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Margarita Madeleina

by cgb

     Subject: (The West Wing): Margarita Madeleina
     Date: Sunday, September 22, 2002 6:26 AM
     
     Title: Margarita Madeleina
     Author: cgb (luberluber@yahoo.com.au)
     Web: http://appelsini.tripod.com/Christine
     Category: f/f Mandy/Ainsley 
     Rating: PG-13
     Disclaimer: I give up. 
     Archive: Yeeeees.
     Summary: "These days she's rarely in a celebratory
     mood but everyone has their breaking point."
     A sequel of sorts to my stories "Eyes Grow Feet" (CJ/
     Ainsley) and "Bound to be Moving On" (CJ/ Mandy). Not
     necessary to know what happens in those stories at
     all. 

The first thing she remembers is the margaritas. There were margaritas. Many, many margaritas. There was an engagement too, and she brought a round of drinks in honour of the happy couple - which is the kind of extravagance one indulges after a sizeable quantity of alcohol. Sober, she may have been more proprietous with her diminishing finances.

She thinks about checking her wallet. She thinks about checking she still has a wallet.

These days she's rarely in a celebratory mood but everyone has their breaking point. Last night she danced to Diana Ross and stood on the table proclaiming herself to be 'Margarita Madeleina'.

She opens her eyes, reaches for the sunglasses on the bedside table and puts them on. She hasn't even drawn the curtains.

Jude is making coffee and the kitchen smells like pop tarts.

"Jesus!" she says. "What happened to you? Wait -that's a stupid question right?"

Mandy pours coffee from the pot into a cup and sticks her finger in it to test the temperature. It's scalding. "Fuck!" she says.

"I just made that."

"I know that now."

"Aren't you going to Washington today?"

"Fuck!" she says again. She looks up at the clock above the fridge. She has a flight in just under two hours. "Fuck!"

Jude tries to be helpful. "What are you taking?"

"Aspirin and ear muffs," she says as she takes her coffee into the bathroom.

In the bathroom she looks in the mirror. "Madeleine Hampton, former White House PR consultant, pleased to meet you." Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.


In the West Wing you walk fast, think fast, act fast and for god's sake don't slip while you're doing it.

Slip, bam, crash! Mandy's political career in a nutshell (and in the space of a year too). They say politics is all about 'crash and burn' but she thought they were referring to politicians and not operatives. She didn't think they were referring to her.

And besides, she crashes, she burns, but when does she fade?

She powers down the corridor behind Toby's assistant whose name she has forgotten. Cute, red hair, Jersey girl but not the Springsteen kind. The assistant is similarly walking fast and has about two inches of height on Mandy. Mandy maintains a safe distance of two feet behind.

Which is fine, because in spite of knowing exactly where Toby's office is, she considers it presumptuous to walk around the West Wing like she belongs there.

She passes Donna in the hall. "Hey Mandy," Donna calls out. Just like Donna to be all nice and friendly -which she is, essentially, but Mandy always suspected her of being Josh-possessive.

They're all Josh-possessive. It's a mania.

In Toby's office there's a little scene of them. A chorus line of misfits - just like in the musical. She's expecting someone to start singing "What I did for love."

Toby, Josh, Sam, Leo, and a blonde woman. They are looking over each other's shoulders at whatever Toby has on his desk.

"Toby?" the assistant calls from the door. Toby looks up. "Mandy's here."

He nods and she goes in.

Leo looks up. "Hi Mandy," he says. Leo doesn't give a damn that she's there so she figures whatever they're looking at has nothing to do with her. "I want a report in my office by the end of the day," he says before walking out. "Good to see you again," he says to her and she knows it's really not.

Toby shuts the door behind Leo. "Have a seat," he tells her.

"Do you need me?" Sam says. He never could stay too long in her company. She suspects she frightens him.

"Yes," Toby and Josh say in unison.

Sam leans back against the desk. The blonde sits on the couch. She recognises the blonde as Ainsley Hayes, the Republican political commentator who took Sam apart on Capital Beat. She saw it - it was the highlight of her week.

"So how are you?" Toby says.

"Great," she beams. She crashed her car last Thursday (she has to learn to stop driving angry) and she's still freelancing for Gibson, but hey, she's just peachy and damned if she'll tell them differently.

"I suppose you know why you're here?"

"I'm about to be subpoenaed?"

"That's about the gist of it, yes."

