For notes and disclaimer, please see part one.
Previously, on the West Wing: Josh and Sam do a little investigating into Leo's good mood, but hit brick walls and the President is sent in, but he doesn't get very far either. Leo's got a sort of plan to keep his relationship with Margaret a secret, and she finally comes back to work after her seizure.
Despite Margaret's incessant questions all of Saturday and Sunday morning, Leo refused to tell her what he wanted to do Sunday afternoon.
After lunch, he sat down with her on the couch in her apartment with a serious expression on his face. Margaret swallowed hard, somewhat anxious about the look he was giving her.
"Margaret, I... I haven't told you what I have planned for this afternoon, because I didn't want you to stress over it. Whatever you decide is *fine* with me. I don't want you to feel pressured in any way and this... what I'm doing is a *big* thing, something really somewhat important and potentially nerve-wracking and a pain in the neck--"
"Leo, what is it?" asked Margaret gently, holding his hand.
"In about forty-five minutes, I have to meet with my real estate agent."
"Real estate agent..."
"Wh... What for?"
"To look at houses."
"I'm not going to live in a hotel for the rest of my life, and it isn't fair to you that this is kind of our lone hideout... Not that it's really... There's just no way you could spend the night with me in my hotel. It's just... It'd be--"
"Bad," Margaret provided.
"So what is it, exactly, that you're asking me?" Margaret asked quietly. "Is it... Is it that you want me to go with you? To look at these houses?"
He nodded slowly. "But you don't have to!" he amended quickly. "If it will, in any way, make you, in the slightest, uncomfortable, you can absolutely tell me no."
"I'd love to."
Leo was silent for a moment. "You don't mind?"
She smiled, shaking her head. "Of course not."
"Because if you do--"
She silenced him with a kiss. "I want to look at houses with you," she said quietly afterwards.
He took her face in his hands, looking in her eyes. "You'll tell me if you like the house, too? If you think you'd feel safe there? Comfortable? Let me know your concerns, the things you like and the things you don't. Margaret, I... I want, at some point, to share this house with you," he said quietly. "I mean, I've stayed here with you since Wednesday, and I... I want you to stay with me there," he told her. "Away from the crazies who are high and hang out in the stairwells late at night. I want you to be safe. I want to give you the kind of security you deserve."
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..."
"Yeah," he said softly, caressing her cheek, still trying to coax her to look at him.
"So why'd you ask?" she asked, looking in his eyes.
"A house is a big thing... in a lot of ways, so I... I just wanted to make absolutely sure."
"Then rest assured that I am absolutely sure, so you should be, too."
He smiled broadly, happily.
"Are... Are you worried about the real estate agent? Is that it?"
He shook his head. "Nah. You're my assistant. I drag you along to practically everything else."
"Except Rosslyn..." she said quietly, regretting it the instant she said it.
He exhaled, not wanting to think about that night. That night had been the 'beginning of the scandal' so to speak. He had thought about the night a million times since it happened. He didn't dwell in the past; there was nothing he could do about it, but he did drift back to that night sometimes, thinking about how differently things could've turned out. If the President hadn't been shot, he wouldn't have been put under anesthesia and the whole letter mess wouldn't have come up. There wouldn't have been a night where he was accused of running a coup d'état.
There wouldn't have been a night when he saw fear in Margaret's eyes and heard it in her voice.
He remembered everything about the night of the assassination attempt--everything. Somehow he knew that the MS would be revealed because of it. Somehow he knew that he had to remember everything, that it would be *bad* eventually. Not that it wasn't bad enough that night.
He remembered calling her from the car that he was put into shortly after the gunshots subsided. He knew she'd be worried.
After the initial shock had worn off and Margaret saw Mrs. Landingham racing out of the bullpen, so did she and back to Leo's office. The phone was ringing off the hook already. Members of Congress, high-ranking members of the Democratic Party, members of the McGarry family including Mallory and both of Leo's sisters as well as Jenny. That had probably been Margaret's toughest call to handle. Jenny was torn between wanting to forget about him and wanting to ignore the fact that they were in the process of a divorce.
When Margaret didn't have any information for her, Jenny laid into the White House staffer, yelling furiously. After all, it was the White House that had taken Leo from her, why didn't the White House know everything? Margaret didn't have any answers whatsoever and the phone's lights were ablaze with incoming calls until she finally had to terminate the call from Jenny.
The call had rattled her. Jenny put the fear of God in Margaret: Was Leo really all right or was he lying in a puddle of blood in the streets of Rosslyn?
She was doing her best to keep tears from falling when she punched the button for the next telephone call. "L-Leo McGarry's office," she said, praying to God that it would continue to be his office.
She placed a hand over her heart as the tears fell freely. "Leo! Are you all right? What happened? Is anyone hurt? Are you okay? What's going on?"
"I'm fine. They put me in a car; I don't know anything yet and I'm going to guess that you don't either."
She shook her head, not that he could've seen it. "No. Nothing. I'm b-being bombarded with telephone calls from everyone and I... I don't know anything..."
