Title: As Men Do
Author: Baked Goldfish
Pairing: Leo/Josh, Josh's POV
Spoilers: Bartlet For America
Disclaimer: Aaron Sorkin et al. own TWW. I blame Simon & Garfunkel for this thing. Don't sue me, please.
Summary: "He was showing affection as men do: indirectly, slightly confusing, and all mumbly." Post-ep, Bartlet For America
As Men Do by Baked Goldfish
[December 23, 2001]
It was late, and I'd already sent Donna home; the entire White House was pretty much empty, since it was the night before the night before Christmas. Christmas Eve eve? Or something. It was kinda weird walking around the halls without anyone else around. Usually, I find myself wishing I had radar to help avoid the staffers careening down the corridors at inhumanly fast speeds, but tonight I found myself consciously slowing down.
Sometimes, you forget to slow down when you're outside, because you forget that people don't usually walk that fast. Wonder how we stay so fit, even though we work all day long? Speedwalking. In the White House. And, also, forgetting to eat. That keeps us trim.
Anyway, I had to talk to Leo. I knew he'd want to be briefed on the whole Tennessee situation, and I also wanted to know what the hell happened in the House today. Okay, so I really just wanted to know what the hell happened in the House today, and the Tennessee thing was just a cover story. Sue me.
Margaret was already gone, so I figured Leo'd sent her home, too. Too bad, too, because she was at the hearings, and would probably have told me more than Leo will. I'll have to woo her later, after the holidays. She spills when wooed.
I'm not quite sure if 'wooed' is an actual word, now that I think about it.
Anyway, Margaret was gone, so I opened Leo's door. Or, rather, I would have, if I hadn't heard something weird coming from his office. I'd only heard the sound once before, in October of 1998, and it was weird then, too.
He was crying.
Now, don't get me wrong. Leo cries as men cry; that is to say, quietly, and when he thinks nobody else is around. Crying when other people are around is girly. And if he ever heard me say, "Crying when other people are around is girly," he'd hit me, fire me, re-hire me, hit me again, and then fire me for good. Either that, or he'd just stare me down, which would be just as bad.
I knocked on his door. "Leo, you in there? It's me, Josh."
I heard something muffled, like a chair moving or papers or something, and then he answered, "Yeah – hang on a sec." I hung on a sec, and he said, "Come in."
I opened the door slowly, peeking in before coming in. He was sitting at his desk, trying to look as if he'd been working earlier. Two problems: he was still in his coat and scarf, and he didn't have his glasses on. Actually, three problems: still in his coat, no glasses, and there wasn't enough light to work in, unless Leo'd become an owl or mole without any of us noticing.
"Hey," I said, plunking down in a seat by his desk. "Wanna talk about Tennessee?"
"Yeah," he said, turning his head away slightly; yeah, he'd definitely been crying. He didn't want me to see the tear streaks. "What've you got?"
I shrugged. "It's done. They found a guy who confessed to there being a conspiracy, so."
He turned to me, surprised. "How?"
"Guy had a busted tail light, and the cops tried to pull him over. He thought they were stopping him for making Molotov cocktails," I said. "And that was that."
"That was that," he repeated, and I could see a chuckle almost building up in him. "You sure Tennessee's not part of Mexico now, or anything?"
"Scout's honor," I joked, holding up two fingers and putting my hand over my heart. He raised an eyebrow, and I switched hands so that I had it the right way around.
"Were you even ever in the Scouts?"
"Were you?" I countered. Well, at least I got him to smile. Smirk. Okay, roll his eyes. Glancing away and smiling myself, I saw a little frame, downturned on his desk. "What's that?" I asked, moving to pick it up.
He snatched it away and muttered, "Nothing," before my hand was even halfway there.
And as the great Scooby Doo once said, ruh-roh.
Swear, I thought the waterworks were about to start up again. And wouldn't that have been awkward; this is Leo, and Leo cries as men cry. Alone. Not with their Deputy Chiefs. Granted, most men don't have Deputy Chiefs, but still. You get my drift, right? Leo plus crying plus Josh plus Christmas Eve eve equals awkward, okay?
Thankfully, he didn't cry. He just looked at whatever was in the frame, and clenched his jaw. I think he was probably thinking of the same equation that I was, and I glanced down at my watch. My watch really does suck, by the way, and, as I waited for Leo to stop being vaguely awkward, I spotted a new scratch on the face of it.
