Title: Disseminating Whispers
Written By: adoreleo and leosimphishgrin
Characters: Leo, Margaret, Toby and Rena
Rating: PG13 Strong Language.
Disclaimer: The characters are from the NBC, WB, TV show The West Wing; they do not belong to me.
Author's Notes: We wrote this at our first annual Leo/Margaret Writing party.
Feedback: We would love it hear your opinion!
Summary: A rumor about Margaret runs rampant in the White House.
Toby walks out into the bullpen and hands Rena a file. "Give this to Margaret," he orders, then quickly turns and walks back into his office.
Rena jumps up from her desk and follows him. "Mr. Ziegler, she's the tall red head who works for Mr. McGarry, right?" She asks with a worried look.
"Yeah, she works for Leo," Toby answers with a grunt.
"I don't think she likes me," she whispers back.
"Margaret likes everybody," Toby offers, sitting down behind his desk. Not really excited or comfortable about being caught up in this type of conversation.
"Maybe. But remember back in January, when we went to that shopping mall for that thing. She wouldn't let me make any of the arrangements. She did the travel orders, made the hotel, plane and car rental reservations. She gave you a list of restaurants in the area. She also gave you directions on how to get from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the site. She even gave you a printout of the local weather forecast." Rena rapidly fires off her list to her boss, holding the file against her chest.
"That's just Margaret being Margaret," Toby informs her. "She's efficient to the tenth power."
"Oh, and do you prefer that, Mr. Zeigler?" Rena asks arching an eyebrow and placing a hand on her hip.
"I prefer not to continue this conversation," Toby says dropping his head and trying to figure out how he painted himself into this corner so quickly? "Rena, Margaret has worked for Leo for years. They have a system. She does the same thing for him, too. She's a real stickler for details. It works for them. I repeat. She was just being herself. It implied nothing about your ability or whether she likes you or not. Now go take that file and give it to her." He tells her, motioning her to leave his office. "I don't have time for this."
"Rena," Toby growls as he shakes his head and thinks that Rena is almost as quirky as Margaret.
"Yes, Mr. Ziegler. I'm on my way," she bobs her head, then leaves.
Toby watches his assistant's 'Margaret like' move, then lowers his eyes to the speech he's been trying to write, and mutters, "I hope she doesn't like raisin muffins."
Rena makes her way to Margaret's office. She's about to enter her area when the phone rings. Rena thanks her lucky stars. Now, she can quickly drop off this file, while Margaret is distracted by the call. She starts for Margaret's desk, when she hears Margaret whispering to the caller.
"Yes, I'm still going through with it. It's time to move on. I'm tired of having my opinions ignored," she whispers to the person on the other end of the phone. Margaret pauses, listening to the caller.
Rena quickly steps back outside the door. She hovers there, shocked at what she's just overheard. She decides to wait until Margaret gets off the phone, not wanting to interrupt what appears to be a very personal call.
"I've given him too many chances to change. He's the most stubborn..." Margaret stops, waiting for her friend, on the other end of the phone line, to finish her point.
"I know I'll miss it, but I've made up my mind. I'm going to give my notice and be gone by the end of the month," Margaret whispers into the phone, cupping her hand to her mouth. "No, he'll be hard enough to deal with, so I'm not going to tell Leo until the last possible second," Margaret informs the caller. "Yeah, you too. Bye." Hanging up the phone, a paranoid Margaret quickly glances around to see if her private call has been overheard.
Rena almost drops the file she has in her hands as she quickly turns and walks back to the bullpen. She can't believe what she has just heard. Margaret is leaving. Ever since she's been here at the White House, she heard story after story on the legend of Margaret and how she keeps Mr. McGarry in line. She realizes that Margaret's leaving will be a devastating blow to the Chief of Staff's office.
Toby is standing by Rena's desk, searching for something when his assistant gets back. He immediately notices that she still has the file he gave her. "Why didn't you give that to Margaret," he questions, pointing at the file that Rena's clutching in her hands. "Wasn't she there?"
"Yeah... yeah she was there," she whispers back. 'At least for the time being,' she adds inside her head.
"Then why didn't..." Toby starts to question, but is interrupted by his increasingly strangely acting assistant as she grabs a hold of his coat sleeve and pulls him into his office.
