Disclaimer—Characters belong to Aaron Sorkin. Any similarity to events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Notes—To Dani... Who I knew would read this for me. Thanks, love. ;)

Spoilers—Let Bartlet be Bartlet, In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, 18th and Potomac, Two Cathedrals. I think that's it.

Archive—Go for it. Just tell me where.

Feedback—Always greatly appreciated.

The Human Fly—Answer C.) Life sucks when you hit the window.

`If you were to describe your life right now, how would you describe it? My life: A) is perfect, wonderful, can't complain about a *thing*, B) sucks big time; I hate my life and wish it would just be over; somebody rescue me, put me out of my misery, or C) is difficult because I have a secret unrequited burning love for my boss.'

Who wrote these questions? I glance over at Bonnie and Ginger, who are sitting a table over from me here in the Mess. They see my look and they burst into giggles. I narrow my gaze, then look back at this so-called `quiz.' Quiz my ass. This is blackmail material. That's what they're after.

"Why are we doing this again?" I ask, knowing they won't tell me the truth. I just want to hear their excuse again.

"Oh, it's just for fun," says Bonnie.

Oh, yeah. This is fun. Sarcasm. Mrs. Landingham would come down on me in a heartbeat if she were still here: `I would expect sarcasm from Leo or Toby, occasionally Josh, but from you? Don't be reduced to their excuses for humor, dear. Would you like a cookie?' I miss Mrs. Landingham.

"Just for fun?" I ask skeptically.

"Oh, sure. You don't have to answer those truthfully. You can make up answers if you want," adds Ginger.

Okay, so I mark answer `A', because there's no way in hell anybody here could answer *that* one with a straight face. No way. My super hates me. My roommate gets on my nerves--which is why I stay here as late as I possibly can most nights. My car isn't working again, so I'm back to riding the Metro. I don't really like navigating through D.C. traffic anyway, but, y'know, it is nice to be *mobile* when the need arises. Now, if I mark answer `B', that would be a lie, too. Know why? Because, although there are times when I feel like that, I certainly don't feel like that all the time. I mean, there are worse things in this world. Everybody has their struggles, even President Bartlet. Answer `C'...

It's like that old mind puzzle thing... Okay, maybe it's not a mind puzzle thing--brainteaser! That's the word. It's not a brainteaser. But, it's something, and here it is: A man who always tells the truth tells you he's lying. Is he telling the truth, or is he lying?

I could mark either of the first two answers and say that that's my joking answer... But then they'd know that I have a secret unrequited burning love for my boss. And if I answer `C', then they don't know if I'm telling the truth or if I'm lying, but they could guess... And they gave this to me because I'm a nice person-- everybody says so because I put up with a *lot* of crap. I get a lot from my boss--love or none--and I tend to get it from other sources, too, but...

God, this is awful. Let's mark answer `B' and get it the hell over with.

Instead, I fold the paper up in my book--this political biography I'm trying to read--and dump my tray from the Mess and head back upstairs to ponder this.

Do I have to answer the thing? I could tell them I accidentally threw it away. Then they'd probably go through the trash to find it, knowing them and their `burning' curiosity. I could hide it in my desk. They'd never find it there... My desk is an absolute mess. It is. People always tell me they're surprised I know where anything is. I'm a very... organized messy person.

I smile as I pass Josh in the hallway. "Hi, Josh."

"Hey," he says, obviously in a rush to get somewhere.

I try not to sigh. I know my place. I'm just an assistant. Which means my feelings about, y'know, answer `C', are completely and totally, y'know, hopeless. I let my head drop as I continue through the halls.

"Are you okay?" asks Sam.

Looking up, I smile. "Oh, sure. How are you?"

"Late for a meeting on the Hill. You haven't seen Josh by any chance, have you?"

"He's about twenty steps ahead of you," I say, gesturing over my shoulder.

He smiles, touches my arm, and thanks me before walking on.

And Mallory hasn't snatched him up yet? What's she waiting on? An engraved invitation? I should call her up, tell her that she's missing out on the second best guy in the whole West Wing. Then she'd ask me who the first one is... And then she'd put it together... And the last thing I need is for *anybody else* to put it together. It's bad enough that Bonnie and Ginger are on the trail but...

I sigh again. Life does suck today. Big time. Of course, the Senior Staff is running around like... like there's no tomorrow. God, don't think about that. I still have two years here at any rate...

I find my desk and sit down, opening my book and looking at the survey again. Some of the other questions, I think I could answer. `If you were an animal, which would you be and why? A) An elephant, because I'm really a Republican hiding in this White House. B) A donkey, because I really am a Democrat. I'm also stubborn. Very stubborn. C) Some sort of flying creature so I could fly *very far* away from my boss, who is the object of my desires, because I know I can't have him.

Okay, no, I'm not gonna answer *that* one either.

`You are stranded on a desert island and can only have one of the following items. Which do you bring? A) Food supplies for a month. B) An emergency flare. C.) My boss.

I swear to *God*, those ladies in the Communications Bullpen have *way* too much time on their hands!

Crumpling up the paper, I toss it into the wastebasket. Shaking off the whole stupid thing, I go back to my computer and start typing up a memo for the public liaison office. Normally, I can type up to one hundred and some-odd words per minute. I think I'm going about twenty now. And that's simply because my mind is *so far* from my job right now that it's not even funny. It's annoying is what it is. I should be focused. I should be working, giving it my all. My head is stuck back on those questions.

"You're not getting an ergonomic keyboard, Margaret, so keep typing."

