The Story of You
Disclaimer: NOT MINE! That is all.
Author: Lee )
Part: One of three stand alone stories.
AN: Different style that I'd thought I'd play around with. Like it, hate it, just read it and let me know.
Summary: You weren't going to hold him to a mistake, even though you knew he would do anything for you.
It was a one-night stand, something that was never supposed to happen but did. You didn't have the luxury of blaming it on alcohol, but you did blame it on hurt and loyalty and, in those moments of soul-searching truth, love. But mainly you didn't look to place blame, just responsibility. It wasn't a relationship, just a night. It wasn't lust, just comfort. The next morning had been boringly un-awkward, like you'd both been planning on what would happen, what you would say the morning after you finally succumb. You'd both made corny jokes about it being the romantic atmosphere of Idaho Falls and he had kissed you so tenderly that you'd almost wished it were true.
But, it wasn't.
When you got back to DC everything went amazingly back into place. No nerves, no awkwardness, no funny looks and no suspicions from co-workers. It was as if no one would even think of the two of you that way, so the hours that neither of you answered your hotel nor cell phones were easily dismissed.
Then it happened, three weeks after you got back it dawned on you. You missed your period. Two days later, you woke up so sick to your stomach you almost didn't make to the bathroom.
You didn't need the white stick from the drugstore to tell you what happened. You'd been there before, but this time it was going end differently. This time you decided you were a grown woman who made a mistake, but could deal with it. Part of you wanted to tell him, but most of you feared that it would destroy him. This was your decision, your choice, your child. You weren't going to hold him to a mistake, even though you knew he would do anything for you.
So, you wrote out your resignation and placed it on his desk, right in the center where he'd easily find it the next morning. You called for a temp and made sure that all the instructions, all 42 pages, where printed and waiting for her.
You waited for the plane that will take you back home to Boston. You wondered if the chemicals at your Dad's dry cleaners would still make you sick. You wondered what your Mom would say when you start to show. You wondered if your brother would let you work in his construction office. As they called your flight, you wondered if Boston will ever feel as much as home as DC did.
"Margaret? Did you get the Education Reform Bill summarized?"
"Yes, sir," you handed the file to your boss with a smile.
Nodding, Eric Logan took the file from you, his new assistant. Since the day you had walked into his office four months before, he had been thanking his lucky stars. He had broken the protocol of the Governor's office by hiring you after one interview and with no references and only an sketchy resume, but he could just tell that you were special the second you repeated back the phone number he had said off-handedly and then promptly forgot. Even the fact that you would soon need maternity leave and childcare hadn't deterred him. You were going to be the difference in his career. And so far he was right. Your knowledge of federal government and politics had already moved him up in the Governor's staff. Like today. He was going to be talking with some people from Washington about the new program on education reform. Eric had been chosen by the Governor to lead the meetings because of information that you had given him. He knew it and so did you, but you where happy to help him as he had helped you.
He returned your smile, "Well, wish me luck. I'm off to meet with the DC guys."
"Good luck," you winked, "but you won't need it. It's a great program and the Bartlet White House will be happy to help back it. Just you wait and see."
"God, I hope so," he shot over his shoulder as he headed for the conference room where he was going to be meeting with the delegates.
Shaking your head, you stood awkwardly as your eight month pregnant body would allow, and waddled towards the filing cabinets to file the office copy of the proposal. With your back to the door, you could hear it open and called out, "What did you forget, Eric?" Your question was greeted with silence, so you tried again, "Don't just stand there staring at me sheepishly, tell me what you forgot."
"Margaret," your name was more of a dazed question from the familiar voice and forgetting yourself you whipped around to find Josh Lyman staring at you.
"Josh," you were shocked and your hand went to your stomach in a vain attempt to hide its increased size.
Unfortunately, the movement of your hand drew his eyes from your face and he went white as he looked at your pregnant body. It took him a moment to regain his footing, but then he was by your side in a flash, "Oh my god."
"Yeah," you looked up at him, eyes begging. "Josh, are you here alone?"
He nodded, still staring at your belly, "Yeah, Leo decided that I needed a really bad total crackpots day assignment, so I got to fly all the way up here."
He shook his head, "In DC working her own assignment. Margaret, whose... I mean, you only left a few months ago... Is the father... I didn't know you were seeing anyone... I don't know what to say."
"Then don't say anything to anyone, please," you grabbed his hands begging him as mentally you cursed your brother for making you take this job as being safer than working on construction sites.
"But, Margaret, Leo's been going crazy wondering what happened to you," Josh squeezed your hands, trying to reassure you.
"Oh god, Josh, you can't tell Leo you even saw me and especially not about my condition," panic crept into your voice.
His one hand left your hands and he laid it against your stomach, "It's his, isn't it?"