"Mr. Ziegler, how well do you know Margaret?" She nervously asks in a hushed tone, after she closes the door.
"Why are we still whispering?" Toby mockingly whispers back, pointing at the now closed door.
"Because Margaret's leaving," she says in a muted voice.
"What'd a ya mean, she's leaving?" Toby smirks, sticking with his mimicking tone as he looks at his watch. "It's only seven."
"I didn't mean she's leaving for the day." Rena takes a quick look around and then continues. "I mean as in she's quitting the White House."
"What!" Toby yells.
"Shh..." Rena shushes, as she places a finger to Toby's lips. Then she proceeds to tell Toby about the phone conversation she overheard. She ends with telling her boss that Margaret isn't planning on informing Leo about her decision, anytime soon.
Several hours later, after processing what Rena has told him, Toby makes his way to Leo's office. He goes through Margaret's area, making sure that she's gone for the evening. He knocks on Leo's open door, and then steps into his office. He finds Leo sitting behind his desk; nose buried in a briefing book.
"Leo, got a minute?" Toby somberly asks.
"Yeah," he responds, pulling his glasses off and rubbing his tired bleary eyes. "What'd ya need?" He sighs, realizing that the reason for a late night visit from Toby can't be good news.
"It's about Margaret," he discloses as he reluctantly sits down in the chair directly in front of Leo's desk.
The mention of his assistant's name immediately grabs Leo's attention, causing him lean back in his chair. "What's she done now?" He smirks, rolling his eyes as he thinks about the time she caused the White House computer's email system to come to a grinding halt.
"Nothing..." Toby breathes out as he adds 'yet' inside his head.
"Then why are you here?" Leo cuts him short.
"Do you think... Margaret's... happy here?" The communication director stammers out.
"What kind of a stupid question is that?" Leo huffs. "I'm busy here trying to run the country," Leo points at the pile of work on his desk. "I don't have time to discuss or worry about if my assistant is happy."
"Well, you'd better find the time to get unbusy and find out what's going on around here with her. That is, if you don't want to have to run the county without her help."
"Toby, just what are you trying to tell me?" Leo gruffly demands.
"There's a rumor going around that Margaret's fed up and is leaving you." Toby lowers his eyes as he informs his boss the bad news.
"That's idiotic. Who the hell started that rumor?" Leo growls, leaning forward in his chair.
"Leo, it didn't come from the normal rumor mill. She was overheard, earlier today, whispering on the phone, making plans for leaving at the end of the month." Toby informs his boss.
Leo's mind quickly flashes back to earlier today. He was leaving for a meeting and when he passed by Margaret's door, and he had overheard a comment she made on the phone. 'I'm not going to tell Leo until the last possible second.' At the time he hadn't given it a second thought, but now it seems to substantiate the rumor. Margaret is leaving him.
Toby watches as Leo pales at the possibility that it might be true. "Leo, are you okay?" He asks the older man.
"Don't worry about it." Rolls from his mouth as his mind races. "I'll take care of it." Leo glances at his watch. "You should go home now."
"Are you sure?" Toby says, leaning forward in his chair.
"Yeah," Leo weakly responds. "See ya in the morning."
"Leo, it's Friday, remember the President banned us from the White House this weekend." Toby grudgingly gets up and heads for the door. He stops and turns to briefly stare Leo. He's stunned by the look of despair that is on Leo's face.
"Yeah, banned us." Leo whispers totally lost in thought, not realizing that Toby is no longer in his office.
Leo finally leaves work around midnight on Friday. He hasn't been able to stop thinking about what Toby told him. He's still in shock by the time he gets to his hotel. He tries to go to sleep, but can't. He still can't believe that Margaret's leaving. He knows that he's worked her hard, but she's never complained. She refuses to go, most evenings, before he does. They have spent the last fourteen years, working hard. Why would she quit now?
He spends most of Saturday pissed at the thought that Margaret hasn't even tried to talk to him about any problems or issues she is having with him or her job. She's always been brutally honest with him in the past. He gets even more pissed that she doesn't even think enough of him or their working relationship to give him the benefit of a heads up about her departing. He spends Saturday night tossing and turning in bed. When he finally does get to sleep, he has nightmares about her leaving him.