"And you guys aren't going to try and influence what I say, are you?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Josh says. She irritates Josh. She's always irritated Josh. But this time he's right, it is ridiculous, but it's worth getting out of the way.

"So why is the lawyer here?" She inclines her head towards Ainsley.

"We're all lawyers here," Toby says.

"I'm not." Neither is CJ. She used to think they had that in common.

"I'm here as the White House Counsel," Ainsley says. "If you have questions, I'm here to answer them. However, I urge you to seek your own legal counsel before the hearing."

"Right," she says. She wonders if there are any lawyers out there who take payments in flesh.

"We think it's imperative that you know we want you to tell the truth and to answer as honestly and accurately as you can. You are not to be persuaded by any loyalties you may hold to the President or the staff." It's the party line. Toby is probably going to recite those lines many times before the proceedings are over - a formality so that aide's and campaign staff can go out to the press and say the Bartlett administration advised them to tell the truth.

"Okay," she says. She sees them all exchange looks. Something's up.

"And there's something else," Toby says. Well isn't there always? "While telling the truth it may be that you - ah - and you're under no obligation to do this..."

"Do what?" They all look uncomfortable. Except for Ainsley who is watching Mandy with cool calculation. Mandy resists an urge to poke a tongue at her.

"They want a `heads up'," Ainsley says.

"Excuse me?"

"Mandy if you saw something during the campaign that you swept under a rug - if you have something to say during the inquest that indicts the President or Leo or Abbey..." Toby makes a `and so on' gesture.

She wants to laugh. No one ever told her anything - didn't they see to that? "You've got to be kidding me..."

"Think hard," Ainsley says. "It might not be obvious. You may have acted on an impulse. You saw something, you thought, 'I'll just pretend it never happened...'"

She saw things all the time. She saw CJ with her shoes in her hand, coming out of Toby's room at three o'clock in the morning, she saw Donna and Bonnie in an alley outside a bar in Chicago smoking a joint with some locals, she saw Leo's wife storm into the campaign HQ in Manchester and demand to know if Margaret was Leo's mistress, she saw CJ on the balcony of her hotel room in LA, wearing a thin bath robe and staring at the street below like she missed the place. Maybe a grand jury wouldn't be interested in any of that, but it's a heck of a story.

She shrugs. She was never in the loop and the one time she was, it was for the wrong side. "I'd tell you if I did," she says, and she means it, even if they don't believe her.

Toby looks at Josh and Josh looks at Sam. Sam shrugs. "I'm good," he says.

"Okay," Toby says. "Thank you." He opens the door again.

"It was nice meeting you," Ainsley says, and she shakes Mandy's hand as she stands up.

At that point, CJ bursts into the room. "You have got to be shitting me!" She says, and she waves a piece of paper in the air.

All heads turn to face her and she is suddenly aware of the crowd in Toby's room. "Oh - hello Mandy," she says. She nods at Ainsley, "Ainsley."

"Can it wait?" Toby deadpans.

"It can wait," she says and she turns around and disappears again.

Mandy watches her go. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was CJ Cregg.

When she turns her attention back to Ainsley Hayes she notices that she is watching CJ Cregg's retreating form. Her cheeks have darkened, Mandy wonders what it means.

"It was good of you to come," Tobys says as he motions the assistant over.

"I was in the neighbourhood," she says.


She's in the neighbour hood of about $5000 in debt. She needs job security.

She calls an old friend. "Hey Mark, want to go to a Republican fundraiser?"

"Are you kidding me?" Mark sells over-priced art. A Republican fundraiser is a gold mine with legs. "But why Republican?"

"I need Gibson to think I'm indispensable."

"Are you?"

"Not by a long shot."

"Well I'm driving. You drive like a mad woman."

She is a madwoman, but the capital makes her this way. She's had more car crashes in DC than in the rest of the states combined.

"Whatever," she says.


Mark's girlfriend's name is Mika and she's an artist who once painted a piece called "Death of Democracy". It featured a DC landscape with leper-like figures in the foreground. She is less affected by the appropriation of her boyfriend than she is by not being invited to accompany them. She loans Mandy a dress.

"You owe me."

"Next time." If there ever is a next time. Her political career is sinking and this is a last ditch for the lifeboats.

The dress reminds her of something she wore to her sister's wedding. No plunging neckline and a respectable, zipper back. It's light green - almost pastel. Mika probably wore it with gumboots.

