FF: Thanksgiving
Author: Mela
Archive: This list and my web site (all together now - "whenever she gets one!"). Also, you can find this at leomcgarry.net ("all leo, all the time!")
Pairing: John Hoynes/Leo McGarry
Rating: A for angst; otherwise, G for General.
Disclaimer: I don’t own them; Aaron Sorkin does. I just like putting them in angst-ridden stories..
Author’s Note: This is AU (alternate universe) even in my universe. An evil plot bunny came to play, and just wouldn’t, wouldn’t go away...
Thanks to Tana for letting me use some details from her John/Leo universe. Summary: John Hoynes has a case of the holiday blahs...

********

Thanksgiving by Mela

I was having a hard time keeping my mind on what my secretary was saying. All I kept thinking about was how I didn’t not want to go home for Thanksgiving.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my family. My mother, the Admiral (why is it that I can never think of my father as anything but "The Admiral"?), my sister Lally Sue.... I love them all.

It’s just... I just don’t want to be away from Leo.

Look at me... I’m Vice President of the United States, and I’m acting like a lovesick teenager...

"Sir?"

If this was high school, I’d make fun of myself.

"Sir?"

"Yes?"

I look over at where Jim Fleming, my protocol secretary, is looking at me as we ride up Massachusetts Avenue towards the residence.

"Sorry," I say. "I got distracted... What were you saying?"

He never got a chance to answer me, because there was something like a loud "Crack!", and I heard the driver yell, "Holy shit!" and I felt the car swerve, and I was thrown against the door...

I’m not sure what happened next.

Things got dark after I slammed into the door.

*********

Damn.

I had been thinking earlier about how I did not want to go home for the holidays. As I slipped

into the darkness, I could hear the Admiral’s voice telling me about the time his ship was torpedoed during the Korean War.

"We’d just been grousing about having meatloaf for dinner...Cookie had to be the worst cook in the entire fleet," he had said. "Anyway, we were grousing about it, and someone said, "Wouldn’t be great if a limpet mine took out the galley about now...?"

"...Can you believe we actually laughed about it? And that’s when we got hit," he said. "So watch the way you phrase things to the universe; somebody might just be listening..."

And I had just been thinking, wouldn’t be great if something came up and I couldn’t go home for the holiday?

Talk about somebody listening.

********

"John?"

I knew that voice.

"John?"

It was Leo’s voice. God, my mind feels fuzzy. Why can’t I open my eyes?

"John, can you hear me?"

I hear you.

"John, can you open your eyes for us?"

I’m trying. Sweet God, I’m trying, Leo...

I can feel his hand squeezing mine. I try to squeeze back.

"I’m here, John," Leo is saying.

His voice sounds so far away. I can feel myself slipping into unconsciousness again...

This is not what I had in mind...

******

I don’t know how much time has passed when I finally wake up.

I open my eyes. Slowly. They’re so heavy as if they weigh a thousand pounds each.

"John?"

I focus on that voice.

I try to speak. Sounds come out, not words.

His hand squeezes mine.

"Leo," I finally manage to say.

"Shh, don’t try to speak..."

I smile.

I squeeze his hand.

********

I sleep for a long time...

I’m vaguely aware of the comings and goings of doctors and nurses...

I wake up when I’m poked and prodded and then go back to sleep...

I have lost all track of time...

*******

I open my eyes.

It’s morning. Well, dawn. I can see the dark purple sky slowly changing to blue, and the orange dot of the sun slowly rising over the horizon through the parted curtains.

I look over and Leo is sleeping in a chair, his head back against the leather cushion.

I try to turn towards him, and he wakes up and looks at me.

He’s at my side at once.

"Hey," he whispers.

"Horses eat hay," I reply, trying for a little humor.

A smile crosses his lips. Mostly what I notice is the relief in his eyes.

"Was I out long?" I ask.

"You gave me a moment there," he replies.

"Sorry..."

"I’m glad you’re okay..."

"My head hurts..."

