For notes and disclaimer, please see part one.

Previously, on the West Wing: Leo returns to work after spending the night with Margaret. He's in a somewhat playful mood, which catches his temp off-guard. Some of the other assistants want to throw a welcome back party for Margaret on Friday when she returns.

Sam was in a complete daze, walking to Josh's office. He stood silently at the open door, waiting for Josh to recognize him. Josh, who had been working on an e-mail for a while, felt eyes on him and turned to see his best friend.

"S'up?"

"I just had the most surreal experience," Sam said, walking inside.

"What was it?" asked Josh, leaning back in his chair.

"Leo's been... not so thrilled with my pursuit of Mallory. There was that whole driving of wedges thing for the longest time. He said, of course, that he doesn't mind my dating Mallory, but I shouldn't expect him not to have some fun along the way. Well, he... I..."

"What?"

"He's giving me dating tips, telling me things she really likes."

"Are you sure? Or is he just yankin' your chain?"

"Some things I already knew."

"Maybe he's mixing them up with the things she doesn't to mess with your head."

"I don't think so."

"Leo's a gamer, man. He's a player."

"I think something is up. He's never 'happy.' Not for extended periods of time. Even his temp says his behavior is out of the ordinary."

"Who knows Leo better: you or the temp?"

"Me, and we're both saying something is off kilter."

"Are you suggesting what I think you're suggesting?"

"The DFTU-CB."

"The Dan Fogelberg..." He drifted off questioningly.

Sam nodded.

"We have an abbreviation now?"

Sam nodded.

"DF... What was it?" Josh asked, the letters of the alphabet soup swirling in his mind.

"DFTU-CB. Dan Fogelberg Tribute Under-Cover Band."

"Under-cover..." He smiled. "I like that. So, what do we do now?"

Sam shrugged. "Call Mallory?" he suggested.

"What'll she do?"

"She'll be able to tell us what's going on. If anybody knows Leo, it's Mallory."

"Or Jenny or the President or... Margaret!"

"She was with Leo at the dinner last night!"

"Get the door," Josh said as he picked up the phone.

~~~

Margaret had hardly moved from bed. She was in much too good a mood to be upset from staying in bed for most of the day. When her phone rang, she smiled, her thoughts instantly zeroing in on Leo. She answered it eagerly, "Hello?" She wondered if she should've waited to come up with a sultrier greeting.

"Margaret, it's Josh."

Her eyes opened wide as she sat up. "Hi." She was glad she didn't wait.

"How are you feeling?"

Mortified. Shocked. Embarrassed. Slightly heartbroken that it wasn't Leo. "Fine. You?"

"Pretty good. Listen--Sam says Leo hasn't been acting like himself."

Margaret swallowed hard. "What's wrong? Is he all right?"

"Yeah, he's just..." Josh covered the mouthpiece with his hand to look at Sam. "How would you describe him?"

"Happy... Contented... In a surprisingly good mood--"

"In a good mood, which is... strange," Josh told Margaret.

She smiled and curled up under the covers again. "Oh."

"Yeah... We hear you knocked 'em dead last night at the dinner and we were wondering, well, if he was like this last night."

"It was a dinner party, Josh. You know how those things get."

"Yeah... You know what could be the cause of this smiling, happy Leo? We want our old grump back."

She knew the reason, but there was no way she was going to tell. "I'm sorry."

"Well, okay. Thanks. Hey, we'll see you tomorrow, right?"

"You bet."

"Great."

She smiled. "I think so, too."

He chuckled a little. "Well, if you think of any possible reasons, give us a call, would you?"

"Of course." 'Not,' she added in her mind.

~~~

Leo excused himself from a press conference to grab his ringing cellular phone. "Yeah."

"I interrupted the presser, didn't I? CNN finally cut away, I held off as long as I could."

He grinned. "Thanks, Margaret."

"So, I got a call from Josh..."

"You can't have dinner with him tonight. I was planning on doing a sort of double order... Chinese take out for you, some for me... your telephone on speakerphone..."

She smiled wistfully. "Really?"

"Yeah."

"Okay."

"So, call Josh back and tell him no."

"Actually, you'd better start doing that."

Leo's playfulness quickly disappeared. "Why? What's going on?"

"He called me--as I said--and, uh..." She had to smile a bit. "Leo, you're in too good a mood."

"What?"

"You're scaring them by being... happy."

"I don't understand."

"'Leo happy' is like the second sign of the impending apocalypse."

"You'd think they'd be happy that I'm in a fairly good mood."