By Sunday, he's almost totally exhausted from the worrying and lack of sleep. He starts to get the 'who cares' attitude. He's so tired of people leaving him. His father left him. Jenny left him. Abbey wants little to do with him. Mallory rarely visits him anymore. Now 'his' Margaret is leaving him. He had once told Jed he was fine, because he had Margaret. But, now he's decides that he doesn't need her and he'd be just fine without her in his life. As he is drifting off to sleep around three in the morning, he wonders who will be the next person to leave him.
A very tired and upset Leo arrives at work Monday morning and blows past Margaret in a huff.
Margaret looks up from her desk just in time to see the scowl that's screwed onto Leo's face as he hurries past her desk. 'Someone's in a great mood,' she thinks to herself as she gets up from behind her desk, grabs Leo's messages and walks into his office. "Leo, here's your messages," she comments, laying them down on his desk.
"Whatever," he growls back at her.
"Okay... do you want to go over your schedule?" She offers.
"Do I look like I want to go over my schedule?" Leo barks, throwing his arms up in the air.
Margaret knows that it's time to retreat. Something is really bothering Leo, and apparently her presence is just making it worse. "I'll be at my desk," she informs him as she bobs her head, quickly turns and flees his office.
"Not for long, I imagine," Leo mutters under his breath, swivels his chair around and staring out his window.
Margaret leaves Leo's office with a frown. 'What has gotten into him today?' she wonders, sitting down in her chair. She doesn't get to speculate about it too long before he bellows for her.
"Margaret!" Rings out from Leo's office.
"Yes, Leo," she answers walking back into his office.
"I need to know my schedule for today. Were you planning on getting around to telling me anytime soon?" Leo grumbles.
"I..." She bites her bottom lip, deciding to let it drop, and just tell him his damn schedule. She turns and starts to leave his office.
"Where are you going?" Leo gruffly demands.
"Leo, I need to get your schedule from my desk." She says, trying to remain calm. She's not about to get into an argument with Leo when he's acting like this. She might say something she'll regret.
"You should have brought the damn thing in with you," he throws after her.
Margaret ignores Leo's last comment, picks up his schedule and returns into the lion's den. She starts talking the second she hits his door. "You're got Senior Staff at eight, a briefing in the Roosevelt Room at ten, a meeting on the Hill with Senator Huston at..."
"When the hell did Huston show up on my schedule?" Leo disrupts Margaret.
"Leo, I told you last week. His office called and asked..."
"Call'em back and tell him he needs to come here. I don't have time to be running up to the Hill to hold some junior senator's hand." Leo's voice rises in sound and velocity.
"Leo? Are you okay?" Margaret asks, trying to find out why he is in such a tizzy today.
"I'm fine," he partially yells back at her. "Are you going to finish with my schedule anytime soon?"
Margaret bobs her head and reads the rest of his schedule off to him as quickly as she can. She hurries out of his office and sits down at her desk. She works hard at keeping her angry tears at bay. It's been years since Leo's been able to affect her this way. He hasn't treated her like this since he was drinking. He'd sometimes come to work hangover and pissed off because of a fight with Jenny. Then he would proceed to take it out on her.
She had put up with it for a while, too naive and scared to stand up to him. But, eventually, she finally let him have it. He had apologized and never treated her like that again. But today, he was up to his old tricks again and she has no idea what's set him off. She wants to go back in there and make him tell her what's going on. His behavior has stunned her into a brooding silence. After a couple of minutes of fretting, she losses her battle with her temper and her tears, and heads for the Ladies' Room to collect herself. She gives the reflection in the mirror a good talking to about taking Leo's crap.
Leo's in Senior Staff by the time Margaret returns. She sits down at her desk, pulls up the file she was editing earlier and resumes her work, trying not to think about Leo and his mood, but her plan doesn't last long. Soon she's just staring at her computer screen and thinking of all kinds of things she wishes she'd said to him this morning. Things she'd never dare to say to him in person. She runs through the list of things she would have liked to have said in her head several times, until it almost seems like she said them to him for real. She smiles at her private little revenge that she's just had and is finally able to get back to work.
