On This Day

part 3/5

 

 

 

 

"No."

"But Leo –"

"No."

"Leo –"

"Look, I said no the first time, and you didn't listen to me. I said no the second, and you were trying to prove your point. I said no the third time, and by then you were just pissing me off. It gets you nowhere – nowhere – to continue to argue this with me. Toby doesn't like your idea, I don't like your idea, and the President sure as hell isn't going to like your idea! It's done, move on."

Leo was expecting more of a fight from him, but none came. He was used to being shot down, he knew that they didn't trust his political instincts as they probably should, he had admitted that the rest of the senior staff excluded him and – consciously or not, accurately or not – made him the scapegoat for all of their recent problems. Leo should have been bothered by all of this but he was in no position to be objective, and had fallen victim to it as well. Leo watched as he left, and idly wondered if he would simply quit of his own accord, and if that would makes things better. Then he berated himself for his thoughts, told himself that the problem lay not necessarily with him but with the rest of them, and that he should concentrate on fixing that, helping them, allowing them to help.

 

Margaret came in to announce his 11 o'clock appointment. It was going to be a long day...

*****

The soft knocking at the doorway interrupted Leo's reading mid-sentence, and he looked up with irritation. His face softened when he saw who it was – Donna. He waved for her to enter.

"Come on in, Donna, have a seat."

"Margaret told me that you wanted to see me."

"Yeah, yeah I did."

"If you're busy, I can –"

"No, it's fine. I needed a break anyway...I feel like I've been at this for hours."

"Yeah, when Josh and I used to work late we'd –" She stopped short, realizing her topic and obviously not wishing to discuss it further.

Leo let silence fill the room for a moment before speaking, leaning back in his chair. "That's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about, actually. The...the Deputy Chief of Staff is usually the one to discuss staff relations and staff issues, but considering the subject I need to talk to you myself."

Donna's eyes showed fear, but her face remained remarkably calm and she sat silently, rigid in the chair.

"Donna, how are things in Communications?"

"Fine."

Leo sighed. "Donna, I need –"

"I show up on time, I work diligently. In my spare time I reorganize Sam's files and help Bonnie and Ginger. I take lunch at my desk, they let me go home at a normal hour. I don't usually work late, but I get everything done on time. I'm usually ahead of schedule, actually, which is why I help everyone else...there's really not as much to do as I would like, but I've been working on that, getting some new responsibilities. Sometimes I help Carol."

"Donna –"

"My research is accurate, and thorough. I do everything promptly. I try not to bother anyone. I bring them coffee. I..."

"Donna."

"Yeah?" She looked, and sounded, like a child waiting for a scolding.

Leo did his best to speak reassuringly. "Donna, you're not here to defend your work. I know that you work hard, I know that you do a good job. I just...with Josh...and this job being...I wanted to know if you're..."

"...happy?"

"No. Yeah. How are *you*?"

"I'm still here, aren't I? I won't go anywhere. I don't think I could, anyway. And Sam and Toby...they're my friends, it's good to work with them. So's CJ. Ginger, Bonnie, Margaret, Carol. I'll be fine. I just couldn't work there, not after..."

"Yeah."

"I'll be fine," she asserts again, and he can't help but wonder that she's right. She was determined, and strong-willed, as Josh had learned in the years he worked with her. Given some time...

"Have you talked to...to him...yet?"

"No. I haven't. He...hasn't tried, either. I think he knows I won't...that I can't...it's okay."

"All right, then. I just wanted to check up on things. Do me a favor though, Donna...don't work so hard. The other assistants won't have anything to do." He thought he saw the hint of a smile on her face. "You can go back. If you need anything..."

"Thank you, Leo."

He watched as she left, heard her speak with Margaret briefly before returning to the Communications bullpen. Margaret stepped in a moment later, expecting Leo to ask her what was next or make a request. He kept silent.

"Leo?"

He seemed surprised to see her. "Yeah?"

"You all right?"

"Yeah, I...yeah."

She eyed him warily, but didn't comment. "Admiral Fitzwallace will be here in fifteen minutes."

"Okay. Thanks, Margaret."

He waited until her heard her leave to sigh. If he wasn't careful, she'd start watching him even more closely. She was paranoid enough as it was – he didn't want to give her another reason. Not that she needed one. She had known him long enough to accurately judge his moods, and he knew that she was justifiably concerned. What he needed...

Well, what he really needed he couldn't have. Couldn't have that drink, either. He'd have to make due with what he had. Which wasn't much. Less, if you count the fact that not only was Josh offering advice, Leo was considering listening to it.

Leo thought back to this morning, when he had been having a conversation with Toby about how best to approach the Senator on the banking bill. The brief strategy session was going nowhere when Josh made a suggestion that just might work. Leo told Toby that that was the way to go, but Toby seemed confused...

<\\ "But what do you want me to do?"

"We just went over this!"

"Leo...?"

"Come on, Toby. You go to the meeting, you tell him –" //>

Leo had repeated the plan, not realizing until Toby left that the plan had been Josh's. And then he felt worse. He worried...he worried about what was happening to him, worried how much longer things would go on like this. That Josh was still in the room angered him, and he left his office quickly to pace through the halls of the West Wing. Later, he yelled at his Deputy.

It didn't help.

He resolved to talk to the guys...minus one but plus Donna...that night.

*****

Margaret came in with a memo, handing it to Leo and leaving the office. He scanned it quickly, was about to toss it aside, then looked at it again. "Margaret!" he yelled without looking up.

"Yes?"

"Get Josh in here right now. Sam, CJ, and Toby, too." He grabbed a pencil and began scribbling on the memo, thoughts racing. He still felt her presence in the room and looked up, surprised. "Margaret, I told you –"

"Leo."

"I asked for –"

Her voice rose slightly and was sharp in tone. "Leo."

He stopped to think, forehead wrinkling in concern as he replayed the conversation in his head. Damn. "Margaret, I..."

She sighed, and her voice was softer. "Leo, you said –"

"Yeah. Margaret, I meant...I need them all...just get them, okay? I need everybody here."

She said nothing, but left. He could hear her on the phone, gathering the troops. Great, now not only would Margaret be concerned again, he had to worry about keeping order between the factions. And it was three against one with a moderator who was not quite certain of his sanity. There was a reason he had begun hating senior staff meetings...

But he would talk to them later. He had put things off long enough, and he figured that now might be the best time. In a few days, it would be exactly one month's time. The other day...with Sam...that had been progress. He just needed to talk to them, to let them know, to help them out. *If it wasn't for Josh*...but that was neither here nor there. He had to believe that this was temporary, and that soon things would be set – not *right*, exactly, since that wasn't really possible. But better. He was ready for things to be better, and he thought that they were, as well. He smiled slightly to himself. Yeah, if he couldn't have normal, better would be just fine with him.

Part 4

 

 

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