I look up, startled to see my boss standing over me. "L-Leo."

He breezes into his office and I exhale slowly before returning my attention to the memo.

"I'm fine; how are you?" I mumble quietly to myself as I shake my head and start typing again.

"Are you okay?"

I jump.

"Margaret?"

I look up and he's back at my desk, his head tilted ever so slightly. His eyes look at me questioningly, almost, y'know, in concern. I open my mouth to answer but can't quite.

"Okay," he says with a heavy sigh.

He looks... frustrated? Angry at me. What'd I do? I was just trying to get my voice box to cooperate with my mind and lips, to express my answer to his question. And I didn't make it.

"When's the Senate Minority Leader coming?"

I turn and look at his schedule. "I'm okay."

"What?"

"The Senator will be here in about twenty minutes."

"What'd you say before that?"

"I'm answering your questions..."

"Margaret, you aren't making any sense. Why don't you come in here and talk to me?"

"I said I'm okay before..."

"Margaret."

"You really want to talk to me?"

"You aren't making *any* sense. You usually, y'know, make some sense."

"My car quit."

"Okay."

"My roommate hates me."

"I'm... sorry to hear that," he says carefully, like he's searching for the words.

"So does the apartment super."

"You should find someplace else to live."

"That's easier said than done."

"Well, if it's interfering with your work..."

"It's not."

"Then... what's the problem?"

The truth or a lie... a lie or the truth... "A survey." Truth. That's what this is... an infernal game of Truth or Dare with the communications assistants...

He looks... like he's with me now. Not with me with me, but on the same page. "Answers to surveys, polls... Margaret, those things can be presented just so. Don't worry about our polling numbers, okay?"

I wasn't, but... "Okay."

"Okay," he says, offering me a little smile. God, I could melt... Right here... Where's the bucket? Somebody call the custodial staff; have them send someone with a mop...

He disappears again and I let my head fall onto my desk.

"Margaret--"

I sit up quickly. He's gotta quit doing that. "Yes?" Ooooh... those eyes full of concern again... over me... Yeah, okay, *this* is interfering with my work.

"If you're not feeling well, I would send you home, but if you don't like where you're staying... You want me to call the First Lady? Have her come by?"

"Well, for one thing, I'm fine. For another... Isn't that kinda what got us into this mess?"

"What mess?" he asks. He's feigning confusion. I know him. He doesn't think I can tell when he's lying. I can.

"Well, the mess about the Multiple Sclerosis... About Dr. Bartlet potentially losing her license."

Okay, whatever, y'know, kindness, is gone from his eyes. "In the office," he says. Okay, maybe it was more of a forceful order... Definitely more of a forceful order. I barely have time to save my file on the computer before I'm pulled into the office.

He closes the door and still has his hand wrapped tightly around my upper arm. I don't like seeing him mad... especially when it's aimed at me. This is like ten times worse than when I told him I could sign the President's name...

"What the hell do you know about that?" he asks in a harsh, low whisper.

"J-just what I said." Although, there is something to be said about a powerful guy... Stop. He's gonna yell at you; don't make a list of his more charming attributes right now...

"How?"

"How what?"

"How do you know?"

"I hear things."

"Margaret--" Y'know, he says my name a lot. And I've learned to tell *just* how mad he is by the way he says my name. This one... This one is new. It's not the exhausted `Margaret.' It's not the pissed `Margaret.' It's not even the bring-me-the-head- of-whoever-screwed-up `Margaret.' This is a whole new `Margaret.' I don't know if I like this `Margaret.' "How do you hear things?"

"You know I listen," I say slowly, knowing he's going to explode. I think I'm going to get to know this new `Margaret' very well... I cringe in preparation for what he says next.

He doesn't say anything next. He's just looking at me. In my eyes, at my face, at my expression... which is slowly losing it's scrunched up quality because, well, his head isn't exploding. He's not breathing fire at me, which is always a good thing. But, he's not saying anything either. I wish he'd say something--anything--so that I would know where I stand.

"L-Leo?" I venture cautiously. His head could still explode... He could still breathe fire at me.

"You should quit being the human fly, Margaret," he says gently, his grip on my arm slowly loosening.

"Am I going to be subpoenaed because of this?"

He glances away. Is it pain that's crossing his features? He looks back at me. "Honestly?" I nod. "I don't know."

"I promise I'll never be a fly again," I say quickly. I don't want to go before the special prosecutor... I don't want to go before the special prosecutor...

"Well, you shouldn't be a fly, because bugs are pests..."

Ouch. Yup. That one hurt.

"But... Stick with the truth, Margaret. If you are called before the grand jury, stick with the truth. There are enough liars in Washington that we don't need another, all right?"

I nod. He's a lawyer. He knows this stuff.

"If you say you heard things through the door, I doubt your testimony will be weighed as seriously as, say, mine will."

"Do I need to get a lawyer?"

He smiles a little. God, that grin... I'm standing here, talking to him about court cases and subp--let's not even go there... I'm talking to him about *serious* stuff and I'm getting distracted by his smile. "I don't think so. And if you want legal counsel, you can always come to me."

I inhale slowly. "Okay," I say as I exhale.

"Go back to work."

"Yeah."

And we both reach for the door handle at the same time. Of course, his hand is still on my arm anyway. We stand like that... Our hands touching at the doorknob; his hand still on my arm. But only for a moment. He pulls away and goes back to his desk.

I open the door and go back to my office and sit down. My head hits the desk again.

The human fly just hit the windshield.

End.

 

 

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