Leo is out of the office for most of the day. He comes back every once in a while and grabs his messages and then quickly disappears after a snide comment or two. Margaret takes his abuse, just wishing for the day to be over. Each time after he leaves she mentally runs through the list she came up with earlier in the day about what she'd like to say to him and she feels a little better. She hopes that by tomorrow, he's back to his lovable grumpy self; instead of the bastard he's been today.
It's around six-thirty in the evening when Margaret gets back to her desk from going down to the mess and bringing back some dinner, well actually it's her lunch/dinner, since she missed her lunch today. She's just starting to eat when she hears Leo walk back into his office.
Leo slams down the file on his desk and heads for Margaret's area to get his messages. "Must be nice to have the time to eat. Would it have been too much trouble to get something for me too?" He growls, as he turns quickly and heads back into his office.
The top of Margaret's head feels all tingly like it's going to explode. How dare that insensitive son-of-a-bitch say that to her after all these years of being his loyal assistant? Saving his butt on a daily basis during the days before rehab at the labor department. Following him into the private sector. Campaigning all over the country, while living out of cheap motels. Putting in sixteen hours days usually seven days a week ever since they got to the White House. She jumps up from her chair with such force that her chair slams into the filing cabinet behind her desk. She marches into Leo's office, closing the door behind her. Then she walks over to the hallway door and closes it. Next she closes the door that connects to the Oval Office.
"Just what the hell are you doing?" Leo scowls as he motions to the doors in his office.
Margaret stomps over to his desk and plants herself in front of it. Angrily placing both hands on her hips. "Leo McGarry, I may have red hair, but that doesn't mean I'm a retriever here to run and fetch for you on every damn whim you have!" She fumes, as her earlier private ranting starts to flow from her mouth.
"That's what I pay you for, at least for the moment," Leo angrily retorts, standing up from his chair behind his desk.
"And just what the hell does that mean, you pompous ass?" Margaret keeps right on going, not even giving Leo a chance to respond. "If this is what a weekend off does for you. You better never take another one off. Good God Leo, do I need to go out and find you a woman to reduce your frustrations? Should I add that to your damn schedule too? Just how long has it been?" She quickly turns and heads for the door while muttering, "Great, now I have to take care of 'Little Leo,' too." She sarcastically mutters to herself.
"What the hell do you care? You're leaving me anyway?" He barks after her.
"You're right, I've had it for the day. I'll see you tomorrow." She snaps back him, having decided that its time to go home before she tells him what he can do with her job.
"Yeah... Sure... I know about you leaving at the end of the month... for good..." He sighs deeply, giving up his façade and wearily dropping into his chair. He's just too tired to fight his feelings anymore. He starts to rub his aching temples.
"What are you talking about? I'm not going anywhere. Why would you think that?" Her tone softens, after she notices Leo's sudden change in demeanor. She walks over to the front of his desk, and the distraught look on his face worries her.
"I heard you on the phone, last Friday," he sadly informs her, lowering his dejected eyes.
"You know what?" Margaret's asks as her mind quickly retraces what she did last Friday. She sighs when she realizes what he overheard. "Leo, I'm not leaving here at the end of the month. I'm giving my notice for my apartment at the end of the month."
"But, I heard ya..." He says looking up at her with blurry almost watery eyes.
"Leo, I've been having trouble with my building manager. I've been trying to get him to make some improvements and he keeps ignoring me. I didn't want to tell you about it because I didn't want you worrying about me finding a decent place to live. Remember how you were when I was looking for my current apartment?"
"Oh," he softly replies as it all sinks into his head and he lowers his eyes.
"Leo, I'm sorry for umm... before..." Margaret says, lowering her eyes.
"Margaret, I'm the one who's sorry. I've treated you intolerably all day today, I'm so sorry. It's just..."
Silence falls between them as they stare into each other's eyes. Margaret quickly pales, and Leo flushes as they both think about all that's been said between them in the past couple of minutes.
"Leo... I can't believe I said those things to you. I..." She tells him in an anxious voice.
Leo raises a hand to stop her. "Margaret," He eyes plead with her. "Please... Why don't you go finish your dinner? We'll just pretend this never happened," Leo says, motioning a hand between them. "Okay?"
