Title: Take My Hand
Author: Baked Goldfish
Pairings: Leo/POTUS, Sam/Toby, Sam/Josh
Spoilers: The Drop In
Rated: NC-17, for, like, part 17 or 18. *shrug*
Author's note: Thanks go out to Caz, who beta'd this (even if you don't know it, dude). Also, Don McLean and Dido for their songs Crossroads and Take My Hand. And Elton John for Friends Never Say Goodbye. And Sony for making the laptop I work on. Okay. That's it.
Disclaimer: If you're a lawyer, I don't have any money. But, if you work for AS, could you pass along to him that there are a lot of us who'd really rather see Josh/Sam than Josh/Donna? Thanks much.
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Take My Hand by Baked Goldfish


Leo McGarry flipped to the last page of the report. "According to
this, seventy percent."
"Seventy? Good God, that's high," President Bartlet replied.
With a shrug, McGarry stated, "It's not a big deal. We can fix it."
Jed looked at him, a little worried. "You sure?"
"Yeah. I'm sure." He rubbed his eyes tiredly. "That all?"
"Yeah." Leo turned to leave, and Jed called out after him. "Leo?"
Turning slightly, Leo looked at him, a questioning look on his face.
"Yeah?"
"I miss you."
McGarry ducked his head almost guiltily. "Yeah," he said, almost
whispering it. He stayed where he was, two steps from the door, as
Jed came up from behind him. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and he
turned.
The look in Jed's eyes was sad, longing. "Leo, I really miss you."
He moved his hand to McGarry's face, stroking the other man's cheek
with his thumb. "You're right across the hall, but I barely get to
see you anymore."
"I'm too busy running your country for ya," Leo quipped with a smirk.
His looks softened and the smirk disappeared as he ran his fingers
lightly through Bartlet's hair. "C'mere," he murmured, pulling Jed
closer to him. "I'm sorry. You know we can't do anything anymore,
though."
"I know," Jed replied, his face still buried in Leo's shoulder. "I
don't like it," he added petulantly. "It's like you're so distant.
What're you thinking of, Leo?"
"Nothing important," he lied. Placing a small kiss on Jed's lips, he
pulled away. "Don't worry. I'm gonna go finish this up, okay?"
Frowning a little at Leo's sudden change of topic, Jed nodded.
"Okay," he whispered, reluctantly taking his hand off Leo's face as
the other man turned and left.
When Leo got back to his office, Toby was standing unobtrusively in a
corner. Placing his files down on his desk, McGarry asked, "What's
up, Toby?"
"Not much," Ziegler mumbled. "Sam's pissed."
"About what?" He moved to the coat rack and picked up his coat,
putting it on to leave.
"The drop in." Rubbing the back of his head nervously, he added,
"He's really pissed."
"He'll get over it." With that, Leo picked up his briefcase and
headed out the door.
Toby followed him and put his hand on the older man's shoulder. "Leo,
he's pissed at *me*. He doesn't trust me now."
He stopped and faced his communications director, a look of confidence
on his face. "He'll get over it," McGarry repeated more vehemently.
"Once he figures out that it was for the best, he'll simmer down and
move on."
Toby looked down awkwardly, unsure of how to proceed. "Leo, you know
about-" He stopped suddenly and pulled Leo back into the chief of
staff's office. Shutting the door behind him, he began again. "You
know about. . ." His voice trailed off, and he shook his head.
"Never mind."
Leo stared at him, confused and concerned. "You alright?"
"Yeah," Toby answered, a little too quickly. "How's the President?"
he asked, trying to change the subject.
"Fine," Leo answered, brows raised in false assurance. "He's okay. A
little nervous, but I think it's just because the state of the union's
coming up."
"Okay."
"Okay."
With a small wave, Toby turned and left. Leo turned and looked at the
door to the Oval Office contemplatively. Shaking his head to clear
his thoughts, he turned back to his door. Within moments, he too was
gone.
{Part 2}
Josh stepped into Sam's office, noting its darkness even though it was
still occupied. "Sam? Ready to go over the education report?"
Sam was sitting at his desk, head in hands and elbows on his blotter.
His fingers were laced through his ruffled, dark hair, and shadows
lined what little part of his face that was showing. He did not reply
to Josh's inquiry. Instead, he muttered, "I worked so damn hard on
that speech. So hard, Josh. They were going to stand, and the room
would've been alive with applause. You know what happened?"
Josh's face fell, and he leaned against the doorjamb slightly
apprehensively.
Raising his head from his hands, he stared at Josh with a grim smile
on his face and eyes red-rimmed. "They sat there. And they applauded
only because it was the President. They didn't like the speech. You
know why?" With a short, harsh laugh, he answered his own question.
"Toby added that little piece that pissed them off. And he didn't
tell me about it. I worked so hard on that speech, and he went and
screwed it up without even mentioning it to me."
"Sam, I'm sure he didn't mean to hurt-"
"He tried to keep it a secret from me," Sam countered, interrupting
Josh's empty assurances. "I thought--I don't know what I thought. I
thought he trusted me to be able to make good speeches, but apparently
he doesn't. Toby doesn't trust me, Josh."
With a small sigh, Josh closed the door and walked over to Sam's desk.
"You know that's not true. He did what he thought was right-"
"It was *my* speech, Josh, not his. He had no right-"
"It was the *President's* speech," Josh interrupted gently, kneeling
beside him. "And the President could've left it out if he wanted to.
Toby was doing what he thought was right. It was a mistake, but he
doesn't distrust you."
Sam turned to face him with unshed tears in his eyes. "I thought we
had something, Josh," he whispered, his voice cracking. "But this. .
. he doesn't trust me. He goes behind my back and just. . ." He slid
out of his chair and into Josh's waiting arms. "I don't know what to
think of this. I don't know where I stand with him. I don't know
where he stands with *me*."
Josh stroked Sam's arms soothingly, familiarly. "Okay," was all he
could murmur in the younger man's ear. "It's okay." He paused in his
speech for a moment, hesitant. Then: "I'm here. It's okay."
Sam looked up at his longtime friend, silent tears making rivers on
his smooth face. That last statement had more to it than what was on
the surface. Blue eyes staring deep into brown, memories started to
flood both their minds. Sam felt a warm thumb touch his face and
smear away the tears. He closed his eyes at the touch, and brushed
his lips against Josh's thumb.
Josh swallowed hard, images of years past flashing before his eyes.
"Sam. . ." His voice was low, husky. "This isn't what you want. . ."
"Yes it is," Sam countered, his lips moving to Josh's ear. "This is
what I need."
Half-heartedly, Josh pushed his once-upon-a-time lover away. "No.
Sam, you and Toby, you can fix this. Don't jump the gun here," he
stressed quietly. "It was a mistake, that's all."
Sam looked at him, uncertainty mixing with sadness mixing with guilt
mixing with rage in his eyes. Haltingly, he stood up, and returned to
his chair. Josh watched Sam settle in, fingers poised at his laptop's
keyboard. As the younger man's fingers began pecking away at the
keys, Josh stood up and left, as silently as he came.
Sam looked up wearily from the computer. He got up and followed Josh
to his office. There was no one around. "Josh," he called out
weakly.
Upon hearing his name, Josh turned around. "Yeah, Sam?"
"It wasn't a mistake that we can fix."
A part of Josh was screaming at him to just go into his office and
lock the door behind him. A part of Josh was telling him that he and
Sam had been over long ago. A part of Josh was being rational.
That part lost its footing as Josh walked to Sam, took the other man's
hand in his, and led him to the parking lot. Before they reached the
exit, they stopped, and Josh leaned over to gently kiss Sam on the
cheek.
