Title: The Cost of Doing Business
Author: Maharae
Pairing: I never thought I'd say this, but Leo/Hoynes
Rating: PG-13
Archive: Sure
Spoilers: 20 Hours in L.A
Summery: It starts at the end of the episode when POTUS has a conversation with Hoynes from Air Force 1 in which he apologizes for putting him in a bad position. This is John's reaction to the conversation and then moves from there.
Comments: Bear with me. I've never written Hoynes and barely written Leo, but this came from a nine hour marathon session of TWW and this literally jumped out at me and I had to write it.

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The Cost of Doing Business by Maharae

The receiver clicked as he hung up the phone. The office was silent, the single lamp casting shadows in the room. In the semi-darkness he let himself smile slightly. He hadn't expected it to end this way and he certainly hadn't expected the call, but he'd gotten both.

He stood up, unrolled his sleeves and slipped into his suit jacket. He grabbed several stacks of papers that he needed to work on and put them in his briefcase, turned off the light and then walked out the door.

Lights that had been burning bright all night were snapped off as the sun rose tentatively over the horizon. At five-twenty in the morning he was heading home to grab a few hours of sleep before he had a meeting with eighteen committee members about something that he'd been up all night researching and still knew nothing about.

He walked out of his office and down the hallway, passing several aids that scurried past him, their heads either buried in memos or already on thoughts of the next beak so they could grab something to eat. The White House encouraged neither food nor sleep.

He glanced up through habit as he passed another office that still had lamps lit and stopped abruptly in the middle of the hallway. Indecision grabbed him as he thought about what he should do and what he wanted to do. Sleep right now was both needed and trouble-free. He glanced once at the exit and then turned to walk in the other direction.

The desk outside was unmanned, his assistant not having yet gotten back from her brief period of sleep that her boss had undoubtedly insisted on. The door was half-opened and he knocked as he stepped inside.

Leo was sitting at his desk, his glasses perched on his nose as he read a thick briefing memo. He looked up at the knock and only looked slightly surprised at the person behind it. He set the papers down and took off his glasses. "Mr. Vice President," he said by way of greeting.

"I was getting ready to go home, get some sleep before-"

"That thing in Oregon," Leo finished, standing up and motioning for Hoynes to take a seat. "Can I get you something-"

"I'm fine," John said taking a step forward. "I just saw your light on and I thought" Leo's face was impassive and he sighed slightly. "Thank you, Leo," he finished simply.

Leo shrugged, looking briefly down at his desk. "It was nothing."

John took another step forward. "It wasn't nothing," he said bringing the older man's eyes back to his own. "I just got a call from the President of the United States saying that I was right and he was wrong."

"Yes."

"He apologized, Leo."

"Yes," he said and then smiled lopsidedly. "The President's a lot of things, John, but he's not stupid. He was wrong. It's not the first time, and it won't be the last," he said shrugging. "But he knows when to admit it."

"Yeah," Hoynes said, "okay." He looked down at the floor and the back up. "Goodnight, Leo."

"Goodnight Mr. Vice President," Leo said as he watched Hoynes walk out. Then he slipped on his glasses and took a seat.

***

Two days later

"Janeane," John said as he walked down the hallway followed closely by his assistant as she held her pen ready for notes, "I need you to reschedule my meeting with the Senator Wells and get me a meeting with Congressman Pennybaker at the earliest possible convenience."

She nodded. "And also, Mr. McGarry would like to see you."

John paused in the middle of removing his coat. "Leo wants to see me?"

Janeane nodded.

He hung the coat on the rack and went to his desk. "Did he say why?" He asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

Janeane shook her head. "Just that he wanted to see you when you had a free moment. Anything else?"

John shook his head and she walked out the door. He stood for a moment staring at nothing before he sat down and started the day. Leo McGarry would have to wait, as his free moments were few and far between these days.

***

"Leo?"

"Yes, Margaret?"

"Did you know that" Leo shot her a hooded look and she snapped her mouth shut. "Never mind. The Vice President's ready to see you."

"Now?"

"Now."

Leo stood and slipped into his coat. "You can go home, Margaret."

"But-"

"Leave it for tomorrow," he said as he strode out of the room.

The Vice President's offices weren't a far walk from the main hub of the West Wing, but in many ways it was like crossing the border between Iran and Pakistan. Emotions ran deep and grudges were never forgotten, but so far, through the grace of God, open warfare had been averted or at least postponed and an unsteady peace had been achieved.