"Okay," Margaret agrees, wanting to forget this whole day, especially the past few minutes. She bobs her head and walks towards the door. "Leo, do you want me to run down to the mess and get you something to eat?" She offers.
"Nah, I'm not really hungry," he honestly admits.
"Leo you need to eat," she tells him in a voice full of concern.
"Yeah, I know but seriously... I don't think I could right now."
"Okay," she bobs her head and turns to go.
"Little Leo?" Leo softly smirks, shaking his head as he returns to trying to read the briefing book in front of him.
"Oh God," she mutters, having heard Leo's last comment.
Leo sits; his shoulders slumped, in his chair behind his desk rubbing his weary eyes and thinking about what Margaret said to him. Is he frustrated sexually? Probably. Yeah he is. He continues to reflect about this past weekend, trying to figure out why he got so upset and hurt when he thought Margaret was leaving him. When the reason finally hits him, it startles him, causing him jump up from his chair, knocking over the files that were perched on the side of his desk. He loves her, as in he's in love with her. "Oh holy hell," he mutters under his breath.
Margaret panics when she hears the noise from his office and rushes into his office. "Are you okay," she asks, as soon as she gets inside the door.
"Yeah, I umm... just knocked over these files," he tells her as he points to the mess on the floor. He bends over and starts to clean up the mess he just made.
"Let me help," she says, quickly moving to his side.
"Thanks," Leo says, trying not to stare at her.
A few minutes later, Margaret is back at her desk trying to work. But, she can't get today's events out of her head. This first thing that she thought when she heard the noise earlier from Leo's office, was that he'd collapsed. She worries about that happening all the time. He doesn't take very good care of himself. She sighs at the fact that that's not going to change anytime soon, either. She wishes that there was someone at home to take care of him, but what she really wishes is that it was her. She's been in love with him for a while now, but she'll never tell him. She'll just keep taking care of him at work. She blushes at the things that she yelled at him today. She quickly decides that he's not the only one who's frustrated.
Leo can't get any work done. His eyes won't stay open. He glances at his watch. It's only seven-thirty. Maybe if he just rests his eyes for a minute or two, he'll be able to make it to eleven or twelve tonight. He gets up from his chair, walks over and sits down on his couch. He'll just take it easy here for a few minutes, and then get back to work. It's only a matter of a couple of minutes, and he's sound asleep. The last few days have finally caught up with him.
An hour later, Margaret finally finishes the report, prints it out and heads for Leo's office. She opens the door and is surprised to find Leo softly snoring on his couch. She smiles at the sight. He looks so cute. She goes behind his desk and lays the file in the center of it. She turns and closes the blinds. She walks over to the wing back chair in front of the window and grabs his Air Force blanket. She walks over to him, carefully loosens his tie, slowly pulls off his shoes and places his feet up on the coffee table. Then she covers him up with the blanket. She stares at his face. His brow seems relaxed, and he has a slight smile on his face. She thinks he must be having a nice dream. She walks over to the connecting door to the Oval office and softly closes and locks it. Next she goes to the hallway door and locks it too. She walks around the room turning off all the lights, except for the small dim one on his desk. She leaves his office and picks up the phone on her desk.
She calls Donna and pushes Leo's evening schedule off on Josh. Next she calls Charlie and tells him what's going on. She knows that the President won't care that she's shutting down the Chief of Staff's office. She calls the operator and changes the phones over to Josh's office. She removes the jacket to her suit and pulls on her comfortable work sweater and then heads back into Leo's office. She goes to his chair that sits next to the couch and sits down. She toes out of her killer high heel shoes and puts her feet up on the coffee table, next to Leo's. She sinks into the chair crossing her arms over her chest. She might as well be comfortable while she stands to watch over him, she thinks to herself.
"Comfortable?" Leo softly smirks from the couch, nodding toward her shoeless feet. He's been half-awake since she came into the room the first time. He didn't say anything, because he was enjoying her taking care of him.
"Yeah," she blushes.
"Come're," giving her an impish grin, as he flips the blanket out of the way and pats the cushion next to him.
Margaret hesitates at first, but then shyly gets up and sits rigidly down next to him and places her fidgety hands in her lap.