Neither of them saw Toby watching them with watery eyes from the
shadows. As the two younger men went out the door, Toby walked back
to his office in a daze.
Sam would not be coming home that night.
{Part 3}
"You okay?"
"Yeah."
"You seem distant."
"I am."
"Want to talk about it?"
Jed turned to look at his wife, eyes sullen and lost. He leaned over
and gave her a kiss on the forehead. It was not a lover's kiss, but
rather, the type of kiss one gives a longtime friend. "I don't know
what he's hiding from me," he murmured as he settled back against the
pillow, on his side and facing her.
Abbey knew what "he" Jed was talking about. She had come to terms
with it years ago, and both Jed and Leo knew it. But she knew as well
as anybody that America was not ready for an openly gay president,
especially one in love with his chief of staff. As a friend to them
both, she took it upon herself to stay in the marriage, in name only,
for the sake of their careers.
"What's wrong with him?" she asked, softly stroking Jed's arm.
He shrugged. "He won't tell me. He's spending more time here, even
more than after Jenny left him. He always says it's work, but I know
I don't give him *that* much work." He was silent for a moment, his
gaze turned inwards. "I miss him, Abbey. I miss him so much, and
today I kissed him for the first time since I was elected. The *first
time*. It shouldn't be like that, Abbey. I love him, and I can't be
with him." Sighing, he curled into her embrace. "When I kissed him,
it was different. Like he was there, but he wasn't. He's hiding
something from me, and I don't like it."
Abbey held her best friend close to her, hoping that her touch would
help scare away his demons. "He's probably stressed. These past two
years have been so hard on him, Jed. Everyone else did something to
vent after Rosslyn, except him. On top of that, there was Jenny
leaving him, Lillienfield going after him. . . it's been hard for him,
and he's probably just trying to manage."
Jed contemplated her words. They did nothing to reassure him.
Rather, they made his worry grow. "Abbey Bartlet, First Lady and West
Wing shrink," he said to mask his anxiety. Shifting a bit in her
arms, he closed his eyes and tried to go to sleep. Minutes later, he
was still awake, though the woman whose arms were wrapped around him
was not. He clenched his eyes shut again, screwing them tighter, and
tried once more to meet a peaceful slumber. Eventually, he drifted
off into a fitful rest.
{Part 4}
McGarry looked up, bleary-eyed, from the file he held in his hand.
The shrill ringing of the telephone had brought him out of his
concentration. Irritated, he picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"Leo, come get me," came the deceivingly sober voice on the other end
of the line.
"Toby? What's going on?" Leo demanded.
"I'm drunk. Think I'm in an alley, or parking lot, or something."
Leo pinched the bridge of his nose with his forefinger and thumb, his
mouth set in a hard line. "Alright, where are you exactly?"
There was a long pause before the answer came. "McLean Bar and Grill.
That's what the sign says."
"I'll be there as soon as possible," Leo stated, rubbing his eyes
wearily. "Stay right there."
It took a few minutes for Leo to find the bar in question, but he did.
And there was Toby, propped up against the brick exterior like a
marionette. Leo parked the car and pulled his coat closer to him to
ward off the late January cold. He walked over to Toby and pulled the
man to his feet.
"C'mon, Toby," he stated to no one in particular. "Time for
beddy-bye."
The drive back to Leo's apartment was a silent one, and the chief of
staff occasionally cast worried glances at Toby. Pulling into the
underground parking garage, Leo said, "You're gonna tell me what this
is all about, right?"
Toby nodded mutely. The car stopped, and he stumbled out. When they
got up to Leo's apartment, Toby flopped unceremoniously onto the
couch. Closing his eyes, he leaned back, the smell of coffee keeping
him in the land of the living. Hearing the sound of something
clanking against the coffee table, he opened his eyes. Leo was
sitting beside him, coffee in hand. On the table was a glass of some
sort of sports drink.
Toby eyed the green liquid warily. "No coffee?"
"There's coffee, yeah," Leo said, sipping at his own coffee. "But the
sports drink'll help ya. Trust me."
Toby gave it one last suspicious glance before picking up the glass
and sipping its contents. It was warm. With a grimace, he set it
back down on the table.
"You wanna tell me what happened?" Leo asked, staring straight ahead
into the darkness.
"Sam left me, I think."
Leo tried to cover up the fact that he'd nearly choked on his coffee.
"Why do you think that?" he asked, hoping he had succeeded in masking
his surprise at this revelation.
"Because he and Josh left together, and they were holding each other,"
Toby stated evenly. "He left me because he doesn't trust me, Leo. I
screwed up, big time."
Leo set his mug down on the table and turned to face Ziegler. "*We*
screwed up. Hear me? Don't beat yourself up about this. I'll talk
to Sam in the morning, we'll get this cleared up."
Toby nodded silently, blinking back the tears that threatened to spill
onto his cheeks. "Okay," he said, his voice a near-whisper.
"C'mon," Leo said, placing a hand on the other man's shoulder. "You
should get some rest. The hangover won't be as bad if you get some
sleep." He led Toby into the assiduously neat bedroom and pointed him
to the bed. Confident his job was done, Leo turned to leave, content
to sleep on the couch for the remainder of the night.
"Leo?"
He turned back to Toby, his face holding an expression of support.
"Yeah?"
Toby gestured weakly at the bed. "Could you. . . I mean, I don't. .
." Swallowing hard, Toby looked down at the floor. "I don't want to
be alone tonight, Leo."
Inhaling apprehensively, Leo started, "I don't think that's the best
thing-"
"No, I just want someone there. I mean, I. . . Just someone beside
me, that's all." He looked back up at Leo, his face calm but his eyes
pleading.
Glancing at the shadows, Leo acquiesced. "Okay," he agreed, walking
back to the bed. Toby's tie and shoes and belt were on the floor, and
he slid into bed, curling up next to the warmth of Leo McGarry.
{Part 5}
Jed Bartlet had been staring at the ceiling for a good hour that
morning, not moving because he did not want to wake up Abbey. With a
small sigh, he reached over the sleeping woman to grab the phone.
There were a few small state of the union speech issues he needed to
talk to Leo about, and he knew from experience that Leo was an early
riser.
The number was on speed dial. The phone rang twice before it got
picked up. "Hello?" said a familiar but wrong quiet mumble on the
other end of the connection.
Jed pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at it in confusion.
Putting it back near his ear, he said, "Toby? Is Leo there?" He
heard a mumbled "yes sir" before hearing the shifting of sheets.
In Leo's apartment, Toby turned to face Leo. The older man was still
asleep. Nudging him gently on the shoulder, Toby quietly said, "Leo,
wake up."
Leo peered at him sleepily. "What's up?" he asked with a yawn.
"The President's on the phone."
Any traces of sleep that were in Leo's consciousness were erased with
that last sentence. He stared anxiously at Toby for a moment before
grabbing the phone. "Mr. President?" he asked uneasily, panic
tainting his voice just slightly.
Jed took a few minutes to reply, his mind reeling from hearing Toby's
voice on Leo's phone. "Uhh. . . can you come in, there's. . . I need
to talk to you about, about the state of the union," he finally
managed to stutter out. He did not even wait for a reply before
hanging up. As soon as his hand left the phone, he slumped back down
into the bed, staring at the ceiling again, eyes wide and jaw slack.
By this time, Abbey had woken up. The sound of her Jed's troubled
voice talking on the phone had roused her from her dreams. When she
opened her eyes, the first thing she saw was Jed lying on his back,
tears coming down his face. "Jed?" she asked concerned, reaching over
to wipe the tears off his face.
