Title: One Day
Author: Baked Goldfish
Spoilers: BfA, conjecture for H.CON 172 & 100,000 Airplanes
Disclaimer: I own NOTHING. So don't sue me.
Summary: "I knew right then and there that he'd be avoiding me for the rest of the day, and it was only two o'clock on a Friday afternoon." Sequel to Bye Bye, Love, and fourth in the series.
One Day by Baked Goldfish
Donna brought me coffee. I hadn't thought I was being that transparent, but I guess I must have been.
"What's up, Deputy Downer," she chirped. It was the morning after the night before, and I must've looked pretty groggy and stressed out – didn't get much sleep last night, and all that.
That was, most likely, the quickest relationship I'd ever been in. Christmas Eve eve: it kinda started. Second of January: we started the whole sex thing. Third of January: Sam figured out but not really, CJ found out, we found out someone had pictures, and we broke up.
That had been a pretty busy day, relationship-wise. It also brought us to today, which was many things: the day after we broke up, the day before Leo would go back to the Hill to testify, the day Donna brought me coffee.
"Hey, Josh?" I forgot that Donna was standing there. I'd been sitting at my desk, with my head in my hands, staring down at some open briefing book, and I forgot that she was standing there.
I looked up at her, and mumbled, "Yeah?"
"Coffee," she stated, pushing the mug closer to me. "It looks like you need it."
"Thanks," I said, taking a sip. It was scalding hot, no cream, and just enough sugar. "I do need it."
She sat down at the edge of my desk, right next to me, and asked, "Wanna talk about it?"
I hadn't wanted to talk about it; I'd wanted to wallow in anger and sorrow for another few minutes or so before trying to get to work. But, Donna had brought me coffee, and it was probably better to talk about it than wallow, so I motioned for her to close the door and sit back down.
By the time I finished telling her all that had happened, I couldn't tell if she was ready to cry or ready to go beat someone up. She might've been ready to do both, and I'm pretty sure that Margaret was repeating this whole thing with Leo right now, so that would make two senior asisstants in the west wing who were ready to, concurrently, sob and shoot.
"Cliff brought the photos to you?" she asked, wiping her eyes. I handed her a kleenex and took another sip of coffee; it was already lukewarm.
"Yeah," I said. "I don't know where he got them, he left before I could ask him anything. I think he thought he was being followed."
She nodded, trying to make herself look more professional. "What're you gonna do?"
I sighed, and rubbed my face. "I don't know," I admitted. "I just don't."
"Whoever has it will probably save it for some time later," she said, trying to be a comfort.
I looked up at her, and wondered how she'd put two and nothing together to get four. "What're you talking about?"
"They've already got something they're gonna bring up in tomorrow's testimony," she said, and I blinked, surprised. I hadn't told her about the October '98 thing, and I'm fairly certain Leo hadn't either – there were only three people in the world, outside of Leo, who knew about that, and I was pretty sure he didn't want that number to grow any. So, Donna had just once again proven to be smarter than the average secretary, and had figured out what most of the senior staff still hadn't: Gibson had something on Leo.
I shook my head. "They could still bring this up," I countered.
"They'll hold back on it," she said. "They won't bring out all their big guns at once, they'll wait until they need this sometime down the line."
She might've been right. She might've been right, if it was the House Republicans who had this. If it wasn't, then she might've been dead wrong; I told her so, and she got that sob-and-shoot look again.
"Who do you want to call?" she asked, reaching for the kleenex. I glanced at the clock on my desk. I still had about ten minutes before I had to go to staff, just enough time to poke around a little.
"Get me Isaacs' chief of staff on the phone," I said. Trent Isaacs was a junior representative from South Carolina, a Republican but looking for any friends he could get. I figured a call from the White House might pique his interest a bit, enough so that I could get an inside look on where those photos came from.
A few seconds later, Donna handed me the phone. "Guy's name is Bob Gray," she whispered, covering the mouthpiece.
"Hey, Bob," I began casually.
"Mr. Lyman, sir," he replied, stiff as a board. "It's, uh, it's quite unexpected to-"
"Yeah," I interrupted. I had less than ten minutes to do this. "Listen, what's your boss look like right now?"
