Illegitimi Non Carborundum
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the West Wing. I play with them occasionally which annoys Sorkin, Wells, NBC and the Warner Bros, but since I put them back in more or less the same condition, they let me. Aren't they swell?
Summary: Josh gets a Latin lesson from the President as the MS crisis begins.
Author's Note: I guess this happens somewhere between the time Josh finds out about the MS and "18th and Potomac"- it would get too depressing if I had to include Miss Landingham's death as well. See, I knew that taking Latin for 6 years would pay off somehow!
Feedback: What I live for.
Archiving: Cool- just tell me where.
I can't feel my toes. Seriously. I've been wiggling them in my shoes for the last five minutes and I can feel nothing. I mean, I know I'm wiggling them cuz I can see them moving. And I'm not hallucinating cuz I called Donna into my office just to check. She could see them moving. She also thought that I was insane so let's not put that much faith in her opinion. What I'm saying is, that I'm tired to the point where I can no longer feel my extremities. And I think that sucks.
I can't leave though. There is so much that has to be done. Strategies need to be mapped out and friends need to be counted. This could kill us.
That is, of course, if I let it. And I refuse to see Bartlet taken down because of this. Hell, FDR hid his disability for four terms in office and everyone venerates him still. They venerate him more even because he did it all with a handicap.
And now the man whose mental facilities seemed to hold no bounds, who knew every meaningless piece of information- even more than Sam- which is quite the feat in and of itself- must publicly declare that he has a degenerating illness that can effect his cognitive abilities. And the people will fear him. And distrust him. And maybe hate him.
Bartlet doesn't deserve this. He doesn't deserve to have this country hate him because of something he couldn't do anything about. And I will see to it that they don't. Even if I will never feel my toes again, by god, I shall save this administration.
Donna keeps coming in and telling me I should leave. She's getting that concerned look on her face and she seems determined not to leave without me going too. I wonder if Ginger harps on Toby like this?
Nah. But then, Toby can be scary and doesn't have a habit of putting his hand through a window. That and I've always been more special.
I should really talk to Leo. We've got to figure out how we're going to tell everybody, we've got to have meetings, we have to get started. We need defense. And there's no time like the present.
I exit my office and make my way down the hall to Leo's. Donna is close on my heels, shrugging into her coat.
"You're leaving now, right?"
"I'm going to talk to Leo."
"You're telling him you're leaving."
"Donna- I do not need to ask Leo's permission to go home like a little boy."
"Josh-" her hand grabs my arm. "You're going to go home? I'm not going to have to find you tomorrow drooling over file folders at your desk, right?" She's using that You-Killed-My-Hamster-And-Now-I'm-Going-To-Cry look on me. Damn. I hadn't meant for her to get this worried over me.
"Yeah. Yeah. Go home. I- I'll go home too. Soon." Her grip releases and I continue on to Leo's office. How she'll react when she hears the news.... I can't even begin to wonder.
Margaret's not around- Leo actually lets his assistant leave at a decent hour. Donna could too- but she's patriotic. That and she knows that I'll just end up calling her and paging her and harassing her until I get my work done. Which generally gets done a lot faster when she's around.
Knock-knock. Anybody home?
Leo's scratchy voice replies, "Yeah?" and I open the door.
"What do you need, Josh?"
"I need more hours in a day do you think you could swing that?"
Leo sighs and sits down in his chair, resuming to shuffle papers. "I know what you mean. It's gonna come down, Josh. It's inevitable now."
"When are you going to tell CJ and Sam?"
"Soon. When he's ready for it."
"Leo, with all due respect, it's not a question of whether he's ready for it or not. We've got to get our defense planned!"
"And we can't do that without CJ and Sam."
"So when are you gonna tell them?"
"Leo-" Geez, cut me a break here!
"Josh- he's got a lot to deal with right now, okay? It was hell to get him to tell Toby, who had half of it figured out already!" Leo gathered some of his papers and moved to the door. "I'm going to see him now. Wanna sit in?"
"Yeah, sure." I sigh and follow Leo out towards the Oval Office.
"Good evening, Mr. President," Leo says as we enter. He's sitting on the couch, reading a report on something or other, his reading glasses on the tip of his nose.
"The Columbia thing?" he asked, looking up and taking off his glasses.
"The Marxist guerrillas aren't the problem, sir. State still wants to chase them into the jungle," Leo said disgustedly. "They said they're gonna start arresting the paramilitary leadership."
"If they can find them," said the President wearily.
"Great. In the war on drugs, it's us zero, them five billion and two!"
"Give State some time, see what they come up with," Leo said dogmatically. "We've got bigger fish to fry right now."
"Yeah. Me," said Bartlet, looking pointedly at me.
I was kinda wondering when he would acknowledge my presence. But hey, as Leo said, he's got a lot on his mind.