Tears filled your eyes and you nodded.
Pulling you into a hug, he kissed your temple, "Idaho Falls, right?" At your nod, he continued, "I knew by the way he looked at you. Does he know?"
"No," you whispered into his chest, grateful for someone you could tell the truth to.
"No," you pushed away from Josh, "I won't be the one to destroy his career. We were both there. It was both our faults, but he's the one that would be taken out by this. I don't want that to happen. Someday, maybe I'll tell him, but right now he'd feel the responsibility and I can't lay another burden on him."
He wrapped you in his arms again, "I promise I won't tell him, but just because you would worry too much if you knew."
"Thank you, Josh," you squeezed him slightly.
"You're welcome, but now that I know there is nothing that you can do to make me not help you. I care about you too much, clear?"
You nodded against his chest. You suddenly knew that the Education Reform Proposal was going to have full White House backing, headed up by one Josh Lyman.
You were tired. You had heard all the stories and thought that you were really prepared for giving birth, but it had been harder than you ever expected. And the one person that you really wanted there wasn't there. He didn't even know it was happening and perhaps that made it harder. Of course, your family had surrounded you and even Eric had come and gone throughout the process helping to take care of you, but it didn't make up for the lack of your daughter's father being there. Looking down at her small face, you felt the guilt wash over you. He was a good father to Mallory. He should have been allowed to witness his second daughter come into the world, but it was too late now. Your decision was made and you were going to stick to it. A knock on the door pulled you from your thoughts and you called out for the person to enter. The undeniable, unruly brown mop that was Josh Lyman's hair suddenly appeared, but the rest of him was covered by an enormous teddy bear.
"Joshua," you laughed as he made his way into the room, "what are you doing here? And who's your friend?"
Josh dropped the bear into the guest chair and winked, "Eric called me about a crisis with the Bill, so I flew up as soon as humanly possible. And my friend is Smoky. He's to remind our girl there to always check the flew before starting fires in the Mural Room."
"I doubt that will happen," you laughed gently, grateful that Josh was there.
"I don't know. I think we're looking the first female President," Josh smiled as he dropped next to you on the bed. Reaching a hand over to run across her silky peach fuzz, Josh sighed, "She's beautiful, Margaret."
You smiled down at the tiny bundle agreeing, "Thank you. Would you like to hold her?"
He hesitated for a second, before reaching for her. In the shifting from your arms to this new man's, her eyes popped open and she wiggled slightly, but didn't cry as Josh cradled her against his chest. As he looked at her now open eyes, his breath caught, "See looks so much like Leo. Her eyes, the shape of her face, its all Leo."
"I know," you sighed, not sure if you were happy or sad about that.
"You'll never be able to deny her parentage."
"I never said I wanted to, just that I didn't want him to know right now."
Josh got up off the bed, still holding the baby and started to walk around the room talking to her, "You know, someday you're mama and I are going to have words about how wrong she's being, but not today. She had a pretty rough day and since she's not a republican I won't be that mean to her. Besides, I don't want to expose you to that kind of language yet,... Hey, what's her name?"
You smiled at him and the confusion on his face, "Valerie Elizabeth."
"Valerie," he asked with a smile. "Like rhymes with Mallory?"
"Yes. Remember, I was expecting a boy. A boy name Joshua Thomas, thank you very much. So, when they asked me what HER name was Valerie was the first thing that popped into my head."
Josh laughed and kissed your forehead, "The woman who took two months to decide what color she was wearing to the Inaugural Ball names her daughter in two seconds. That sounds like our Margaret."
You tried not to cry as you realized that you weren't 'their' Margaret any more.
You held Valerie closer as she squirmed to get out of your arms. Ever since she had learned to walk she didn't understand why she couldn't run wherever she pleased. She knew who was coming down the terminal and didn't understand why she had to wait on the other side of security for him to appear. You could feel the older woman a few steps away staring at you and you knew what she was thinking. It was the same thing that everyone thought as you made these monthly pilgrimages to Logan Airport that the baby's father, your husband, was getting back from a long trip. At first you spent a lot of time correcting people, but now you would let them think what they wanted. When they would say how sweet it was to see, you would just nod and say thank you. All the while praying no reporter was lurking around.
When he got close enough, you lowered her to the ground and with a squeal she took off for him. You smiled as she collided with Josh's legs, nearly tripping him. You wondered how he always seemed to never expect her, even though she did the same thing every time. You gave them a moment of hugs and tickles and laughs before you headed over to them. You picked up the overnight bag that he had dropped to pick up your daughter and shook your head.
He wrapped the arm that wasn't holding your daughter around your shoulders and kissed your forehead, "Hey, Mags. How are my two best girls?"