"He's in a meeting with-"
"Put him on the phone, would you?" There was a big, nice pause as I let my authority sink in with this guy. Then, I heard him transferring it to Isaacs' office, and I waited patiently for the good Congressman to pick up.
"Yeah, this is Josh Lyman, White House. Listen, you're new, aren't you?" Of course he was new. This was his first time ever holding any kind of office; before this, he was an accountant, and before that, he was in the Army. He'd been in office a year now, but he wasn't exactly a mover or a shaker or anything like that. In fact, I figured most other congresspeople didn't even know who this guy was.
He was just what I was looking for.
"No, I – this is my second year now," he stuttered. "What do you need, sir?"
"Well, the President just wanted to pass along his praise for-" I motioned to Donna to pull up this guy's rap sheet. "He just wanted to praise you for your stance on . . . education reform," I said, glancing down at his voting record. He'd crossed party lines to vote with the Dems, but he hadn't been too loud about it. "Especially on the last vote, there." Whoever tells you flattery gets you nothing is a big, stupid liar.
"Well, thanks," he said, and I could tell he'd been impressed. Nothing like praise from the President to get a guy ready for a fleecing.
"Listen, the President likes people who can think for themselves," I went on. Well, it was the truth, after all. "Keep up this open mindedness, there might be help for you later on down the line."
"Oh, I'm openminded," he cheerily agreed. "Unlike some others in my party, I've got nothing against your type."
This was something rather unexpected. In past experience, flattery made 'em shy and quiet, not blabby. "My type?" I fished. He could have been talking about one of four things: northerners, Jews, democrats, or non-heterosexuals.
"You and your boss," he answered; there goes one choice.
"You mean Democrats?" I pretended to joke.
"No, your . . . type," he said again, stressing the word "type." I smirked to myself; I'd never hit the jackpot like *this* before.
"I'm not quite sure what you mean, sir," I fished again.
"You know what I mean," he said, finally getting a little exasperated. "Your type of – men. Who like, you know-"
"Ah," I said. Open-minded, my ass. This guy's mind was about as open as a nun's legs. "Well, I'm not quite sure how you know about that . . . "
There was a dead silence on the other end of the phone; bingo. I now knew who, generally, held the photos. Or, at least, who had them taken, or who knew about them. If the new Republican from Podunk, South Carolina knew about them, then I could very well surmise that the rest of the Republicans knew about them, too.
"Well, I . . . I think I have to go, now, Mr. Lyman," he stuttered.
"Oh, no problem, sir. Thanks for your time." I smiled and slammed the phone down. My smile soon faded, as I realized that my little bit of political maneuvering had been done because of my personal life. Usually, finding something out like that would give me a buzz for the entire day, but not this. This was different.
This was personal.
"You've got staff in about two minutes," Donna said; again, I'd forgotten she was even there. I nodded and got up, taking one last sip of coffee before leaving for the Oval.
When I got there, I stopped at Charlie's desk, and asked, "When's the next ten minutes the President's got?"
He glanced down at the schedule. "Right after the staff meeting."
The President needed to be told, but I knew that Leo wouldn't want to put this on his desk. I had to tell him before Leo could allay his fears or anything. "Okay," I began. "I'm gonna come out of there after the meeting, and then I'm gonna go right back in, but don't think I'm weird or anything, okay?"
"Too late for that," he muttered. Working here has really brought out the smartass in that kid. I walked into the Oval, and put on my best game face.
As soon as the short meeting was over, I walked outside, and talked to Charlie a bit while the rest of the guys left. Leo had already gone into his office, and as soon as the place emptied out, Charlie got up and took me back into the Oval. The President was at his desk, writing on something. Probably a speech. He always liked to rewrite things.
He looked up at me as I stood in front of his desk. "What can I do for you, Josh?" he asked kindly. Well, let's see, sir. I slept with your Chief of Staff, who's really quite good in bed, and now there are some House Republicans who might have photos. Not to mention, there's been talk of a congressional censure instead of going on with the trials, which, while it'd put a quick end to all this, would also make it seem to the general public like you did something wrong, and since you haven't apologized-
"There are a few things we need to discuss, sir," I answered politely.
