Author's Note:

Six Meetings Before Lunch - Season 1, Episode 18

Leo McGarry | Joshua Lyman

"What the hell is that?"

"CJ's gonna do The Jackal."

"Oh, where she lip-syncs to the thing?

"Yeah."

"I love that."


First Campaign

Iowa, 1998

Toby Ziegler sat on what passed for a balcony in the Iowa motel.

Puffing on a cigar and watching the snow come down; his mind replaying the events of the day.


"You gotta pop the ball. You gotta pop it," Toby said as he passed the ball to CJ.

"I'm popping it."

"No you're not."

Sam looked up from what he was scribbling at the window seat.

"So my feeling .."

"Yeah?"

"Is that we're fine playing this song in South Carolina."

"I agree," said C.J.

"Pop it!" Toby insisted.

"As long as all he's doing is running against Wiley, it's fine that he doesn't seem like a .. real candidate," Sam said.

"It's when Wiley drops out and he's running against Hoynes," Toby posited. "They gotta cover us all the way to South Dakota, so suddenly we don't wanna be quaint any more. People wanna know .. is this guy for real?"

"We gotta show them a real honest-to-God alternative. We gotta show that we're BIG TIME."

Sam stood and ended on a clap, to indicate that he wanted to get into the game.

The ball crashed big time through the window instead.

"Can we get an intern over here?" C.J. asked.

A young, gangly teen walked out of the back room and set about cleaning up the glass as the three of them discussed tax returns, putting stocks in a blind trust, and releasing a medical report.

"Somebody wanna get the ball?" Sam said as he bent over and looked out at the road a few minutes later. "Leo's gonna love this. Who's gonna tell him?"

"Tell me what?"

Everyone jumped as Leo sauntered in.

"Erm, nothin' .."

"What the hell is going on in here? Why is it so cold?"

He cast a glance around the room, looking pointedly at Toby and C.J. in turn.

Sam shifted slightly to obscure the broken pane, but Leo caught the movement in his peripheral vision.

"Alright .. who broke it?"

The silence dragged on for a while.

"This is not gonna go well, people .."

"I .. uh .. broke the window, Mr. McGarry," the intern said.

"Taking one for the team, huh?" Leo said. "Nice try, kid."

He turned back to C.J.

"You just gonna stand there and let him take the rap?"

"How did you know it was me?" C.J. threw her hands in the air, even more mortified now.

"Saw it happen as I was coming down the street," Leo said with a grin.

"So why did you -"

Leo sidestepped Sam and patted the intern on the shoulder.

"Clean it up, son, and then we're gonna think up some .. appropriate retribution."

He looked C.J. straight in the eye as he walked past her.

"Letting the kid take the rap .. " he said with an amused shake of his head.

A few moments later he was leaning against the door watching the second year student from Divine Word College stick his hands in his pockets and look anywhere but at him.

"Help me out here, son."

The teen fidgeted and looked up nervously.

"Appropriate retribution, Mr. McGarry?" he asked uncertainly.

"Sure. Gotta keep everyone round here ON THEIR TOES." Everyone in the room groaned a little as he raised his voice on the last line. "It's going to be a long campaign. You can't expect me not to have a little fun along the way."

The intern looked more uncomfortable than ever.

Leo looked outside and then at his watch.

"How long's your drive back to the dorm?"

"About forty minutes."

"Best get going then. Snow's gonna keep falling. See you tomorrow, son."

"Thanks, Mr. McGarry."

Leo patted him on the shoulder and closed the door behind him.

"Toby .." he tossed over his shoulder.

"Leo?"

"Whose idea was it to start tossing the ball around?"

"Mine."

Leo shook his head with half a smile.

"Get it fixed will ya?"

"Yeah."

"Where are we with Wiley?"

Toby shrugged.

"Not really a player." He hesitated, "But then neither is Bartlet."

"Yet."

"We need to get the message that we're serious out there, Leo."

"Time to do something nice?"

"Put CJ on it. She's making good inroads with them."

"CJ!" Leo shouted across the room. "Set something up for the press corps when we get to South Dakota, will ya? Something fun."

"You mean besides free booze?"

"Yeah - put on something special."

