Disclaimers: See chapter 1

warning: themes of violence 

Chapter 11

Confessions

 

"Margaret, what are you doing here?" Leo boomed as he stood before her. Margaret was at her desk trying to organize the mess left by the latest batch of rabbits. She jumped a little at the vehemence of his greeting, but was prepared to stand her ground.

 

"Are we going to have some of the same craziness as last time? You donít take care of yourself and then you end up in the hospital. Then I end up with a roomful of young women whose names I canít remember and who spend the whole week terrified of me. Is that what you want, Margaret?" Leo was getting red.

 

Margaret returned his look with a determined face.

 

"Margaret, I have had about all I can handle of that defiant look in your eye. I have somehow ended up to be the bad guy in this drama and Iím tired of it," he paused for a minute. "Well, are you going to say anything?" He finished in an exasperated tone.

 

"I want to make sure that youíre finished beating me down first," she unthinkingly returned in anger.

 

Leoís jaw dropped. He looked at the woman in front of him, one side of her face still a vibrant collage of purple, yellow, and green. He swallowed hard, but found himself unable to respond to her statement. Margaret saw the horror descend upon his features. She opened her mouth to say something, anything, but it was too late. He had already turned and bolted out the door. Margaret wanted to call after him to stop, but those words didnít come to her. Instead, she was dumbfounded by what had just occurred in front of her.

 

 

 

 

Josh dropped onto a bench outside of the Dirkson Building for a minute. He had spent the better part of the last eight hours hunting and harassing legislators here and at the Capital Building. It was hard work. People scattered like mice before him whenever he turned into a new corridor. Receptionists cowered behind desks amidst false claims that their bosses were out for the day. Twice he was able to trap people by lying in wait in one of the buildingís many bathrooms. He hoped that Darcy Hanover from South Carolina would eventually find a sense of humor about the fact that he followed her into the ladies room. Personally he didnít know what the big fuss was about. All the womenís rooms had doors on the stalls. He had tried to explain that to her as she chased him out, but she wasnít much interested in anything he had to say.

Josh allowed himself a smile. He had really enjoyed the day. Even if he had no idea what Toby was up to, there was nothing quite like a day spent keeping this nationís legislators on their toes through well-executed intimidation. He wasnít sure what good was going to come out of this week, but he was certain that a fair number of congresspersons were going to be trying to prove their worth to him in the coming months.

He was considering whether it would be worth one more frontal assault on this building when a man in a trenchcoat approached. At first, he thought it was a congressional aide, but there was something in his walk that suggested a more cautious man, someone who had to be ready for anything. Josh looked up at him squinted through the glare of the sun.

 

"You Josh Lyman?" the man seemed to accuse rather than question.

 

"Yeah," Josh met his eyes.

 

"Got a few minutes?"

 

"Depends on who wants them," Josh responded warily.

 

"I understand that youíre a guy that knows that the rules donít cover all situations." The man seemed to be gauging Joshís reactions.

 

"Okay, cut with the cloak and dagger. Either tell me what you want or go. Youíre blocking my sun," Josh was getting irritated.

 

"Shit. Iím not sure about you."

 

"So go. Come back when you are sure." Josh was in no mood for this.

 

"I have a friend in Senator Williamís office says you can be trusted."

 

"Well, do you trust her judgment?"

 

"She is in politics."

 

"Touche. And yet here you are."

 

"Letís walk," he gestured with his head and turned toward the mall area.

 

There was something about his determination that got through to Josh. He got up and followed.

 

"I saw you and Miss Moss at the 4th precinct last night," he said after a few minutes of silence. Josh stopped dead.

 

"What newspaper are you with?" he demanded.

 

"Iím not."

 

"Bullshit," Josh insisted.

 

"Iím a detective in the sex crimes unit, Detective First Grade Allan Jacobs," he said showing Josh his shield.

 

"Youíre on her case. Fine. What the hell with all of this cat and mouse crap?"

 

"Iím not on her case."

 

"Then why are you here?" the exasperation poured out of his mouth.

 

"Theyíre going to deadend this case. Itís not going anywhere."

 

"They sent you to tell me that." Josh responded through clenched teeth.