There's the usual paparazzi outside the event. Someone takes her photo. She's not worried: it will end up as a thumbnail on some paper's floor.

"I thought they didn't allow your kind at these events," Mark says.

"What kind is that?"

"Democrats."

Ha. That and every other `kind' she is. "I take work where I can get it."

"And you're good at it. But when your heart is in it, you're great."

He's right of course. She's not having any fun lately - hasn't really had fun since the White House. Since the campaign.

Cigarettes, late night arguments, Josh's head in her lap, devising strategy with his eyes closed, CJ's lips against her in a hotel room...

And that certainly never happened again.

She hates it when her friends are right about her. She feels like taking her ball and going home. "Go sell someone a crappy painting," she says.

"I'll get you a drink," he says. And he goes in search of a waiter.

She tries not to stand too close to the wall. She needs to make contacts, she needs to put faces to the names and vice versa... She needs a drink.

She searches the crowd and spots Mark making wild hand gestures to someone whose face she can't see. Trust Mark to take her literally.

She spots a waiter with a tray of drinks and follows him through the crowd.

And then a glass of champagne appears in the air in front of her.

"I take it you were after one of these?"

The champagne is attached to a hand belonging to White House counsel Ainsley Hayes. So she is a Republican...

Mandy takes the glass. "Thank you."

"I must say I'm surprised to see you here." Ainsley takes a sip of her champagne. "And I'm also surprised to see you in pastel green, you strike me more as a `red' - or `purple'."

"This isn't my dress." Ainsley talks fast. Faster than she did in Toby's office. Mandy blames it on the champagne.

"That doesn't surprise me." Ainsley is wearing a shimmering blue navy. Black, until it catches the light. "They tell me you're freelancing for Gibson?"

"They?"

"I have my sources."

"Of course." Not that she thinks she's uninteresting but no one in the Republican party gives a damn about who's working for Gibson - so it was probably Josh or Toby who told her. No doubt they found it amusing.

"You know, you look very normal."

"Excuse me?"

"I expected you to look - taller. Possibly with longer hair..."

"You've been giving this some thought, I see."

"People talk about you. You're like the one that slipped through the cracks - the 'fallen angel' of the West Wing. And of course, you wrote that little piece for Russell which was a great resource for those of us on the other side of political commentary. When I lacked inspiration, and I'm not saying that was often, I would pull it out of a drawer and pick a criticism -any criticism." Ainsley quaffs her champagne - really quaffs it. The glass is almost empty. "And they think I'm the enemy."

"Was 'fallen angle' the exact term used?"

"No, I made that up."

"Well it's no surprise. Want some advice? Don't screw any of them."

Ainsley blushes, drinks the last of her champagne, and looks around for a waiter. "Would you like another drink?"

"I'm good."

Ainsley makes eye contact with a waiter and waves her over. She takes two glasses from the tray. "You might change your mind," she says.

There are Republicans in the White House. There's a blonde, drunk Republican in front of her who works in the White House and she doesn't. It's unfair. She should be angry but she isn't. Most of the time she feels empty. Maybe she's just a void - nothing there now.

And she drives like a madwoman. Mark says so. She spies Mark on the other side of the room, still gesticulating wildly and looking like he's having a good time. She wonders if she can expect a commission.

Ainsley's eyes are glassy and unfocused. Blonde, Republican Ainsley who works for the Bartlet administration is drunk and wearing a dress that looks sexy and conservative at the same time. Mandy contemplates asking her for wardrobe advice.

But instead she says, "want to go outside?"

Ainsley narrows her eyes. "Why?"

"Because I'm conducting a covert operation for the Democrats. I lure Republicans outside and force them denounce the party to the press corps."

"Oh - I thought you might be trying to seduce me." Ainsley spins on her heels and heads for the doors.

Mandy reels. She should be so lucky...


Ainsley leans against the railing on the balcony. The night is still and the music travels outside onto the street and beyond.

"Why did you leave?"

"No one told you?"

"Strangely, no."

"It wasn't very interesting."

"I'm sure it was."

"I heard that when you met the President you were singing 'Blame it on the Bossa Nova'." She wishes she'd seen that.

"I'm a very good lawyer - did anyone tell you that?"

Mandy smiles. "I knew that already."

"So why did you leave?"

Why did she leave? Because she made a mistake, because she made everyone angry, because she was right, because she was good at what she did and no one seemed to remember that, because CJ...

