Author's note: Written for Babylil, who requested a Jim/Jayne "how they met" story. Happy holidays!
Disclaimer: Characters and places belong to Rod Lurie, Steven Bochco, ABC -- in other words, people who aren't me.
Jayne spotted him immediately at the bar hunched over a drink, but unlike everyone else in the place, he wasn't watching the Redskins game on the various televisions scattered about. She smiled to herself and made her way to the empty barstool just to his left. He didn't look up as she sat down.
"Margarita on the rocks, no salt," Jayne said to the bartender, flashing him a toothy smile. "And refresh whatever he's having--" she tipped her head towards the right. "Sam Adams, is it?"
"You know it's customary for the guy to buy the drink," he said.
"I know, but I'm not used to doing things the customary ways, much to my mother's great disappointment." Jayne extended her hand. "I'm Jayne Murray."
"Jim Gardner, I know."
Jim settled back against his barstool and eyed her speculatively. "I've seen you before."
Jayne nodded. "Yes, I'm with Templeton's staff."
"And you're doing a hell of a job running Bridges' office. I hear you're second to none."
"Is that what you're here for? To swap secrets?" Jim shook his head. "I don't work that way."
"At least my intelligence on you wasn't wrong," Jayne said. She took a sip of her drink. "We're not in competition, Jim. At least, not how I see it. Buzz has it your guy could be a strong Republican contender for the nomination in next year. Charismatic, principled, disciplined, great credentials--"
"I assure you, Senator Bridges is focused on doing the job he was elected to. He is not thinking about the Presidential nomination."
"Please. Everyone is talking about it." Jayne tucked her hair behind her ears. "Do you always toe the talking points?"
"It's the truth." Jim glanced at the television monitors. It was the second quarter, five minutes left, the Redskins were down by a field goal. "I heard Templeton is thinking about running for the nomination."
"I have no comment."
Jim scoffed. "Fair enough," he said. He downed the remainder of his first bottle of Sam Adams and pushed away the one Jayne had ordered for him. "So what is that you want?"
"What makes you think I want anything at all?"
"You tracked me down away from the prying eyes of the Congressional leadership and anyone who might report to them. Obviously you want something."
"Just curiosity," Jayne said. She crossed her legs, her black wool skirt sliding slightly above the knees. She smiled when she saw Jim look. "I've heard good things about you."
"I wish I could say the same thing about you."
"Ouch." She shook her head. "Okay, you win. I'm the new kid on the block, with no friends, even in low places." She sighed. "Two months ago, I was a lobbyist for the NRA."
"Templeton's a card-carrying member, staunch supporter of that organization."
"We could always count on his vote. I walked into his office, set up a meeting about the Castleton bill, and the rest, as they say, is history."
"And yet, you are here, in a sports bar, and something tells me you're not a Redskins fan." Jim's gaze was both unwavering and unnerving.
"I'm from Boston."
"Ah, the New England Patriots then."
"Yes, but I prefer baseball. What about you?"
"I wouldn't have guessed." In the background a group of spectators shouted excitedly. "Since it's Monday night football."
Jim shrugged. "Some days are like that and this bar is not that far from the office, but still enough distance that it's rare I run into anyone I know. The Democrats --" his lips twisted at the corners "-- seem to own this place."
"Fraternizing with the enemy then, are you?" Jayne said.
"Only if you think that way and I don't." Jim took a sip of his drink. "What do you do in Templeton's office?"
"My official title is 'assistant to the Chief of Staff,' but I spend my days photocopying, arranging photo ops, writing thank you notes. Tedious." Jayne dismissed her duties with a casual wave of her hand.
"Someone's got to do it."
"I can do better."
"I see." Jim bit his lip. "Have you talked to Templeton about it?"
"A little, but he's already got his good old boys club in place. He doesn't seem interested in making room for me in the upper echelons where I belong. I had it good when I was working as a lobbyist, and I resent being treated as a secretary."
"I see." Jim settled back against his chair. "I started that way too, with Bridges. Takes time to build a reputation, earn your boss's loyalty."
"I hear Bridges is fair, that he's a team-player, and hasn't forgotten what it means to be a Republican. Back to the basics kind of guy, small government, balanced budget, states rights." Jayne let her gaze drift off Jim's face and towards the television screens. Except for the Super Bowl, she'd never paid much attention to football and the rules of the game were often lost on her. The game switched to commercials and Jayne brought her focus back to Jim. "Bridges sounds like the type of man I'd like to work for."
Jim smiled. "So you want to come over to the Bridges' team?"
"He's got a problem with women, you know that," Jayne said earnestly. "Always has, ever since those comments he made a few years back about preferring women filling traditional roles? I'm sure the media took those remarks out of context, they always do, but people don't forget and actions these days can sometimes overwhelm words. Imagine what it'd for his campaign if he put a woman front and center."
"Interesting." Jim pressed his lips together and Jayne pushed away her irritation that she simply could not figure out what he was thinking.
"What he needs is someone who can show, and not just talk about, genuine compassion on the campaign trail. Women like that in a candidate." Jayne leaned forward, and the gold chain hanging around her neck dangled provocatively between the swell of her breasts. "I can help you solve that problem, Jim."
"And then when Bridges becomes the Republican presidential candidate next year, you'll already have your foot in the door."
Jayne smiled. "So he *is* thinking about the nomination then?"
Jim stood up and put on his jacket. For a moment, he stared at Jayne and she wondered what he was thinking. She was used to getting her way, and quickly, but it was impossible to read Jim Gardner. The fact he was such a cipher to her fascinated Jayne.
"Well?" she asked.