"I just called Leo," he started, his voice beginning to crack. "Why
did Toby answer the phone?"
In a certain apartment across town, Leo McGarry hung up the phone
slowly and sank back down onto the bed, face half-crushed into his
pillow. "God," he murmured despondently. "He's gonna think. . ."
Toby watched him curiosity slowly changing into comprehension tinged
with slight apprehension. "You and the President. . ."
"Yeah. Christ, he's already unsure enough as it is." With a sharp
intake of breath, Leo propped himself up on his elbows. "Toby, this
re-election just got a lot harder."
{Part 6}
Sam woke to the annoying buzz of the alarm. It was somewhat familiar,
comforting, like the taste of your mother's cooking after a year away
from home. Stretching slightly, he turned onto his side and wrapped
his arms around the man beside him. "Josh," he murmured into Josh's
neck.
Josh could feel the fine hairs on the back of his neck stand on-end,
and he opened his eyes drowsily. "Mm," he groaned, turning to face
his on-again, off-again lover. "Hey."
"I'm hungry."
"Pop-tarts good?"
"'Kay."
Within a few minutes, they were out the door, pop-tarts in hand,
heading to the White House in Josh's car. The office was bustling and
bright, the exact opposite of the night prior. With a small grin, Sam
peeled off in the direction of his office, leaving Josh to go to his
own.
When Josh got there, he found Toby waiting there for him. He stopped
in his door, staring uncomfortably at the communications director.
"Um, hi."
"You were with Sam last night?"
Josh stepped into his office and closed the door. "Yes," he answered
quietly. "He said you two were. . ."
"It's okay," Toby stated, rubbing the back of his head absently.
"Could you just tell him I'm sorry?"
Josh stared in amazement of the fact that Toby seemed so complacent.
"Uh, all right. . ." He moved out of the way wordlessly as Toby
sauntered out of the office.
Toby did not even give the deputy chief of staff a backward glance as
he walked down the halls to his own office. The paperwork was piled
high, and he sat down at his desk to get started. After a few
moments, he came across a memo that belonged to Leo.
"Ginger," he called from behind the mountain of paperwork. When he
got no reply, he walked out to his bullpen. There was nobody there.
With a deep sigh, he took the memo and walked to Leo's office. Leo
was sitting behind his desk, looking as if he were trying valiantly to
concentrate on the papers before him.
"Leo, this was on my desk. It yours?" Toby handed the memo to the
chief of staff.
Leo took it wearily and looked it over. "Yeah," he muttered.
"Thanks."
Cocking his head to the side, Toby asked, "You talk to the President
yet?"
Shaking his head, McGarry stated, "Haven't had a chance yet. He's
always busy, Charlie says."
Toby tapped a finger silently on Leo's desk, head bowed. "I'm sorry,
Leo. I shouldn't have answered it."
"It's not your fault," Leo dismissed with a small wave. "You didn't
know, and he just jumped to the wrong conclusion. I'll tell him what
happened, and it'll be fine."
Toby looked at his boss sadly. "I guess," he said, restraining his
voice from betraying his emotions. His eyes were on the floor again.
"Um, you don't need to talk to Sam, by the way."
"You already talked to him?"
"No, I talked with Josh. He said Sam said it was over."
Leo's eyes shot open, and he looked at Toby with deep sympathy. "Oh,
Toby. . . I'm so sorry. . ."
"Yeah. I'm gonna go back to my office now." He turned abruptly and
left.
Leo took one more glance at the papers on his desk. His eyes were
burning, and it wasn't because of the fact that he had been staring at
the black words for well over an hour. Making a decision, he got up
and walked into the Oval Office.
The President was behind the wide wooden desk, glasses balancing at
the tip of his nose as he read some report or another. He looked up
sharply at the intrusion. When he saw who it was, his mouth was
immediately firm, and a wall came down in front of his eyes.
"Leo," he asked, tone clipped. "What do you need?"
"I need to talk to you, Jed," Leo answered softly, a slight frown on
his face.
Bartlet turned his attention back to the report. "We've already been
over the speech. It needs work."
"Not about that. Toby was at my apartment last night because-"
"You don't need to explain yourself," Jed interrupted, his hand going
up to stop the details. "It's fine."
"No, it's not," Leo countered, closing the door behind him. "It
wasn't what you think."
Taking off his glasses, Jed rubbed his eyes tiredly. "Then why the
hell did Toby answer the phone you keep by your bed?"
"He was drunk-"
"And that makes it all right?" Jed countered, staring glass into his
longtime friend.
Leo stalked up to the desk. "Jed, you have to listen to me," he
stressed, placing his hands on the wood surface.
"No, I don't," Bartlet retorted, returning his eyes to the report.
"Get out of my office. In fact, take the week off. You look like you
need a vacation. Go somewhere besides here."
Leo let his hands fall to his side, staring at Jed with a stunned
expression on his face. "Okay," he said, his voice monotonous and
dazed. He backed up and turned, heading out the Oval Office slowly.
Jed looked up just as Leo made it to the door. "Leo, one more thing.
I knew you were hiding something from me. You were hiding it from me
since a few weeks ago. I guess you think I'm stupid, or something, to
be doing this to me with a *member of my staff*." He stared coldly as
Leo's face fell a little more. "Oh, and don't you ever, *ever* call
me Jed again." His eyes were on the pages before him as he heard the
door to his office click shut.
{Part 7}
Leo gathered his work up and made organized piles of everything he'd
been working on. He stared at the stacks, only half aware of his
surroundings. Licking dry lips, he blindly walked to Josh's office.
"Hey, Leo," Donna chirped, keeping her eyes on the keyboard. She
looked up in surprise when he just walked right past her to knock on
her boss' door. "Uhh, he's not in," she stated, a little worried.
"Oh," he said, still facing Josh's door. "Could you tell him I'm
taking a leave of absence? I don't know for how long. I've got all
my work organized on my desk, so it shouldn't be too hard for him to
pick up."
Donna watched, concerned, as Leo leaned wearily against the closed
door. "Leo? You okay?" She got up and stood by him. He was pale,
and looked as if he were about to fall over. "Leo, c'mere and sit
down," she ordered quietly, leading him to her chair.
He sank into the seat heavily, face drawn and eyes lost. "I think I'm
gonna be sick, Donna," he whispered, leaning forward to rest his
forearms on his knees. He vaguely felt her hands hoisting him up and
leading him out the door.
The restroom was only a few steps down the hall, but Donna looked
around cautiously anyway before leading the chief of staff to the
men's room. She nudged the door open slightly, and spotted a young
staffer at the urinal. He turned at the sound of the door opening,
and she gave him a dirty look. Zipping up his pants quickly, the
staffer ran out the door, brushing by the two of them with his head
bowed.
Donna pulled Leo into the restroom and locked the door behind her.
She quickly pulled a nearby chair up under the doorknob, to make it
that much harder for anyone to come in, before nudging McGarry towards
one of the stalls. He immediately fell to his knees and gripped the
edge of the bowl with trembling fingers.
Turning her face away from him, Donna rubbed his back soothingly as he
retched into the toilet. When she felt and heard him take a few
shuddering breaths, she turned back to him. Wiping his mouth with a
bit of toilet paper, she said, "Okay, Leo. You don't need to tell me
anything, okay?"
He nodded mutely and looked up at her. Moisture was forming in the
corners of her eyes, but her face was still and calm. Wearily, he
leaned into her arms and buried his face in her neck.
Donna wrapped her arms around him, ignoring the tears that he was
crying onto her shirt, and ignoring the tears that were coming down
her face.
{Part 8}
"BONNIE!"