 

"No, they donít know Iím here. But I know the detectives on this case. Theyíre going to swallow this and move on. Itís too much hassle. They know where itís headed."

 

"Well thatís great. Thatís fantastic. And you thought you should come and give me a heads up on this. This is a snapshot of law enforcement in all of its glory," Josh spat sarcastically.

 

"Would you shut up for a minute? I am here to tell you something that might help, you idiot," Jacobs responded angrily. "Iím here to give you information that will cost me my job if it ever gets out. What do you think the job marketís like for an unemployed police detective, huh?"

 

"Iím listening," Josh responded warily.

 

"I know Grey. Iíve seen him before. Donna Moss is not the first woman to try and file charges against him."

 

"What! What the hell! I checked. This man has no convictions."

 

"Alright, Lyman. You need to slow down and let me tell this. Understand?" Jacobs warned.

 

Josh just looked back at him silently. Jacobs took this as a cue and he started again.

 

"Two years ago, a young woman came in. Iím not going to give you the girlís name," Jacobs turned and told Josh with a finality that needed no response. "Actually she was brought in by the Senator Shermanís office manager, a woman named Lydia Sparks. She was outraged that such a thing could happen out of the office of a guy as respected as Sherman. Kept telling the girl that this was the way to take back her power. I listened. Her story was similar to the one told by your friend, Miss Moss. It wasnít going to be an easy case, but we werenít about to fold or anything." Jacobs paused for a moment. They were in front of the reflecting pool. He stared at the water as it lapped gently against the cement borders.

"The next day, I went to see Grey. It took me about two seconds to classify him as a grade A asshole. He was trying to be my big friend. "These things happen." He said. Said that she was just angry that he doesnít see a future in this relationship. He apologized that I had to be troubled with this triviality. Said he was going to talk to her and smooth things over. I told him that if he went near her, I was going put him in jail. And then he smiled. He didnít have to worry about a thing. A guy backed by as many millions as he has doesnít have to worry about laws and such." His voice was dripping with the anger he felt. Josh stood quietly beside him careful not to interrupt his soliloquy.

"A day later, the girl came back into the precinct. This time sheís got a couple of very expensive suits with her. I could tell they were way too expensive for her. But she said they were her lawyers and that she wanted to make a statement although she looked like she was willing to do anything but. I tried to separate her from the goons, but they werenít having it. She sat down and said she had made the whole thing up. Like a robot she tells me all of this. She said she was just angry that he didnít see the same future that she did. She said it exactly the same way that Grey said it. The so-called lawyers with her kept pressing her to make sure she has refuting all of the allegations. No way were they advocating for her. I couldnít get her to look at me. When she was finished, I could see that there was no way to reach her. She wasnít seeing anybody with those eyes." He stopped for a minute as if caught in that memory. Josh gave him a minute and then urged him on.

 

"Tell me everything, Jacobs," he said firmly.

 

"It was such bullshit. About a week after she recanted, I decided that I couldnít let it sit. I called Shermanís office. They said that she didnít work there anymore. I asked for Lydia Sparks. They said she was gone too. I called my friend and asked her to get the scoop. She called me back and said that the girl quit the day after she recanted. Said she was going back home to Montana. She told me that Sparks had been fired a couple of days earlier for gross insubordination. It smelled so bad, Lyman. I tried to forget, but I couldnít. I traced the girl to Montana. She was staying with her mother. She wouldnít talk to me. I looked for Sparks, but she was gone too," he paused once more and took a deep breath.

 

"About a month later, the girlís mom called. She had found my card in her daughterís things. Told me that her daughter killed herself a few days earlier," he stopped and swallowed hard. Josh felt a chill run through his body. "She was calling because she was lost. She wanted to understand what had happened. Her daughter had gone to Washington a vibrant and happy person. She had returned to her mother, a sad and troubled person. I wanted to tell her everything, but I couldnít. I knew that it wouldnít ease her pain. It would only serve to deepen her grief." Both men were quiet for a while, each lost in their own thoughts and feelings.

 

"You said you could help," Josh ventured finally.