"I gave nothing away. I'm talking about what *you* perceive Bridges is going to do and what *you* are trying to get out of Teddy Bridges." He put his hand on the back of her stool and she shivered as his thumb brushed against her arm. "Jumping Templeton's ship isn't going to earn you points with Bridges. He likes loyalty and he rewards it, and he's not interested in backroom games.
"Please. He's a politician. They're all the same."
"You're either an incredible liar or incredibly naive."
"I assure you, I'm neither." Jim crossed his arms against his chest. "Senator Bridges was elected to do a job and he's going to do it. Any other aspirations he may or may not have are irrelevant."
"Will he consider Templeton as a running mate?"
The question seemed to startle Jim, and Jayne was pleased to see she'd finally gotten a reaction out of him. "He's not thinking about the nomination, vice-presidential candidates, or anything else." Jim sounded exasperated. He glanced towards the door.
"He really should consider Templeton," Jayne said lightly, deciding to put her faith in Jim's reputation as a gentleman that he wouldn't leave in mid-conversation. "There isn't anyone else. Maybe if MacKenzie Allen had stuck around--" Jayne snorted. "If you want to talk about loyalty, now there's someone who doesn't believe in it, turning her back on her own party and even now, the Republicans can't count on her for anything and it's the party that got her the national spotlight, and what does she do? Leave on some principle to run a university in Virginia?"
"She's immensely popular with the people though," Jim said. The nonchalant tone in his voice caught Jayne's attention. "I wouldn't dismiss Allen out of hand. She could always come back."
Jayne shook her head. "It's been too long, people outside of D.C., have short attention spans and inside the Beltway, everyone's got a memory like an elephant. Allen is done. "*Jim*--" she purposely laid heavy inflection on his name "-- there aren't that many shining stars on the right side of the aisle these days. Templeton is immensely powerful, has years of experience, expertise on so many issues, connections to organizations Republicans care about. Most of all, he and the Senator are good friends. I don't see how it could be a bad choice."
Jim considered and then shook his head. "This discussion is premature," he said flatly, and then turning towards the bartender, he added, "I'll take care of my tab now. Including the drink she ordered for me."
"I'm not done."
"I am, and I assure you, when it comes to the Soccer Moms, Teddy will hold his own," Jim said. He paused for a moment. "I may not know Templeton as well as you do, but there's one thing you're wrong about when it comes to that man: he's not going to parade his sick wife around just to prove he's compassionate and cares about women. That's not the type of man he is. But I do admire your savvy. I imagine you were hoping to return to Templeton tomorrow with inside scoop on Bridges' plans, and maybe even a hint that Templeton is on the VP shortlist. Move you up a notch or two into the 'old boys club'." His lips parted slightly and Jayne, surprising herself, found his smile disarming. "You played it well, and you almost had me." Jim reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. "But I suppose the adage is true. Once a lobbyist, always a lobbyist."
"With Templeton as the second man on the ticket, Bridges will be difficult to beat." It was a Hail Mary pass, but with all the cards on the table now, Jayne couldn't risk leaving with nothing.
"Bridges considers Representative Templeton to be a good partner in passing legislation that matters to the American people and regardless of anything else, I doubt that opinion will change." Jim retrieved his credit card from the bartender. "Nice meeting you, Jayne, was it?"
She felt the heat rising in her cheeks. "Yes."
Jim nodded. "Good night then."
Jayne took a deep breath and turned back to the bartender. "Martini," she said, even though she wasn't particularly fond of the drink. In the background, the crowd let out a roar as the Redskins made a touchdown. Jayne glanced over her shoulder. Through the large windows, she could see Jim standing on the sidewalk, evidently waiting to hail a cab.
"Hell with it," Jayne said, pushing her untouched drink away. She reached into her purse and laid some bills on the counter. Squaring her shoulders, she headed outside into the biting November wind.
"Hi," she said, coming to stand next to Jim. He glanced at her in surprise.
"You're persistent," he said.
"I know where I want to go and I'm good at getting there."
"You don't seem to have done such a good job this evening, but I give you points for the effort," Jim said, just as a cab pulled up to the curb. He opened the door. Without thinking, Jayne stepped forward.
"Are you always this blunt?" she asked.
"When you're chief of staff for the Senate majority leader and prospective presidential candidate, yeah."
"I like that about you." Jayne tugged at Jim's tie, drawing him just a few inches from her face. "Give me ten minutes," she said softly.
"I've already given you more than that."
"Another ten, then. You won't be disappointed." Jim still looked unsure, so Jayne went with the exit strategy she'd been hoping not to use. "Bridges and Templeton are two of the most powerful men in the country who work very well together," she said. "Perhaps we can take our cue from them and form a mutually beneficial partnership?" The words came out as more of a purr than Jayne had intended, and Jim tensed, but in a way that indicated she'd gotten his attention and in a very good way too.
"I have no doubt," Jim answered, deliberate caution underlining his words.
The cabby, impatient, snapped at them to hurry up. "I got other fares I could be picking up."
"I won't betray my boss," Jim said quietly. He got into the cab. "If you're smart, you won't either."
At this, Jayne laughed. "I might be new to the Hill, but I'm not stupid. You don't get ahead in D.C., without feeling a few knives in the back. These speeches about ethics, loyalties, friendships, all of that, those are just words. What matters is what you *do*, especially what you can do for others." She put her hand on the edge of the cab door and leaned forward. "I won't ask you to do anything you feel uncomfortable with. I'm just asking for ten minutes."
After what seemed an interminable wait, Jim nodded slowly. "Okay," he said, sliding over on the seat. "You've got your ten minutes. Make it good."
Jayne smiled as the back of his hand skimmed the back of hers.
~ the end
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