"You’ve got a concussion; the doctor doesn’t think it’s serious..."

"Thanks to my thick skull, no doubt," I chuckle.

"Something like that."

"I know this’ll sound ungrateful, but you shouldn’t be here..."

"I know."

"Leo..."

"I’ve got a pretty thick skull myself."

"Leo..."

"Don’t argue with me, John..."

"I won’t... Did I tell you my head hurts?"

"Do you want me to...?"

"No... I want to stay awake... Did I miss Thanksgiving?"

"Pretty much..."

"Bummer.... What did you eat?"

"A turkey club sandwich, tomato soup and lime jello... All yours, by the way. The staff was

really nice about letting me eat your dinner since you’re not allowed to have solid foods yet..."

"I think I get lime jello intravenously," I say.

I can feel my eyes closing.

"Leo..."

"Go to sleep, piglet... I’ll be here when you wake up..."

"Go home, Leo... You shouldn’t be here... Promise me..."

He doesn’t say anything. He leans over and lightly kisses my forehead.

He won’t do it. I know he won’t.

********

Selfish bastard...

It’s what I’m thinking when I wake up.

I was so wrapped up in having Leo there that I didn’t even ask whether anyone else was hurt...

My mind was playing the accident over again.

The car swerving... The impact against the glass... Something hitting...

I can feel myself gasping for air. I wake up.

"It’s okay, John..." He’s at my side again, stroking my hand.

"Leo... Was anyone hurt?"

He gets this stoic look on his face. I can feel a cold lump in the pit of my stomach.

"Jim Fleming is dead," he says.

"Oh god," I say. "Oh god... How? What the hell happened? I remember the car swerving, but..."

" A tree fell down across the road. Your driver swerved to avoid it, and he slammed the side Jim

was sitting on into the tree. It was a hundred year old oak tree, and one of the... One of the branches..."

"Oh god," I moan.

I reach for his hand. I entwine my fingers in his.

"I’m a selfish bastard," I whisper. "I didn’t even ask if... I was just so happy to see you, and..."

"It wasn’t your fault, John..."

"I didn’t even ask, Leo."

I can feel tears run down my cheek.

Leo strokes my face.

"I almost lost you," Leo says. His voice is heavy with emotion. "You weren’t... You weren’t conscious when they pulled you out, and you didn’t respond when they were calling you as they were cutting the car open..."

"Leo..."

"I told you that you gave me a moment..."

He tries to smile. I squeeze his hand tighter.

"Patty has gotten a condolence message out to Jim’s wife and family, and she made certain that your parents and your sister have stayed informed about your condition..."

"Oh god... My poor mother..."

"Your poor mother is anything but... She was going to fly up here, but your father forbade it, saying she was in no condition to travel..."

"No condition to...?"

"She has a broken toe. Something about stamping it after some colonel’s wife made some disparaging remarks about PFLAG...I didn’t know you’re mother was a member of..."

"She’s the founding member of her chapter..."

"Oh."

"My parents are well aware of my sexual orientation, Leo. So is my sister."

He smiles. "Lally Sue came by earlier and sat with you while I was at the White House..."

"You really shouldn’t spend so much time here, Leo."

He looks at me.

"You really are an ingrate, John..."

"Leo..."

"You mean more to me than a damned job..."

"You know I’m right, Leo... Even though I want you here, you know I’m right."

I swallowed hard. I didn’t want him to leave, but I could see Jed Bartlet just fuming about "All

the damned time Leo is spending with Hoynes." And I knew that even if Leo explained it away as visiting a sick "poker buddy," there would still be questions... Some inquisitive member of the press would put two and two together... Danny Concannon, for example... The man wasn’t the brightest member of the corps, but he wasn’t stupid either...

"All right," he finally says. He gets his things together.

I know he’s hurt, but dammit, I’m not going to expose our relationship like this. It’ll be hard

enough later, when...

"I’ll call you," Leo says.

He doesn’t even wait for me to answer. He just leaves.

Damn.

*****

I wake up again around noon.