 

"About six months ago, I ran into Lydia Sparks. Needless to say, she wasnít excited to see me. It looked like she had been through quite a lot since I last saw her. She knew about the girl. She didnít say anything, but I could tell she knew. She told me that it took her 10 months before she finally found a job in the archives of the Agriculture Department. I could tell that she had a story to tell. I didnít press for it though. I knew better than to think I could promise her any kind of protection." With that, he turned to Josh.

 

"Thatís why Iím talking to you. A man in your position has power. You can promise things that I canít. Sheís got something to say. I can feel it. Work with me on this. I know this is important. I know that you do not want to see that piece of human garbage get away with more of the same." There was a fever in Jacobsí eyes. Josh could see it. He could feel it. He shared it.

 

"Letís find her," he said simply.

 

 

 

 

 

"Come on in gentlemen." The President came out into reception with arms wide in order to escort his three guests into the Oval Office. "How are you all? Itís a lovely evening, donít you think? John, how is your wife and children? The youngest is at Yale as I recall. Good. Good! Reginald, you are looking fine. Are you getting out to the golf course this summer? Excellent! And Sheldon, you are looking good this evening. I hear tell youíre on that Atkins diet. Well, you look as thin as a recruit in basic training. Amazing!" He continued his patter as he escorted his guests into the office. They were all wearing suspicious faces. At the very least, a tongue lashing is what they had expected. And here he was, Jed Bartlett, acting like the patriarch at a family reunion.

 

"Find a seat. Get comfortable. I sure appreciate you all coming over here after hours. I know you all have busy lives. You all know Leo McGarry and Toby Ziegler. They are joining us for this little meeting." Toby and Leo nodded from their spots near the Presidentís desk. Donít worry. I can see that frown working its way onto your face, Senator Labrandt. I can assure you that we wonít take more than 30 minutes of your time this evening. Senator Holling, I see that scowl youíre giving Toby right there. You wouldnít still be mad about his little diatribe on Crossfire last month. You know how Toby is, you start talking about education, and he goes right for the jugular. But its all part of the game we play, isnít it? If you just got to know him, is all. Around here, we think of him as a big, bald Teddy Bear." Toby winced and Leoís mouth turned up into an almost imperceptible grin. The President clapped his hands together and stood before the gathered party.

 

"So I thought we might all have a little talk about the trade bill," he began.

 

"Sir, I believe that this ship has sailed," responded Senator Sheldon Sherman.

 

"Well Shelly, it couldnít have. The vote is not until Friday. This is only Wednesday night," the President replied with mock confusion.

 

"Sir, we have looked over your bill and there are some things that we, in all good conscience, could not support," Senator Holling said.

 

"Itís almost the same bill that you all pledged support to in this office five months ago."

 

"Yes sir, but things have changed. We feel that it is no longer the best thing for our constituents," Holling continued.

 

"Yes, things have changed. That surge in my approval rating that happened after the shooting has leveled off. I am not the prettiest girl at the dance anymore, am I gentlemen?" Jed Bartlet said frankly.

 

"Sir if I mayÖ" began Senator LaBrandt.

 

"No Reginald, right now you may not," Bartlet continued. "I did not invite you here to point fingers at you or to appeal to your consciences. I know that essentially you have none. So I wonít waste my time."

 

The Senators exchanged looks of confusion.

 

"John, did you tell a Georgia state legislatorís meeting that I was refusing to cooperate on a compromise to the trade bill, that I had no reasonable ideas on subsidies?" The President looked squarely at John LaBrandt.

 

"Sir, the context of the speech was such thatÖ"

 

"Ah, there was a context. Well, John, I have a transcript of all the eveningís comments right here. Tell me what context the script does not describe."

 

"I donít know how to effectively answer your question."

 

"I figured. No bother. Reginald, I have a transcript of a local VFW meeting in your home state that says essentially the same thing. Do you remember saying it?" the President inquired.

 

"Itís how this game is played, Mr. President," he tried to match the Presidentís glare.

 

"So Iíve been told, Senator. Shelly, you said you would vote for a subsidy package if I would just come up with one, and you said it to about 3,000 South Carolina farmers. Do you remember this?" the President cocked his head at Senator Sherman.

 

"Yes, but there is none, sir."