"Something special like .." she queried.

"You'll figure it out."


Toby was broken out of the memory by a tap on his door.

He opened it to CJ, who walked past him with two plastic cups and a bottle of dubious looking wine in her hands.

"What?" she asked as he eyed her warily.

Toby shook his head and pulled a rollaway bag out of the closet.

"You brought your own booze?" she asked as he pulled out a bottle of wine and unwrapped two long stemmed glasses.

"What do you think I am, a philistine? Of course I brought my own booze."

He took the plastic cups and bottle from her hands and dropped them unceremoniously into the trash.

CJ looked around the motel room.

"You carry your CD player around, too?" she asked incredulously.

"Always."

"How did I not know this about you?"

Toby shrugged.

"There's a lot you don't know about me," he said as he opened the wine and poured them both a glass.

They sat in companionable silence - savouring the wine and each other's company.

"So.." he said, shifting back into planning mode after a while. "Any ideas for the press corps thing yet?"

She looked at her glass suspiciously, instead of answering.

"What?" Toby asked.

"I think this is going to my head .."

"Did you eat anything today?" he asked diplomatically.

"I don't remember. Maybe not? I'm going to use the bathroom," she said as she rose a little unsteadily to her feet.

Toby shook his head with a quiet laugh and put some music on as he headed back out onto the balcony to light his cigar up again.

He closed his eyes, drowning in Dana Bryant's mellifluous voice. He still couldn't pin down what it was about this particular song that did it for him - the guitar in the forefront, the trippy sax, the voice which dripped with promise. All he knew was that it brought Andrea to mind. Languid caresses and slow burns, finger tips grazing overheated skin, and soft breath in his ear.

A sound to his right pulled him from his reverie, and he looked over to see Leo stepping out onto his own balcony next door.

"Nice music .." Leo said with an acknowledging nod as he leaned over the railing.

"Yeah. Wanna come over for a drink? "

Leo gripped the rail imperceptibly and demurred.

"I'm good. Gonna turn in in just a minute .."

Toby was nodding when his attention was captured by CJ coming out of the bathroom.

Although seemingly steadier on her feet, it was clear that the alcohol had taken hold.

She sashayed around the room, naturally adapting to the undulating rhythm of the song.

"Leo .." he drawled, just as the older man was about to step back into this own room.

"Yeah?"

Toby couldn't pull his eyes from CJ. "I think we have something for the press corps."

"Oh yeah? What?"

"I'll tell you in the morning. Night .."

Toby stubbed his cigar out and walked back into the room, deep in thought.

He sat on an armchair and watched in silence; the cogs in his brain grinding into motion.

When the song was over, CJ threw herself onto the bed.

"Think you can learn the words to the song by the time we get to South Dakota?" Toby said carefully.

CJ raised herself up on one elbow.

"By the time we get to South Dakota?!" she scoffed. "Bet I know half of them already."

"Good."

"Good? Whaddaya mean?"

"You're gonna need a party piece."

"A party piece?"

"Yeah. You're just going to have to .. dial it down a little."

"What do you mean?"

"It needs to be a party piece, CJ, not a turn on for every man in the press corps. Something smooth. Classy. Memorable."

"A party piece. Are you kidding me?"

"Why would I do that?"

"You want me to sing The Jackal at a party for the press corps?"

"No, I want you to lip-sync The Jackal."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Every good party piece starts somewhere. Yours can start in South Dakota."

"Is this part of some strategic communications thing?"

"Yes."

She couldn't tell if Toby's patience was starting to fray at the edges or if he was just having her on.

"You're serious .."

"Yes."

"What's your party piece going to be?"

Toby gave it a moment's thought.

"Exceptional cigar smoke rings."

"And you want me to lip-sync The Jackal .."

"Yeah."

"Leo will have a cow."

"Leo will love it."

"What are you smiling about?"

Toby ran a hand across his beard and hid his smile.

"Nothing .."


Author's Note:

Ronny Jordan's song "The Jackal" was featured in his 1993 album 'The Quiet Revolution', so it could easily have made an appearance on the road during the 'Bartlet for America' campaign.

This is the first in a series of 4 standalones.