"Well, sit down, and we'll talk," he said, moving to the couches in the center of the room. I sat opposite him and told him everything, looking down at my hands and not even trying to make eye contact. This guy was, on top of being my President and boss, kind of a second father to me. Now, nobody could replace my Dad, but President Bartlet's always been kind of . . . avuncular to me. He's been a guiding hand ever since my Dad died, and I knew that with this whole photograph thing, I probably let him down, big time.
When I finished talking, I finally looked up at him. He peered at me through those thick glasses, and leaned back. "You mean, someone took pictures of you while you were in your own apartment?"
I stared a bit. I thought he was going to chastize me for being sloppy. "Yeah, yes sir."
"That . . . disgusts me," he murmured. "I want those photographs, and I want the negatives."
"Yes, sir." I was still waiting for the flames.
"Are you happy with Leo?"
"I was, sir."
"What do you mean, 'was'?"
"I – we stopped, last night."
He sighed, and took off his glasses. "I know you're expecting a lecture on how you should've been more discreet, and maybe you should've been, but to be spied upon in the privacy of your own home . . . piranhas," he spat. "Damn piranhas, sharks, all of them. You got this from Trent Isaacs?"
"The photos, sir?" He nodded, and I said, "No, I got 'em from – I got them last night, from Cliff Calley."
He nodded, and his face darkened. "I want those pictures, Josh. I want all copies, and I want the negatives, and I want to burn them. Do you understand me?"
"Nobody messes with the personal lives of my staff."
"Yes, sir." I sat there, waiting for him to go on, because I knew he had more to say.
Finally, his expression changed a bit, and he asked, "What do you think about all this censure stuff?"
"What do you mean, sir?"
"You think I should take it?" He regarded me with an almost judgmental look on his face, expectant.
"Because you didn't do anything wrong," I said. "If you take it, and don't put up a fight . . . "
"Leo told me that if my only reason for taking the censure is to save his skin, that I shouldn't take it," he said, almost conversationally.
"Leo's right, sir," I told him. The President hadn't screwed up; hell, Leo hadn't screwed up, either, no matter what other people might think. But the President shouldn't take a hit for his staff. It should be the other way around, if anyone had to take hits at all.
"Yeah," he sighed tiredly. It hit me, then; he and I were much the same, in that we covered up our insecurities with overconfidence. Ever since the press conference after Mrs. Landingham's funeral, he'd been all bravado and bluster, acting arrogant and sometimes just downright cold-hearted, but that was just a cover. I couldn't even begin to imagine just how tired he really was, and he wanted four more years of this? It was all just a cover, all that arrogance. In that one word he'd just said, I saw that.
Way to tangent there, Lyman.
"Anyway, sir, that's all I had," I said, feeling about as lame as I could possibly feel. "If there's nothing else . . . "
He nodded and put his glasses back on. "Go get those pictures, Josh. And let me know who the bastards were who took 'em."
He stood up, and I stood up with him. "Yes, sir." I left, but I had no idea how I was gonna go about getting those pictures.
Wait a minute. Donna. Donna was my Cliff Connection. I headed back to my office with a spring to my step, and yelled, "Donna!" as soon as I thought she'd be in earshot.
She came in after me, scowling. "What have I told you about yelling-"
"How'd you meet Cliff?" I asked. She'd told me to not yell many, many times before, but I'd never cared, and I wasn't about to start.
"Ainsley set us up," she answered. For such a bad day, there sure were a lot of green lights on the road. I gave Donna a bear hug – mostly just to surprise her – and went on down to see the Republican in the basement.
She was looking over some legal briefs, eating a muffin, and listening to some uppity classical music. I knocked on her door, even though it was open, and said, "Heya."
"Oh!" Like she didn't know I was standing there. Well, she probably didn't. She was wearing headphones, and I could still hear the music she was listening to. Which was kinda funny, you know, because usually when people blast music, they're not blasting Vivaldi. She pulled off her headphones, and smiled at me. "Hey, Josh."
"Hey, Ainsley." I wondered how to phrase my question tactfully; then I wondered when I'd started worrying about tact. "Are you, like, good friends with Cliff Calley?"
"Yeah," she answered slowly. "Why?"
"You gonna see him any time today?"
She shook her head, looking at the same time confused and wary. "No plans to, no."
"'Cuz, you know, it'd be really cool if you were gonna see him, *today*," I stressed.
