Title: No One To Talk To
Summary: During the final debate, Josh discovers that Leo is drunk.
Spoilers/Episode: Season 3, Bartlet For America
Characters: Josh, Leo and Jed
Disclaimer: They all belong to Aaron Sorkin, NBC, John Wells and many others who aren't me.
"Come on, Leo, answer the damn phone," Josh muttered to himself, hanging up when he saw Sam coming his way.
"Abbey says the Governor has an inner ear infection, the doctor's given him something, he should be fine for the debate," Sam informed Josh.
"Good," Josh replied.
"I dunno, I've been ringing him. I'll give him one more try and then I'll go over."
"Okay. Let me know what's happening, the Governor was asking for him."
"Yeah." Once Sam had left, Josh tried to call Leo again, he had a very bad feeling about this. There was something in Leo's voice when he spoken to him earlier, but he'd dismissed it. Now though.... Just as he thought the answer phone was going to pick up again, a voice he barely recognized spoke.
"Leo? Where the hell are you?"
"I'm in my room, watching the TV."
'Oh Christ,' Josh thought, deep in his memory he knew that tone, that slight slur, but there was still a part of his brain that refused to believe that this was happening. "Why aren't you here?" he asked nervously.
"At the debate hall," Josh shouted, lowering his voice quickly when CJ glanced his way. He walked out of the room into the hallway. "Are you okay?"
Leo looked around the room at the empty bottles and the empty minibar. He lay back down on the bed and sighed, "I'm fine," he closed his eyes. "I may have had a drink," he said, waiting for the shouting to start.
"Ah hell, Leo," Josh replied quietly. "Why?" though he knew that was a pointless question. "Okay. Stay there, I'm going to send Margaret over."
"Yeah. No, hang on I've got to be at the debate."
Josh fought the urge to yell at Leo, to ask him if he was insane. "You'll stay there," he said firmly.
"I think you're forgetting which one of us is in charge," Leo shouted.
"At the moment, it certainly isn't you," Josh shouted back. He regained his composure before continuing. "Stay there and wait for Margaret. I'll tell the Governor that you're ill, that you must have whatever he's got."
"Yeah." Leo was silent for a moment until Josh's words sunk in. "Wait, Jed's ill?"
"Yes, I already called and told you." Josh frowned, this was bad, very bad. "Abbey says it's an ear infection, he'll be fine, don't worry."
"You sure? I should be there, I'm coming over. This is an important debate." Leo sat up, but the room started moving. He just needed one more drink to steady him, he looked around again, but everything appeared to be empty.
"You can't be serious? Stay there, we can handle it."
Leo knew that Josh could handle running the debate, but that wasn't the point. "I have to be there, Josh, people will notice."
"If you come here, people will definitely notice." Josh replied, trying to keep his voice level and calm.
"I'm not a sloppy drunk, no one'll know." But Leo knew that that wasn't true. In the past maybe he could hide being drunk, but he was out of practice. He knew as soon as Gibson had walked into the room and seen him, he knew then that he looked bad, and he'd drunk more since Gibson left.
"You set one foot in this place Leo and the debate will be the least of your worries" Josh said. Although his voice was quiet, Leo knew the tone and it brought a lump to his throat. Josh sounded just like Noah.
"Yeah, I suppose you're right." Leo lay back down. "I'll see you later?" Although he meant it as a statement, it came out as more of a question.
"Yeah, I'll come by after the debate." Josh hung up the phone and went to look for Margaret. He found her talking to Donna. "Hey, Donna," he smiled, "can you give us a minute." After Donna had left he glanced around and said quietly, "I need you to go over to Leo's hotel room, make sure he's okay."
"What's wrong with him?" Margaret asked, but the look on Josh's face confirmed her worst fears. "Oh God no," she said. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah. He told me," Josh replied. "Can you sober him up and make sure he doesn't come here."
"Okay." Margaret turned to leave, then she stopped and looked at Josh. "What are you going to tell Governor Bartlet?" she asked.
"Well I'm certainly not going to tell him this, that can be Leo's pleasure," Josh snapped, but Margaret looked as anxious as he felt and this wasn't her fault. "Sorry, I didn't mean to snap," he smiled slightly. "I'll tell him Leo's ill. There's no reason he shouldn't believe me, after all he's ill himself."
"What about Abbey? She might want to go and see him."
"I have no idea, I'll think of something," Josh sighed, this was turning into one hell of a day. "Don't worry about it, just look after him."
As Josh entered Jed's suite, Abbey stopped him in the reception room. "Everything going okay, Josh?"
"Yeah, everything's fine. How is he?"
"Since he insists that there's no way we can postpone, I suppose he'll be fine." Abbey sounded annoyed. "Where's Leo?"