Toby waited a few seconds before hauling himself out of his chair.
His assistant was still MIA. With a groan, he grabbed the print-out
and headed to Leo's office himself. Nobody got in his way as the
irate communications director barreled down the hallway, mouth set in
a thin line, paper flapping angrily in his hand.
Margaret was not in. He went straight into Leo's office. Josh was
behind the desk, two interns busily sorting files and making notes.
Toby surveyed the scene before him, wondering where Leo was.
So, he asked, "Where's Leo?"
Josh looked up from the report he had been annotating. "Sudden leave
of absence," he answered harriedly. "You got something for him?"
"Yeah." He looked at Josh awkwardly before handing him the print-out.
"This."
"Okay." Josh looked down at it, all business. Within a second, he
forgot Toby was in the room altogether.
Toby walked out of the office, wondering if he should talk to the
President. With a shake of his head, he left the confrontation for
later. There was one question that was worming its way from the back
of his mind all the way to the forefront. He strided to Josh's
office, intent on getting that question answered.
Donna was filing papers when he got there. "Donna," he said. "You're
the first secretary I've seen all day."
"Assistant, Toby," she corrected, never looking up from her filing
job. "And that's because it's 'Appreciate Your Assistant' day. They
all took off to see what would happen to the country without them."
Glancing up briefly, she asked, "What can I do for ya?"
"You seen Leo?"
She stopped suddenly, glad she was not facing Toby. "Uhh. . . yeah,"
she answered, managing to keep the quaver out of her voice. "He came.
. . came to see Josh earlier."
"Why?" Ziegler asked quietly, an undercurrent of rage in his voice.
"Leave of absence," Donna answered, her voice cracking a little at the
last word. Sure that Toby had heard it, she turned to face him, lips
trembling and eyes wide. "Toby, what's going on? I've never seen Leo
like that. It's. . . scary."
Closing the door, he took a step closer to her. "What did he do?" he
asked, his voice gentle but fervent. When she just looked away, he
grabbed her shoulders lightly. "What did he do?"
"He cried, Toby. Have you ever seen Leo cry? I don't want to know
what made him cry. What could make *Leo* cry? What happened, Toby?
Why's he taking time off?" Donna looked up at him, tears going
unnoticed as they streaked rivulets down her alabaster skin.
Toby leaned forward to place a comforting kiss on her forehead. "I'll
talk to him," he muttered, his chin resting on the bridge of her nose.
"I'm gonna go see him later today. See what happened." He pulled
away slightly and looked her in the eyes. "It's okay. Hear me? I
think I know what's going on, but I can't tell you. But it's going to
be okay." Pulling her close for a quick embrace, he added, "I'll go
see him today, to see what happened. But right now, I've got a
meeting with the President."
The way Toby's voice became a little harder on the last two words was
not lost on Donna as he pulled away completely and quietly walked out
of the office.
{Part 9}
President Bartlet looked down at his notes as his senior staff started
to file out. The meeting had been unproductive, but he knew he just
had to give it a little time. Josh had to get on his feet, fast; once
he did, it would be smooth again. Bartlet firmly believed that.
He looked up as he sensed a continuing presence in his office. Toby
was lingering by the door. Looking back down, the President said,
"Need something, Toby?"
"Need to talk, sir," Ziegler stated in his quiet manner.
"Nothing to talk about," Jed countered.
Taking a hesitant step towards the desk, Toby stated, "I didn't know,
sir."
"Toby, we are not having this conversation," Bartlet stated, his voice
just a little harder. "Is there anything else you need?"
Toby stared at him with mutedly incredulous. "No, sir," he answered,
his own voice gaining a slight edge. He turned towards the door.
"Forty years I've known him, Toby. Thirty-eight years I've loved him.
I don't blame you, you know."
"What, exactly, do you think happened, sir?" Ziegler snapped, whirling
to face his president. "Donna said he cried. Leo. He cried. She
doesn't know why. All she knows is something happened that hurt him."
He turned back to the door and left, closing the door behind him.
It was almost half a minute before Jed looked up and stared, unseeing,
at the blank wall before him. After a moment, he opened the
upper-most left-hand drawer and withdrew a small picture frame.
Dusting off the glass, he stared intently at the photo of two young
men smiling in the New Hampshire snow.
"What happened, Leo," he whispered into the air. "When the hell did
we become wrong."
Outside, Toby did not hear his president's questions. All he heard
was Josh ordering his assistants around, old and new. "Josh," he said
quietly.
Josh looked up to see Toby standing by the door. It took him a few
moments to answer. "Yeah?"
"We need to talk."
Pretending to busy himself, Josh rifled through some papers on Leo's
desk. "Look, Toby, Sam told me you two were through. I believe him."
"Not about that."
"What then?"
"The Committee to Re-elect the President. I. . . uh, I thought you
should know, now that. . ." He gestured at the desk Josh was standing
behind. "Leo and I, we. . ."
Josh looked at Toby, realization dawning upon him. "You did the drop
in because you wanted to get the President. . . it's that time
already?"
"Ever since Ann Stark started being Shallick's chief of staff." He
scratched his neck distractedly. "Listen, I-" He dropped his hand
and shook his head. "Never mind." He walked to the door.
"Sam said he can't trust you," Josh stated evenly.
Toby paused with his hand hovering just above the doorknob. "Okay."
He left without turning back.
His office was dark. Flipping on the light switch, he sat down and
began to work on the revisions for the state of the union speech. It
wasn't long before his mind started to wander. He got up and headed
for the office kitchenette, intent on getting a cup of coffee.
When he got there, he paused at the door. Sam was inside, filling up
his own mug. When Sam looked up and saw him, it was like a
still-life. Nothing moved, not even the air.
"Hey," Sam said awkwardly, breaking the silence.
"Hey," Toby returned, fidgeting slightly. "I'm sorry."
"That doesn't change the fact that I can't trust you," Sam stated,
putting just a little too much creamer in his coffee.
"I know. I'm sorry."
"I'm not coming back." Taking a deep breath, he turned to face Toby
and sipped his coffee. "How's the speech coming?"
"Fine," Toby answered hollowly. "How can I make it up to you?"
"You can't, Toby. Every speech is like this. Every policy debate.
You always act as if I'm a child who can't make decisions for
himself." Taking a sip, he added, "I'm not going back to that. I've
had enough. This is the straw that broke the camel's back. Now, if
you'll excuse me, I have a speech to work on." He brushed past Toby,
leaving the older man to stand there with the empty mug in his hand.
Toby went back to his office without the coffee. He could not
concentrate at all. He looked at his watch; it was barely lunchtime.
Resting his head in his hands, he tried and tried and tried to get
through this long day. The time to leave finally came around, and he
quickly packed up his things and headed for the door. He sped down
Massachusetts Avenue at eight o'clock at night, intent on making his
way to Leo's place as quickly as humanly possible.
He took double-steps up the stairs to Leo's apartment. Knocking on
the door, he waited for some sort of response. Nobody answered.
Banging loudly, he shouted, "Leo, open up. It's me, Toby."
When he received no answer again, he tried the doorknob. It was
unlocked. Slowly, he opened the door, and peered inside. "Leo?" he
queried quietly. "You in here?"
His eyes drifted to the couch, where Leo sat, elbows on his knees,
fingers steepled, chin resting on the crook where his thumbs were
attached to the rest of his hand. He seemed to be staring at a blank
television screen, still wearing the suit he'd been wearing earlier
that day.
"Leo?" Toby took a step towards the unresponsive man. "You there?"
