Disclaimer—Characters belong to Aaron Sorkin. No copyright infringement intended. Any similarity to events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Song belongs to... The Temptations? And My Guy to Mary Wells... not to be confused with Dawn Wells who was stranded on a desert island, and no, not Survivor Island.

Author's Notes—Big thanks to Dani. More apologies to the Admiral and Dis, when you still won't ever see this.

Also, um... slightly higher rating? Say, PG-13. I tend to hover around G-PG, so... *G* But, rest assured, if you've seen the pilot and the Sam & Laurie story-arc, then you're not gonna have a problem with this.

Spoilers—Um... Lord John Marbury, Let Bartlet be Bartlet, The Portland Trip, The Drop-In, and Two Cathedrals

Archive—Sure. Just let me know where.

Feedback—Always greatly appreciated.

Previously, on the West Wing: Margaret is released from the hospital after suffering a seizure (Band-Aid) due to her lack of sleep (Living Legacies) while helping the Senior Staff and Mallory, also known as the Dan Fogelberg Tribute Cover Band, help an unknowing Leo prepare for his testimony before Congress about his part in the MS debacle (Second Verse), and Leo takes her home. A romance that's been brewing for quite some time finally comes into being. (Iris)

My Girl—Sunshine on a cloudy day...

The bedroom was quiet and dark. It was still quite early, somewhere around three in the morning. They were both tired, but neither of them was sleeping, at least not yet. Margaret's head rested on Leo's chest as he stroked her hair. Their minds were racing, both in different directions. Margaret had a nagging question on her mind; Leo was wondering (and trying not to wince while doing so) about his driver on M Street, right outside the building. Day would start to dawn around six, six thirty, which meant he had to get out of there long before the first rays of light started to illuminate the city. He didn't want to, though, not really; he was happy where he was.

Her question finally too much, Margaret asked, breaking the peaceful silence, "Leo, do you believe in soul mates?"

"Hmm?"

She lifted her head to look at him. "Do you believe in soul mates? That there is one person you're absolutely destined to find? Or maybe that there is one person who you share an intimate connection with, and that the point of life is searching for him or her?"

"Are you asking because I've been married before?"

She frowned a little; she wasn't sure. "I don't know."

"Are you asking if I believe that we have something special?"

"That's part of it," she acknowledged with a nod.

Leo brushed a lock of hair from her face. "I do. And if you had asked me before we made love, before we kissed, before I brought you home on Sunday, before you had the seizure, my answer would be the same."

"Do you believe that, for every person, there's one they're destined to be with?"

"That a person has a 'soul mate'?"

"Yeah."

"Define soul mate for me a little better, as you see soul mates."

"Your perfect partner. Someone you're... if you meet your soul mate, it's... it's..."

"Magic?"

She smiled shyly. "Yeah."

"That things that normally annoy the hell out of you, if this soul mate of yours does them, it's not nearly so bad."

"Yeah."

"Is it one of these instant things? When you meet you know the moment that that's who you've found?"

She shook her head. "No. I think that's the problem. Maybe soul mates are drawn to each other in some way but not, not instantly. I think that's an American thing. We're used to instant everything--instant news, instant coffee, instant gratification. If we have to wait more than a minute on the road, the horn on our car is blaring at the person in front of us. Soul mates... Soul mates are universal; it doesn't matter where you're from. You can be Australian and your soul mate is Canadian or Japanese or Portuguese or South African."

"You think a lot of Americans have American soul mates?"

She shrugged. "Most Americans seem to be self-absorbed, so that would be my guess."

He laughed, garnering a funny look from Margaret. He kissed her lips lightly. "I think, Margaret, besides the fact that you are absolutely adorable, your true concern here is if you think you and I are soul mates."

"Yeah," she said quietly.

"I can't answer that with one hundred percent certainty."

She nodded almost sadly, laying her head on his chest again.