And though Leo knew that Hoynes thought he was achieving some level of authority by holding the meeting in his office instead of coming to Leo, he also knew that any notion of authority would evaporate the moment Leo got to his reason for his visit.

"Hello, Janeane," Leo said, nodding at Hoynes' assistant. She stood and led Leo down the hall. John's door was open. "Sir, Mr. McGarry is here to see you."

"Thank you, Janeane," John said standing.

Leo turned to Janeane. "We'd like to have a moment alone, please."

Janeane looked to John and waited for his nod. "I'll see you in the morning."

"Good night Mr. Vice President," she said walking out.

Leo closed the door behind her. John raised his brow. "What can I help you with, Leo?" he asked as he walked out from behind the desk.

Leo didn't miss a beat. "You were drinking again, John."

Hoynes went perfectly still, but Leo could see him mentally retreating a couple of steps.

"How did you find out?" He finally asked.

Satisfied that he at least wasn't going to deny it Leo took a seat. "Why didn't you call me?"

"What would you have done?" He asked seriously, but before Leo could answer he continued. "I was a country away and it was three in the morning. What could you have done?"

"Anything. Everything." He stood. "John, I want to help you."

John looked at him for a long moment and then shook his head slightly. "I don't need your help." He turned and settled himself behind his desk. "You can go now."

His attentions turned to the files on his desk, but he wasn't surprised when Leo's hands slammed into view. "Dammit, John-"

"Did it ever occur to you," John interrupted softly, "that you can't possibly help me?"

"Did it ever occur to you that I might be the only one who can?"

Hoynes leaned back in his chair. "Okay, Leo," he said motioning for him to continue. "Be my guest."

Leo straightened, slightly unsure. "Okay," he said slowly. "Why?"

John's gut tightened. It was the one question he knew Leo was going to ask, and it was the only one he wouldn't answer.

When he stayed silent, Leo took a seat and folded his hands in front of him. "Was it work? Love? Nothing at all?"

John was able to smile slightly. How many times in the past had it been all three. Work, love, nothing at all. After a few drinks they faded into oblivion.

"Why did you do it, John?" Leo asked softly. "You knew I was here for you."

"Were you?" He asked before he could stop himself. Are you? Echoed silently in his mind.

"Had you given me the chance, you would know."

John was silent for a moment, then slowly he stood, grabbed his coat and briefcase and walked over to Leo's chair. Looking down on him, he said evenly. "I didn't drink that night, Leo." He was satisfied at the startled look. He smiled slightly. "Believe it or not."

He tried to move past Leo, but he stood, putting a hand on his arm. "Why?"

And it all came back to that. How could he explain to him that he had known that if he'd taken that drink, stepped off that cliff, there would be no one there to catch him before he hit the ground?

Sure he had family, he had friends, but he was also the Vice President of the United States in a Whitehouse that distrusted him. It was a lonely position to hold. That's why he'd grabbed the bottle in the first place, he didn't want to be lonely anymore. That was the reason.

But why had he not taken that first drink?

"Because I'm the Vice President of the United States," he said finally. "In a Whitehouse that distrusts me." And it was as good an answer as any.

He noticed Leo's hand was still on his arm, but the older man made no move to let go and John couldn't bring himself to pull away.

"I trust you," Leo said firmly and John felt himself retreating again.

"No you don't," he said in a strangely disconnected voice. "Not in anything that matters."

There was a flicker of hesitation in Leo's eyes, a sheer moment of doubt that made John's heart freeze in his chest. "In everything that matters," he heard softly behind the darkness of eyes he hadn't known he'd closed.

He felt movement and his body tensed, his eyes snapping open. The briefcase and coat were on the floor, and his hand was fisted around Leo's shirt. He saw the flash of surprise and the tiniest shadow of fear both of which fueled his recklessness and his sudden need to shout 'To Hell with it,' and give into something that was leaping and snarling to get out.

Maybe it was adrenaline or the rush of power or just plain fear that gave him the moment of dizzy lightheadedness as soon as his lips touched Leo's, but he was pretty sure that whatever it was, it was just damn good.

Little things were suddenly his entire universe: the softness of the silk of Leo's necktie in his hand; the whisper of cloth as they both shifted; the slight spice of cologne as it sharpened from the incredible heat of the body in front of him, a heat that surrounded him, enveloped him; the slickness of Leo's tongue as it searched out his taste.

A taste that was filled with anger, rage, and despair.

He pulled away first, his forehead resting against Leo's, his fist still clutched around Leo's tie. His breathing was ragged and his voice was rough when he spoke. "Do you trust me now?"

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