"Hey, baby brother."

I smile.

"No one believes I’m your baby brother, Lally Sue. Especially since I’m a foot taller than you are," I say.

The "baby of the navy" smiles that killer smile that has caused many an admiral to lose their

hearts over her.

"Well, you are my baby brother, by a good thirty minutes, and don’t you forget it... I don’t care how tall you are, I can still lick you, John Matthew."

She leans over and kisses my forehead.

"I know you didn’t want to come home for Thanksgiving, but having a tree fall on you is a little

extreme, don’t you think, John?"

"I like to be dramatic."

"Uh huh..." She tousles my hair.

"So what are you doing here? Run out of admirals du jour?"

"Jealous?"

"Not even," I say, rolling my eyes. "Dating Admiral Chegwidden, I can underst and, but Admiral Calavicci?"

"I refuse to listen to talk about my Al," Lally says, covering her ears.

I laugh.

She takes her hands down.

"If you weren’t in that hospital bed, I’d whap you, John Matthew..."

"You could try, but there are three Secret Service agents outside who’d have something to say

about it..."

"There are four, and as if I’m scared of them?" She smiles at me. "So baby brother, what did you do to piss off that nice looking Leo McGarry?"

I shake my head.

"Damnation, are none of my secrets safe from you?" I sigh.

We say nothing for a few minutes. Then she takes my hand and rubs it.

"He loves you, John..." she says.

"I know."

"You scared us for a while there, John... You probably scared him most of all. I mean, it’s not as though he has anyone he could tell, does he?"

I sigh again.

I hate it when she’s right.

She smiles and kisses my forehead again. "You only sigh like that when you know I’m right. I’ll leave you alone now. Get some sleep."

*****

I am an idiot.

I should have gotten on the phone and called him and said, "Leo, I’m sorry."

But I didn’t.

The next day, the doctors decided that I was well enough to take calls from my office, and it just

snowballed from there.

I sent my condolences to Jim Fleming’s family. I discussed candidates to replace him. I talked

about several bills that were coming up in the Senate...

And I didn’t call Leo.

To be fair, the son of a bitch didn’t call me either. But I knew the ball was in my court and I did

nothing about it.

It would have been so much simpler to call him and say, "I was wrong. I need you here. I want you here. I love you."

You’d think that with everything that has happened in the past year I’d be a little more thankful.

The love of my life is still alive.

We were very lucky. I realize that now.

I shudder to think what would have happened if anything had happened to... If I’d lost Leo...

Sometimes, I have nightmares about that night.

I wish I could say that I wake up shaking, but I don’t. It’s more like a long endless nightmare that

I can’t wake up from, no matter how hard I try. Finally, somewhere around dawn, I force myself

to reach out and touch Leo to see if he’s there, that I haven’t been dreaming that we’ve made love...

That he’s not buried in some cold grave somewhere.

My nightmares are always the same. He’s dead, and I’m at the funeral service. In the back, of

course, because after all, I’m just Vice President Hoynes, President Bartlet’s mortal enemy.

No one knows what Leo means to me...

And I can tell no one. I can only stand there, with tears in my eyes.

The cruel ones whisper, "Oh, there goes Hoynes, with his crocodile tears, trying to get a good sound bite on the evening news."

And I can tell no one what Leo means to me...

You’d think I’d be a little more thankful for this great love of my life...

But I still don’t pick up the phone and call Leo.

*****

After a couple of days, I get released from the hospital.

As I’m packing my bag, my press secretary asks, "How do you feel?"

"I’d feel a lot a better if I didn’t have this big honking bandage on my head," I say.

The press is waiting. I hear the snap and see the flash of cameras.

I get in the car, and let out a sigh of relief.

We drive back to the residence. More photographers. More reporters.

"How do you feel?" one of them yells.

"Feeling fine," I say.

I wave.

I go inside.

And sigh again.

The one person I really want to see, of course, isn’t there. Not that he could be, not right now,

even if he wanted, but still...

I miss Leo.