Wrapping an arm around his waist, you smiled, "Happy to see you. Right, Val?"
"Wight," she screamed wrapping her arms around his neck in a choking hug.
He laughed with you as you left the airport, but you realized it was a hollow laugh.
Once you were out to the car and his bag was safely stowed in the trunk and Valerie safely belted into her car seat, you asked, "What's the matter?"
"I know we've had this fight before, but I need you to listen to me this time. You have to see Leo. Just meet with him and tell him you have a daughter together. An amazing and beautiful daughter. Please. Life is too short not to," Josh begged as he settled into the passenger seat.
Panic filled you, "Is Leo sick?"
Josh sighed and took your hand, "No, but I missed my opportunity. I don't want you to, too."
"What happened," you asked, worried for your best friend.
"Donna's getting married," his head dropped back against the seat and you squeezed his hand. "She told me yesterday that she and Will are getting married right before Russell takes office."
"Will," you looked at him with confused eyes. "Will Bailey? Guy that took over for Sam then left to be the Vice President's Chief of Staff?"
Josh nodded, "They started dating shortly after you left. I always thought it was going to be a fling that she'd get tired of him, but they're getting married. They bought a house in Arlington and are talking about having kids."
"Oh, Josh, I'm sorry," you whispered as your hand made it's way to his shoulder.
"It is okay. I lost my chance, but I don't want you lose yours. Please, just talk to him," Josh laid his cheek on your hand.
Rubbing your thumb across his cheekbone, you looked out into the crowded parking structure. Two years of your life floated through your mind. Two lonely years. Every picture your mind recalled was incomplete, missing a vital and basic piece: Leo. Your daughter's been without a father, you without a lover, a friend, because of your own fears. Finally and slowly, you nodded, "Not until after Russell takes office. But as soon as he can, have him meet me at the Charles River Basin."
Josh smiled at you, "You're making the right choice. He loves you. He's been talking about you a lot lately. I think he always thought that you'd be a part of his retirement, and you not being there for the end of the administration is tearing him up. He keeps asking if I know where you are. Do you know haw hard it is for me to look at him, a man I love like a father, and lie to him. To not tell him that he's got an amazing little girl. To not fly or drive up here and physically take both of you back to DC, to him."
"I can't go back, Josh."
"I know, and I've never forced the issue and I never would. I just want you to talk to him. Let him know about Val and let him be a part of your lives. That is all he wants and it's what you want and need. You know that, Margaret."
You knew that he was right. With a watery smile and small sniff, you removed your hand from his shoulder and started to pull the car out of the parking lot, "You know, Joshua Lyman, you're very annoying when you're right."
Josh laughed, "That's why you love me..."
"Like a brother," you finished together.
You studied the bank of barren trees, which scratched at the snow heavy sky. The tree looked as if they would tear open the clouds and let the snow that was trying to fall drop in one mighty spurt. You wished it would happen. You wanted an act of nature or God or whatever to make this moment go away. With one last sad glance of the trees, you climbed out of your nice warm car. You shivered in the gray, cold January air. January 21, was not a day to be walking along the Charles River, but you had to know if he would be there. You wanted to see if he was all right after yesterday, but mostly you wanted to see him. Eric had insisted you watch the inauguration, so you had watched on the couch in his office, with a bowl of popcorn between you. You'd cried when Bingo Bob Russell took the oath of office and you cried even harder when you heard Bartlet's farewell address. Eric was kind though, he hadn't asked about the tears. He had pretended not to even notice.
Your thoughts about the previous day were suddenly halted by the sight of a figure on the bench in front of you. He had come.
Your heart stopped for a second and you had to remind yourself to breathe as you studied his back. His hair was thinner and grayer, his shoulders more stooped, but he was undeniably Leo McGarry. Schooling your features and bracing your shoulders, you rounded the bench. It took him a second to realize the shadow over him wasn't one of the plethora of clouds crossing the sky and a second longer to look up, but moment he did his face lit up and he was off the bench. You took a step up and merely held out your hand. You were in control and a handshake was as far as you'd go, yet.
He looked down at your out stretched hand, surprised and confused for a moment, but shook it, "Margaret."
"Leo," you smiled at him.
He returned the smile, "It's so good to see you. When Josh told me that you were willing to meet me, I was so thrilled I hugged the boy."
You laughed slightly, "That must have surprised him."
"Surprise me, too," Leo returned the laughed. "You want to," he waved a hand over the bench.
You nodded and sat next to him, shoving your hands in your pockets as you both sat silently watching the Charles flow for a few minutes. Finally, Leo broke the silence with a shiver, "You couldn't have picked a warm spot?"
"It's Boston in January, there are no warm spots."
"There's got to be something warmer than sitting next to the river."
"You can go," the words came out more harshly than you meant them.