"It's – Jed gave it to me," he said, and my attention turned away from my sucky watch. Never once had I heard Leo call the President "Jed." Even before he was elected, it was always, "the governor," or, "Governor Bartlet." Then he handed the framed thing to me, and I looked at it.
It was a napkin that read, "Bartlet For America." Three words, in Leo's handwriting, on a half-crumpled cocktail napkin, framed. So this napkin obviously had a long and rich history, if it could reduce Leo to tears.
I didn't get it.
"I gave that to him the first time I told him I wanted him to run," Leo explained. Either he can read minds, or Sam is right and my poker face really is that bad. I don't like the idea of Sam being right, but I don't like the idea of Leo trying to pass as Miss Cleo, either, so. "Everywhere I went, hotels, restaurants, anywhere, I kept writing that phrase down," he continued. "Finally, I just got up the guts to go tell 'im, and . . . " He sighed waveringly, and took the frame back from me. "I can't believe he kept it all this time."
I waited a beat as he gazed at it before saying, "'Kay, you're not gonna cry now, are you? Cuz that'd be . . . "
He glared at me. See, what most people don't understand is that sometimes, just sometimes, I say stupid things on purpose. Especially when dealing with people in private. It helps diffuse the situation, and all that. This was one of those purposefully stupid times.
"That'd be an okay thing to do," I finally tacked on after a comfortably long uncomfortable silence.
He sighed and looked back at the frame, and I could see a hint of a smile on his lips. "I'm not gonna cry, Josh."
"Because, if you need to-"
"-I know for a fact that Donna keeps a teddy bear in the office. I can go get it for you." I couldn't quite pull off that last bit with a straight face. The fact that Donna really does have a teddy bear in the office, plus the image of Leo with said teddy bear, was just too much.
And then he said, "Like I don't already know it's *your* damned bear," and I think I blushed. Hey, it is perfectly manly to have one stuffed animal. More than one, and you're becoming a woman, but one is okay. Teddy Roosevelt had a stuffed bear, and he was a weightlifter. He could kick people's asses. He got shot during a speech once, and kept talking for about five minutes before walking - *walking* - to the hospital. I'm just like him, really. Got shot, kick asses, have a teddy bear.
It's just, if Leo ever called Teddy on it, he'd have blushed, too. Because, it's Leo.
"Fine, it's my bear," I admitted, feeling the need to change the subject. Problem: I didn't quite know how.
Leo-Miss-Cleo did it for me. "Hey, Josh. What happened tonight?"
I knew what he was talking about. The hearings had stopped abruptly, and Congressman Bruno had opted to give us two more weeks to work with; I'm pretty sure he knew what Gibson knew, and I was left wondering why the hell he'd let us off like that. Still, I asked, "What do you mean, what happened tonight?"
"At the hearings. How'd you pull that off?" He looked up at me, still holding the frame. "You didn't call Cliff Calley, did you?"
"No," I answered quickly. I didn't even like the guy. He's majority counsel, leading the way against the President and against Leo. I didn't even like the guy, even though Donna seemed to. Besides that, if I'd called Cliff and said, "Hey, get your guys to lay off Leo," that could have and would have been used against us. So not only would we have the MS, the alcohol, Doctor Bartlet medicating her husband, Donna's diary, and the lack of a transfer of power when we were all bleeding and wondering if we were still alive, we'd also have me, calling up the majority counsel, and trying to fix the hearings.
I'm dumb, but I'm not *that* dumb.
"He seemed to have something to do with it," he went on, and his voice trailed off slowly. I didn't call Cliff. But, if Leo was right, and the guy had something to do with him getting off the hook like that, then I was beginning to like him.
Leo was off in his own little world again, looking at the napkin. He was back in the campaign, probably reliving that whole scene with him, the President, and that napkin.
"I didn't call him," I told him, trying to bring him back. "Leo – I'm sorry I couldn't . . . I'm sorry I couldn't get this done for you."
He laughed a little, kind of forced, and shook his head. "It all worked out in the end," he said.
"Yeah, but-" I sighed. This is the type of guy who considers it an honor to fall on his sword to keep safe the people he loves. If I told him he was being *too* chivalrous, he'd glare at me again. I settled for self-degradation. "Leo, I should've been the one to come through for you. I'm sorry I wasn't."
"Hey, don't worry about it," he said, lifting his eyes from the frame for a second to look at me. "If I had taken that hit, I wouldn't have blamed you. You tried, even though I asked you not to, and that's all that matters. You tried."