"You'd think, but you're scaring them."

"You know what caused it."

"Me."

"Yeah."

"I would say I'm sorry, but I'm not."

"Neither am I. I'd say they'll have to get used to my good moods."

She grinned. "Definitely."

"Margaret..." He drifted off. He wanted to say he loved her. He wanted to tell her. He couldn't, though, especially not with the White House Press Corps standing just on the other side of the door and some members of the White House staff milling around.

"Yeah?"

The press conference started to break up; he could hear it. "I have to go. I'll see you tonight."

"Sure."

"Thanks for calling."

"Yeah."

"I..." He saw Danny Concannon coming out the door, scribbling on his notepad.

Margaret smiled a little, almost sadly, but she knew just exactly what thin ice they were skating on. "I love you, too."

He smiled gratefully, a grin she couldn't see, but maybe later. "Talk to you soon," he whispered.

"Can't wait."

Leo snapped his cellular phone closed.

~~~

President Bartlet entered Leo's office later that night, just after he hung up the phone from the "dinner" with Margaret.

Leo got to his feet quickly. "Sir."

"I hear someone's in a good mood."

Leo smiled; he couldn't help it. "Yes, sir."

"Are you going to tell me what it is that's got you so fantastic feeling?"

"With all due respect, no, sir."

Bartlet frowned a little. "Do I get a hint?"

"I don't think so."

"So there's a possibility that you'll--"

"No."

"Leo, we're fighting *tremendous* battles, the likes of which we may never recover from politically. You're in an amazing mood... and we want to know why."

"Why?"

"Share the love, Leo."

Leo did very well to keep his eyes from bugging out. "I don't believe I will, sir."

"You know, if I were in a terribly good mood, I'd share my wealth with you."

"I doubt highly, sir, that you'll be in a good mood until after the administration," Leo said, still smiling.

Bartlet, with a determined expression etched in his features, gave Leo a once-over. His first guess of the cause of his friend's happiness would be reconciliation with Jenny. His wedding band, though, was long since gone and had been for several weeks. "Leo, you have to give me something."

"I serve at the pleasure of the President."

"Good, then. Tell me what the hell you're so giddy about."

Leo sobered a little. "To be frank, sir, I have a feeling that if I told anyone, this... It would go away and I don't want that to happen. Not yet, not at all, not ever."

Bartlet sighed a little but nodded. "Very well, then. We'll just live on in agony while you perplex us with your winning smile."

"We?" repeated Leo. "'Us?' You've multiplied?"

Bartlet had almost let the cat out of the bag on the Fogelberg band, he knew. "It's the whole Clark Kent/Superman thing," Bartlet answered quickly.

"Is it? Or is it the Dan Fogelberg whatever Band back in action? I know Josh called Margaret about my 'good mood.'"

"How do you know?"

"She told me."

"She called you?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, she did."

"Why?"

Leo very nearly let another cat out. "Because she knows that I want this band nonsense gone. It damn near killed her once and I can't go through something like that again. There is no way I'd survive seeing her--or any of them--have a *seizure* on my account. I can't do that again, sir. One time was one too many."

"I know."

"So, would you tell them to stop? My orders go in one ear and out the other."

"Well, I might... except there are some days when I don't get to see you too often when they see and speak with you sometimes on an hourly basis. I like that they come to me if they think something is wrong."

"Sir, nothing is wrong. We're talking the complete opposite of wrong right now."

"Margaret's coming back tomorrow."

"That's right," Leo said, smiling. "No more temps."

"It's been a long week."

"An exceptionally long week."

"You miss her, huh?"

Professionally? "Yeah, I do." Personally? Well, he had just finished eating "with" her and would be returning to her place again that night.

"Yeah. Well, if you're not gonna tell me anything..."

He sighed a little. "I have an appointment Sunday afternoon to look at houses."

"Seriously?" asked Bartlet quietly, trying desperately not to get too excited for his old friend should Leo be teasing and burst Bartlet's congratulatory bubble.

"Yeah. Really. Life's too short to live in a hotel for the rest of it."

A grin formed on Bartlet's lips--ear to ear. "That's fantastic! If you need some help, particularly a woman's eye--they see things we can't; it's just eerie sometimes--Abbey and Elizabeth are coming back from Zimbabwe Saturday morning, and Zoey is, of course, spending the summer in Manchester, but I'm sure she'd fly in to give old 'Uncle' Leo a hand."

"Watch who you're calling old," Leo said with a grin. "And, for your information, I've already got a female perspective."

"Mallory?"

"No."

Bartlet puzzled for a moment. "Real estate agent?"

His real estate agent was named Andrew Knox: a big guy built like a tank. Toby's ex-wife was named Andrea, Andi, for short. Andy was a nickname for Andrew. Leo could fib easily. "Yeah." He had every intention of taking Margaret with him to look... unless, of course, she thought that would be entirely too weird, but he could almost hear her answer:

'Of course I'd like to come! Don't be silly; it's what soul mates do.'

He wanted her to be comfortable with the deal, and with his new house. He wanted her to maybe share it with him. If not sooner, then definitely later. Isn't that what soul mates do, too?

"Very well, then," Bartlet acquiesced. "You go, find a good house."

"What? Are you my Feng Shui master now?" Leo asked with an impish smirk.

"Could be if you wanted me to," Bartlet said, smiling.

"Oh, go back to running the country that's going to hell in a handcart. Isn't that what I hear you mutter all the time?"

"Not *all* the time..."