"Well, actually, I'm thinking of calling him up for lunch," she said smoothly. Thank goodness for intelligent Republicans in the basement. You can really never have enough of those. "I might be asking about . . . "
"Some pictures, maybe?" I supplied.
"Some pictures, maybe," she repeated, pretending that she hadn't heard me.
"Yeah, you should come see me after lunch, then," I said. "I won't mind if you're, you know, chatty or anything."
"Sure thing, Josh," she said with a smile. "That it?"
"Yup." I started back up the stairs, wondering if my coffee was still warm.
At around a quarter past one, I was eating a sandwich when a perky blonde came bounding into my office: Ainsley. She looked pretty happy with herself, and she sat right down and asked, "Are you gonna eat that pickle?"
I pushed it towards her and swallowed what I was eating. "So, what's up?"
"He said if we take the censure, he might be able to keep the pictures out of sight for a week, two at most," she began quietly. "If we don't, he can't do anything to help."
I shook my head, not quite grasping it all. "Was that – I mean, is he trying to bribe us?"
She shook her head and said, "I don't think so. He also said, and I quote, 'I'm all for smaller government, one that doesn't pry into the private lives of its citizens.' Josh, what were those pictures of-"
I held up my hand, and she shut up. "I can't tell you. It's not, it's not my place."
She seemed to understand, because she just nodded and went on. "He had to leave early, but he mentioned where he was going to be tomorrow for breakfast, in case I wanted to meet with him later."
"In case you wanted to meet with him?"
"Mm-hmm," she said, passing a piece of paper to me. "That's the address. I hear it gets a lot of business, especially from people as old as you."
I forgave her for that little dig, and put the paper in my wallet. "Yeah, I go there all the time. Did he say when?"
"Around seven," she said, glancing at her watch. "Listen, I've got to run now." She got up, still crunching on that pickle.
"Hey, it was nice talking," I called to her. She smiled, and after she'd left, I picked up the phone and dialed Charlie's extension. The President was free for the next few minutes, so I finished off my sandwich and took a swig of my soda before taking a walk down to the Oval.
"Sir," I said after Charlie showed me in.
"Got something for me?" the President asked, getting up and moving to the couches again.
"I might," I said. "Ainsley Hayes talked to Cliff Calley today at lunch, and . . . " I stopped what I was saying, and thought about it for a minute – a rarity, I know. But I thought about it, because what I was about to tell him could make or break his decision on the censure; if I told him that he could possibly save two members of his staff from embarrassment by taking the censure, he'd definitely do it. He'd do it for any of us, but especially Leo. I couldn't let this taint his decision.
"Sir, if you don't mind my asking, do you know whether you're gonna take the censure or not?"
He sighed, and rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah. Yeah, I think I . . . I don't want to put Leo through that. I think I'm gonna take it, but I haven't really . . . " He sighed again, and, once again, I could see that the bravado was all a cover.
"Does Leo know?" I didn't really need to know the answer to that question, but I wondered anyway. Leo had been slamming the idea of the censure ever since it had been brought up, being as selfless as usual.
The President shook his head. "I don't know. I mentioned it to him, but I think he's hoping I change my mind." He took a breath, drew himself up, and looked at me. "So. What've you got for me?"
"Well, Ainsley Hayes met with Calley for lunch today, and he mentioned that if you took the censure, he could keep the photos out of sight for a week or two." I had no idea what I would have told him if he'd told me he wasn't taking the censure, but that didn't matter much. I didn't have time to deal with "what ifs" just then.
He nodded. "Did he say anything else?"
I shook my head and added, "I'm gonna try to see him tomorrow morning, though. He might have something more."
"Okay." He got up, and I got up with him. "I'm gonna wait a few minutes and then tell Leo about it. You got anything else?"
I kind of shifted from one foot to another, a little hesitant to ask my next question. But, I asked it anyway. "You, um. I mean, if Leo and I were still . . . you would've been okay with it?"
He regarded me with a sort of detachment and asked, "You two were happy?" I nodded, and he said, "Then I would've been fine with it. Granted, when you came in here and told me you were seeing Leo, it was almost as if, say, Liz had come in here and told me she was seeing Leo, but . . . " I felt my cheeks get red, and he started smiling a bit. "I would've been fine with it, Josh."
