Title: “A House Divided” Part Eight
Author: Marie Rossiter (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Spoilers: Everything up to “17 People”
Summary: It’s always something….
POV: Alternating: LEO
Thanks to my “beta-reader”, Jo-Ellen. She’s still cracking that whip! Thank God!
I know that I should go find Jed and talk to him, but I need a few moments to collect myself. I’m sitting, in the dark, in the one place where I can usually get a little privacy—my office.
So much for that. What now?
“Why are you sitting in the dark?” the voice asks me.
I look up and see someone who looks to be Josh standing in front of my desk. What the hell is he doing here?
“What the hell are you doing here, Josh?” I ask.
“I had some work to do, so I thought I’d come in and take a crack at it today.”
“Josh, you know, you need to get a life, man.” I insist. The man is worse than I am—and that’s saying a hell of a lot.
“If you have so much work, then why are you in my office instead of yours?” I inquire. Man, do I have a headache. I need to find some Advil or something. I start rummaging through my desk drawers. I know there’s a bottle of it in this mess somewhere.
Josh frowns slightly at my question. “I just came in to see if you need anything, Leo.”
Ah! There’s the bottle of Advil! “Yeah, Josh, I need a drink.”
“Excuse me?” Josh replies, with a little bit of shock and quite a bit of concern.
Boy, just because a guy is an alcoholic, people get all nervous and jerky when you say you need a drink.
“Of water, Josh. I need a drink of water so I can take something for this headache.”
“Although, I could really use something a bit stronger at this moment.” I mutter under my breath.
“Hey, I can say that…I just can’t do anything about it.”
“You shouldn’t even be talking about it.”
“Grow up, Josh. Temptation is everywhere. You deal with it.” I go over to the water pitcher and pour a glass. I swallow four pills. I hope that knocks this headache out. “For example, I’m tempted almost every day to fire you, but I don’t.”
“Very funny, Leo,” Josh answers. He’s looking at me funny; I can see that even through the shadows.
I turn on the desk lamp, so that there’s at least a dim light in the room. After all, I feel weird about sitting in the dark with my deputy Chief of Staff.
“Leo, I was wondering if the President was available for a few minutes to talk about the education package.”
“Well, I just saw him walking around outside and I thought…” he continues.
Josh stands in front of my desk, looking down at me seriously. God, the inquisition is coming…
“It’s Saturday, Josh. Not everyone is a workaholic like you and I. We’re quite a pair.” I respond sarcastically.
“It’s just that usually if the President is down here, he’s in work mode.”
“Well, not today…”
“I’m just saying…” He’s nothing less than persistent: a quality that I both admire and loathe about him.
“I know what you’re saying, Josh and I’m saying he’s not available!” I snap.
Damn, my head hurts. I need to stop yelling.
“O.k. Leo, I heard you.” Josh says.
Josh is just standing there, staring at me.
“Why don’t you go home? Watch a ballgame. Order in some pizza.” I ask him.
“I don’t know.”
“Josh, enjoy life while you can—before you grow up and become one of us.” I tell him.
“I’m never going to grow up, Leo. You know that. That would mean I would become you.” He smiles.
Damn kid. He’s such a smart-ass.
“Would you like to join me, Leo?” Josh quietly asks me.
I smile at him. He never ceases to amaze me. One moment, he’s ripping on me, the next he’s genuinely concerned for my welfare. We’ve been through a lot together. I’ve watched this boy grow into the man he is today. His father would be proud of him if he were still around. In the back of my mind, I realize that I’ve become sort of a surrogate father to him. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.
“Nah, go home.”
“Josh, I just need to wrap up a few loose ends here and then I’m gonna head home myself.”
“O.k. But, if you change your mind..”
“Yeah,” he replies.
“Go home, Josh.” I encourage him.
“What do I have to do, throw you out of here?” I ask.
“The President…” he pauses. “I know something’s up. Is there anything I should know.”
Like I said, he’s persistent…and bright.
“Don’t worry about it, Josh.”
“O.k.” he said, not at all convinced. Finally, he left me alone.
Now, where was I? Ah, yes, trying to figure out how to tie up those loose ends.
Josh just asked me if something was up. There is so much up right now, that I can’t juggle it all. My head is still aching. I need to close my eyes and rest. Maybe if I put my head in my hands.
A knock at the door. Jesus! Does it ever end?
“Leo, can I come in?” It’s my assistant, Margaret. Do none of these people have homes?
“Margaret? Why are you here?”
“I left my purse locked in my desk. I just came to pick it up.”
“I got my purse,” she says, showing it to me.
“I can see that.”
She’s rocking back and forth on her heels. She wants to talk. Why me???
“Margaret, is there something I can do for you? Forgive me, I have a killer headache” I have to put my head down again.
“Yes, Leo, there is. I need you to write a recommendation for me,” she states.
“Oh, is it review time once again? I’m sorry, Margaret. You know you need to keep on me to get this kinda stuff done. I’ll get it done…”
“No, it’s not for that. It’s for a job interview I have on Tuesday.”
My head snaps up. “Margaret?”
“Margaret?!” my voice is rising.
“Don’t yell at me, Leo!”
“Don’t yell! Good God, you’re telling me that you’re interviewing for another job and you expect me to sit here and remain calm?!”
“I didn’t think that you’d care.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I implore.
“I didn’t think that you’d care. You’re running around here. You don’t see me and you don’t need me.”
I need to deal with this now???
“Margaret, “ I start, now more calmly. “Margaret, I know things have been crazy around here lately. I know I’ve been a pain in the ass [there it is again!]. I’m sorry.”
“I just don’t want to stick around if I can’t be of any help. I know that I can be impossible sometimes…” she’s starting to cry. Oh, God…
“Margaret, please don’t cry. I need you. You keep me sane—even with your own insanity.” I stop a moment, and then it dawns on me. I guess I’m not the only one in this White House who has neglected to show those around him his appreciation. “Please, don’t go. I need you.”
“Really?” she sniffs
“Really. I’ll try harder, ok? I’ll make it up to you.” I say.
“Can I have Monday off?” she asks.
“No.” I say. “And you can’t have the recommendation, because you’re not going anywhere.”
She smiles through her tears. “Thank you, Leo. See you Monday,” she whispers and heads out the door.
I sink back into my chair. I need to close my eyes. How many more crises can I handle today.
I hear the door open and close. I don’t believe it!
That’s it, I’ve had it!! I’m not even opening my eyes for this one
"WHAT IS IT NOW???!” I boom.
“Leo, I’ve made a decision. I’m resigning.”
My eyes are open now as I see Josiah Bartlet standing at the door.
End of Part Eight