He followed Leo's line of sight with his eyes. The older man was not
staring at the television, but, rather, a photograph on top of the
set. The photo was years old, of Leo and the President as young men
standing in the New Hampshire snow. The smiles on their faces were
wide and innocent.
Taking a chance, Toby sat down next to the older man. "Leo. Talk to
me."
"It hurts," Leo whispered at length.
"What does?" Toby asked, the volume of his voice matching Leo's.
"Everything."
Toby peered closer at Leo in the dark. He could barely discern the
streaks that the tears had left behind on his face. There was nothing
he could say to Leo's reply. So instead of talking, he acted.
Leo felt himself being pulled into an encompassing embrace. Closing
his eyes, he shifted closer. The dull pain in his heart ebbed away
slightly as he listened to the heartbeat of another. There was a need
building inside of him, and he pulled away just enough so that he was
face to face with Toby. Without preamble, he placed his lips over
Toby's, tasting the other man for the first time.
Toby pulled away, startled. "This isn't what you want, is it?"
Leo stared at him for a moment before getting up. Toby had a
concerned look on his face, almost pitying the older man. "I'm going
to bed," he stated, getting up and heading to the bedroom.
"Wait-" Toby stood up and watched Leo's retreating back. "Leo, wait
a minute. You should talk about this."
McGarry stormed out of his room and stared at Toby, eyes hard. "I
don't want to talk, Toby. I want to forget about this. I want to
drive it from my brain. I want to drown it out. I *don't* want to
talk."
"Yes you do," Toby retorted softly. "I'm listening."
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, leaning back against the
wall. "I'm an old man, Toby," he began, his voice weary and heavier
than before. "I've lost a lot. I don't have much. Jed gave me hope.
He helped me up when I needed it. He was my crutch. And now I don't
have that anymore." Without another word, Leo turned and went back
into his room.
Toby stood by the couch, concentration turned inward for a moment.
Wordlessly, he sat back down, intent on staying the night, his
thoughts focused on his own crutch.
{Part 10}
The long day was, at last, over. Abbey walked into her bedroom and
dropped her jacket on the nearby chair wearily. All she wanted to do
was take a shower and crawl into bed. Not necessarily in that order.
Much to her surprise, someone was already in bed. Jed lay on his side
under the covers, curled around a pillow, eyes half-open and red. She
sat at the edge of the bed, her bone-weariness gone for the moment.
"Hey," she murmured, stroking his hair affectionately. "Wanna talk?"
"I sent him home," Jed mumbled into the pillow. "Just yesterday I was
telling him how much I miss him, and today I told him never to call me
Jed again and sent him home."
"Oh Jed. . ." Slipping off her shoes, Abbey crawled under the covers
next to him. "Was this because of this morning?" At his nod, she
wrapped her arms around him. "Did he say why he did it?"
"No," he whispered. "I didn't let him answer. I just kicked him out.
He slept with Toby. Why do I feel so bad for being angry at him?"
"Because you love him," Abbey answered sagely. "And he hurt you, but
it hurt you to hurt him back." Stroking his back, she said, "Try to
get some sleep, Jed. I know this hurts, but you need to be ready for
tomorrow." She held him until she heard his breath coming even and
solid before crawling out of bed to change her clothes.
The morning came quickly, and Abbey was roused by the soft rays of
sunlight washing the room. Jed was still asleep, and, according to
the bedside clock, would be allowed to sleep for another half-hour.
She padded quietly out the room and walked to her private office.
Picking up the phone, she dialed the familiar number. An equally
familiar gruff voice answered.
"Hello?"
Abbey blinked once, a little thrown off. "Toby? Is Leo there?"
"He's asleep right now, ma'am. I don't really want to wake him." His
voice was edged with acid, and more subdued than normal.
"I really need to talk to him," she stressed.
"I'm not waking him up, ma'am. Is this about the President forcing
him to take a leave of absence, because I have something to tell him
about that."
"What's that?"
"I'd like to tell him in person. It's rather important that I tell
him in person."
"Let me talk to Leo, Toby," Abbey pleaded quietly.
"I'm sorry, Abbey. I can't do that."
She listened as the line was broken with a click. Sensing someone
behind her, she turned. Jed was standing in the doorway, arms crossed
and leaning against the doorframe. "Morning, Jed," she greeted sadly.
"Who was just on the phone?" he asked softly.
"I called Leo. He wasn't up yet."
"Was Toby there?" Her silence was her answer to him, and he looked
downward and nodded. "Okay. I'm going to get ready for work." He
turned and left the room, eyes burning.
A half an hour later, he was in the office, making notations and
corrections on the speech. There was a knock on the door; he looked
up and saw Mrs. Landingham.
"Toby's here to see you," she stated simply before retreating to her
office.
Ziegler stepped inside, his face a mask. "Mr. President," he greeted
almost inaudibly.
"Toby," Bartlet said coldly, not even looking up. "What do you need?"
"I went to Leo's last night," Toby began. Before the president could
interrupt him, he went on. "Nothing ever happened between us, Mr.
President. You jumped to the wrong conclusion. Would you like to
know what happened the other night?" When he got no answer, he
continued. "I got drunk. I called Leo, and he picked me up. We went
to sleep. That's it. You want to know about this morning? I went to
see how he was doing last night. He wasn't doing too well. Last
night, he called you his crutch. You know how much you mean to him?
He told me you were just about all he had. I didn't want him to be
alone. I wanted him to know he has friends. So, I stayed there all
night. That's *it*." On that note, he turned and started to walk
out. At the door, he turned back. "Sir," he began, his tone softer
than it had been. "If you need to tell him anything, I'll be more
than happy to be the messenger." With that said, he left.
Jed continued to stare down at the papers before him. His eyes were
unfocused, not noticing the gray wet spots continually appearing on
the already-smeared pages.
{Part 11}
The buzzing alarm was slapped with a drowsy, annoyed, heavy hand. It
promptly stopped, and the hand slid off slowly.
"Nuuuurrgghhh," Sam said into his pillow.
"Morning to you to, Sam." Josh yawned widely and rolled over onto his
back, eyes still shut
"Morning, Toby," Sam replied sleepily. His eyes shot open. "Josh,"
he corrected himself quickly. Turning in the bed, he watched Josh's
face for reaction, his own face slightly fearful. But Josh was asleep
again, and snoring lightly. With a relieved sigh, Sam rolled out of
bed and headed for the shower.
As soon as the bathroom door clicked shut, Josh opened his eyes and
stared at the ceiling. Confusion, hurt, and anger mixed with each
other on his face. "Toby," he murmured sadly.
{Part 12}
Sam poised his fingers on the keyboard, his eyes focused on the blank
screen before him. The cursor blinked torturously, and he snorted on
it before getting up and walking around his desk. One arm lay across
his stomach, and his other hand was stroking his chin contemplatively.
He was in a slump, and he could not seem to get out.
He looked at his watch idly. Lunchtime. Maybe if he ate something,
it would help. Grabbing his coat, he walked out to
Josh's--Leo's--office. "Josh," he said, opening the door. "You
here?"
"Yeah," came the answer from behind a mountain of paperwork. "How in
the hell does Leo do this?"
"Do what?"
"Not drown in paperwork. And not kill Margaret."
"I heard that!" came a distant voice in the outer office.
"I know," Josh mumbled.
Sam stared at the veritable pile of papers that was hiding Josh. "Why
did Leo leave, anyway?" He could almost see Josh shrugging from
behind the white wall.
"Dunno. Donna wouldn't tell me," he answered glumly. He stood up and
walked around the desk, and leaned back on the front. "What's up?"
"Lunch. Wanna come?"