I ducked my head, and he noticed and touched my arm. "Hey," he added, and I looked back up at him. "At least I got a date with Jordan out of it. Tomorrow night."
I had to smile at that, because, "A date with you're lawyer? I'm sorry, Leo, but that – that's pretty 'LA Law' right there, y'know?"
He chuckled and looked back down at the framed napkin, moving his hand away as well. "I know, but-" He swallowed, and even though he was smiling, it was a tight smile and I could tell he wanted to do that whole crying thing. "I just – I don't want to be alone."
[October 30, 1998]
"I don't want to be alone."
Josh stared at Leo from across the room, the scent of liquor still heavy in the air even though the windows were open and the fan was on. The governor was already in bed, and they'd all been informed that it was an inner ear infection that had caused him to collapse like that.
"You – you don't want to be alone," Josh repeated, warily. Leo was halfway sober now, the governor's health scare and coffee doing its work, and the entire wetbar had been emptied – though most of it had been emptied before Josh had gotten there. But room service operated all night; at any time, that wetbar could be replenished. Josh nodded. "Lemme go get my stuff," he said, walking out before Leo had a chance to reply.
His head was spinning, and while part of him worried for Leo, another part was very nearly angry with him. He didn't know just how he'd be able to spend the night in that room without throttling his boss; his own father had been one of the ones to help Leo get into rehab, and in one afternoon, nine days before the biggest day of any of their lives, he threw it all away. He'd scoffed at Noah Lyman's memory for a sip of sixty-year-old scotch, and Josh should have been irate.
He got back to Leo's room in record time, and found him still sitting on the edge of the bed with his jacket on and tie loosened, hands clasped tightly between his knees, and body cowled inwards as if he were boxed in and could not sit up straight if his life depended on it. Josh dumped a pillow and a blanket on the ground, thinking that his back would be killing him by morning, but thinking that that did not matter, because Leo had said he didn't want to be alone tonight. He straightened everything out, getting all the wrinkles out of the thin blanket and puffing his pillow somewhat, even though the pillows in this hotel were like thin little wafers and would not hold. Leo was still sitting in the same position when he was done.
He went to wash up, and change his clothes, and brush his teeth; when he got back to the bedroom, Leo was still sitting on the bed. Running a hand through his hair, Josh walked towards him, vaguely wondering why Leo hadn't turned on a light, even though it was dark and shadowy in the room.
When Josh got to the bed, Leo looked up at him. "What have I done?" he asked, and Josh shuddered at the ghostly, lost quality that that usually strong voice had taken on. "What have I done?"
Josh was about to answer when he saw Leo's whole body shake. No sounds, no tears, just a whole-body shudder that transposed itself to Josh, and he reached out to Leo's shoulders, pulling him to the ground as he went there himself. He felt arms wrap around his shoulders, and felt tears spilling onto the cotton tee he was wearing; harsh sobs escaped Leo's chest, and Josh held onto him as his own eyes threatened to well over against his will.
"How'm I gonna tell Mallory?" he said, amongst other things, as they sat on the floor in the darkened hotel room. "God, they're gonna leave me. Everyone's gonna-" He pulled back and stared at Josh, startled that he was there at all. "Why haven't you left yet?"
Josh thumbed away the messy tear tracks as tears rolled down his own face. "I won't," he replied, fiercely pulling Leo back to him until the fingers of his left hand were knotted so tightly through Leo's hair that he thought he might be pulling too hard. He inhaled, and smelled liquor, sweat, and Leo; something inside him broke. "You're Leo McGarry. I won't let this take you down." He pulled back, keeping his hands in Leo's hair, and whispered, "Let's get you to sleep now, okay?"
He nodded, eyes downcast, and reached up to pull off his tie; Josh stopped him, and did it for him instead. As Josh pulled the strip of cloth off, Leo reached up and grabbed his hand. "I don't wanna be alone."
For whatever reason, Josh leaned towards him and kissed him; closed- mouth, soft, too gentle yet to lead anywhere else. "You're not alone," he said, before putting him to bed.
[December 23, 2001]
"You're not alone," I said to him, snapping back to the present. I don't know how long I'd been out of it, but he was still staring at that frame and looking like he was about to cry. See, my problem with crying isn't that it's not manly. It's that, if someone else starts crying, that sets me off to start crying, which just isn't . . . Joshly.