 

"Well, there was one, but you all refused to discuss it with me. You told me that the days of subsidies were behind us, didnít you?" the President said pointedly. Toby was holding his breath. Everything hinged on how the President played his hand here.

 

"Sir, is it really necessary for you to take us to task like a bunch of school children?" Senator LaBrandt asked haughtily.

 

"No it is not. Schoolchildren are much better behaved than all of you. If I had my choice, you all would be in chains for dishonoring the elected office of Senator." Jed Bartlett gave them a hard look. "What weíre here to do is give you an opportunity to do the right thing. Turn over a new leaf as it were. Give you a chance to start fresh."

 

"What do you mean?" asked LaBrandt warily.

 

"The subsidy clause is back in the bill. Now you can show your constituents that you mean what you say," he declared cheerfully.

 

"It is not," Sherman said haltingly.

 

"Yes it is. We put it back in today. Show them Toby."

 

Toby stepped forward with three complete copies of the trade bill. He had circled the changed area and he indicated this to them.

 

"Do you see, we changed an "or". Now look at that sentence," said the President. Toby stayed quiet preferring to play Vanna to his Presidentís Pat Sajak.

 

"This is not the bill that passed committee," Sherman shouted.

 

"Well, it really is, Shelly. You see we called the Majority Leaderís office today and asked for a slight change in the "or". My guess is that your people have been feeling so smug with themselves that nobody really checked to see what it did to the sentence," said Jed Bartlett with satisfaction. Leo could tell that his old friend was having the time of his life.

 

"It doesnít change anything, Bartlett. We are even less likely to vote for this one than we were for the one we had yesterday," LaBrandt had dropped the pretense of respect.

 

"In this room, you will address me in the proper fashion or CNN will get footage of you being escorted off the grounds in handcuffs by the Secret Service." the President informed him in a low tone. Leo tried to lock away the memory of the look on LaBrandtís face when Jed told him this. It was priceless.

 

"Here is what going to happen. You have 22 hours. You should spend that time rethinking your vote on this bill," he advised.

 

"I donít think so, sir," said a confused Holling.

 

"This is what is going to happen in 24 hours," Jed explained. "I am going to go on Larry King tomorrow night. If you decide to vote my way, I will spend my time talking about my new grandson. If you do not vote my way, I am going to talk about the trade bill."

 

They continued to regard him with confusion.

 

"I am going to outline my new "Farm Subsidy Investment Package". I am going to let Larry know that it got into the bill. Then I am going to show clips, and I have clips, of you all saying that you would endorse a farm subsidy package. We are going to do this on national TV. I am going to tell him that it is my sincere hope that with this plan and with the support of Holling, Sherman, and LaBrandt, we are going to pass the most comprehensive and farm friendly trade bill in the history of the United States. I am also going to have him put up the phone numbers to your offices so that people from across the nation can call and encourage you to do the right thing."

 

"This is sleazy blackmail," said Sherman in disbelief.

 

"Yeah, I know. Iíve never done it before and I find that I really have a taste for it," smiled Jed Bartlett.

 

"We will just say that youíre lying. We will tell people that we never agreed to something like this," insisted Holling.

 

"Well then it will be your word against mine. I wonder what will happen. You know, the people still donít know me that well. I have only been in the public consciousness for the last year and a half basically. But the public especially your home states have known you for years. Each of you must have at least two terms under your belts. I wonder what they will think. Do you think any of them can imagine you lying? LaBrandt, I know you have had some scandal that you were not that forthcoming with and Holling, werenít there some accusations about soft money directed against you last year? Sherman, I believe that you and I have a little thing going on in our houses as we speak."

 

"This behavior is beneath the President of the United States. I expected better of you, sir," said Sherman.

 

"So youíre going to do outraged now. Thatís interesting considering your own behavior."

 

"You must remember, sir, we have long memories," said LaBrandt.

 

"Donít we all? I am learning to play the game, gentlemen, and I find that I am very well-suited for it. Thank you so much for your time this evening. If you have anything further to say, you are welcome to return here tomorrow evening at 6p.m. I will have five minutes available for you. I might even be willing to change the "or" back to where you liked it better although Iím not sure yet. Youíll have to see what kind of mood you find me in tomorrow. Good night." With that, Jed Bartlett turned and left his office.

