Set after "In This White House" ~~ previous / next
Characters property of Aaron Sorkin and NBC. No infringement intended.

Conversations Ongoing

Saturday night. And at least half the people who worked in this building were still working. Sprawled on the sofa in her office, CJ felt only slightly guilty for not being one of them. After all, she was letting Sam rant in her general direction; that in itself was a job worthy of payroll.

"I didn't get to bring home my point," Sam said. When CJ didn't ask the question, he went on as though she had. "My point was that this is neither the place nor the time to discuss the White House position on gun control."

"The White House has a position on gun control?" CJ asked sleepily.

Sam glanced at her. "CJ --"

"I mean, it's a building. It seems like it would be more interested in, I don't know ... the Contractor's Union."

Sam studied her silently for a moment.

"I don't even know if there is a Contractor's Union," she went on. "Maybe it's not very well publicized. Or maybe ... it's something that ensures equal rights for hit men."

"CJ, what the hell --?"

"Hey, you've been talking for an hour and a half, Samuel. It's my turn."

"I've been talking about gun control."

"You have?"

"You're talking about ... buildings ... or ..." He waved a hand. "Anyway. I was saying. She actually said I took the position I took because I don't like people who like guns."

"'Took' is a funny word."

"CJ --"

"Do you like people who like guns?"

"To be honest, I don't know that many."

"Then how do you know if you like them?"

"Who the hell cares if I like them, CJ -- I'm saying, that's not why I take the position I take."

"You shouldn't be making snap judgments about people until you've met them, Sam," CJ admonished.

Sam turned to look at her. "CJ, seriously. Don't drive yourself home, okay?"

"I'm perfectly fine."

"Yes, that's obvious by you're --" he stopped, with something of a smile on his face. "Forget it."

"By my what?"

"Forget it."

"By my what, Sam?"

He pointed. "Did you know you're missing a shoe?"

CJ's eyes slowly traveled from Sam's face to her own left foot. "Oh," she said. "I must have left it somewhere."

"It's on your desk," Toby said from the doorway. "Sam, a word?"

"Why would I put my shoe on my desk?" CJ wondered to no one as Sam followed Toby into the hall.

"What's happening there?" Toby asked, nodding toward CJ's office, from which her drunken voice still rambled.

"Two hours' sleep in six days," Sam explained. "Five nights worrying about something she won't talk about that may or may not involve bicycling to Belgium, and then last night we were all here. She's worse than the President on painkillers. What do you need?"

Ainsley Hayes took the job."

Sam blinked. "She did."

"I just spoke with Leo. She took the job."

"Did she say what changed her mind?"

Toby shrugged. "I just wanted to tell you, so you didn't, you know, have an attack of some kind when you saw her name on a desk."

Sam stood perfectly still for a moment, and then turned and walked back into CJ's office. Toby followed.

"...and it wasn't even bringing in terrible ratings. They were just looking for an excuse to make me angry. But my point is ... Does anyone know what I'm talking about?"

"It ... started with your shoe," Sam suggested, picking up the black heel. "CJ, why do you wear heels? I mean, in what skewed alternate universe could you possibly need heels?"

"I used to play dress-up with my mom's clothes, and I would always wear her high heels, and I used to look forward to the day when I would be as tall as she. I'm not giving up that part of my childhood just because I am now capable of bending double and still being taller than my mother."

"Well, that's healthy," Toby said. "Because playing dress-up is exactly how we hope the President's spokesman is spending her time."

"Plus, I've misplaced three pairs of flats this week, and shut up," CJ added.

Toby nodded slowly, then turned to Sam. "Hey, Sam, I want you to promise me something."

"I'll never play dress-up at work," Sam promised.

"God -- no, Sam, that's not what I was going to ask you to promise me."

"Just the same."

"I want you to promise me that ... you won't try to redeem yourself with Ainsley Hayes."


"Promise me, Sam."

"What makes you think I would try to redeem myself?"

"Because you can't stand being wrong for more than a couple of minutes at a stretch."

"I wasn't wrong."

"Kirkwood's in Oregon?"

"Okay, I wasn't wrong yesterday."