"I don't have any answers for you," he said. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
She nodded again, mentally kicking herself for the gesture before she told him, "Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine."
"Sit down, Margaret, okay? Everything'll be okay."
"How'd you know I was standing?"
He smiled a little, the first time since the gunshots had disrupted the rally. "Sit down, Margaret," he said gently.
She did so numbly, still holding onto the telephone in a death-grip. "Is everyone okay?"
"I don't know."
"What happened, Leo?"
"They shot at us."
"I don't know yet."
The car Leo was riding in sped and soon made a u-turn. "Shit!" yelled Leo.
"Leo!" Margaret asked frantically.
"Something's wrong, Margaret, I don't know what yet--stay by the phone, all right? Stay there."
After Leo spoke with the President, Gina Tuscano, watched Josh roll into George Washington University Hospital on a stretcher and things were somewhat calmed down, he headed for the White House. The instant he was in the building, Margaret was notified and met him halfway to his office.
"What happened, Leo? What's wrong?"
He sighed a little seeing her scared, frightened, terrified. "In the office."
"Margaret, in my office." He didn't bellow and it didn't seem like an order, more a suggestion. She led him back to his office, though, and gently pushed the door closed, to buffer the ruckus that was also known as the West Wing in crisis mode.
She waited patiently for him to speak, watching his expression carefully. It shifted gradually, running the gamut of emotions from sadness and heartache to anger and fury, almost too subtle to register but Margaret, having been Leo's assistant for almost a decade, caught every look and recognized the nuances of each.
"There's no easy way to say this," he began, "so I'm just going to say it."
"Margaret, while we were outside along the rope line, both the President and Josh were shot."
Her breath caught in her throat quickly. Her eyes widened in shock and in panic.
"The President, it shouldn't be too bad, but Josh..." Leo stopped talking when he recognized that Margaret was looking a little woozy. Without asking or saying something to her about it, he guided her to his couch and sat down with her. "A bullet collapsed Josh's lung and another went through the President's abdomen, hopefully without much damage. They're looking to make sure."
"Are they both going to be okay?"
He shrugged. He didn't know.
"Oh," she said again, quieter.
She looked up at him. "Hm?"
"We've got a lot of work to do now. Are you going to be able to help me?"
And that had been it. She was able to shake it off, operating on autopilot for quite some time, offering her assistance in whatever capacity necessary, including forging the President's signature on a document to remove Bartlet from power and hand it over to Hoynes. As annoyed as Leo might have seemed by the offer, ever since he had looked back and laughed. That was just the kind of woman Margaret was: selfless and giving. That was the kind of woman his soul mate was. That was the kind of woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.
"Yeah," Leo said finally, answering Margaret after several long minutes of reflection had passed. "Except Rosslyn... And I'm glad I didn't take you there," he told her, looking in her eyes. "If something had happened to you then..."
"Nothing did," she said. "So it doesn't matter..."
"I would've signed that letter," she added quietly. "No matter what the consequences."
He nodded. "I know."
They looked at a total of six houses before Margaret stopped Leo in the den of one and pointed out the big picture windows to the expansive lush green grounds. "It's pretty, isn't it?" Margaret asked quietly.
Leo looked at her for a moment before easing an arm around her, thankful his real estate agent had stepped out to take a cellular phone call (after apologizing profusely). "Did you have a big backyard growing up?"
She shook her head. "It, uh... I would walk a couple blocks to this playground." She looked at him. "Swings, monkey bars, teeter-totters..." Returning her attention to the window, she let out a hint of a wistful sigh. "Nothing like this in our backyard. Junk cars that Dad would buy for spare parts..."
"No junk cars here." Kissing the side of her head, he said, "Let's take a look at the upstairs."
She nodded as he guided her up the wide staircase in the central hall that led to the second floor. They explored the library and the guestrooms (Andrew suggested that one function as a home office; Margaret and Leo both laughed) as well as the master bedroom suite. As Andrew wrapped up his house spiel, Margaret and Leo looked at each other. They knew.
"Andrew, make an offer on this one, would you? You know how much I'm willing to spend," said Leo, slowly getting lost in Margaret's eyes.
"I'd like to close this deal as soon as possible, though."
"Would there be anyway I could be moved in by this next weekend?"
Andrew thought for a moment, shrugged. "More than likely. I know that the owners of this house are anxious for a deal."
Leo smiled a little. "Good."
By Wednesday, most of Leo's possessions were being moved into the house just outside the main D.C.-metro area. He had offered to move any of Margaret's items into the house that she wished; he was more than willing to foot the bill. Margaret just shook her head the one time they discussed it quietly in his office before a meeting.
"Don't worry about it," she told him.
She smiled. "Your eleven-thirty briefing is here."
As Margaret was packing up for the night on Friday, Leo beckoned her into his office. "Go home and get a bag. Jay will be by to pick you up in an hour."
She nodded, smiling a little. Leo resisted the urge to kiss her before she turned on her heel and left.