"No, no," he turned to you, resting his hand on your arm. "I've waited two years to see you, Margaret. I don't want to go and I don't want you to go, yet. Please?"
You nodded your head, blinking back your tears. You pulled your hand out of your pocket and let him slip his down in yours, "Did Josh tell you anything about... about my life here?"
"No, all he told me was that you were working on the Governor's staff. And that we needed to talk," his eyes met yours in silent questions.
"Yeah, we do, but I don't know what to say or how to say it," you admitted weakly.
Leo squeezed your hand, "Just talk to me, Margaret. We've never had problems talking to one another."
You shake your head, "I rather just show you something." With an unsteady hand, you reached into your purse and pulled out the most recent photograph of your daughter. Handing it to him you knew exactly what to expect, a look of shock, but what came next was anyone's guess. He took the picture and you knew that like everyone else that knew both of you and saw your daughter he knew instantly. Her face was a perfect combination of your two faces. His eyes sitting above your nose; your mouth settled in his jaw line; his color hair laying straight and thick as yours.
He held the photo for a minute before caressing the image of her face, "What's her name?"
You hesitated for a moment, "Valerie Elizabeth."
His eyes left the photo to look at you, "Valerie?"
"I was told I was having a boy, so I'd only picked out boys names. Valerie was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw her," you explained.
"You ever call her Val," he asked, still touching her face in the photograph.
You nodded mutely, suddenly wanting him to say more, "Leo?"
"Yeah," he answered still concentrating on the photo.
You bit your lip, "You understand why I left now?"
"I knew then," he sighed. "I knew the moment I got your letter of resignation. I tried like hell to find you. I called your parents, your brother, but they all lied to me. They told me that you hadn't come back to Boston, that you hadn't talked to them, that they didn't know where you were. I had Mike Casper in my office, begging him to look for you. I gave up too quickly I know, but, honestly, I got mad. You left me and it... it hurt. It hurt worst than when Jenny left, cause I thought maybe we had a future. Then, I realized that I should be mad at myself, because I let you think that we didn't. I treated our time together like a one-night stand, like a meaningless fling, but it wasn't. At least not to me."
You brushed away your tears, "Me either. But, Leo, I had to leave. When I realized I was pregnant I didn't want to be person that brought you down. I had to leave."
His hand replaced yours on your cheek, his fine leather glove sweeping soft circles across your cheekbone, "You didn't have to. I would have survived and if not at least I would have been there for you, for both of you. For the pregnancy, her birth, her first steps, her first words, all the things I've missed."
"I'm sorry," your tears started afresh and he pulled back his hand to remove his glove before wiping away your tears.
He cupped your face in his hand, "Margaret, your face is frozen. We need to get you someplace warm."
You nodded and placed your hand over his, "Come home with me? Val will be asleep by now, but you can see her and I'll make you some coffee and we can talk some more."
"I'd love that," he smiled and kissed your hand. Waving the photo a little, he asked, "May I?"
You smiled, "Yes. I've got others you may like to keep as well."
He stood up and pulled you with him, "I'd like that, but I rather be apart of the real thing."
"I'd like that, too," you smiled as you walked towards the cars, hand in hand.
You woke to the feel of Leo's arms wrapped around you, his morning stubble scratching your back through your satin nightgown, and your daughter's small hands running over your hair and face as she did ever morning. Opening your eyes, you whispered, "Hey, baby."
"Who dat," she asked jabbing a tiny finger in Leo's direction.
You felt Leo tense behind you, alerting you to the fact that he was awake. For a spilt second you wondered what to say, but you knew the truth was the best, "That's Daddy."
Leo's body relaxing and the small puff of air that escaped his lips signaled that you did the right thing.
Valerie smiled at you in childish acceptance and quickly climbed into the bed for her morning cuddle. She surprised you by not stopping to just lay down next to you, but crawling over you and pushing her way between your two bodies. Rolling over, you watched as she curled into Leo's chest, balling his t-shirt in her tiny fist like she would do with your nightgown.
He smiled at you then at your daughter, "Hey, baby."
You held your breath. Valerie let no one but you call her baby. She had pitched screaming fits and thrown tantrums when Eric called her baby, but again she surprised you.
She snuggled down deeper in his arms, her left hand searching for you to make you come closer, if it was humanly possible, and sleepily answered him, "Hi, Daddy."
He turned tear filled eyes towards you and whispered, "Thank you."
You smiled wispily and wrapped your arms around both of them, "No, thank you."
Kissing you softly over your daughter's head, he let his eyes slip close as he started to return to sleep. Before he did, he whispered gently, "I love you."
You cried the first tears of pure joy that you cried for a long time as you laying watching the people you loved most in this world sleeping next to you. And, you wondered at the story of you.