Rating: PG-13, coz there's serious kissing.
Spoiler Warning: Season 5: A Constituency of One, Disaster Relief and Shutdown.
Notes: This is all Xanthe's fault - it's *her* Christmas Challenge! The story was first posted, and can be found at, her site: http://www.xanthe.org/site/xmas/xmas%202003.htm#Restitution
Restitution by Shan
Previously on The West Wing:
Through some heavy handedness, Josh not only loses the vote of Senator Carrick from Idaho, but the man switches political parties, becoming a Republican, and thus shifting the balance of power in the Senate. Although Leo makes it clear it was never the intent to give in to Carrick's military pork-barrel projects, it is widely perceived that Josh made a terminable mistake, and everyone except Donna is avoiding him. In the upcoming budget negotiations, which Josh always used to head, the shift in the balance of power has put the ball firmly in the Republicans and the Speaker of the House's court.
From Disaster Relief: In Leo's office Leo: "Nobody's happy you lost Carrick, but we're all about moving forward and we can't do that without you. I do, however, have to take you out to the wood shed and whack you with a two-by-four---"
Josh: "Carrick was never really a Democrat. Word is he was working for the Republican... (Leo throws his head back against his chair, eyes rolling. Josh regroups swiftly.) I - sorry. Whack away."
Leo: "Maybe the camel's back is already broken, but you gave him the straw, and then you drove over him. With a tank. (pause) The President and I think you have been spread too thin. We're going to scale back your portfolio, probably some of the legislative stuff. I'll let you know the details as soon as I take the temperature of the caucus. But you keep your title, your staff."
Leo then replaces Josh with Angela Blake, who will head up the budget negotiations, which have not been going well. Josh comes into Leo's office, and right off the bat, he's babbling. Leo cuts him off.
Leo: You gotta stop, Josh!
Josh: When were you gonna tell me about Angela Blake?
Leo (relenting): Right now.
Josh: She's a fund-raiser, Leo! She doesn't know the -
Leo: You tried to humiliate Carrick in his home state, which is bad enough, but you failed to the tune of a party switch! You think it ends with the leadership? You can't believe the calls I'm getting from the DNC membership, State Party Chairs ... No one wants you here!
There is a terrible, terrible pause. Josh sits across from Leo, speechless and wounded.
Leo: (more gently) You're gonna be late for Senior Staff.
Later, Josh is feeling lost and useless and Donna introduces him to her "What a Shame" folder, Donna: "All the stuff we never have time for. Stuff we thought we'd fix when we got here but never did..."
(I have to say that Leo appears to have lost his balls shortly after Zoey was found - Shan)
At the end of Disaster Relief, Bartlet refuses to cave in to Speaker Haffley's reneging on their demands, and shuts down the federal government.
11:23 pm Christmas Eve
There were two men who were most familiar with the halls of the West Wing when they were devoid of the hurrying staffers that scurried back and forth in the light of day. The eerie emptiness was what Josh imagined the ghost towns of Nevada to be like, when the physical life remained only as an echo seeping from the white washed walls and deep-pile carpets. Sitting behind his leather chair, the contents of Donna's What A Shame File spread out over his expansive desk, he glanced at his watch, and wondered, not for the first time, what the hell he was doing here when his 'portfolio' had already been 'scaled back', as Leo had so ingratiatingly stated...
Unbidden, his mind went back over the exchange in Leo's office, and he almost cringed from the surprising residual hurt. Yes, losing Carrick - the man switched political parties, for crying out loud! - was his fault, but it was Leo's game plan that he, Josh, dutifully played out when he faced the senator. Leo had endorsed his every tactical step up to that point. And when it all went to hell, it was Leo who had pulled the budget negotiations from his plate, cut his legs from under him.
However when the entire ponderous machinery of the US government went into shutdown, it had done so without Josh's participation. And later, when President Bartlett won his Mexican Standoff with the new Speaker of the House, and cut him down a couple of shoe sizes to boot, it had been aided by Josh's rarely-plumbed flair for the theatrical.
Still and all, it barely made up for the residual hurt that stubbornly remained whenever he thought of Leo -
"Go home, Josh," came the raspy whiskey-hewn voice from the vicinity of his doorway. "It's Christmas, for chrissakes."
Josh's hazel eyes met with the familiar stern blue ones, and their gazes locked for a moment. It was Leo who looked away first.
