Title: Getting There
Summary: Margaret's worries get Josh into trouble.
Spoilers/Episode: Up to season 5, 'Separation Of Powers'.
Characters: Josh, Margaret & Leo.
Disclaimer: They all belong to Aaron Sorkin, NBC, John Wells and many others who aren't me.
Josh jumped when Margaret tapped him on the shoulder. "I need to talk to you."
"Why are you whispering?" Josh asked.
"I don't want anyone to know what we're talking about. Come in here." Margaret ushered Josh into her office. "Leo's gone to the Hill, so we can talk."
"Do we still have to whisper?" Josh smiled.
"Yes. No one else can know about this, Josh."
"You must have noticed how Leo's behaving."
"He's been ignoring me, so no not really."
"That doesn't tell you something?" Margaret asked. "You mean the world to Leo, Josh. Doesn't that tell you something?" she repeated.
"Yeah, he's pissed at me. What do you think it should tell me?"
"I think, I might be wrong."
Josh sighed. "Just tell me." The look Margaret gave Josh said it all. "No, you're not serious. For God's sake, Margaret, he wouldn't."
"You think I want to believe it?"
"Then don't," Josh told her.
"We've both seen it before, you know the signs as well as I do."
"Yes I do. I grew up with an alcoholic father."
"I didn't know that." Margaret looked at Josh, "How else can you explain his behavior?"
"Stress. He's working too hard. It's not exactly been a easy few months."
"All the more reason....."
"Margaret, you can't serious expect me to believe that Leo's drinking."
Leo heard the last four words of Josh's question while he stood in his office doorway and watched Josh and Margaret. "Answer the phone," he told Margaret. "My office," he told Josh.
"Leo," Margaret began.
"Phone," Leo ordered.
Josh followed Leo and stood awkwardly in the middle of the office while Leo slammed the doors shut and sat down behind his desk. Leo tried to be calm about what he'd just heard. He knew Josh was angry with him about Angela, but he wasn't expecting him to think that poorly of him.
Josh couldn't take the silence any longer. "Leo?"
"You think I'm drinking?" Leo asked quietly. "You think maybe I was drunk when I hired Angela?"
"No, that wasn't what I said," Josh tried to protest.
"You really think I'd do that?"
"Go and do some work," Leo dismissed him.
"No," Josh replied, deciding that Leo was angry with him anyway, so he may as well push his luck. The trouble was he wasn't sure what to say, not without getting Margaret in trouble. "I don't know what you heard..."
"I heard enough. Go and do some work."
"Josh," CJ called when Josh walked past her office. "Hey?"
"Not now, CJ, I've got something I need to do."
"Right, I'll make an appointment," CJ replied.
Josh stopped walking and turned to face her. "What did you need?"
Josh hesitated and then sighed. "Yeah, okay."
"God, don't force yourself. What's wrong?"
"I think I may have succeeded in completely alienating Leo." He walked into CJ's office and sat down.
"What did you do?"
"I made the mistake of talking to Margaret."
"Close the door." Josh waited for CJ to sit down. "Margaret thinks Leo's drinking."
"You're not serious?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah. He doesn't look like he's drinking. Trust me, I had years of experience with my dad, Leo isn't drinking."
"So, I don't understand?"
"I was trying to tell Margaret that he wasn't when Leo walked in and I guess what he heard made it sound like I thought he was."
"So tell him."
"And drop Margaret in it? He's pissed at me anyway, why make him pissed at Margaret as well." Josh smiled slightly at the expression on CJ's face, "Don't look at me like that, I'm not turning into Saint Josh. Leo's working every hour, he needs Margaret."
"Saint Josh, there's something I'd never thought of before," CJ smiled. "You have to say something. Things are bad enough between you as it is."
Margaret knocked on the door and walked into her boss's office. "Leo, I need to talk to you."
"I'd think you do," Leo commented.
"It wasn't Josh. He was defending you. It was me. I'm sorry. You've not been acting like yourself for weeks, I couldn't think of any other reason."
"You didn't think maybe it was just work?"
"Yeah, I do now. I was worried. I didn't know who else to talk to. I'm really sorry, I was......"
"Worried," Leo finished. He knew that Margaret spent half her life worrying about him. Worried that he was working too hard, not eating properly, not sleeping. Worried that he was going to drink. Some of the time it drove him mad when she fussed, but mostly he was glad that someone was looking out for him. As he sat in his office fuming about Josh, it had dawned on him that maybe Josh wasn't the culprit. "It's okay."
"At least you only spoke to Josh."
"He told me you weren't drinking, that you wouldn't. He said you're just working too hard. I'm sorry."
"For God's sake, stop apologizing. I'm going to talk to Josh."
"Margaret," Leo calls. "You do believe that I'm not?"
Josh was ploughing through a file on fuel emissions when Leo walked into his office.
"I know it wasn't you," Leo told him. "Margaret told me, but I already knew."