"I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty that I have never felt quite this amazing after making love or during for that matter... have you?"

She shook her head.

"I think maybe that's a plus in our soul mate column."

"We have a running tally?"

"Let's start one."

"Okay."

"Lovemaking... that's one."

"What else?"

"Your eyes."

"M-my eyes?" she asked curiously.

"Most definitely in the soul mate column. I think they count about ten times."

"Why?"

He kissed the top of her head. "Because they invade my soul," he told her hair. "That has to be soul mate material."

"Yours do the same to me."

He nodded. "I know."

"So that's twenty-one."

"Blackjack."

She laughed a little, which was music to his ears.

"You know what we haven't said yet, right?" he asked.

"That sometimes we can sort of almost read each other's mind?"

"That, yeah, but that wasn't quite what I was thinking. I was, but..." He shook his head to keep from getting confused. "Specifically, we... we haven't said the 'l' word out loud."

"No, we haven't."

"I know you love me."

She looked in his eyes.

"I know you do."

"I know you love me," she said quietly.

"Does age matter in your soul mate equation?"

She shook her head. "Age, gender, rank, status, nationality, creed... None of it matters."

"It's gonna matter to the press."

She touched the side of his face, thinking for a moment. "Yeah... but does the opinions of others matter to true soul mates?"

"What do you think?"

"I think you know what I think."

He smiled. "I do. Y'know what I think?"

She nodded. "Yeah."

His smile grew. "So we have our answer."

"We do," she said, snuggling into his embrace, smiling contentedly.

"We certainly do."

They were silent again, for a long moment.

It was Leo's turn to break the silence. "Margaret, I'm going to have to go."

She nodded, still holding him. "I know."

"Then you know I don't want to."

She sighed a little. "Yeah."

"I forgot about my driver until about half an hour ago," he said. "If... If he's still there and I'm sure he is..."

"It's... It's okay."

"Are you sure?" he asked, wishing he could look into her eyes, to see.

She nodded.

"Margaret, look at me."

She lifted her head slowly and looked in his eyes.

"Is it?"

"It's fine," she said quietly. "Soul mates... they understand."

He caressed the side of her face and she turned into his hand, closing her eyes again. "Do you want me to come back tonight?" he asked.

She nodded.

"Are you sure? I mean... if I do, will... Will you be okay going to work tomorrow morning?"

"It'll be fine," she said.

"I don't want to hurt you, or make your life uncomfortable and if it's going to be weird--"

"It won't, Leo," she said, her eyes making contact with his again.

He could tell. Might be a little strange dealing with the rest of the staff, but that was a problem for another time. "Okay," he said. Leaning in, he kissed her one more time, a long, soft kiss, before moving slowly out from under her and climbing out of bed. "Call my cell," he said.

"What, now?" she asked, curling up in the warm spot he had made, watching him gather his clothes.

"No," he said, chuckling a little. "Well, you could if you wanted to. Anytime today, anytime any day."

She smiled. "Okay."

Buttoning up his shirt, he watched her yawn sleepily. "Get some rest, love," he urged gently.

"Mm-hmm," she murmured, her eyes drifting closed.

"There's my girl," he whispered, tucking in his shirt and pulling up his suspenders. He saw her lips move but couldn't quite hear what she was saying for a moment.

"I guess you'll say what can make me feel this way..." she sang softly, drowsily.

"Exactly," he said, smiling. "I'll be back before you know it."

"I hope so," she said.

He touched her face and kissed her again. "I will."

She smiled then sat up quickly, anxiously. "Wait," she said, reaching out and grabbing his hand.

"What is it?"

She fumbled through the drawer in her nightstand and came up with a key. Biting her lower lip a little, she handed it to him, pressing it into his palm.

He looked from the key to her face.

She smiled faintly. "This way you won't take my keys."

He closed his hand around it tightly. "I'll lock the door on my way out, so you can stay here, get some sleep."