Josh wasn't ready to answer that question yet. "If he's that ill we can postpone, if we really have to," he looked at her questioningly.
"But it'd look bad?"
"Not as bad as him collapsing on stage," Josh pointed out.
"He won't do that. The doctor's given him something to bring down the fever and Jed insists that he'll be fine." She fixed Josh with an insightful stare. "So, where's Leo?"
"He was meeting with the backers. It went well by the way." Josh was finding it very hard to lie to Abbey. "He isn't feeling well, he's lying down. Margaret's gone to make sure there's nothing he needs. He's probably got whatever the Governor's got," he hoped that sounded more convincing to Abbey, than it did to him.
Abbey watched Josh, he was a good liar, but she knew that Leo didn't have what Jed had. "okay," she agreed. "I'll tell Jed, he'll want to see you, wait here a minute."
Two minutes later Abbey came out of the bedroom, "Go on in."
Josh walked to the bed, where Jed was sat leaning against the headboard reading over some notes, looking a lot better than he had an hour ago. "How are you feeling, Sir?" Josh asked.
"I'm fine, it's just an ear infection." Jed watched Josh, "Abbey tells me that Leo's ill. She says she's been to see him and it looks like the flu, she's ordered him to stay in bed. So I guess you're in charge."
They discuss the debate for about twenty minutes. When Josh left, Abbey caught his eye and followed him out. "Everything okay then?" she asked.
"Yeah, we're all set. He'll need to talk with Toby, CJ and Sam just to go over any final points," he was quiet for a moment. "Abbey, he said you'd been to see Leo?"
"And you want to know why I lied?" She smiled and then sighed. "I've known Leo a long time. Nothing would keep him away from this debate, certainly not illness." She fixed Josh with that look again. "How bad is he? And don't lie to me, Josh, we both know what's wrong with him. We've both picked him up enough times in the past."
Josh considered denying any knowledge of what she was talking about, but he knew it would be pointless. "I don't know, I'm guessing the minibar and whatever was left from the meeting," he said, sounding thoroughly miserable. "I sent Margaret to look after him, she's picked him up before as well. She won't let him come here."
"Worried it'd spoil the debate?" Abbey asked angrily.
"No," Josh replied, his expression suddenly hardening, "I'm worried it'd end his career."
"Yeah, I'm sorry, that was uncalled for," Abbey apologized.
"It's okay, it's been a pretty crap day so far, for both of us."
"Then let's get the debate over and deal with the rest later," Abbey suggested.
The debate went well, very well in fact. But Josh was anxious to see Leo and left the celebrations early. Jed saw him go and followed him out. "You going to see Leo?"
"Yeah, he'll want to know how it went."
"You make sure he's okay." Jed gave Josh a knowing look. "And tell him not to worry."
Josh drove to the hotel and went up to Leo's room. He knocked on the door and Margaret answered. "He's sleeping it off," she said. "I've tidied up. The debate went well."
"Yeah, we wiped the floor with him," Josh said absently, while he looked toward Leo. "Can you give us a minute?" He steered a reluctant Margaret out of the room.
"Don't be too hard on him, Josh, it won't help."
"I know that," Josh assured her."I'll see you in a while," he closed the door and looked around the room, everything appeared normal. Margaret had done a good job.
"How'd the debate go?" a voice asked from the bed.
"It went well, the Governor walked all over him," Josh smiled. "The Republicans seem to have a new motto, 'There's No Substitute For A Complete Lack Of Preparation'." His smile faded and he asked, "You didn't watch?"
"I fell asleep." Leo sat up, "I used to be able to hold my drink better than this."
"It's been a while. In fact it's been four years. Why'd you do it, why now?"
"You know better than to ask that," Leo said. "You, of all people, know better."
"No. No I don't. Just because my dad drank, doesn't mean I know. It's not hereditary, contrary to what you might think." Josh was getting angry now.
"No. I suppose you don't know do you?"
"So tell me."
"Tell you what?" Leo snapped.
"Tell me why, nine days from the biggest election of your life, you decide to go and get drunk," Josh shouted.
"You think that that's it, that I woke up this morning and thought, 'Yeah, I'll get wasted today'," Leo shouted back. "You really imagine I have that kind of control over it?" He lowered his voice, this wasn't Josh's fault, "It controls me, Josh. I was offered a drink, I refused, I was offered again and I accepted. One drink turns to another. Once I start, I can't just stop. All I want is to drink more." He studied the younger man for minute. "I don't understand how you can only have a couple of beers, I don't understand how you can leave half a bottle of wine. How can you open the minibar in your room and want a Coke instead of the whiskey?"
"You always feel like that?" Josh asked quietly.