They wanted her to quit. They expected her to quit. Everytime she spoke she felt that someone was on the verge of saying, "are you still here?" - and she wasn't really.

CJ looked right through her, didn't hear her when she spoke and it shouldn't have mattered more than anything else, but it did because when she wasn't thinking about that kiss she was admiring the hell out of the woman, turning her into the hero she so badly needed.

"It was unbearable. After the..."

"The thing?"

"Yeah."

"Did CJ chew you out?"

"Yeah."

Ainsley looks away. Mandy thinks she understands, sympathises even. Mandy finds herself wondering about Ainsley, who she really is, and then she remembers Ainsley in Toby's office watching CJ's retreating form. A look of admiration, a look of respect, a look that was familiar.

"How do you get along with CJ?"

"Fine." Quick answer. Too quick.

"Because it's not uncommon for some of the younger girls to - you know - have a little hero worship going on with CJ."

She smiles nervously. "I can imagine."

Mandy looks her in the eye. "Can you?"

"Whatever you've heard, it's not true."

And it's get better and better. She feels devious. Ainsley's drunk and she expects there's a story to be told. "You'd be surprised at what I heard."

"Mandy - I'm drunk. I won't deny that, but if you think you're going to get dirt on CJ, or me for that matter, then I can tell you it's not going to happen."

Damn. She changes her approach. "Ainsley listen - I'm not the Press, I'm not the Republican Thought Police, I don't have anyone to tell your secrets to. And I bet you don't talk about your secrets with anyone do you? I'm betting you need someone to spill to, someone outside the action. I could be that person? Trust me, Ainsley, there is no one in Washington who is listened to less than me." Except maybe Gibson. "Now let me guess - you've got a little crush on CJ right"

Ainsley looks at her with narrowed eyes. "I think you underestimate the situation."

"What?"

Ainsley looks contemplative. And then she shrugs. "We made out."

"No way!"

"Yes way."

"You're gay?"

"Not precisely..."

"I don't believe it - Ainsley the token Republican is gay!"

"I am not gay!"

"Are you sure?"

"Yes!"

"Okay, in physical terms maybe - but you've been thinking about it for years haven't you?"

"No."

"Oh come on, Ainsley. I know that look! I've seen it the mirror!" She shakes her head. It's priceless. Truly priceless. "You know, I used to think you were my replacement. You were playing my part - you know, the part of the person who doesn't fit. But I was just keeping the spot warm for you. They never had the real thing until you came along."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"You're the outsider, and you know what really kicks me in the knees - you're good at it!"

"As a confidante, you're doing a lousy job." Ainsley turns to walk away.

Mandy grabs her arm. "Wait!" Ainsley looks at the spot where Mandy has her arm, and then she looks up and meets her eyes. Mandy doesn't let go. "I'm sorry - I really did want to help, Ainsley." She says it as sincerely as she can - and maybe it's true. Whatever the reason, she doesn't want Ainsley to leave.

Ainsley hovers, tense. And then she relaxes. "You like her - CJ I mean."

"A little."

"She didn't like you?"

She was willing to bet that CJ never thought twice about her until she pinned her against the wall in their hotel. After that CJ did her best to ignore her.

Mandy was out of there anyway, long gone before the dust settled. It was the perfect exit.

Except, of course, she came back. In the halls of the White House, CJ kept her wary distance but when their meetings couldn't be avoided she was pleasant and professional.

Mandy had hoped for a sign, a message, something to say that she'd had an impact on CJ Cregg's life. And maybe this was it? It was a little obscure, but surely it meant something.

"I think she wanted to. Maybe she didn't know how."

They are silent for a moment. "I like you," Ainsley ventures.

"You're drunk."

"True. I like you anyway."

"Are you sure you're not gay?"

"I said 'I like you', I don't see how that..."

Mandy silences her by pressing her mouth against Ainsley's. Ainsley stumbles backward against the wall and Mandy follows her, one hand on Ainsley's waist and the other snaking down her arm.

It doesn't last long. Ainsley pushes her away. "What are you doing? Have you any idea where we are?" She looks around to see if anyone is watching. "There could be photographers out here!"

"Yeah?" Mandy looks around. "I hope they get my best side."

"This is serious!"

"Ainsley - the place is deserted!" It really is. None of the guests have ventured this far into the shadows of the building and no one would - unless they had similar activity in mind.