"Relax," he gently tells her, putting an arm around her and pulling her to him. He takes the blanket and covers them up. "I take it we're done for the day," he flatly states.
Margaret bobs her head as she slowly relaxes into his side. Too afraid to speak and break the spell. She knows she has to be dreaming and if she is, she doesn't want to wake up. She closes her eyes, leans her head on his shoulder and breathes in his cologne.
"Good," he informs her leaning his head on hers. He breathes a heavy almost painful sigh. He wants to tell her how important she is to him, that he needs her, that he never wants to lose her and that he loves her.
"Leo, you okay?" Popping her head off of his shoulder. Misunderstanding the reason for his sigh.
"Yeah... I am now," he confesses. "You?"
"Me too," she agrees, resting her head on his shoulder again and breathing her own sigh of relief.
They sit there for a few minutes. Enjoying the feel of each other's bodies resting side by side. Both are trying to decide whether it's time to tell the other how they really feel. They decide at the same time to express their feelings.
"Margaret, I love you," he whispers.
"Leo, I love you," she whispers.
"Really?" They say simultaneously as they both raise their heads and stare at each other.
"Yeah," Leo tells her, raising a hand to her face and gently stroking her cheek. He shifts his position on the couch so that he is able to pull her into his arms.
"Me... too," she softly breathes out, resting her head on his shoulder. "I have for a long time," she whispers into his neck.
Leo pulls back and looks into her eyes. He sees so much love for him. He runs his hand through her hair to the back of her head, and then gently pulls her to his lips. When their lips touch, the sensations were unbelievable. Shivers run up and down Margaret's spine as she relaxes into the kiss. Leo hasn't felt passion like this in years. He lets out a soft moan. Margaret parts her lips at Leo's moan, encouraging him to intensify their kiss. Leo moves his tongue into her willing mouth and explores it fully. They slowly kiss for several moments shifting down to recline on the sofa attempting to be more comfortable, until their need for air is too great. They reluctantly part and stare longingly into each other's eye.
"Oh Margaret. I haven't felt like this in years." A yawn escapes his mouth before he can stop it. "Sorry," he whispers as he pulls her closer to him and rearranging the blanket to cover them more. "There's so much I want to tell ya, but right now I'm just... so exhausted. I haven't been sleeping too well lately. Can we talk about this over... breakfast, tomorrow?" He asks, reaching across for her hand and entwining his fingers with hers, while placing a kiss in her hair.
"Breakfast sounds nice," she agrees, snuggling deeper into his arms.
"I meant what I said earlier," he tells her, squeezing her hand.
"So did I," she agrees.
"Good," he states, wondering if she was talking about when she had yelled at him earlier or when she admitted to him that she loved him.
"I think so, too," she says softly.
"I meant about being in love with you," he explains, trying unsuccessfully to stifle another yawn.
"I knew what you were referring to," she replies with a nervous laugh.
"Good," he breathes out.
"Uh huh," she whispers back, trying to drift off to sleep.
"I just wanted to make sure you knew what earlier thing I was talking bout."
"Leo, shuddup and go to sleep," she quips.
"Little Leo... Margaret?" He softly smirks into her hair. He just can't resist teasing her about it one more time.
"Oh for the love of God," she says, more in embarrassment than anger. She decides not to let his comment pass. She raises her head, turns towards him and says, "I'll take care of him tomorrow, okay?"
"You ...umm... promise?" He stammers out in a higher pitched voice than normal. Surprised by fiery red head next to him.
"Yes, Leo. I promise," she calmly tells him. "Now go to sleep, please," she requests, laying her head back down.
"Okay. Night," he exhales, trying to erase the image that he's conjured up in his mind.
"Night Leo," she whispers back, as she releases her hand from his. She raises her head off his shoulder, lifts up the blanket and peers under it and seductively whispers, "Night, Little Leo."
Leo's eyes fly open and flash to her face. She has a cute smirk of a smile on her face as she lays her head back down on his shoulder. He knows he's in trouble now. Margaret is going to be a real handful. After a couple of moments, he realizes that he wouldn't have it any other way. He closes his eyes and happily drifts off to sleep with the woman he loves safely tucked in his arms.