"You're here." He said, neutrally.
"Yeah, well ... "
Distractedly, Leo stepped into his office and turned and closed the door. Josh watched him surreptitiously, wondering at the need for privacy despite the late hour and empty hallways. Leo moved slowly, distantly, as if negotiating eight trains of thought at once, and came to stand beside his desk. His perusal began with the numerous certificates from venerable lofty institutions on Josh's wall and ended on Donna's What A Shame File lying disemboweled on his desk.
"Foreign adoption policies. Hybrid energy partnerships. Ammunition control: 'What's a gun without bullets?' The roadless conservation plan. A 21st centrury Teachers Corps... " Leo perused the scattered files musingly. He looked up at Josh. "Bedtime reading?"
"Call it a Christmas wish list." Josh shrugged. "Back-burner stuff. For a slow day."
Leo chuckled dryly, not looking at him. "We've had those?"
His words hung there between them, in the chill air of an office wing without people, part accusation, part open wound.
And finally, Leo McGarry stepped around the desk, closing the gap a little, and looked down at his deputy.
"Josh - the Carrick thing ... the budget..." Leo was visibly steeling himself. "You were following orders, and he switched parties because of those orders. I left you dangling slowly in the wind. I've been - rough on you. I'm not really going to whack you with a two by four."
Josh stared at him for a long moment, the headiness of a Leo McGarry apology making him dizzy. He set down the file in his hand and straightened his shoulders a little, trying not to let the wave of fuzzy release show too much, to be gracious in acceptance. He stood slowly, came around his desk, sat on a bit of naked mahogany and extended his hand.
"Thank you, Leo."
Leo's rough square hand closed around Josh's more slender one. "I - I don't have any excuse - except that Zoey... Zoey could've been Mallory." He shrugged. "Delayed reaction, maybe?"
Josh nodded, hyper-aware of the warm grasp of his boss' hand, large for belonging to a man slighter and shorter than himself. "Yeah, I know all about delayed reactions."
And still Leo didn't move. "And the budget - I'm not saying you could've swayed Haffley any more than Angela - "
"No, Haffley wouldn't have backed down to me. He might've even upped the ante. That was a fight for the real gladiators. I'm just the spear carrier."
Leo smiled tightly, still holding Josh's hand, his grip firm. "No, Josh, you're not. You're one of the best political minds we have on our side of the aisle."
Josh ducked his head, but he didn't let Leo's hand go, either. Time stretched, and they were both there, their hands clasped, until finally, Josh tightened his grip slightly and gently pulled, ushering, inviting. He was met with an initial and automatic resistance and then it was he that was being tugged forward, ushered, invited. Their gazes locked and suddenly clashed, freezing them.
Then Leo leaned in the rest of the way, growling, "It's Christmas, for chrissakes!"
His other hand came in and slightly roughened calloused fingers slid around Josh's shirt collar and throat, holding him in breathless stillness, as Leo captured his mouth. A huge wave of warmth rolled up from the pit of his gut, and he submitted, without thought or hesitation, to the probing insistent tongue, the sucking of breath from his lungs, to the scent and taste of the man he had wanted for so long.
He began to drown in it; a deliriously thick sinking sensation that made his heart arrhythmic, staccatoed his breathing and his vision a- swim. His eyelids fluttered close, and all of a sudden, Leo's mouth was gone, and he almost moaned with the loss. But the warm hand never left his throat, the rough thumb stroking his jaw, and he opened his eyes to look up at Leo, smiling gently down at him, drinking in the appealing sight of Josh Lyman, kissed stupid.
Josh remained still, letting Leo's penetrating appraising gaze absorb him. And then the hand fell away. Leo took a half-step back and reached into his pocket. He fished out a plastic card, a hotel key, and pressed it in the hand that he still held onto. And then he was heading to the door, leaving a cooling void in the space he'd occupied.
He paused in the open doorway, hand on the doorknob, turned back to see Josh still sitting on his desk, keycard in hand, a slightly stunned look on his face.
"You know the room number?"
Leo smiled, that quick flash that crinkled his eyes and lit up his face, all too rarely seen, startling in it's wattage.
"See you in a few, Josh."
"Yes. Yes, sir."
He left the door, open, gratified at the sounds of a hurried paper- shuffle cleanup and hastening footsteps, not half a hallway behind him.
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