Mandy lets go of Ainsley's arm and steps back.

"Come home with me," Ainsley says, suddenly.

"What?"

"I think you heard."

"Can you say it again?"

"Come home with me."

It's the best offer she's had all year. It's the best offer she's likely to get all next year. She'd be a fool not to take it.

Ainsley lifts a hand to trail her fingers along the neckline of Mandy's dress. Her fingers do a light dance along the hem. Her touch has an innocence to it.

"I can't."

"Excuse me?"

God, she is going to be sorry in the morning. "You know, just once, I'd like to do the right thing by someone, and guess what Ainsley - I pick you."

"I can't say I applaud your timing."

She turns to walk away. "I'll give you my number - you can call me next time you're in New York. We'll have dinner."

Ainlsley brushes her hair back over her shoulders. She smooths a palm over the top of her head, grooming herself. "I can do better than that."

"You can?"

"I can get you a job. I'll be in touch"

Mandy smiles. They all say that. "Thanks," she says and she walks back inside.

It doesn't take long for her to find Mark. He hasn't moved. She taps him on the shoulder. "Hey," he says, spinning around. "Where have you been?" He shakes hands with his small audience and they move away.

"Let's leave."

"Now? We just got here!"

"We've been here over an hour."

"That's barely long enough to get drunk. Aren't you having fun? I thought I saw you go outside with a cute blonde?"

She scowls. "These things are highly overrated. Let's go."

Mark shrugs. "It's your deal."

It's her deal, her mess, her life and her prerogative. She's glad Mark is so understanding when she's a stick in the mud.

"I need my jeans. This dress is a nightmare." They go outside and Mark hands his ticket to the valet.

This wasn't what she expected, but since when does anything go according to plan?


The wake up call gets her out of bed with enough time to shower and check her email before catching her flight home.

She finds she is once again staring in the mirror contemplating the night before. She has bags under her eyes and her chin has spots that weren't there the day before. Mark and Mika continued the celebratory tone of the evening into the small hours and once again she's got a hangover and a plane to catch. She considers that she's turning into a situation comedy character - the single woman who gets drunk too often and has loose morals only it looks like fun on television.

Her laptop springs to life and she checks her inbox. She's surprised to find a message from Ainsley Hayes waiting for her.

The message contains the phone number of congressional candidate Miriam Williams.

"She's not your side of politics," Ainsley writes. "But you'll like her a lot more than Gibson and she's already got a following Gibson can only dream about. With your help she's a shoo-in."

A smile spreads slowly across her face. She always did have better luck with women.


Her flight is delayed. She heads for the airport lounge and takes a seat at the bar. She contemplates a glass of wine or, more sensibly a coffee. She checks the clock above the bar. One. It's PM. Not too early for a drink.

What the hell, she thinks and orders a margarita.

A woman in a navy pants-suit sits down next to her, throwing her shoulder bag onto the bar and rummaging in it until she produces cigarettes, lighter and a wallet.

Mandy watches her light up. The woman is wearing a bronze coloured lipstick - copper maybe. She has dark brown hair tied back in a ponytail.

The cigarette catches light and the woman takes a long drag. Mandy tells herself she doesn't want a cigarette. She reminds herself she is a non-smoker. She's been a non-smoker for five years.

"Want one?" The woman waves the pack in Mandy's direction.

"Yeah, thanks." Mandy takes one and immediately the woman in the navy suit leans over to light it for her.

"What have you got there?" She nods at Mandy's drink.

"A margarita."

She looks at Mandy and then back at the drink. She takes another drag of her cigarette and waves at the bartender. "I'll have one of those," she says. She looks back at Mandy. "What's your name?"

"Madeleine." Madeleine Hampton, former White House PR consultant and prospective PR consultant for Doctor Miriam Williams. Sometimes known as Margarita Madeleina, but that's a story you won't here from too many people.

Which is a shame. That girl knew how to have fun.

And blonde Republicans aside, she never seems to have fun lately.

She holds her hand out across the bar. "Madeleine Hampton. And you are...?"

Fin


Acknowledgements: For Teanna's pink undies, of course. And for Suki who asked for a sequel to my Mandy/ CJ aeons ago and this is a sequel so... well, I'm just happy that she's reading<g>.

cgb

"Why do I feel like I'm in a women behind bars movie?" - Samantha Carter


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to cgb

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