She nodded and slowly went back to lying down.

Kissing her forehead, he reluctantly left her bedroom, finding his forgotten jacket from the night before in the living room. He added the key to Margaret's apartment to his key ring then left, making sure her door was securely locked.

The gang that had been in the stairwell the night before had moved for which Leo was eternally grateful. He could imagine the kind of response from them he'd have gotten, leaving her apartment some several hours after arriving there and with his tux not looking exactly the way it had earlier. Charging down the stairs and out of the building, he saw his car, still near the front entrance. He let out a forlorn sigh as he walked up to the car and tapped on the window. His driver didn't respond, so he knocked a little louder, waking the poor chauffeur from his uncomfortable sleep.

"Mr. McGarry," he said as he climbed out of the car.

Leo held his hand up. "Just unlock the door."

The weary driver nodded and climbed back inside, hitting the power locks button. Leo entered and glanced at his driver when the doors were closed and the car was started.

"Where to, sir?" asked the driver.

"Home. Look, about this..."

"It's all right, Mr. McGarry."

"It isn't."

"Miss Rigby's had some hard times lately," he said. "It's all right."

Leo leaned back against the seat. Margaret had been unduly challenged in recent days. The daughter of a Dover, Delaware housewife and mechanic shouldn't have had to put up with such things. He didn't have control over the past, so there was little he could do about it. He'd do what he had always done: keep going.

He kept going through the Vietnam War.

He kept going through alcoholism.

Drug addiction.

Political hell.

Divorce.

He truly was a force to be reckoned with.

Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, he smiled faintly, thinking of Margaret probably already asleep. She was beautiful when she slept. She was beautiful when she was awake, too, but there was something about watching someone sleep. The world doesn't matter when someone sleeps. No matter how carefree time might be, the level of lightheartedness is always plagued just a little with concerns. No matter how much one enjoys flying, there's always the chance the plane will crash. The same goes for cars, trains, and boats.

As in everything, there's always an exception to the rule. Nightmares.

No matter how great his relationship with Margaret was, or would be, the press would be hellish and he knew it.

He didn't want to care. He didn't want to think about it. He did, though, because he knew he had to. He had to be prepared for whatever the outcome, and he'd have to prepare Margaret, too. Even if the opinions of others wouldn't matter to the relationship of soul mates, words *can* and do hurt people. And imagining some of the headlines that would grace newsstands about his relationship with her, Leo winced.

The driver glanced in the rearview mirror and could see Leo. "Are you all right, sir?" he ventured cautiously.

Leo opened his eyes. "I'm okay, Jay. Don't worry about it."

"Yes, sir."

~~~

At six-thirty, Leo was heading into the office, carrying a cup of coffee. Normally he waited until he arrived at the White House to get a cup of coffee, but after barely two hours of sleep, he needed one long before ever seeing the Executive Mansion's gates.

His temp was already at Margaret's desk, trying her best to type up a memo.

"You're here early, Beatrice."

The young temp looked up, shocked. It was the first time he remembered her name. "Yes, sir."

"What are you working on?" he asked, picking up a message on the corner of the desk.

"The memo for the Political Liaison office."

"That's gotta go out by seven, doesn't it?"

"Yes, sir," she admitted nervously.

"Okay," he said.

"I'll get it done by six thirty, I *swear*."

He cocked his head to one side. "You think I'm gonna bite your head off if you get it done by six thirty-one?"

"Well..."

He couldn't stop a smirk from forming. "Contrary to popular belief, I'm really not a dragon or a temp-eating monster, okay? Just get it done."

"Yes, sir," she said.

"Cheer up, Beatrice. Really."

She looked up at him as though she were looking at a ghost. He was already heading into his office, leaving her without an opportunity to respond, not that her mouth was quite working anyway. Leo McGarry was *nice* to her?

~~~

Senior Staff met in Leo's office at eight. C.J. and Josh were quietly talking amongst themselves when Leo entered, sipping on yet another cup of coffee.