"Mr. President, we've got to start forming a strategy for how you plan to tell the public. And we've got to tell CJ and Sam."
"Yeah. Babish is still nitpicking every other word I say and Toby has visions of impeachment dancing through his head."
"I wouldn't exactly say they're dancing, sir," I reply. Yep, that's me. Josh Lyman, king of the feeble witticism.
"We have to get started now, sir. Time is running out as it is."
The President merely responds with a sigh and rose from the couch. As he turned his back to go to his desk, Leo shoots me a warning look.
Yikes! Okay, okay, I get it. I'll slowly back off, alright? I nod in response.
Standing behind the desk, with both of his palms resting on its surface, the President looks at me. "Josh, do you think that we won't survive this?"
"No, sir. But I think that it get pretty ugly."
"Sunt lacrimae rerum, Joshua."
"I got that much, sir."
"Did you study at all at law school?"
"Not if I didn't have to, sir."
"It's Virgil. It means that there are tears for all things. There's going to be tears for this. You're right, it's not going to be pretty. And the path to condemnation will be smooth."
"Huh?" Does anyone understand where the hell this conversation is going? Cuz if you are, please page me with an explanation- I'm the cute one with the befuddled expression on his face who's standing in the Oval Office.
"The road to hell is always uncluttered. A smooth descent into the damnation of the public. It's going to be all too easy to lampoon me in the next couple weeks. You have every reason to be worried."
"It's going to get much worse before it gets better, sir," says Leo.
I'm still befuddled. And now the President is talking in Latin again. Something about "facilis descensus Averno"? Help me, something has gone wrong in my brain and now people are speaking in tongues. Where the hell is Donna when you need her?
"Fiat justitia ruat caelum."
I have absolutely nothing to say to that. I'm not sure I would have anything to say to that even if I knew what the hell it meant.
Perhaps he realized from my blank expression that I still didn't get it. "Let justice be done even if the heavens fall. I got myself into this mess. I'm more than willing to take the blame for this."
"Josh, I don't want you or any my staff trying to protect me. I did something wrong. And I will tell CJ that. And Sam. And the public. When the time is right."
"Okay," I sigh, rubbing my hands over my eyes. God, this has been a long day.
"We should all get some sleep," says Leo, ever the practical one. "We can deal with this in the morning."
None of us move. Sheesh, we're pathetic.
"I should look over the tobacco brief cuz I got that thing tomorrow," I say, thumbing at the door.
"Go home. That's an order."
"And I am going to get you The Complete Works of Virgil. You should study it thoroughly so the next time we decide to have one of these midnight lessons you'll be more prepared."
"You mean there'll be more of these?" I ask in stunned horror.
" You should have studied in college."
"You're one mean professor, Mr. President."
"For that crack, you're going to have to take a quiz. I mean it, Josh. Go home. Rest up. We've dealt enough with the government today."
For a minute there, there was a glimmer of the old Bartlet, the one who I knew before the shooting, before the MS. The one who never seemed to lose his sense of humor and defended me in front of Mary Marsh, telling her and her friends to get their fat asses out of his White House.
"You should get some rest too, sir," I say. " Goodnight, Mr. President."
" 'Night, Josh."
I leave and he's still talking to Leo. It'll be okay- Leo will make sure he doesn't work to all hours. He's conscientious of the president like that. I should go home too. Donna's probably worried about me and the President ordered me to leave.
As I walk out into the dark parking lot, I wonder about how this will all turn out. The White House was a sinking ship and years of self-preservative instincts were kicking in. Drop the job, get out while you can.
But I'd be leaving my friends. Those I have made and those I have known forever. I couldn't skip out on Leo after he saved my job. I couldn't skip out on Sam, who I practically dragged into the Bartlet campaign. I couldn't skip out on CJ or Toby or Donna. Especially not Donna.
I'm going to have to fight this. I'm going to have to get in Lyman fighting mode and show the public, the press and all of Washington that we are not afraid to take a hit. That we have muddled through worse and goddammit, we're still standing.
This is why I'm cocky. Cuz if I weren't, everything would go to hell in a handbasket. With ease, the President would remark. Great ease. Blah-us blah-blah-us veni, vidi, bladdi -blah-us. Or whatever that phrase was.
I can do this. I can fix this. I just wish I knew exactly how.
And to think, I used to live for a good political fray. It's a good thing I still do. Donna would say that's why I'm insane. Besides the whole numb toes thing. Which still are, by the way, without feeling- thank you so much for asking.
We might not survive this but if we go down, I'm sure as hell taking a few of them with me. So, I'm going to read the tobacco brief at home and we're going to get these guys. Because we should. Because we can. Because we might not be able to for much longer. And then there is of course the added bonus that it happens to be the right thing to do.
For the record, I do know one Latin phrase. How, do you ask? I have it on a t-shirt. It reads: "Illegitimi non carborundum."
Don't let the bastards take you down.