A Family Thing
Category(s): Post Ep - Bartlet For America
Disclaimer: Not mine, I’m a poor college student, PLEASE don’t sue me!!
Summary: "He would have made me confess all my sins on national TV all over again."
Spoiler: Up to Bartlet For America
Author's Note: Yes, it’s sappy, what can I say?
Josh hesitated in the doorway. He’d headed over to the Chief of Staff’s office as soon as he knew Leo was back. Margaret had left - she was catching a plane to Indianapolis in the morning - so Josh was about to walk on in, but something about the way Leo was sitting gave him pause.
It was almost as if he was crying.
When he heard his name, Leo’s head jerked up. The tears had dried a few moments before and he’d just been staring down at the framed napkin in his hands. Josh broke his trance, and he was embarrassed.
"Yeah," he said gruffly.
"I can come back," Josh said, uncomfortable and worried.
"What do you need?" Leo asked, shuffling papers around on his desk in an attempt to look busy and avoid meeting Josh’s eye.
"Nothing... I just wanted to..." Josh stuttered.
"Josh, what?" Leo said.
"I’m sorry," Josh finally blurted out. "I tried and I couldn’t make it happen and I just wanted you to know... I’m sorry." He stood in the middle of the room and looked down at his feet.
Leo finally looked up from his desk at Josh, who looked like a little boy waiting to hear what a disappointment he was. He stood up restlessly and walked to the window.
"I haven’t touched a drop since that night," he said, staring out at the night. "Not one drop. And it has nothing to do with the president. Nothing, but he would have made me say it. He would have made me confess all my sins on national TV all over again." He turned to Josh. "It’s not your fault, " he said, "no more than it’s your fault that I’m an alcoholic."
"But I could have-" Josh started.
"Josh," Leo’s voice was both stern and sad. "I knew getting in to this. I knew what I opened myself up to and I knew what I was."
"Yeah, but you didn’t-"
"Josh, I did!" Leo said. "I pushed him. I wanted this just as much as he did, maybe more, MS or no."
Josh cocked his head to the side and hesitated a fraction of a second before asking, "If you had known... would we be here now?"
Leo sighed, moving to an armchair and sitting down heavily. "I don’t know. I’ve asked myself everyday since he told me, and the answer is always... I don’t know."
He looked at Josh again as the younger man sat down across from him. "If we knew, would you be here?" he asked.
Josh sat with his elbows on his knees and sighed deeply. "It would have been Hoynes, you know?" he said. "It would have been Hoynes... and when I think about what we’ve done... Mendoza, Haiti, gun control... everything we’ve worked for..." he paused, lost in thought, then looked down. "The sleepless nights, the rotten press, the stress, the-- well, everything... I’d do any of it again, for Bartlet. I don’t think I could have ever said the same of Hoynes." He paused again, then looked Leo in the eye. "I’d be here."
Looking at Josh, Leo saw, not for the first time, his father. The notion made him so proud he felt himself close to tears again, so he stood up abruptly and moved back to his desk, trying to get his emotions under control.
Josh sensed his embarrassment and got up to leave. "I have a thing... but I’m here tomorrow if you need anything," he said, backing to the door.
"Yeah," Leo said in reply. Then he looked up. "Josh."
"Thank you, son."
Josh paused, his hand on the doorjamb.
"Merry Christmas, Leo."