"You got into it with her yesterday, too?" Toby moaned.

"On guns," Josh said from the door. "And he's right; he wasn't wrong."

"What did he say?" asked the tangle of limbs and blankets that was CJ.

"He said this was not the place to discuss gun control."

"It's the White House, Josh. We have to discuss it here," Toby said.

"We don't have to do it right now."

"We have to do it all the time. It's an ongoing problem and an ongoing debate, and this is the White House." He seemed to change his mind about saying more, and caught his breath, and said, "What was Ainsley Hayes 's answer?"

"She accused him of supporting gun control because he doesn't like people who like guns."

Toby turned. "Sam, do you like people who like guns?"

"He doesn't know people who like guns," offered the blankets on the sofa.

"My point is, that's not the issue," Sam said. "The issue -- and this is the point I never got to make -- is whether controlling the availability and restricting the purchase of certain types of guns would make America safer. And it would."

"You don't have to sell us," Josh reminded him.

"Yeah, who'd buy us?" CJ reasoned.

"I just wish I'd had the chance to finish the conversation, is all I'm saying," Sam said.

"Then how has it taken you an hour and forty-five minutes to say it?" CJ sighed.

"Hello," Donna said, knocking lightly on the door frame. "Am I interrupting?"

"What are you still doing here?" Josh asked.

"I had some work to do."

"Didn't you tell me you were leaving like an hour and a half ago?"

"Like I can get anything done at all if you know I'm in the building. What's going on?"

"Ainsley Hayes took the job."

Donna looked at Sam.

"Did you just say something to me?" Sam snapped.

"Ainsley Hayes," CJ repeated from the sofa. Then, drawing out each syllable, "Aiiiiinsley Hayyyyes." Sowly, everyone turned to look at CJ. "That's fun to say," she explained. When she realized they were all still staring, she shrugged. "I'm doing the best I can, folks, but I am clinically asleep right now."

"I have some NyQuil in my desk," Donna offered. "It'll put you right out."

"Of your misery," Toby added under his breath.

"I heard that, Toby," CJ warned. And then, "Toby. Tobyyyy." She laughed, then said, "Is Toby short for Tobias?"

"It is not."

"Is Sam short for Samuel?"

"I'd rather it weren't," Sam said.

"But Josh is most certainly short for Joshua, right?"

"It is," Donna confirmed.

"And of course CJ is short for a couple of things," CJ continued.

"Yes," Toby said, and waited.

"And yet 'Mr. President' has a good four syllables on 'Jed,'" CJ finished.

"Yes," Toby said. "Yes, it does. Oh, my. How silly of us, to waste all that time on syllables when we could be out drilling for oil in the mountains, CJ!"

"I'm just thinking out loud," CJ defended herself.

"CJ," Sam said. "Really. We're finished here. You should go home."

CJ looked around for a moment before murmuring, "I'm not at home?"

Josh grinned and then turned back to Donna. "What we're doing," he said, "is discussing how Sam never gets to finish a sentence when Ainsley Hayes is around."

"So what? Sam never gets to finish a sentence when Toby's around."

"Sure, but Toby's a Democrat," Sam said.

"So this is about party affiliation?"

"Of course," Josh said with a shrug.

"Hey, listen. If you don't like her ideas --"

"She thinks I don't want people to have guns because I personally don't like the people who want them," Sam repeated.

"Do you personally like the people who want them?"

"What is up with that question? What does it matter whether I like, or even know, people who like guns?"

"If it matters to Ainsley Hayes, then it probably matters to some other Americans, too -- Some of those who own guns, is what I'm saying," Donna said.

"Well, what matters to me," Sam replied, "is Roslyn and a few million other examples. I'm not in this because I don't think people should like guns. Go ahead; like them. Read books about them. Study them. Put their likeness on your wall. Carve them out of wood and paint them; watch all those movies in which they are the key players. But don't own them. I'm not in this because I don't think people should like guns. I'm in it because I fear what a few, just a few of those people will do with their guns."

"We all do," Donna said, her hand resting for an instant on the back of Josh's arm. "But good luck convincing the other half of the country."

"And Ainsley Hayes," Sam sighed.