Josh glanced forlornly at the stacks behind him. "Can't," he sighed.
"Listen, Sam. . . there something on your mind?"
"No," Sam answered, a bit quickly. Blinking a bit to calm himself
down, he asked, "Why?"
"Dunno," Josh answered with a shrug. "Lunch sounds good."
"You sure?"
"Yeah. Let's go." He grabbed his coat and left the room, Sam
following closely. Lunch at the California Pizza Oven was monotonous,
punctuated only by the occasional comments about work. Sam noticed
Josh's discomfort, kept meaning to bring it up, but never did. They
drove back to work in silence.
Six hours passed, and they did not see each other until the end. They
drove back to Josh's apartment, again in silence. Finally, as they
entered, Josh broke the silence.
"You called me Toby this morning," he said.
Sam was already in the door, and had been heading for the closet. He
stopped abruptly. "What?"
"You said, 'Morning, Toby' this morning. It was just a slip of the
tongue, right? Didn't mean anything, right?"
Sam looked at him, that panicking-but-hiding-it look on his face.
"Yeah," he replied, only half-convincing.
"Okay," Josh said, walking to the kitchenette for something to drink.
"You want anything?"
"Um, no. Yes," Sam corrected quickly. "Josh?"
Josh poked his head into the living room. "Yeah?"
"It didn't mean anything. Toby and I are through."
"Yeah." He went back into the kitchen and opened the fridge door,
staring at its contents as he thought about how sadly unconvinced he
was by Sam's words.
{Part 13}
Toby knocked on the door. "Leo, it's me. I bring Chinese food." He
tried the knob. It was unlocked. "Leo, you really should keep your
door locked, it'll keep weirdoes like me out," he muttered as he
walked into the dark apartment. "And what's with this 'dark' motif?
I thought *I* was supposed to be the morose one."
He looked around a bit. "Leo? We playing hide and go seek here?
Where are you?" Dropping the greasy-bottomed bag on the coffee table,
Toby set about looking for Leo. When he got to the bedroom, he peered
in cautiously. "Leo? You here?"
McGarry was lying on the bed, papers sprawled across his chest,
glasses perched on the end of his nose. The light by his bed was on,
but he was obviously asleep. With a silent chuckle, Toby walked to
the bed. He picked up the papers, took off his glasses, and pulled
the blanket over Leo's still form. "Goodnight, Leo."
Toby pulled the chair up next to the bed quietly, taking up his
regular nightly position. His eyes started to drift shut. Leo
shifted slightly, and Toby's eyes shot open again. As Leo settled
back in, Toby's eyes started to close again. When he heard a mumble,
his eyes opened again. He looked at Leo in the dark. The other man
was calmly breathing on his side, one hand under the pillow with the
other pulled close to his chest.
Toby leaned over to smooth down Leo's hair before getting up and
walking to the window. Glancing over at the alarm clock, he sighed.
It was only nine fourteen. He stared out the window, at the
still-busy streets four stories below. Resting his forehead on the
cold glass, he closed his eyes in thought. "Miss you, Sam," he
whispered under his breath.
The phone rang, breaking him out of his reverie. Immediately, his
head snapped up and he strided to the phone. It did not get a chance
to ring a second time before he picked it up. "Hello?"
"Toby?" asked the voice on the other end.
"Mr. President," he greeted in a hushed voice. "He's asleep, sir."
Jed blinked in surprise. "Asleep? He's never even out of the office
before eleven. . . "
"Yeah. Do you need to talk to him? I can wake him up." He glanced
at the sleeping man, hoping the President said no.
"No, no, let him sleep. . . could you come in, Toby? I need you to
give him something."
"I guess, sir. . ."
"It's important, Toby. I want to fix this."
The corners of Toby's mouth quirked up slightly. "Yes, sir. I'll be
right there."
When he got to the residence, Bartlet was up and pacing, a small
envelope in his hand. "Toby, I need you to leave this for him to
read," he said without preamble. "And. . . please, don't be there
when he reads it. I know that's an odd request, but. . ." He handed
the envelope to his communications director.
Ziegler took the envelope unhesitatingly and looked down at it for a
moment before sliding it into his pocket. "Yes sir," he replied. "Is
that all?"
"Yeah." Bartlet watched as Toby started to leave. "Toby, wait a
minute."
Turning to face the president, Ziegler asked, "Sir?"
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have just assumed things like I did. I hurt
you and I hurt Leo. I was wrong." He stuffed his hands in his
pockets. "That's all. Good night, Toby."
"Good night, sir." As Toby walked to his car, he tried to fight the
grin that was threatening to spread across his face. The streets were
almost empty as he made his way back to Leo's apartment. When he got
there, he made his way quietly to the bedroom and placed the envelope
on the nightstand, propped up on the squarish alarm clock. Giving Leo
one more warm glance, he left the apartment, picking up the bag of
Chinese food on the way out.
{Part 14}
Josh curled up slightly to lay a hot kiss on Sam's bare shoulder. He
heard a soft gasp by his ear, and felt Sam's hands upon his shoulder.
The other man's fingers dug into his flesh as he nipped lightly on
Sam's collarbone. Sliding his hands onto slim hips, Josh pulled Sam a
little closer as he moved his mouth up to the corner of Sam's jaw line
that met his ear. Softly, he suckled the younger man's earlobe,
feeling a growing heat every time Sam gasped. He gently pushed his
young lover down on the bed so that their positions were switched.
Nudging Sam's legs apart with his knee, Josh placed one more kiss on
his mouth before sliding the rest of the already unbuttoned shirt off
his own body. Shirt soon forgotten on the floor, his hands traveled
back up to Sam's chest, and he felt Sam's hands slide down to the
small of his back.
"Oh, god, Toby. . ."
Josh sat upright so fast he almost fell off the bed. "What the
hell?!"
Sam eyes shot open and he sat up quickly, pushing himself back until
his back was to the wall. "Ohmygod, Josh, I'm so sorry," he
apologized, the words spilling out in a flurry. "It didn't mean-"
"Yeah, yeah it did," Josh interrupted, standing up and pacing to the
other end of the room. "Yeah, it did."
Sam sat on the bed, guilt and embarrassment washing over his features.
"It didn't," he countered weakly.
"Sam, trust me," Josh stated quietly, turning to face the window while
running his hands through his hair. "It meant something. It's okay.
Admit it."
Staring at Josh with puppy dog-big eyes, Sam said in a voice that was
a near whisper, "It meant something."
Josh gave him a sad smile. "I know."
"I'm so sorry," he apologized, his voice convoluted with emotion and
near cracking. "I didn't mean to hurt you, Josh."
"I've been hurt before," he said with half a smile. "I'm a big boy,
I'll be okay." He picked up Sam's sweater and walked back to the bed.
"Here, put this on." Glancing at his watch, he added, "It's near
midnight, but Toby's probably still up. Why don't you go see him?"
After a stunned moment, Sam took the sweater and shrugged it on. When
he stood up, he gave Josh an impulsive and tight hug. "Thank you," he
whispered into Josh's ear before letting go and striding out of the
room.
The tiny, friendly smile was plastered on Josh's face until he heard
his apartment door shut. Sam's car started outside, and Josh sat
heavily on his bed, his face suddenly haggard and eyes stinging.
{Part 15}
Toby hung his coat up and shuffled to the kitchen, hunting for a fork
to eat the take-out with. He heard the doorbell ring and set the
soggy brown bag down on the counter with an annoyed groan. Marching
back to the door, he stated, "If this isn't important, I'm bludgeoning
you with a piece of orange chicken." He swung the door open with a
cross look on his face.
"Hi."