"You want another drink now?"
Josh sat down. He'd never thought about how hard it was for alcoholics not to drink. His dad had quit drinking shortly before Josh started Yale and, as far as he knew, he never drank again. Josh was just glad that he'd be able to come home from college and not have to go and pick his dad up from a bar, or a gutter. He didn't think about the struggle it must have been for him. "So what do you do?" he asked Leo.
"I don't know."
"But, you must have been tempted before. What did you do then?"
"I rang a friend and talked."
"So why can't you do that now?" Josh asked.
Leo didn't answer, wasn't sure how to. He got up and went to the bathroom for a wash, hoping it would make him feel more alive. He really thought Josh knew, but it seemed not. It had been six months since Noah had died and Leo had missed being able to talk with him. In that time though, he hadn't felt tempted to have a drink. Now, now all he wanted was to pick up the phone and call his friend. To talk through the feelings with him. To get advice on what to do. But really, all he wanted was to hear his old friend's voice. He sighed, dried his face and returned to the bedroom.
"Why can't you call whoever you call?" Josh asked again.
"Because I can't contact the dead," Leo replied.
Now Josh understood. "I didn't know," he said quietly.
"I know." Leo watched the pain in Josh's eyes. "He was a good friend, a better friend than I was. I miss him," he said sadly.
They were both quiet for a while until Josh said, "I'd listen, though I know I wouldn't have been much help. I have no idea what it's like. I don't even know what made him quit." Josh was quiet again. "We'll find you a meeting or a counselor. There has to be one round here. Would that help?" he sounded unsure of what to do.
"Yeah it would. I asked Margaret before." Leo watched the young man sat across from him. He looked more like his grandfather than his father, except when he smiled, and his eyes. He definitely had Noah's eyes. "He quit because of you," Leo said, causing Josh to give him a querying expression. "You don't believe me?"
"He drank as far back as I can remember. Why would he suddenly decide, when I was 22, that he shouldn't drink because of me?" Josh spent his teenage years clearing up after his father. It never stopped him admiring and loving him though, it was just who Noah was. Maybe that was why, when he'd moved to Washington, he didn't find it strange when his father's friend started turning up drunk at his apartment, he just put him to bed.
"He was so proud when you graduated from Harvard. He made the decision then, at your graduation, he told your mom that that was it, no more drink. I'm not saying he stuck to it straight away, it took him a few months, but he did it. Because he didn't want you coming home to find him drunk. He wanted you to be as proud of him, as he was of you." Leo would never have had a conversation like that with Josh, had he been completely sober. So maybe something good had come out of this mess.
"I was always proud of him," Josh said so quietly that Leo almost missed it.
Neither of them were any good at talking about personal matters and the quietness stretched on a little awkwardly.
"What did you tell the Governor?" Leo asked in an attempt to change the subject.
"I told Abbey you were ill. She told him that you had the flu and she'd ordered you to stay in bed. I don't know if he believed her, but I do know she didn't believe me."
"I should go and see them and explain."
"How?" asked Josh, though he'd not meant to say it out loud.
"I have no idea," Leo replied. "I do know one thing. If I can't stay dry, you're getting a promotion," he smiled weakly.
That thought horrified Josh. "I don't want a promotion, you'll be fine."
A knock on the door interrupts them. "I don't want to see anyone," Leo told Josh.
Josh goes to see who it is. "Governor," he said.
"How is he?" Jed asked.
"Let him in," Leo called. "Josh," he added, "thank you. I'm sorry if anything I said upset you, that wasn't my intention."
"You didn't upset me. You'll be fine. I'll see you later," Josh smiled and closed the door, leaving Leo to explain to Jed what was gone on.
The next day Jed found Josh going over some papers with Donna. "Can I have word?" he asked.
"Good morning, Governor. I'll go and show these to Toby," Donna excused herself.
"Morning, Governor," Josh smiled as Jed sat down.
"I wanted to talk to you about what happens when we win," Jed began.
"You're that confident?"
"After yesterdays debate.....? Yes," Yesterday was something else he wanted to talk about. "Last week I asked Leo to be my chief of staff. He agreed."
Josh smiled, "Good."
"We want you to be his Deputy."
Josh had hoped for a good position in the White House if they won, but deputy chief of staff, that was more than he'd expected. "I'd be honored," he said.
"Don't look so shocked, Josh, you're certainly up the job," Jed smiled. "You'd be Chief Of Staff, but Leo's knows too much about me and I can't risk blackmail." He was suddenly serious though, "There was one thing I wanted to check. No one else, besides Abbey and Margaret, knows about yesterday?"
"No. I think it's best that way."