Almost an hour and a half later, Leo was standing on the front porch of the house in casual clothing as Jay pulled the car up the driveway. Stepping down to the car, Leo opened the backdoor for Margaret and took her hand to help her out. Jay offered to get the bag, but Leo beat him to it even with Margaret's gentle protests of being able to carry her own suitcase. Bidding Jay goodnight, Leo led her into the house--their house. He didn't see it as his; he saw it as theirs. Maybe he was getting ahead of himself but he really didn't care. It felt right and hoped it did to Margaret, too.
Margaret's eyes had yet to break with Leo's even as they walked through the door, causing Leo to enter backwards. He dropped her bag by the door and pulled her into his arms, laughing warmly.
She understood: relief, joy. She laughed, too. It was nice to be outside the district and to be together. It seemed as though they'd be freer down an exclusive drive as opposed to her apartment in the middle of downtown D.C. Fewer cars, fewer possibilities of getting caught.
As his laughter died down, he pulled back to look at her, taking her face in his hands. "Welcome home, Margaret," he said quietly.
She smiled a little, almost shyly, as Leo drew her lips to his and kissed her longingly. In the slow, amorous kiss, he felt warm tears slip between his hands and her cheeks. Leo dried her face as they continued to kiss and put his arms around her to pull her closer, into the safety of his embrace. Margaret held onto him as they kissed, getting swept away in the passion.
When the kiss ended, Leo looked in her eyes. "I know that this is something... something maybe you weren't expecting... The house..." Of her slight nod, he continued. "I... I want you to consider this a second home, Margaret, I do..."
"That's the thing," she said quietly. "I do consider it a home... Mine and yours."
He smiled lovingly. "You want to see our house, then?" he asked. "It looks a little differently with furniture."
She grinned, nodding. With one last kiss, Leo guided her through their home, keeping an arm around her for most of the tour. In the den, Margaret tried to look out the picture windows but, with night having fallen hours ago, she couldn't. He caught her glance and slight frown and noticed she had already moved onto running her fingers along the upholstered arm of the couch. He caught her fingers as they reached the end and wrapped his hand around them, guiding her slowly out of the room and into the next room--the living room--which just so happened to have access to the back deck via a sliding glass door. Flicking on the light switch to the deck, he guided her outside and let her survey all that she could see.
She stepped away from him and looked out. She could see the houses around theirs, but the closest was at least an acre away. She wasn't used to that. She had been living in tenement buildings for years, since she moved out of her parents' house to go to college. Even when she had lived in Dover, the houses were practically stacked on top of each other, at least in her neighborhood. Looking out, she felt free, truly free. She may live in the "land of the free" but her definition of being independent had always included living in a space barely big enough to live in and sharing a structure with a good fifty, sixty, seventy other people.
Leo watched her as she took it all in. She walked up to the edge of the deck and leaned against the railing. He wasn't sure, but it almost looked as though she could just take off, soaring high over their property. He felt like he was flying right along side her by just watching her.
Feeling his eyes on her, when she turned to look at him, she smiled.
Leo crossed to her and wrapped his arms around her, resting his head on her shoulder and looking out over the backyard together in the dark. "I like it here."
"Me, too. Right here," she said, leaning back against him.
"Stay forever?" he asked quietly.
She smiled a little. "Nothing you could say could tear me away from my guy..."
He laughed warmly, a sound that had been missing for a long time during the M.S. mess. "Tell me why you didn't take up a career in singing?"
"Well, for starters, we wouldn't have met if I was some singer somewhere."
"You never know about that. Soul mates find each other, right?"
"Well, eventually, yeah..."
"So, tell me why you didn't take up singing professionally."
"My music teacher always told me I was a little flat."
"Mm, well, Ambassador Marbury says you're quite buxom and I'm inclined to agree."
She narrowed her eyes and glanced back to see an insatiable grin on his face.
"Hey, I'm just repeating an observation and saying that I happen to concur."
She turned in his arms and played with the collar of his shirt while she pondered her response.
"But," he said, looking in her eyes. "I think it was an observation he shouldn't have made."
"But you agree with it."
"I make it a policy to agree with the truth 'cause, y'know, the truth shall set you free."
"The truth is... I love you."
"Even if I agree with Marbury?"
"If you happy isn't a sign of the apocalypse, you agreeing with Lord John Marbury most certainly is."
"It's not that bad, is it?"
"When you go into work tomorrow, ask Josh."
"After spending the night with you in our home?"
"He won't get over the fact I'm still in a good mood."
She smiled softly and he pulled her closer, diving into her eyes. They kissed in the breeze, in the open air without the fear of a snapping camera, without the possibility of prying eyes.
For once, he wasn't the White House Chief of Staff and she wasn't someone who worked for him. He was just Leo and she was just Margaret.
She was his girl and he was her guy.
And they were very much in love.
Series will continue in One Particular Harbor...
which I'm still working on, so no excerpt this time, but the tag line is this: When you need a little shelter...