That cross look was quickly replaced by one of astonishment. "Sam?
What on earth-"
"It's not over between us, is it?" Seaborn interrupted earnestly.
Toby stared at him, stunned speechless for a moment. "No," he finally
answered, his voice barely above a whisper. "Is it?"
"No," Sam replied, equally quiet. "Can I come in?"
"Yeah, of course." It took Toby a moment to realize he had to move
out of the way. "I, uh. . . I was gonna eat some dinner. . ."
"Explains the death by orange chicken statement," Sam quipped with a
grin. The grin widened as Toby ducked his head slightly. "Aww,
you're blushing."
"Quiet, you," Toby said gruffly as he closed the door. He regarded
Sam silently from the entrance. "I missed you."
"I missed you too," Sam said with conviction. He took a few hesitant
steps towards Toby. "Hug?"
Toby reached out to him, pulling him by the shoulders. Wrapping his
arms around Sam's shoulders, he mumbled, "Okay." Pulling away just
slightly, he placed a small kiss on Sam's forehead. "Want some
chicken? It's kinda cold, but. . ."
"I'll eat your cold chicken any day," Sam replied roguishly.
"Why does that sound like some sort of sexual suggestion?" Toby asked
as they walked hand in hand to the kitchen.
"Nice alliteration," Sam quipped. "Now feed me. I'm a hungry boy."
{Part 16}
Leo's hand shot out from under the covers to smack his alarm. It
turned off under his assault, but it was not what woke him. Instead,
the sharp corner of the waiting envelope was what roused him.
He sat up in bed, squinty-eyed and half asleep. With a yawn, he
grabbed the envelope and looked at it in confusion. His name was
written in familiar, tight, lilting cursive on the front. Wide awake,
he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and gaped at the envelope
wide-eyed. It was a stunned moment before he realized he should open
it. And open it he did, with stumbling nervous fingers.
As he read the short missive, tears welled up in his eyes. The words
melted together, but he only stopped reading when he got to the bold,
tilted signature at the bottom. Even after he was done, he kept
staring at the letter, tears spilling onto the paper and making
translucent splotches spider out on the fiber. A smile accompanied
his silent tears, and he gently lay the page on his nightstand before
getting up to get ready for the day ahead. Fifteen minutes later, he
walked out his apartment door, briefcase firmly in hand, corners of
his mouth quirked upwards slightly.
Leo's appearance in his office at six a.m. was enough to make Josh do
a double take. Putting the file he'd been reading down on the desk,
Lyman stood up and watched Leo take his coat off and place it in the
closet.
"Leo," he greeted with a smile. "Where've you been?"
"Home," Leo answered, getting himself situated. He approached the
desk and took one long, irritated look at the papers that were spread
in disarray. "Two days, and you all screw up the country already," he
quipped, setting his briefcase down beside his desk. "I can barely
believe it."
"Uhh. . . " Josh moved to the front of the desk and stared at the
files, folders, and memos that littered it. "Sorry," he apologized
sheepishly. "You're back."
"Yeah. You need some work?"
"No," Josh answered too quickly, straightening slightly. "I'm good."
"Whatever. Listen, how's Senator Jackson on the gun bill?"
"He's iffy, but-"
"Meet with him today."
"Today? It's pretty short notice."
"State of the Union's in a week and a half. Meet with him today." He
sat down and stared at the mess on his desk. "Margaret!"
Josh looked at Leo silently, trying to keep the smile from spreading
on his face. He did not know why Leo had left. But he was back, so
things would soon return to normal. "Good to have you back, Leo," he
said warmly.
"You have work, don't you Josh?" Leo asked, not even looking up from
the memo he was making notes on.
"Yeah." He turned and walked to the door.
"Josh."
The deputy chief of staff paused and looked at his boss. "Yeah?"
"You okay?"
Slightly thrown by the question, he looked at Leo with uncertainty in
his eyes. "I'm. . . not quite sure what you mean."
"I mean are you all right?" Leo glanced up from his work. "I'm just
asking, no real reason. I haven't seen you in a few days and I want
to know how you're-"
"Sam left." He paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts. "Last
night. I'm fine, though."
"You sure?" McGarry looked at him, sincerely concerned.
"Yeah."
"Okay." He turned his attention back to the paperwork in front of
him.
Josh took one last glance at the office he'd been using for the past
two days before leaving. His own office was still, clean, and waiting
for him. Donna was still bustling about, filing and occasionally
pausing by her computer to type things in. She did not notice his
entrance.
"Can I get a cup of coffee?" he asked with a tiny, hopeful smile.
"Joshua, you should know the answer to that question," Donna answered
flippantly, still bustling around. Suddenly, she stopped, the folder
she'd been about to file falling out of her hand by the filing
cabinet. She turned slowly, eyes wide and jaw slacked. "You're
back," she breathed. "Joshy!"
Josh stumbled back slightly as she ran into him and threw her arms
around him. "Nice to see you, too," he quipped with a smirk.
"I'm never gonna bring you coffee."
"I know. What's gotten into you?"
"I hate your replacement," she whispered. "He doesn't ask me about
the guys I date. And he never asks for coffee." Donna pulled back
suddenly and gasped. "You're back. Which means Leo's back." She let
go and strided out the door.
"Oh. . .kay," he stuttered, watching her leave. Josh went in his
office and looked at his desk. Neat, welcoming. He sat down in his
chair, shifting slightly until he was perfectly comfortable. With a
smile, he started his work.
"Josh."
He looked up suddenly at the quiet, gruff voice that he heard.
"Toby," he greeted, somewhat awkwardly.
"I, uh. . . I'm not quite sure what to say," Toby stated, rubbing the
back of his head absently.
"Don't say anything," Josh replied with a sad smile.
"I'm sorry."
"Definitely don't say that." Flipping idly through a folder he'd
picked up, Josh added, "Sam's got it bad for you. I'm just. . . his
fall-back guy. A friend with benefits, and all that."
Toby stared at him with sincere warmth in his eyes. "Thank you, Josh.
If there's anything you need from me. . ."
Josh stopped flipping through the folder for a moment, brows slightly
furrowed in thought. "Well, there is this one thing. . . What was
wrong with Leo?"
Hesitating, Toby looked away. "I. . . can't really tell you. It's
personal, and I don't know if he. . . I mean, I was going out on a
limb by telling you about the committee to re-elect."
"Oh," was all Josh could say. "But. . . he's okay now, right?"
Toby allowed himself a little smile. "Yeah, I think so." He left
silently.
{Part 17}
Jed looked at his watch for the third time in the past three minutes.
It was a minute past seven p.m. He looked at the door anxiously.
Once more, he looked at his watch. Still a minute past.
Unconsciously, he straightened his jacket and smoothed the front of
his trousers. Again, he looked at his watch. Two minutes past seven.
He sat down, tapping his foot impatiently. Checked his watch. Stood
up. Paced around the den. Sat back down. Checked his watch. Three
minutes past.
There was a knock on the door. He stood up abruptly and said, "Come
on in."
Leo opened the door hesitantly. "You wanted to see me, Mr.
President?"
"Yeah, Leo, come in." He waved the chief of staff into the room.
"I'm sorry I'm late, I had some things to finish up-"
"Don't worry about it. Leo, I need to tell you something. Sit down,
please," he said, motioning to the sofa.
Leo sat down, a little apprehensive. "What is it, sir?"
"I just. . . " He scratched the back of his head and looked down.
"I'm so, so, sorry Leo," he murmured sadly. Letting his hand drop to
his side, he added, "I should've trusted you. You've never given me
reason to believe you ever. . . and I just jumped to the wrong
conclusion." Jed sat down on the sofa beside him. "I was wrong. I'm
sorry."