"Good morning," Leo said as he drifted past them and sat down at his armchair. "So, C.J. The morning gaggle?"

"I understand Margaret was a sight to behold last night," C.J. said.

For half a second, Leo feared his secret was out. "The dinner?" he asked.

"Poking fun at Congress, ambassadors..."

Leo offered a proud grin. "Shoulda seen Marbury's face."

"They're asking when she's coming back," said C.J.

"My assistant is that newsworthy to them?" She was definitely newsworthy to him, but that was another story entirely.

"Well, since she passed out in here... yeah," C.J. said with a nod.

"She's coming back tomorrow." Leo looked at them all warningly. "No more band," he said sternly. Although, he thought to himself, she did have a nice singing voice...

"Leo, please," said Josh.

"I wouldn't keep saying it if I didn't believe it needed to be said," countered Leo. "Sam..."

"Yes?"

"The President's speech went over fantastically last night."

"He wrote two paragraphs!" exclaimed Toby. "I wrote six pages!"

"Yeah, but the two paragraphs were really the kicker," said Leo.

Toby rolled his eyes.

"How was your dinner, by the way, Sam?"

Josh snickered.

"Well, Margaret wasn't doing stand-up at the club last night, so..."

Leo raised an eyebrow.

"It was nice. I had her home by midnight," Sam amended quickly, casting a cautious glance around at his fellow staffers and band mates. They didn't seem to care much.

"Josh, you've talked to Joey?" Leo continued, barely giving Sam a second glance.

He took an uneasy breath. "We're holding steady."

"Okay," Leo said quietly.

"Josh and I are meeting with the party people in an hour," Toby said. "We'll see what they have to say about the campaign."

Leo nodded. "C.J.--"

"Complete media blackout on that one. Nobody's going to hear about it until we're ready for them to."

"Good," said the Chief of Staff. "Anything else?"

"One thing," Josh said. "Donna and Cathy and Bonnie and Ginger kinda attacked me this morning."

"I'm not the guy you file assault reports with," said Leo.

"No, not like that," Josh said, smiling. "They want to have a party for her tomorrow. Do something at lunch, a cake... Down at the mess. A surprise party kind of thing."

"For Margaret?" Leo asked.

"A welcome back party," said Josh.

"Clear it with the mess," Leo said. "Is that it?"

With a collective yes answer, the Senior Staff started to clear out. Josh lingered at the door.

"What is it?" Leo asked, glancing up at his deputy.

"Could you call the mess? I mean... I'm going to butt heads with the party leadership people about the campaign and... I'd like to not butt my head with the chief pastry chef before, y'know?"

Leo sighed. "Fine."

"You could staff it out to somebody else..."

"Thanks for the idea, Josh. Considering that's what I did first."

"I'm going to go," Josh said, pointing down the corridor.

"Don't let the party people go until you've made our positions crystal clear. We're doing this and we want to keep the party together. A little more support from the peanut gallery would be nice."

"Don't worry, Leo."

"This is going to be the re-election from hell, you know that, right?"

Josh smiled after a moment. "It's gonna be fun."

"The White House is filled with the most masochistic and sadistic people imaginable."

"You're figuring this out now? Man, I thought you had been in this town longer than me."

Leo brandished a fist. Josh playfully flinched before leaving.

Picking up the phone, Leo dialed down to the mess, chatting with the staff down there for almost half an hour, making arrangements for the welcome back luncheon. As much as he liked the idea of the surprise, he was tempted to call Margaret and tell her all about it. Instead, he called the Secret Service.

He had another idea up his sleeve.

Stay tuned...

Scenes from the next installment:

"Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

Margaret's eyes opened wide. "But I work here!"

"Yeah, you're gonna have to tell whoever made that fake White House ID of yours to stop it."

Chapter 2

 

 

Home        What's New        Author Listings        Title Listings