Jacket discarded on the back of a chair in the far corner, his shirtsleeves rolled and tie loosened, Ben Malloy caught the ball neatly. He transferred it automatically from the baseball glove on his left hand into his right, fingering the red stitches for a moment. The President and his Deputy Chief of Staff had been at this for a while, ever since Malloy summoned Billy from his office and led the younger man out of the West Wing and into the Residence earlier in the evening. The large room they were currently in was a sort of ballroom that hadn't been used for some time.
Malloy needed to think, and the repetition of playing catch was helpful in not only helping to organizing his thoughts but to get out latent aggression. The last week had been difficult, and this one wasn't shaping up much better. The topic of discussion at the moment was the task force announced only that morning, designed to examine possible solutions to the rising gasoline prices.
"White House task force," the President said, just before he threw the ball back to Billy, "Political jargon for 'Hey, we better work on fixing this!'" DCOS Billy:
Billy's muscle memory controlled his hands and arms as he mindlessly caught the ball in the glove, and his right hand retrieved it to hurl it back to the President. He smiled a toothy grin at Malloy's latest comment.
"Yeah, we'd better, because I'm sorry, sir, but you don't pay nearly enough for me to get back and forth to work paying $2.50 for a gallon of gas!" To punctuate his response, he threw the ball back to Malloy.PresidentMalloy:
The ball smacked into his glove and Malloy smirked. "Forget driving: shouldn't you be dedicated enough to your job that you'd crawl over hot coals just to get here in the morning?" he teased back, as he lobbed the baseball towards the younger man.DCOS Billy:
Billy caught this one in such a way that the ball didn't really even land in the glove, but instead rolled up into his right hand. "Sir, I'm afraid you don't pay me enough for that either. Perhaps if you figured overtime into my paycheck..." His lips curled into a smirk, and he squinted and tilted his head to the side to appear as obnoxious as possible; it was safe, he still held the ball.
Then he threw his head back and returned the ball.PresidentMalloy:
"Mmm," he drew out, as he reached his arm out to catch the ball without shifting his weight. "You know, this is probably why it's not my responsibility to deal with the Senior Staff paychecks." He paused long enough to fire the ball back at Billy and continued, "If they let me factor in overtime, you'd be rich enough that you wouldn't have to work here anymore. Hell, I'd be rich enough."DCOS Billy:
Billy grinned, popping the ball back. "All this, and no job security. And yet we love it. The American people are darn lucky to have us, eh?"PresidentMalloy:
"Lucky indeed. We're so useful, what with running the government and appointing task forces and all." A pause; the baseball went back and forth between them a few times in silence.
Malloy sighed lightly, finally spoke. "The dependence on foreign oil... it's going to be a hard thing to find a solution, there."DCOS Billy:
Billy sighed. "Yes...I think at least part of the answer lies with us, and I don't mean that we have to carpool more than we do; it's not like the car companies haven't developed more energy efficient models, it's that the oil companies are blocking their production."PresidentMalloy:
Malloy nodded in agreement, held the baseball when it came to him again. "It doesn't help that gas prices can skyrocket so fast, but take forever to come back down again long after a crisis has passed. Companies know that they can afford to play games like that because Americans rely on gasoline for so much." He stepped into the throw when he sent the ball back to Billy.DCOS Billy:
"It's true." Billy held the ball in his right hand. "We've got to do some research, I think. It's not like studies haven't been done on how to work on this problem. We've got to look back and see what people have already figured out, and give it a shot. It's all experiments now."
He looked down at his hand, holding the ball, and realized that he'd been gesturing with it. He smirked a little and sent it back across the room.PresidentMalloy:
Smiling a little, Malloy caught the ball. He held it in his glove a moment, pausing to rub his left shoulder. "Experiments. You know, there's quite a few colleges already conducting experiments into this issue of energy. Researchers at Baylor University are trying to find a cheaper way to make Ethanol." He transferred the ball into his right hand. "Fuel from corn stalks certainly wouldn't be the strangest idea out there. But right now, it's just too expensive." The President threw the ball.DCOS Billy:
Billy caught the ball, and threw it back, looking away and thinking for a minute.
"What about private donors? Can't we get some of our campaign contributors to put some money forward for research?"PresidentMalloy:
Malloy tossed the ball up and caught it a few times while he thought. "We could," he said after a long moment of consideration, "But for now we should wait and see at least the initial reports from the committee. There are several potential energy sources; the biggest problem is that all of them are currently not cost effective. The closest is the electric hybrids." He wound up, hurled a fastball. "If we figure out which gasoline alternative - or alternatives - is the most feasible, we can turn around and put money into research and development."DCOS Billy:
Billy jumped back a little as he received the ball. He was a little frustrated with what the President was saying, because he knew there were always obstacles like money that get in the way of important breakthroughs. There are solutions to problems, but none that are ever feasible. Sometimes it just wore him down. But Billy was the political mind -- he wasn't supposed to care so much about the policy.
"Yeah. We shouldn't release it that we have been looking into any of this ourselves; we should wait and see if we can actually make it look like we're doing something. The public is pretty sick of hearing about this problem and, 'Oh, oh, we're going to fix it.' And there never being a solution. If something opens up where we can really make a change, we need to jump on it before Congress does. It'll give us a boost."PresidentMalloy:
The President sighed, rotated his left shoulder in its socket while Billy held the ball. He loosened his tie further. Ben Malloy, even after all his years in the political arena, did not have a particularly political mind. Before he'd been a politician, he'd been a teacher, a naval officer, a student. Which meant he had learned to look at a problem from all its angles, to consider the ramifications of his actions or lack thereof. It also meant that his biggest problem was over-thinking when action is needed. Of course, that's why he had Billy. Together, they could usually find the happy medium.