"I agree," Jed nodded. "The staff have to trust Leo, probably more than they trust me. I don't know whether they even know he's an alcoholic, but yesterday wouldn't do their confidence any good."
"Most of Washington knows he's an alcoholic," Josh commented. "But then, most of them haven't really worked in Washington, so I get your point."
"What about you?"
"How did you know?"
"I've always know, since I was a kid," he saw that Jed wanted more clarification and decided, 'what the hell.' "Leo and my dad could have drank Connecticut dry."
"Your dad encouraged Leo to drink?" Jed said before he has chance to think any better of it.
Josh wasn't offended though, in fact he laughed, all be it a little humorlessly. "Neither of them needed much encouragement back then. My dad was an alcoholic. He quit when I was at college. If you're asking if I have a problem with Leo, after yesterday, then no I don't. If he says he's going to meetings then I believe him, and when he says that he's dry again, I'll believe him then too."
Jed was pleased to hear that, though he was a little taken a back by Josh's revelation about his father. "Good," he smiled.
"I spoke to Josh," Jed told Leo that lunch time, "he accepts the job."
"I thought I was going to ask him."
"I wanted to talk to him."
"About yesterday?" Leo guessed.
"Yes. I needed to know how he felt, Leo."
"You knew full well what he'd say."
"I wasn't too sure after yesterday," Leo confided.
"He'd follow you into hell and beyond," Jed smiled, "which may be exactly what he's doing." He watched Leo, "He told me his father drank, I didn't know."
"I don't suppose its something kids are eager to share about their parents," Leo said. "That's not why Noah and I were friends. Neither of us drank that much when we met, we just got on well. After..... after a while we both seemed to be drinking more, both for our own reasons. Then Noah quit, Josh was at college, it was just before he started Yale."
"Which is why he doesn't judge you," Jed commented.
"I dunno to be honest. He's certainly seen me at my worst," Leo frowned.
"No one else knows about yesterday and I don't see the need to tell them."
Leo thought about Gibson. He would tell Josh at some point, but there was no need to worry Jed unless it became absolutely necessary. "That's probably a good idea," he replied.
"Josh, have you got a minute," Leo asked.
"Sure," Josh replied, signing the papers that Donna had just put in front of him and handing them back to her.
"Do you ever read what she gives you?" Leo asked, after Donna leaves.
"Nah," Josh laughed. "What's up?"
"You've accepted the job offer then?"
"Well, it took some thinking about. It meant lowering my standards a little," he laughed. "Did you think I wouldn't?" He watched Leo, "My God, you did."
"After what happened......."
"Have you had a drink today?" Josh interrupted.
"What else is there to say?"
Leo watched him. "I've just come from a meeting, Margaret's arranged two weeks worth."
Josh nodded, "How do you feel?" he asked.
"Stupid," Leo replied. "Damn stupid. I'm sorry I did that to you." He stopped Josh from interrupting. "I don't just mean landing you in it and making you lie, although I am sorry about as well. I'm sorry I implied that Noah dying was a reason for me to go out and get drunk. That wasn't what I meant."
"I know that," Josh assured him and then smiled, "he'd have killed you."
Leo smiled sadly, "You're telling me."
"So what happens now, with the campaign I mean?" Josh steered the subject onto safer ground.
"We need to choose staff, for when we win."
"Who do you have in mind?"
"What do you think?" Leo asked.
Josh suspected he was being tested. "Well, Donna as my Assistant, if she'll have me, obviously," he smiled. "CJ as Press Secretary, Toby at Communications, Sam as his Deputy," he looked at Leo, "you don't agree?"
"Yeah, that's just what I thought, especially Donna. No one else will work with you," he grinned. The grin faded though. "The Governor wants David Rosen as Communications Director."
"He thinks he'll be easier to work with."
"He's probably right," Josh agreed, "but that doesn't mean he's the right person for the job. Toby's worked damn hard for this campaign. When we get to the White House we're going to need him, Leo."
"Hey, you don't have to convince me. We'll talk to the Governor this afternoon. Don't say anything to Toby yet."
"Do I look suicidal?" Josh smiled. "You think we'll be able to convince him?"
Leo considered that. He knew Jed didn't like Toby, but he also knew that he liked to work with people who would disagree with him and that wasn't David Rosen. Jed was getting scared again though so, "Honestly?" Leo asked"probably not, no."
Josh sighed, "Let's hope David gets a better offer then," he said, giving Leo a knowing look. Leo just smiled.
Across the room Jed was watching Leo and Josh. He knew that Leo trusted Josh implicitly. Even after talking to Josh though, he was still worried that he may have a problem with Leo. Watching them plotting (and he didn't doubt for a minute that was what they were doing) he could see that his worries were for nothing. He smiled to himself and went to find Abbey and Zoey.