Tobias Martin, my detail chief, says, "Good to have you back, sir."

"Thanks," I say.

I look around.

My protocol secretary says, "Welcome home, sir."

"Nice to see that the old place is in one piece, even if I’m not."

Laughter.

"I’m going upstairs now," I say, rubbing my temple. "Do you think I could get some real food

around here? I swear, if I see another plate of lime jello..."

More laughter.

"Of course sir," my new protocol secretary says. "Anything special?"

"No, nothing special."

Why should I have anything special? I had something special with Leo and I’ve blown it...

Why should I ever have anything special again?

I start to go upstairs.

"Sir?" Tobias Martin speaks to me.

"Yes?"

"There’s a package from Mr. McGarry."

I hope I’m not gaping. I hope that my mouth hasn’t dropped down to my chin, that I’m not

grinning like an idiot...

Then I stop and think, "You idiot; it’s just something from the White House; some briefing from

the President that Leo needs you to go over..."

I feel sad inside. And so very tired.

"Thank you, Tobias."

As I climb the stairs, I chide myself.

Stupid, stupid, stupid...

You told him to go away. You didn’t call him. Why would it be anything else other than business? Why do you do things like that?

My head hurts.

*******

I dread this moment.

I know in my heart that it’s only going to be some papers from the White House, carried over

impersonally by some courier; that it’s going to be some interminable bill, or some memo from

Bartlet, or some crap that I could care less about right now.

My head is throbbing.

I just want to go to sleep.

I just want to lie down and not think about this crap any more. I don’t want to think about how I want Leo here so much that my whole body trembles. Not just from desire, but just from WANT.

I want to tell him I’ve been a damned fool; that I want him here; that I just want to feel his hand on mine; that I just want to hear his voice; to see the crinkle in his eyes when he smiles; to see him sitting in that very uncomfortable wing chair in my bedroom that he favors, the one that even I won’t sit in...

I want him here, and I know he’s not going to be there when I open the door to my bedroom. A bedroom that feels even bigger and colder and lonelier because I know that Leo will not be sharing it with me tonight.

I feel tears come to my eyes.

Oh god, am I crying?

Lally Sue called me this morning before I left the hospital.

"You little fool," she said. "Why haven’t you called Leo McGarry?"

"I’ll call you later," I said.

"John Matthew, don’t you make me come over there, and you know I will..."

I hung up on her.

I am so going to regret that. I will hear about that for the next fifty years.

Why am I always doing stupid things like that?

Like pushing away the people who love me the most?

I am an ungrateful wretch.

******

I open the door to my bedroom.

I go in and close the door.

I look at my bed. I am so wrapped up in misery, in feeling sorry for myself that I don’t see it at first...

Sitting there, on the pillow, is a stuffed animal.

Oh god...

I pick it up.

I laugh.

It’s a Piglet.

Oh god.

I take it and hug it to my chest. I think I even kiss it.

"Thank you," I say.

And then I burst into tears.

Tears of relief, of loneliness, of happiness...

Tears, because no matter how pigheaded I am, he will not let me push him away.

Tears, because I love him like I have never loved anyone else.

Tears, because he still loves me.

*****

And finally, I call

Hi."

"Hi," he says, softly.

I am suddenly feeling very shy. Tongue tied. There is so much I want to say to him...

"John?"

"I’m an idiot..." I finally manage to say.

"Okay..."

"Would you like to come for dinner? Apparently, I’ve got an entire Thanksgiving meal here for two that needs to be eaten before it goes bad..."

He laughs.

"Dinner sounds great," he finally says.

"Good. I’ll be waiting for you around, oh, eight-thirty?"

"That sounds fine. Oh, and John?"

"Yes?"

"You’re not getting any argument about the idiot remark, you know?"

I laugh. "I deserve that. I’ll see you at eight-thirty."

I hang up.

I look outside the window at the setting sun.

The day may be ending, but it feels like a beginning...

And I am feeling very thankful.

*******

(the end)

Back to the Big Block of Cheese Main Page