Ah, the hell with it. I've cried with Leo before. I could do it again, if he started up.
I reached inside his coat, and took the handkerchief off his jacket. "C'mere," I said, and I turned his chair around so that he was facing me a little more. He'd started to tear up at some point, and, predictably, that had gotten me going. I blinked a couple times to smudge it away while I wiped his face, but when I heard that one, little, choked sob . . . damn. I hate it when he cries, and I know he does too. Which makes me hate it even more. He's too strong for things to get to him. He's gotta be. Because if he isn't, there's no hope for me, because everything I want to be in the world is him.
I pulled him to me, and it was kind of weird sitting that way, so we moved to the floor. He told me he didn't deserve us, and I got angry that he'd ever think that. We owe him everything. I owe him everything. He got us here, he kept us safe, and he'd kill himself if he thought it would continue to keep us safe. I held him tightly, and he cried, and I cried, and it was just one big, manly, crying mess. I reached blindly for the box of tissues I knew he kept on his desk, because that handkerchief of his was going to be completely useless when we finally decided to clean up.
When the sobbing had finally calmed down – and I would just like to point out, he did most of the sobbing, while I just had a tear or two trickle down – I reached for the tissues and wiped his face. I honestly didn't know what to say, and I honestly didn't know what to do, so I kissed him. It was like the last time, three years ago, in that hotel room with him wasted and me confused. But it was different, too, more sure, and it made the back of my neck tingle.
"Josh," he began, but I kissed him again. I knew he was gonna tell me we should stop, but if we stopped, I wouldn't have felt his tongue in my mouth the way it was just then. We had to stop, though. If we didn't, we might have ended up having hot monkey sex right outside the Oval Office, which is never a good thing. Because if the President walked in with Leo on top of me, or me on top of Leo, or whatever because I hadn't worked out the logistics quite yet, it would have been bad.
Something else that would have been bad was asphyxiation, so we broke contact for a second to catch our breaths. He looked me in the eyes, and I looked him in the eyes, and it wasn't like that mushy-gushy stuff Donna reads in those Harlequin romances. We are men, thank you very much, and we do not throw open our blouses to reveal our "heaving bosoms" to each other. We don't wear blouses, and I'm pretty sure we don't have "heaving bosoms" to begin with. But we looked at each other, and I could tell we were both thinking the same thing: if we do this, this'll be good. Hard, maybe awkward every now and then, but generally good.
"We should probably get outta here," he said, and the corners of his mouth were curling up.
I nodded, stood up, and helped him up – what, the man's fifty-seven years old, and he's lived a life. Granted, I'm only fifteen years younger, but fifteen years can be a big difference. Or not. Not thinking about that. I did think about testing the waters, however, so I asked, "Um, wanna go back to my place?" No need dancing around the issue. If I didn't get straight to the point, he'd have glared at me, and I think you realized a while back that I find his glares to be unsettling.
He laughed, though, and shook his head. "You really are impetuous, aren't you?" I smiled and looked down, shuffling my feet a bit. I am impetuous. I like to jump into things head-first, and that last kiss was just – you know. "You go on home, Josh. I've got-" He waved at his desk and said, "I came in here a half an hour ago to get some work done, and I haven't yet."
I looked up again, amazed. This guy would work through a herd of elephants with a high school marching band trailing behind them trampling down the halls of the west wing. He could be run over by a steamroller and still come in for work that day. I wonder if the words, "taking a break," even mean anything to him. But, I just shook my head in amazement, huffed out a chuckle, and turned to leave. "I'll see you tomorrow, Leo."
I was at the door, and I turned back to face him. He wasn't quite smiling, but he had this look on his face that just seemed happy. You know that warm-fuzzy feeling you get sometimes, when you know something good is about to happen? Yeah, that's what I was getting just then. "'Sup?" I said, as nonchalantly as I could.
He looked like he was about to say something, then shook his head and took off his coat and scarf before sitting down. "Nothin'. Just, thanks."
"'Kay," I said, walking out. I started smiling, grinning even; I knew what he was trying to say. See, men don't use the word "love" with each other too much. I mean, yeah, we'll say, "God, I love that guy," but never to his face. We might say, "I love *that about* you," but never, "I love you." Not to each other. So, I know what he was saying with that, "no just thanks," thing he said just now. He was showing affection as men do: indirectly, slightly confusing, and all mumbly.
This'll be good.
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