 

The senators looked at each other as if still trying to determine what had occurred. Leo approached them and firmly showed them the door. Then he came back into the office.

 

"Toby, I have to admit that this was a master stroke," he said shaking his head and chuckling.

 

"Thank you, Leo," Toby said softly.

 

"You know, Toby. Iím not mad at you. Not really. I want to be. But I suspect that what you did is what I hope I would do," Leo admitted.

 

"Thank you, Leo. And you know that I would never intentionally show you disrespect."

 

"Yeah, I do. I just wish that Margaret felt as forgiving right now."

 

"Leo, she thinks you hung the moon and the stars in the sky."

 

"Maybe she used to, but I think sheís woken up to the reality of who I really am," he said. Toby wanted to say more about this, but Leo waved him away and walked out of the room.

 

 

 

 

Leo looked at his watch and wondered if there was going to come a night soon when he would be able to leave the White House before ten at night. He still had to return to his office and look over a memo on the Middle East and a position paper on sex education. He was smart enough not to put these things off. He knew that falling behind would only serve to further complicate his life.

He stepped into his darkened outer office and wondered how long Margaret had stayed that evening trying to put things back in order. When he opened the door to his office, he had his answer. Margaret was busy at the small conference table he kept at the right of his desk.

 

"Margaret," he said in surprise before he could stop himself.

 

"Donít worry, Leo. Iím not working late. Iím just waiting for you," Leo shook his head a little at her twisted logic.

 

"This is really late for you to be here. Youíre still recovering."

 

"Itís okay, Leo. I know how to take care of myself," she responded gently.

 

"Margaret, I canít seem to do anything right for you this week," said Leo as much frustrated with himself as with her.

 

"Leo, I wasnít able to go home, or CJís I guess, until I apologized for what I said earlier. I said it in anger. It was mean and I would never intend to hurt you in any way. It was very inappropriate," she said rushing through her words.

 

"Margaret, you donít need to apologize. Youíve been through a lot in this last week."

 

"I didnít mean it. You have never been nor could I ever imagine you being abusive to me," she insisted.

 

"If I am such a great guy, then why have you and I been at such loggerheads?" Leo asked.

 

"Leo, this is different than you and I being at work. Here, I do what you say when you say it. This thing has been about more than that. Itís about who I am outside of work and who Iíve been before. You being my boss, the Chief of Staff, it doesnít really work for whatís been happening. Iím not sure if Iím even making any sense here," Margaret was looking confused.

 

"You didnít call me about any of this stuff. You havenít reached for my help out at all. I found out from CJ that you went to the police station alone to report the assault. I would have been very happy to go with you" Leo said with a hurt look on his face.

 

"I guess I thought you would take over, take charge. I thought you would think I was an idiot for getting involved in this and that you would see me as incapable of making the right choices," she forced herself to look at him as she said this.

 

"Is that what has happened over this last week?"

 

"A little bit. Yes," she responded honestly.

 

"Iím sorry. I donít think any of those things about you. You are an amazing woman, Margaret. And Iím sorry that I havenít done a better job of letting you know that."

 

"I do know that you would do anything to help. I know that it matters to you that Donna and I were assaulted. And I should have had more faith in you," she said sincerely. "I do need your strength and guidance. It doesnít appear to be over yet."

 

"He might not be suing you, but heís not afraid to come after you. This guy appears to be capable of anything. I want you to let me in and let me help you fight this. And Iím not going to take over. I promise," he said emphatically.

 

She nodded at him and looked away.

 

"Everything is sort of focused on Donna right now. How are you? Are you okay?" he said gently. He sat next to her at the conference table.

 

"Do you know that one out of five, actually some studies say that one out of four, women will be sexually assaulted in some manner in the course of their lifetimes? Leo, in this building, you probably interact with maybe fifty women every day, correct?" He nodded at her. "These statistics would suggest that between ten and twelve of those women have encountered something similar to what Donna experienced this week. Isnít that amazing?" she shook her head in wonder.

 

"Itís horrific and completely unacceptable," Leo said angrily.