~~~

Leo made a deal with his driver, Jay. After the White House, he'd take Leo "home" for a moment to pick up a suit for the next day before taking him and dropping him off at Margaret's apartment. Jay would leave and return around six the next morning to take them both to work.

"You know, sir," said Jay, "that I won't say anything..."

Leo smiled at his twenty-seven year old driver. "I know you won't, which is why I didn't ask if you'd keep it quiet," Leo told him before climbing out and heading quickly into Margaret's building and up to her room.

It was a little on the late side, around twelve thirty, as he was unlocking the door. Entering and locking the door back, he felt gentle arms go around him from behind.

"Hi," Margaret whispered to his shoulder.

Leo turned and hung his suit for the next day on the coat rack before wrapping his arms around her, holding her close. "Hey," he said, his voice a bit husky as he allowed himself to bury his face in her soft red hair. It was comforting, standing with her, being with her. She smelled good, she felt good--right--in his arms. Pulling back a little, he tucked her hair behind her ear and allowed his hand to linger on her cheek. Staring into each other's eyes for a moment, Leo drew her to him until their lips met in a slow, long, sweet kiss.

When it ended, their lips stayed dangerously close. "You must be tired... come to bed with me," Margaret said quietly.

His lips brushed past hers again. "Sure."

She smiled and dropped her hands from his back to his arms and eventually down to his hand, pulling him along to her bedroom.

~~~

Leo and Margaret both reached for the alarm clock at the same time. Margaret smiled, feeling his hand over hers. Rolling back into his arms, she sighed contentedly.

"What time is it?" he murmured.

"Mm five," she mumbled back.

"We should get up."

"Ten more minutes... hit the snooze button."

He smiled sleepily. "You always think of everything."

She smiled, too, and snuggled closer to him. "Tell me again why we have to get up..."

"To go to work," he reminded her. "Unless of course you want to quit... or if you want some more time off."

"I've seen too much of this place for five days. I'm ready to get out and do things again."

"You... You want to quit?"

Margaret giggled. "Who'd keep you straight? Some temp? The President?"

"Very good point."

"I have no intention of leaving you ever."

"Yeah?"

"You are stuck with me, McGarry."

"Oh, the torture..."

She playfully nudged him.

"Keep Sunday afternoon clear for me, will you?"

"Your schedule? Sure."

"And yours."

"And mine? Why?"

"Because I need your help on Sunday afternoon."

"Whatever for?"

"You'll see. You'll see."

~~~

Margaret didn't get a whole lot of work done during the morning. People kept coming by her office--Senior Staff, assistants, reporters, couriers, even aides from the Hill with well wishes from themselves and their bosses. It took her an hour to type a two-paragraph memo because of everyone's coming and going.

Around eleven thirty, when Leo had a break, she went in to apologize profusely. "Leo--"

"Margaret, when do I have time for lunch?"

She frowned a bit and looked at her watch. "You're scheduled for lunch in ten."

"Go down to the mess and get something for me?"

"Sure, but I--"

"You don't want to?" She had to go. Otherwise it would throw a big monkey wrench into the welcome back party.

"I can go, Leo, no problem, but I wanted to apologize for this morning."

His heart skipped a beat. "What part of this morning?"

Her mind didn't register what he was thinking of: the morning in her apartment. "I've been trying so hard to get so much done. It seems like I take one step forward only to take three steps back."

