Title: Just Walking
Summary: Leo and Josh both needed to escape the office for a while.
Episode: Post season 2, 'War Crimes'.
Characters: Josh and Leo
Disclaimer: They all belong to Aaron Sorkin, NBC, John Wells and many others who aren't me.
Leo almost walked past the Jefferson Monument, but something caused him to stop and look. All the staff seem to have their favorite place to visit when they need time away from the office, when they need somewhere to think. For him it had always been the Vietnam Memorial, for obvious reasons maybe. He had been going there tonight, but Alan Adamley's words were still ringing in his ears and somehow, knowing now what he'd done, he couldn't face it. So he'd turned the other way and headed past the Washington Memorial and past the Holocaust Museum. In truth he had no idea where he was going, he was just walking, hoping the cold night air would clear his head. Then he'd looked up at the Jefferson Monument and seen a familiar figure sat on the steps, leaning back on his elbows watching nothing in particular.
Josh didn't really know why he was there. He'd walked Donna back to the White House and watched her drive off. He'd intended going back to his office and reading a report that he'd been meaning to read all day, but he couldn't muster the enthusiasm, so he'd turned back out of the parking lot and started walking. He had no particular destination in mind, he just needed to walk. He wasn't surprised to find himself here. It was where he always went. He liked sitting on the steps, even in the middle of a busy summer day when there were tourists everywhere, not that he got many chances to come here during the day.
Leo wondered whether to go and sit with Josh. He looked a million miles away though, he'd been like that all day Leo realized. He was unsure what Josh would say about what Alan had told him. It was very easy to say that he was just following orders. That he was a soldier and he was doing his job. To quote the chain of command. Wasn't that the excuse that had been used by war criminals down the ages? Wasn't it what the guards at the POW camps had said? Wasn't it what the guards at the concentration camps said? Maybe Josh wasn't the best person to tell after all. Leo wasn't sure he wanted to see disappointment and disgust in Josh's eyes.
Josh decided that Donna seemed happier when she left, maybe things can start to get back to normal between them. He really couldn't work out his feelings for Donna. She was his best friend, he could tell her anything, he trusted her implicitly, she looked after him when he was recovering, and he'd gladly do the same for her. In truth he couldn't imagine his life without her. But does he have romantic feelings for her?
He had never dated anyone like Donna, she wasn't his type. Which he knew sounded ridiculous. But he always dated the same type of women, always had done. They were ruthless overachievers who treated him like crap, he was very aware of that. He was also aware that there was a very good reason for it. While the women themselves may be high maintenance, the relationships weren't. The women he dated didn't expect him to bare his soul, to share his feelings, to let them in too far, which was all he wanted. Except, that wasn't all he wanted, deep down he wanted much more than that.
Leo turned and looked out over the basin, it was dark so there wasn't much to see, but that was okay because he wasn't really looking. Innocent civilians, he killed innocent civilians. He flew his plane to a dam and he blew them up. Why in God's name did Alan have to tell him that now, 35 years later. How was he suppose to deal with information like that? Could he still support the UN War Crimes Tribunal now, a tribunal that would make soldiers who deliberately target civilians accountable?
He'd always felt that a soldier was responsible for his own actions, that following orders was a crap excuse. Now though? Jesus. He had to talk to someone about this, he just didn't know who. Jed should be his obvious choice, but he couldn't tell him. How could he give the President sound advice about such issues, if the President knew what he'd done. But who the hell else can he talk to? At one time he could have told Jenny, but that time has long since past and he certainly couldn't talk to Mallory. You don't tell your daughter that you murdered innocent civilians in the name of democracy. He turned and looked back at the monument, almost hoping that Josh had left, but he was still sat in the same position.
'I trust her implicitly' Josh thought, or I did until this. Donna was the last person he ever thought would make him feel betrayed. True when she met Cally she didn't know where he worked and when she found out she walked away. But she saw him again, knowing that he'd been working for the people that Josh was fighting. That had hurt. Then she continued to see him, even though he was now working for Government Oversight. So this time it wasn't petty jealousy that Donna had a date, it wasn't spite or a game. This time it wasn't personal at all. It was work. And work is the most important thing to Josh.
Of course, she hadn't seen Cally since that one time, after he moved to Government Oversight. During her deposition she'd lied, she'd risked prison, to stop the committee reading her diary. Not because there was anything in it about the president and MS. Not because there was anything about the administration. No, she'd lied to protect him. Because at Christmas 2000 she'd been so scared about his behavior, she'd been at such a loss as to how to help him, that she'd wrote in her diary every gory detail about his breakdown and diagnosis, and her relief that he was getting help.
Josh ran his fingers through his hair and sat forward. As he looked down the steps he noticed Leo stood a few feet away.
Leo smiled briefly, walked up the steps and sat down next to Josh. "What you doing?" he asked.