"Thank you, Mr. President," I said, and he dismissed me with a wave. I was walking back to my office with a nice, warm-fuzzy feeling, when I realized that the President still had to tell Leo about this. And that Leo would flip out about the President choosing to take the censure. And that, when the President told Leo about the deal with the pictures, he'd direct that anger at me. And that, no matter how much he cares about me, Leo would not hesitate to rip my head off and scream down my neck, because this was the workplace and he was my boss and he could do that whenever he damn well pleases.
That warm-fuzzy feeling left and I picked up the pace to my office. I had about five, maybe ten minutes left on this earth, and I knew that I had a few things I had to finish up before I was brutally and painfully murdered by my very own boss and friend.
Sure enough, as soon as I was back at my desk, the door to my office slammed open so hard I thought it would come off its hinges. Leo came barelling in, and behind him, before he slammed the door shut again, I could see the entire bullpen looking startled in the direction of my office.
"The hell is wrong with you?" he seethed. He looked like he wanted to throw me out of a closed window, and I think I literally shrank under his gaze. I mean, I know I was sitting and he was standing, but usually, that doesn't make me feel smaller than him. Right then, with him staring me down like that, I felt about two inches tall.
"I just told him what he'd asked me to find out-" I tried to say, but he would have none of it. As soon as I said, "I," he stopped listening, and instead started to pace around my office.
"He doesn't take hits for us, we take hits for him," he said, stopping suddenly in front of my desk and banging his fist on it; I flinched, but he didn't seem to notice. "He doesn't take hits-"
"He was already gonna take the censure," I said. It was all the wrong things to say, because instead of hearing what I'd said, Leo heard, "He was already gonna take a hit for you." I could tell by the look on his face, and I shrank another inch.
"Why did you even-" I didn't know what he was gonna say, and I didn't know why he stopped, but I got up and stood in front of him, thinking that if I was closer he wouldn't feel the need to scream as much. "He takes this censure, it's gonna look to the rest of the world like he did something wrong," he muttered.
"That's what I told him," I agreed. "I told him that, and he told me that he was gonna take the censure - *before* I told him about the photo deal."
He shook his head and started pacing again. "He didn't do anything wrong. You know, he – I screwed up, we screwed up-"
"Woah, wait a minute." He stopped pacing and looked at me. I stared at him, wondering how he'd come to *that* conclusion; he hadn't really been complaining when we'd been together, and, also, we were at my place when the photos had been taken. Inside. In the privacy, I repeat, the privacy of my living room. Yeah, we might've been a little more under the table – I should've closed the blinds, maybe – but still. We were just two people, in a relationship. "We screwed up?"
"Josh, it was – it could never have worked out," he said softly. "And now, it's just ammunition-"
"Would you stop being a politician for one second?" It damn well could have worked. It had been working for almost two weeks, and if not for the pictures and CJ putting us on leashes, it would have worked for even longer. I told him as much, and he got even angrier.
"What the hell did you have to go and talk to Cliff Calley for?" he spat out, starting to pace again.
"I didn't," I said, indignant. "Ainsley did."
"Oh, great, another person who knows," he muttered sarcastically.
"She doesn't know, Leo," I said. "And I'm meeting with Calley tomorrow morning."
He stopped, and glared at me. "You'll do no such thing."
"The President's okay'd it," I said, as flippantly as I could. "Last I checked, he outranks you."
"Jesus," he cursed. I say "cursed" because he somehow managed to make it sound obscene. "I can't believe you. He shouldn't be taking hits for us-"
"He's not taking a hit for us, he's taking a hit for you because you screwed up three years ago and were too much of a coward to tell anyone!" There. I'd said it out loud. I didn't even mean it, but I'd said it anyway. Leo got this look on his face right afterwards, and if I ever saw it again, it'd be too soon. I knew right then and there that he'd be avoiding me for the rest of the day, and it was only two o'clock on a Friday afternoon, which meant we'd be at work for another three or four hours at the very least, barring some sort of emergency or disaster.
Still looking like I'd punched him in the gut, he left my office; he closed the door softly, like he was being gentle with it. I had no idea why I'd said what I'd said; I was frustrated with him, yeah, but that wasn't any excuse. I sat back down with a heavy sigh, ran my hands through my hair, and stared at the door that he'd closed with such unnerving care.
A moment later, the damn thing fell off its hinges anyway.
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