 

"In fact, it may be unusual not to know someone or even several women who have been assaulted. I have to remember that. For a while this week, I was feeling like it was crazy that I knew so many people who had been hurt like this." Margaret seemed to be lost in thought.

 

"You know other women who have been assaulted?" Leo asked carefully.

 

"Yeah, I did," she said absently.

 

"Margaret, what are you thinking about right now?"

 

"Leo, being hit by him wasnít nearly as invasive as a rape," she said out of the blue.

 

"Margaret, you were assaulted too. It may have been different than rape, but it was no less of a violation," Leo insisted.

 

"All week, I have been judging you. I figured you would look down on me, you would think that I was weak and stupid." Leo started to interrupt. Margaret put up her hand. "Iím the one who was thinking those things about myself. I guess because you and what you think are very important to me, I tied you into my own issues," she said somewhat cryptically.

 

"Right now I donít understand what you are talking about, Margaret?" Leo looked confused.

 

"We all have secrets, Leo," Margaret whispered looking down at the table.

 

Leo let out a breath at this statement. Part of him preferred not to know if anything painful had happened to Margaret. Margaret was both exasperating and precious to Leo at the same time. It had always been maddening to him that she accessed so many complex emotions in him simultaneously. It was one of the reasons that despite their symbiotic working relationship, he worked to keep her at armís length. He knew that no good would ever come out of taking a long, hard look at Margaret. In spite of all this, he knew she would need him to be more than just a boss tonight.

 

"Margaret, do you think you could tell me your secret? I would like to try and be your friend," he said gently.

 

"Iím not proud of what happened. Iíve spent many years trying to forget," she said.

 

"I wonít judge," he said simply. She looked at him for a long minute before responding.

 

"When I was young, maybe 20, 21, I wasnít serious about anything. I was carefree and ready to party." She noted the look on his face. "I know. Itís hard for me to believe it myself especially when I look at who I am today. Sometimes, I think that we have several lifetimes within our years of life. And in this lifetime, I was careless. I didnít focus on school. I was merely interested in the social aspects of life." She shook her head slightly at the memory. "There was a guy named Steve. He was very important to me. He was athletic and popular. I thought he was everything. Early on, I determined I would do anything for him." She stopped for a moment. "Iím not going to make this a long story, Leo. He beat me up once when he was upset after the team lost a football game. I was a mess. I ran away and stayed with friends. I vowed not to let him back into my life."

 

"Did he come after you?" Leo inquired hesitantly.

 

"No, he started seeing someone else. Leo, the bad part of this story is that I went back to him. I begged him to take me back. Can you believe it?"

 

"Why?" Leo was astounded.

 

"I donít know. I was young. I thought that the beating was my fault. Maybe I hadnít been supportive enough. I thought that maybe if I just tried harderÖwho knows what I was thinking?" she bit her lip for a minute.

 

"Did he take you back?"

 

"Yup."

 

"Did he hit you again?"

 

"No."

 

"What happened?"

 

"One day I woke up. It was at a football game. I had just thrown up. I used to do that whenever there would be a football game. I didnít care so much about the game, but I was in mortal fear that he would get out of control again if they lost. In that moment, I realized that I was absolutely terrified of him. And then it struck me how ridiculous it was that I accepted that as part of the relationship. I walked out of the game, packed my things, and got out of town," she sighed at the exertion of letting out all of that history.

 

"Iím glad you left him," Leo told her.

 

"Iíve never really trusted myself with men after that. Iíve always wondered if I would still be capable of compromising myself like that again."

 

"This has been a pretty hard week for you."

 

"When I saw Grey threatening Donna, I think I needed to prove to myself that I had grown, that I wouldnít back down in the face of aggression again."

 

"So thatís why you attacked a guy twice your size," Leo shook his head in amazement.

 

"I have to tell you that I am pretty damn proud of these bruises. I didnít back down, Leo. Do you understand? Right now, I wouldnít trade them for anything," she smiled. Leo reached up and stroked her bruised cheek briefly.

 

"You are something else, Mary Margaret. You know that. You are definitely something else," Leo said shaking his head and chuckling.

 

Feedback is appreciated- Sheila

 

Standing Tall - 12

 

 

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