There was a short silence, and then CJ's voice wavered, "Do you suppose Ainsley is short for something?"

"CJ, would you go to sleep? Just -- for me?" Toby pleaded.

"Didn't I ask you to shut up?" she reminded him.

"Yes, but in light of I'm the director of communications in this building, I chose to ignore you."

"I would argue that this is my office," CJ said, "but then we'd be back on the subject of the White House, and I don't think I'm up for that tonight."

"There are many nights when I say that," Toby sighed.

"Hey, Donna," Josh said suddenly. "I just thought ... Would you do me a favor?"

"And Joshua Lyman sucks the life out of yet another gorgeous Saturday," Donna sighed.

"It's -- 11:17 p.m.," Josh pointed out.

"Yes, Josh, there are things which I do on a Saturday night."

"Donna," he whined.

"What's the favor?"

"I need you to find me something -- anything at all -- on the drug company 'Ronrico.' I want to do some follow-up on yesterday."

"This whole day has been follow-up on yesterday," Donna said.

"You know, philosophically --" Sam began, and Toby silenced him with a glare.

"I just need a history," Josh told Donna, and, with a deep sigh, she turned and left the room.

"You should pay me more!" she shouted over her shoulder.

"Why bother? You're doing the work, aren't you?" Josh shouted back.

Donna headed toward Josh's office and was surprised to find Ainsley Hayes wandering between desks on the way. "Hello," Donna said.

Ainsley looked up, startled. "Hello," she repeated. "I'm Ainsley Hayes."

"Yes, I saw you mop the floor with Sam. I'm Donna Moss."

"Are they talking about me in there?" Ainsley asked, nodding in the direction from which Donna had come.

"They're talking about gun control," Donna said carefully.

"And about how Sam didn't get to finish arguing with me about it yesterday?" Ainsley guessed.

"He hates to live with conversations ongoing," Donna said as she started to walk again, and Ainsley followed her.

"How do you feel about it?" Ainsley asked.

"Well, Sam rarely gets to finish a sentence, so I think it's perfectly --"

"About gun control?" Ainsley clarified, and Donna stopped walking again.

"Josh Lyman's my boss," she explained. "I assure you it's about public safety."

Ainsley nodded. "Okay," she said. "It was nice to meet you." And, as though she suddenly understood something, she smiled at Donna before she turned and walked away.

Donna didn't know until Ainsley was out of sight that Josh was standing a few feet away in the edge of the hall.

"You know this conversation is going to go on a while, don't you?" he asked quietly.

"We can handle it," Donna said lightly. "What are you doing out here?"

"CJ threw her other shoe at me and told me to find her some caffeine or she would kill me," Josh explained.

"You're really going to let her have caffeine?"

"Don't worry, I'm going to spike it," Josh promised. He started to walk away, then stopped again. "You know, when you want to join a discussion, you don't have to knock," he said. "You know that, right?"

"I don't knock," Donna lied.

"And you don't have to ask if you're interrupting. At least -- not on a Saturday. The rest of the week is a minefield, but on a Saturday --"


"I just wanted you to know that," he said, "'cause -- this conversation is going to be going on for a while."

She looked at him. "Thank you."

"Anyway," Josh said. "I'm going to go see if I can scare up some rum. Come with me?"

"I'm still looking for your stuff on Ronrico."

"Forget it," Josh said. "It's Saturday night."

Donna was silent for a long moment before Josh saw her fight to hold back a smile. "You just wanted to see if I would do it, didn't you?" she asked. "You just wanted to see if I would research your little drug company on a Saturday night."

"Yes," Josh admitted. He grinned slowly, and Donna gave him a shove, then followed him. Later, after CJ had finally passed out and Toby was about as close to it as any of them had ever seen him, Donna told Sam about her conversation with Ainsley. Sam leaned back and closed his eyes.

"It's going to be a long administration," he said, but his tone was not entirely displeased. It was, indeed, the White House, and, as Toby had suggested, perhaps it was the right place after all.

25 October 2000

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Set after "In This White House" ~~ previous / next
Characters property of Aaron Sorkin and NBC. No infringement intended.