"Yeah. You're like Mallory, you can spot a drunk a mile away."
"Don't be too hard on Margaret, she was just concerned."
"She said." Leo wished this was easier. Things used to be simple between him and Josh. He used to be able to talk to him. He knew one thing he had to say though. "I am sorry, I jumped to the wrong conclusion. I should have known better."
"Yeah," Josh agreed.
Leo hesitated before he left the office. He wanted to tell Josh how hard the last few months had been. He wanted to confide in someone his worries about the president, about the whole administration. He'd known Josh would be angry at him bringing in Angela, he hadn't expected such a void to develop between them. He trusted Angela, he'd worked with her before, but he couldn't talk to her like he could talk to Josh and Toby. "What you working on?"
"It's a nightmare."
"Yeah, one that we're not going to wake up from soon," Josh agreed.
"Well, I've got a meeting," Leo turned to go.
"Leo, I'm sorry. For Carrick and, well everything."
Leo knew this is his chance to start to repair the damage of the last few weeks, but it meant swallowing some pride. "I know you are," he replied, a reply that sounded lame even to his ears. "I never intended for it to get like this you know. I knew you'd be angry with me, but I didn't realize....." he trailed off. How can he say that he didn't realize how personally Josh would take it. He didn't realize how hurt Josh would be. "Don't think that I don't trust you, because I do. Things have just been heading out of control."
Josh nodded. "There's a reason Margaret was worried you know. It's not because she doesn't trust you. If you need to talk, I mean I know you can talk to the president and Angela, but I'm here as well."
Leo smiled, "I know."
At 9.30 Josh sent Ryan home. It was strange but he had actually grown to like him, not that he'd ever admit it, but the night he stood and yelled at the Capitol was the lowest he'd been since the Christmas after Rosslyn, Ryan had put him back in the cab and taken him home. More importantly, he hadn't told anyone. Loyalty like that was rare in this town. He poured a coffee and went back to his office, briefly wondered where Donna had got to.
"How's it going?" Leo asked.
Josh turned round. "Hey. I've given up on emissions for tonight."
"What've you done with Donna?"
"I'm not sure. What's up?"
Leo sat down. "How do you think things are going in our second term then?" he asked with a slight smile.
"Well, I thought things couldn't get any worse than the first term, but it seems I was wrong. It'll get better."
Leo glanced at the photographs on the walls, at the chaos of the shelving, at the photograph of Noah. "This is office is a tip, you know that?" he smiled.
"So Donna and the cleaners remind me periodically."
"Why did Margaret think I was drinking?" Leo suddenly asked. It was something that had been bothering him all day.
"You haven't exactly been yourself recently." Josh decided to give Leo an honest answer. "You've been ignoring all our concerns; me, Toby, CJ, we come to you with a problem and you don't want to know. In the last few months you've been more likely to yell at us than listen. And then there's Will. Why'd you let him leave without a fight?"
"He wanted to."
"But, you didn't even ask him why. You just said yes, fine and that was it. Even though you knew Toby wanted to him to stay, you knew Toby wanted to broaden his work away from writing, yet you let Will leave. It was almost like you were reigning Toby in, ensuring all he could do is write because now there's no one else."
"What would have been the point of Will writing if he no longer believed the message?"
"But that's just it. You gave up on him. Now you wonder why Toby's pissed at you."
Leo sighed, he'd known if he asked Josh's opinion he'd get an honest reply. "That isn't why Toby's pissed at me."
"It isn't the only reason, no," Josh agreed. "What's going on, Leo?"
"I never wanted to be president you know. I've never wanted to run for any office."
"Since Zoey was found, since the president took back his office, things have been different. He's not been, I don't know, he's been focusing on little things that he can fix now. He won't look at the big picture, I can't get him to focus back on the issues. I've had to push him on everything. I'm not sure how much longer I can be chief of staff and president." Leo admitted.
"Why didn't you talk to one of us?"
"Because, by the time I realized what the problem was, what I was doing, it was too late. I'd alienated all of you."
Josh smiled slightly. "Angela still speaks to you."
"I suppose I deserved that."
"He was on form when he met with Haffley."
Leo nodded. "He's been better the last few days. Maybe it's 'cos Abbey back, I don't know, but it's like someone's flicked a switch in him."
"So we should be getting back to normal then?" Josh wasn't sure whether he meant the administration or simply him and Leo.
"Hopefully. I haven't drank, I'm not saying I haven't been tempted, but I haven't done it."
Leo nodded and stood up. "Go home and get some sleep, I'll see you tomorrow."
Josh watched Leo leave the office and smiled as he put some files into his backpack.
"You're looking happier," CJ said from Josh's office doorway.
"It's my new positive attitude, I love my job," Josh smiled.
"If you say so. You want to go for a drink?"
"Yeah, bring Toby, I'll see if I can find Donna."
"Things sorted with you and Leo?"