured his re-election bid only to have his Vice President embroiled in a scandal that would make John Hoynes blanch. Needless to say the Vice President was quickly shown the door. Sam respected the president for making that decision and doing so without hesitation. But that had been nearly four months ago. And yet, the President still had not put forth a true nominee. At times, Sam felt he was getting more information from the press than the president. He hoped today would finally be the day when this mess would be cleared up once and for all. Cathy continued to rattle off the list when Sam heard a commotion brewing as several of the aides cried out. Before Sam and Charlie could see what had caused the disturbance, the door to Toby’s office flew open and he bounded out at a quick run. Sam felt himself go cold. It was never good when Toby ran like that. “Turn it up!” Toby demanded. Sam could see that the older man’s face was drawn and the color he had moments early seemed to have completely drained from his face. Sam’s head whipped around to the television and he saw his friend Josh Lyman speaking. Beside him, C.J. had a hand over her mouth and her eyes cast downward. The news chyron came scrolling over the television as Josh spoke. “-has suffered what appears to be a massive heart attack. The President was pronounced dead on route to the hospital. Again, to repeat. The President has suffered what appears to be a massive heart attack-” Sam felt all the air leave his body at once. He sensed it as all eyes slowly turned from the television to him.