"I have no idea, I just kind of ended up here. You?"
"Pretty much the same," Leo answered. "I thought you and Donna had gone somewhere?"
"Yeah we had something to see to, she's gone home now," Josh replied a little cryptically.
"Do I want to know?" Leo asked.
"No, definitely not," Josh said, with a slight smile. "How was your day?"
"Started of crap and deteriorated from there," Leo commented.
Josh smiled, "Normal day then."
Leo was quiet for a moment, before saying, "No, there was nothing normal about this afternoon."
"What happened?" Josh asked.
Leo looked toward Josh and then back down at his hands. "I met with a guy I was friends with years ago. Alan Adamley, he's a General in the Air Force. He wanted to talk about the War Crimes Tribunal," Leo replied, before falling back into silence.
Josh waited for Leo to continue, when he didn't Josh asked, "He doesn't think we should have anything to do with it?"
"No," Leo sighed.
"Was his argument good?" Josh asked.
Leo laughed, without a trace of humor. "The best, or so he thought anyway."
Josh turned to face Leo, giving him concerned look. "What did he say?"
Leo considered changing the subject or telling Josh that he has to get back to work. Josh was watching him though and he knew something was wrong, the younger man was no fool. "He reminded me of something that happened in 1966 in Vietnam." Josh was quiet and Leo continued. "It was during Operation Rolling Thunder. I was flying an F-105, we were told the target was a bridge, a military target. Turns out that it was a civilian dam, there were eleven civilian casualties."
"You thought it was a military target, Leo, you were following orders," Josh pointed out.
"Following orders isn't a valid excuse, Josh, you of all people should appreciate that."
"It's hardly the same, Leo. You didn't walk up to an unarmed civilian and shoot him. You didn't stand by and watch while thousands of people were murdered right in front of you. It's not the same thing and it's not what the War Crimes tribunal is about." Josh glanced unintentionally in the direction of the museum and then looked back at Leo. "When did you learn what the target really was?"
"Today," Leo answered. He looked at Josh. "Why the hell did he have to tell me that?"
Josh had a pretty good idea. "What was his role?"
"He was the Forward Air Commander."
"So he probably knew that it was a civilian target?"
"Then he could be guilty of a war crime," Josh pointed out. "But how can you, when he only told you now, 35 years later."
"And if I'd known then?" Leo asked.
"You can't possibly answer that, Leo. All you can say is that you didn't know and he did. Now he turns up at your office, hoping that a little emotional blackmail will change your views. I tell you one thing, he's not a friend."
"I still killed innocent civilians, Josh, eleven of them."
Josh really wasn't sure what to say to Leo. He did believe what he said, Leo wasn't a war criminal, he didn't know he was bombing civilians, so how could he have committed a crime. But what was upsetting Leo was the deaths of the civilians and Josh didn't know how to make that better, because there really wasn't anyway anyone could. All the replies he could think of were pretty lame. 'It was war,' 'you didn't know,' 'it was along time ago.' None of that was going to help Leo. So he looked Leo straight in the eye and said the only thing he could. "I know."
Leo searched Josh's eyes but there was no disgust, there was no judgment. All he could see was sympathy and strength. Jed had once said, jokingly Leo had thought, that Josh would follow Leo into hell and beyond. Over the last three years, Leo had come to realize how true that was. "We should get back," he told Josh.
"Yeah," Josh agreed. "You okay?" he asked.
"I will be," Leo answered. "What about you and Donna. You two alright now?"
Josh cast Leo a surprised look. "How do you mean?"
"I hear things," Leo smiled. "Margaret talks, constantly. Most of the time I just switch off and ignore her. But she did mention something about Donna and a friend of Ainsley's, and that you weren't too happy. You do know that she has a life away from you don't you?"
"Hey, she can go on dates, I don't have a problem with that," Josh protested. He saw Leo's skeptical look and continued."It was complicated. He worked for Ways And Means but he got a transfer and she thought it'd be okay."
"But it wasn't?"
"He now works for Government Oversight."
"You're kidding me?" Leo said. "Josh, your assistant can't date someone...."
"She knows. She's stopped seeing him," Josh told him.
"Good," Leo replied. "So what's the problem?"
"There isn't one. I told you it's sorted."
Leo suspected that there was more, but he wasn't sure he wanted to know, not tonight anyway. What he really wanted was a drink. He wished he could just walk into a bar with Josh and get drunk. Instead he was going to go back to his office and maybe he'd talk to Jed if he was still in the West Wing, maybe he'd go home.
"You sure you're okay?" Josh asked.
"Yeah, I'll be fine. Don't worry, I'm not gonna drink," he smiled slightly.
"I didn't think..... " Josh trailed off, because that was exactly what he thought. Most people would want a drink after learning something like that.
"Honestly, Josh, I'll be fine. Lets get back and go home."