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The Beat of a Different Drum

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He walks with the others through the ballroom. He watches as the dancers part before the secret service and the President and CJ and Toby and Leo and Josh and Charlie. And him. They even wait until he has walked past before melting back together. A Red Sea metaphor, hackneyed and inappropriate, slips into his mind and he banishes it.

His ears are still buzzing.

He’s just leaving the ballroom, trailing behind everyone else, when someone grabs his elbow. A beautiful brunette in a stunning dress, and it takes him a second to realise that it is his sister.

‘Dance with me!’ She is sparkling tonight. The joy of the occasion is lighting up everyone’s faces, but she seems to simply glow with energy and exuberance.

‘Elsie, I can’t.’

She pouts, the way she has done for years, the way she did the day he agreed to add her to the campaign staff, the way she used to when she was going to get in trouble from their mother and she wanted him to protect her.

‘You wouldn’t dance with me when we won the 47th and now you’ve just written the biggest and best speech of your life. Dance with me!’

‘I can’t.’ He watches the President’s entourage reach a door - the cars are waiting in the basement and if he doesn’t hurry up they’ll leave without him. Even if he does hurry up he might get left behind, because even now he suspects that the hazing has only just begun.

He pulls away from Elsie and hurries towards the door. Toby turns around at the door, and stops to wait for him.

‘Why?’ asks Elsie, who is following him as fast as she can in the ludicrously high heels she decided to wear.

‘Because I’ve just been named Deputy Communications Director, people are killing each other in Kundu and the President just announced that we’re going to go in and stop it. So I don’t get to dance tonight.’

He’s almost at the door, but she tackles him. Her arms are around his neck and he nearly falls face-first to the floor. The agent at the door looks almost a little concerned. ‘Mr - ? Uh, sir?’

Will tries to disengage Elsie’s arms and he sees Toby grin. ‘Bailey, Will Bailey. He’s my new Deputy,’ and hearing the words makes Will grin, too.

‘I’m all right,’ Will says to the agent. ‘Slightly choked, but otherwise fine. Elsie,’ he turns back to her, ‘what did you do that for?’

‘It was a hug!’

‘How much have you drunk already tonight?'

‘Not that much.’

‘Will.’ Toby is getting impatient, and even after three weeks, Will knows how to decipher Toby’s differing levels of annoyance, and he’s beginning to reach the top levels.

‘Elsie, I’ve got to go.’ She pouts, then smiles and kisses his cheek. ‘Congratulations, big brother.’


Toby walks through the door, and Will follows. At the doorway, he turns around. ‘Elsie - do me two favours, will you?’

‘Sure. What do you want?’

‘Call Dad, and tell him? I don’t think I’m going to get a chance tonight.’

‘And the other favour?’

Toby grabs his arm and hauls him down the corridor. ‘If we have to get a cab, I swear your sister is paying the bill.’

Will yells back at Elsie as Toby pulls him away. ‘Enjoy yourself. Make sure you get a dance.’

Elsie yells back. ‘That’s what I was trying to do!’

The motorcade has left when Toby and Will reach the basement, but for tonight there’s a chase car, so Elsie’s money is safe. By the time they get back to the West Wing, there’s already a message of congratulations on Will’s voicemail from his father. And one from Elsie to tell Will that he owes her a dance.