His response to Billy's obvious frustration was increased quiet. He absorbed his Deputy Chief of Staff's words, a look of probing concentration on his face. "Well," he said finally, "There will be a solution. This government -- and perhaps this administration -- has sat on its hands long enough. I just foresee it being a lengthy process. We can afford to wait and see what our people initially dig up."DCOS Billy:
Billy had been turning the ball over and over in his glove with his other hand. He picked it up, tossed it up once, twice, then lobbed it back to Malloy.
"Sir, I hope, we all hope it's this administration that finds a solution. But how many administrations before us have said the same thing? If we're going to get serious, we've got to do it -- get serious. When the committee comes back with a report, we need to delegate people within this building to do further work. And they can't be some college kids with internships. I mean, I could talk to Val. We could really come up with something. If we even kick off a serious start to solving this problem..." He trailed off before he got into a fluster about high poll numbers and a sure second term.PresidentMalloy:
Malloy stepped forward, received the ball with the baseball glove tucked close to his chest. Billy had a valid point. Several, as a matter of fact.
They tossed the ball back and forth a few times before Malloy spoke again, holding the ball in his glove and rubbing his shoulder. "Sure. Talk to Val; talk to her tomorrow. Delegate. Have them ready to go before the committee's even done. Get them familiar with any prior literature... when the report comes out, they'll be ready to go on a dime."DCOS Billy:
Billy smiled like a child who'd just won a game of checkers -- somewhat slyly and shyly. He was glad that the President had agreed with him. He truly wanted nothing more than to make the Malloy Administration the greatest the country had seen. And these little steps inched him closer to his dream.
"Yes, sir, I will. I'll get right on it. This is going to be good, Mr. President. I know it is."PresidentMalloy:
Malloy returned the smile, not unlike a proud father who had a child smart enough to win a game of checkers, without having to let him win. Billy was intelligent, loyal, with no small amount of political savvy... and in the past year, Malloy had learned he could rely on the younger man, that he could trust Billy's counsel.
"Well, you don't have to get right on it," was all he said aloud, blandly. He tossed Billy the baseball. "Everyone else has gone home for the day."DCOS Billy:
Billy quietly chuckled and looked to the side, away from Malloy. He held the ball in both of his hands.
"You know, sir," he threw the ball back, "that means nothing to me."PresidentMalloy:
The President smirked, snagged the ball out of the air with his glove. "Doesn't mean much to me, either," he allowed, "What with all the nights I spend in the Oval. But without Val or anyone else here tonight, there's not much you can do until morning."
After a moment, he scooped the ball up into his right hand, flexed his fingers around the stitching, and hurled the ball back to Billy. Malloy had a few briefings to page through yet tonight, and he wanted to give Kate's latest speech a read-through. His left shoulder was starting to protest the constant motion, but his throwing arm was still going strong.DCOS Billy:
Billy grinned slyly. "Sir, you know that doesn't matter to me. I'm going back to my office to get a head start on things." They passed the ball back and forth a few more times. "My arm's a little tired, and it's getting kinda late -- and I'm sure Mrs. Malloy wouldn't want to know you were staying up playing ball in the house," he smirked, "so if you don't mind, I'd like to get that head start."PresidentMalloy:
Malloy held the ball in his glove the last time it came to him. He stretched his neck, massaged his left shoulder. "No, I can't imagine Evelyn would be too happy knowing her workaholic husband and a member of his Senior Staff were... playing ball in the house."
He chuckled, and though his suit was rumpled and the jacket... somewhere around here, and though he was tired, Malloy smiled at Billy. "Fine, fine, get your head start. But try to... I don't know. Eat something tonight. Maybe, possibly, consider sleep." He refrained from saying anything further, knowing it would only descend into a pots-and-kettles type discussion.DCOS Billy:
Billy chuckled again. "Sleep: what is sleep, again?" He took his mitt off his left hand. "Food though, oh, yeah, I can do that."PresidentMalloy:
Suit jacket found on the back of a chair, Malloy tossed it over his shoulder, after removing the baseball glove from his hand, ball carefully tucked into the pocket. "Good," he remarked. "I might be down in the office later, but for now, I'm going to go find my wife. And, y'know, apologize. Dinner was hours ago."DCOS Billy:
Billy tried to hide his laughter. "Yeah, sir, you should get on that. If you need to hide, I will be in my office for a while, so, yeah, feel free to come by."PresidentMalloy:
The President turned in the doorway, drawing himself up to his full height. He glared at Billy, looking remarkably impressive, if you ignored the post-five o'clock shadow and the twinkle in his pale eyes. "Hide? Hide? I'll have you know, son, I don't hide from my wife."
A brief pause. "Not often."
A beat, and in a subdued tone. "I'll be by later."
And with that, the leader of the free world swept out of the ballroom, Secret Service tailing him silently, ready to face the considerable ire of Evelyn Malloy.DCOS Billy:
Billy gave up containing his laughter, and shouted after Malloy as he left, "I figured. See you later then, sir!" He too turned and left the room, headed back to his office.