"Mr. President. . ."
"Call me Jed, Leo." He touched Leo's cheek lightly, turning the other
man's face towards him. "I'm sorry."
Tentatively, Leo leaned forward, mouth slightly open, eyes half shut.
He placed a trembling hand on Jed's thigh and kissed him lightly.
The slight touch was enough to open the gates to the unrelenting,
overpowering emotions that he'd buried deep within his soul. A single
tear escaped one eye, then another tear slid from the other. A quiet
sob hitched in his throat, and he broke the kiss and leaned fully into
Jed's inviting, warm embrace.
"Hey," Jed murmured into Leo's ear, holding him tightly. "I'll never
do it again, I promise." He got up and pulled Leo up with him. "Come
on," he said softly, pulling him back into the adjoining bedroom.
The room was barely lit by some unseen lamp. The soft glow
illuminated part of the bed, but left the majority of it in mysterious
darkness. Jed guided Leo to the part that was lit and took off the
other man's jacket and tie wordlessly, his eyes never leaving Leo's.
He leaned in and captured Leo's mouth with his own, pushing him down
onto the bed gently at the same time. Bent over slightly and
straddling the seated man, he parted Leo's lips with his tongue,
tasting the tiniest hint of coffee in the man's mouth.
Leo returned the kiss fully, and slipped his hands under Jed's jacket,
fingers digging into the other man's shoulders. The jacket was soon
shrugged off, and Leo kicked off his shoes and grabbed Jed by the tie.
Breaking the kiss reluctantly, he slid backwards onto the bed,
pulling on Jed's tie, making him follow. Jed crawled onto the bed on
his hands and knees and slowly pushed Leo down by the shoulders.
Propping himself up on his forearms, he placed a sweet, small kiss on
Leo's cheek before trailing equally sweet, small kisses all the way
down his jawline and neck.
Biting his lip, Leo fumbled with Jed's tie, finally undoing it and
whipping it off without a flourish. He felt Jed's fingers unbuttoning
his shirt; his breath caught in his throat and he leaned his head
back, arching his chest up for more of his love's touch. His silent
plea was answered when he felt a hand slip under the half buttoned
shirt and rest hot just below his chest.
Jed's other hand cupped the back of Leo's head gently and pulled him
up slightly for a kiss. "Love you," he groaned into his lover's open
mouth. Straddling him and sitting up, he continued unbuttoning Leo's
shirt, keeping his eyes on the other man's face the entire time.
Eyes fluttering closed and biting his lower lip, Leo gasped a little
as Jed's fingers traced around his waistband. He raised his hands and
wrung Jed's thick hair with his fingers. Words whispered to heaven
sprung from his mouth as he felt Jed's warm breath on his stomach and
his strong hands undoing his belt and pants. His own hands gripped
Jed's hair harder as his lover's hot, moist mouth covered the tip of
his painfully hard cock. He arched into Bartlet's mouth, his
breathing becoming ever shallower by the minute.
Jed pulled his mouth off Leo slowly, and looked on as Leo whimpered at
the loss of his heat. Crawling up on top of him, Jed whispered, "I
want you in me. Nothing else but you."
Swallowing hard, Leo reached up and stroked Jed's cheek for a moment
before kissing him gently on the lips. He rolled the darker-haired
man onto his back and unbuttoned his shirt slowly, but with a need
growing in the depths of his heart. Kissing the smooth, bare skin of
Jed's chest, he lay down beside him and slid his hands down to his
waistband.
Jed arched his waist up slightly, part to allow Leo to slide his pants
off, part to feel Leo's hands on his sensitive skin. His shirt soon
followed his slacks to the ground, and he lay there, perfectly naked
and open for his love to take in. He reached up and slipped Leo's
shirt from his shoulders, and watched with aching, hungry eyes as Leo
took off his undershirt, and then his trousers and boxers. Laying his
hand gently on Leo's shoulder, he leaned over and kissed his forehead
before turning to lie on his stomach.
"Jed," Leo whispered. "I don't wanna hurt you. . ."
"Top drawer of the nightstand, babe," he murmured, grabbing a pillow
to put under him. He felt the bed shift as Leo settled in, and he
jerked a little at the sudden feeling of fingers caressing his hole.
The touch warmed him, and he spread his legs a little wider, inviting
Leo in.
Leo stopped and stared at Jed's smooth back for a moment, taking a
deep breath. It had been years. . . nearly four, long and painful
years since he'd been with his love. Putting one trembling hand on
Jed's waist and the other under his chest, he pushed himself into the
tight, warm, wet hole. He stayed there a moment, still, taking in the
overwhelming heat and gasping as the memories of easier times washed
over him. The first few thrusts were slow, almost hesitant, and he
tried to concentrate by whispering in Jed's ear about their first
times. His breath caught in his throat, and he was soon unable to
think, much less talk, as his hips bucked forward faster and harder.
Jed came quickly, tightening around Leo, and suddenly he came too,
exploding into Jed with a strangled scream.
Leo collapsed on top of his long-time lover, breathing hard and spent.
"Love. . . you," he managed to gasp out between ragged breaths.
Jed released his vice-grip on the pillow and tenderly pushed Leo from
on top of him. His own breaths coming hard, he wrapped his arms
around McGarry and pulled him close, tight. "I'll never doubt that
for a minute again," he whispered, burying his face in Leo's shoulder.
He stroked Leo's back affectionately, watching the other man fall
asleep. It was only when he heard Leo's breath coming steady and deep
that Jed closed his eyes.
The last words on his lips before he lost himself in dreams were, "I
promise."
{Part 18}
"Josh, you're crazy."
Josh peered at Donna Moss skeptically. "Why am I crazy?"
"I thought you talked to my roommate's cat because you were drunk.
But you're not drunk, and you're talking to her."
Josh settled in a little more on the sofa, happily nursing a bottle of
soda. "That does not mean I'm crazy." He pretended to be interested
in the cheesy Lifetime movie they were watching.
"True. But you're still crazy." Donna glanced at him with a tiny
smirk on her lips. "Crazy Josh. That's what I'm calling you from now
on."
"Ri-hite. Watch the movie, Donna."
They sat in comfortable silence, paying attention to the sad story on
the television. As the television wife caught the television husband
cheating on her, Donna stated, "Love sucks."
"Yeah."
Donna gave him a slightly concerned look. His voice was dark,
subdued, and his focus was obviously on his own thoughts and not the
movie. "Josh?"
"Yeah?"
"You okay?"
Josh looked at her and gave her a weak smile. "Yeah."
Biting her lip, Donna returned her attention to the movie. There was
still a question in the back of her mind. "Josh?"
"Yes, Donna?"
"What was wrong with Leo?"
Josh regarded her thoughtfully. "I don't know. He wouldn't tell me."
Donna furrowed her brows in thought. "Margaret wouldn't tell me,
either. She knew, though. And you know how she is with gossip." She
looked back up at him. He was sad again. "Josh, are you sure you're
okay?"
It took him a moment before he nodded his head. "Yeah," he answered
somewhat unconvincingly.
Regarding him sadly, Donna realized that someone had broken his heart.
Not wanting to pry, she simply looked back at the television in
silence.
Josh soon became conscious of the fact that a certain heaviness had
settled on the room. Not wanting to depress his friend, he turned to
her and asked, "Date any losers lately?"
A smile lit up her face and she slapped him playfully on the arm.
"You're crazy."
"You work for me, who's crazier?"
And the two of them laughed with each other as the Lifetime Couple Of
The Week broke up on television.

-The End-

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