"You've been out for a week," he said. "Don't expect to pick things up just exactly like you had them before. That's insane. You're not Wonder Woman, Margaret. It's all right to ease back into things. In fact, I'd prefer it if you did."

She nodded. "What do you want for lunch?"

"It's, uh, meatloaf day, isn't it?" he asked.

"It's Friday."

"How 'bout a club sandwich?"

She nodded. "I'll be right back."

He smirked

Grabbing her purse to get her own lunch, she headed for the mess.

A Secret Service agent she didn't recognize stopped her at the stairs. "I'm sorry, ma'am; this part of the White House is off limits to visitors."

"But, I work here."

"I'm sorry."

She held up her ID from around her neck. "Margaret Rigby. I'm Leo McGarry's assistant."

"No, his assistant is some short brunette, not a tall redhead."

"He's had a temp for a week. I've worked for him for over ten years."

"I'm sorry."

"Maybe you read about me in the newspaper--"

"I always read the arrest reports."

"No! I... I passed out here last week."

"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."

"It isn't fake! I have to get Leo McGarry's lunch; he's on a tight schedule today."

"Ma'am--"

"My name is Margaret Rigby. I work for Leo McGarry. Any number of the White House Senior Staff can vouch for me."

"Ma'am, you'll have to come with me," he said, reaching for her arm.

She jerked her arm free indignantly and frantically looked around for an agent who knew her. One just so happened to be walking by, glancing at his watch. "Dex! Dex, please, tell this guy who I am," she pleaded to Agent Dexter Montgomery.

"Margaret! Welcome back. How are you feeling? Are you all right?"

"She works here?" asked the other agent.

"Yeah. Has since the inauguration."

Margaret breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Dex."

"Where are you headed?"

"Leo's lunch." She looked at her watch. "He's only got half an hour now before Senior Staff."

"Get moving, sweetie," Dex said.

Margaret sprinted down the stairs.

She came to a halting stop when she saw that the lights in the mess were off. "Oh, no... No, no, no, no," she mumbled, closing her eyes and saying a quick prayer as she tried the door. To her surprise, it came open easily.

And then she was very nearly blinded by the lights coming on.

And deafened by a chorus of "Welcome back, Margaret!"

She didn't realize she had been quite so shocked until she felt her heart start to beat again and felt her lungs fill with air. "You guys..." That was all she could manage to say to the assembled White House staff.

There was a banner over the frosted glass seal of the President that formally welcomed her and stated that it was most definitely a party in her honor.

Charlie, Donna, Carol, Cathy, Bonnie, Ginger, Larry, Ed, and Nancy were the first she saw. She chatted happily with them, Leo's lunch officially forgotten as they circled her and asked her all sorts of questions and told her how glad they were that she was back.

Next up were the Senior Staff and Mallory with several hugs and a knowing look or three.

"Don't we get to welcome her back now?" asked a booming voice, one that decidedly belonged to the President.

Margaret's eyes opened wide. "Mr. President, sir."

"How are you, Margaret?" he asked, placing a hand on her shoulder.

"I'm fine, sir, thank you, and honored that you came."

"Wouldn't have missed it for the world," he told her with a smile as a White House photographer snapped their picture. "We're all very glad you're all right and that you've come back to us. One staffer gone is just too many."

She nodded, almost sadly.

He gave her a light hug. "Welcome back."

Margaret watched as the President wandered off a bit and jumped at the sudden appearance of a punch glass in front of her. Turning, she saw Leo holding the drink for her. She tried not to cry; she truly did. She was overwhelmed. She wasn't expecting the party, the people, the outpouring of friendship for her.

Leo slipped his free arm around her, pulling her as close as he dared as he whispered softly to her. "It's too much, isn't it? I'm sorry."

She shook her head. "I wasn't expecting it is all."

"You going to be all right?"

She nodded, looking at him gratefully.

"Was the agent upstairs too rough with you? I asked him to keep you there..."

"You did?!"

"I had to get down here somehow."

"I'm glad you came."

He smiled but released her. "Drink your punch."

Stay tuned...

Scenes from the next installment:

Her eyes had closed during his last few sentences and the look on her face seemed almost pained.

He lowered his head a bit, to try to look at her eyes, to look in them if she'd open them. "Margaret? Margaret, look at me."

Her eyes slowly opened but didn't meet his no matter how hard he tried. Margaret licked her lips before she spoke up, hoping her words would somehow succeed at getting exactly what she wanted to tell him across, at least eventually. "Leo, I... You know what I think, you know how I feel about us..."

Chapter 3

 

 

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