Christmas Without You
Characters: Leo, Margaret
Disclaimer: The characters are from the NBC, WB, TV show The West Wing; they do not belong to me.
Summary: Its Christmas time at the White House and once again something is not right.
Spoiler: Anything up to and including Abu El Banat
Feedback: I would love to hear your opinion!
Author's Note:Beta By: Lynn, who went above and beyond the call... THANKS!!!!
Additional Ideas By: Katie, who always came through whenever I got stuck. THANKS!!!
Christmas Without You
Dec 22, 2003
The White House halls are decked and the National Christmas
tree was lit. It is officially the Christmas season once again at the White
House. All the offices are full of decorations and holiday music plays in the
background. This Christmas seems to be even more festive than usual. So much
had happened in this past year of this administration and the staff is ready
for some holiday cheer.
Leo enters the White House and canít help but get caught up
in the Christmas sprit that is floating through the hallways. He finds himself
even whistling along with the carolers that are filling the lobby with
Christmas sounds. He heads off to his office with almost a spring in his
Things are definitely looking up this Christmas. This
administrationís past Christmasís had been troubled with Leoís addictions
coming to light, Joshís PSTD, the MS hearings and the President and Leo trying
to exorcise their guilt about Shareef. This past year hasnít been a cakewalk
either; with Zoeyís kidnapping, but after the government shutdown things have
really started to look up. The President and Abbey seem to be moving past their
problems and even Abbey seems to be warming up to him once again. They really
havenít talked about what had happened, but maybe they will soon. He really
misses their friendship.
Leo enters his office and is ready for his good morning
banter with Margaret, but she isnít there yet. His stomach tightens in concern. She is
always at work before him and he is certain that she hasnít scheduled the day
off.He isnít sure what was going on with her lately, but she
definitely hasnít been herself. She has been irritable and short tempered with
him for a couple of weeks now and it seems like she is trying to avoid him,
whenever possible. This isnít how his Margaret acts; she is always no more than
a bellow and a couple of short steps away. Plus, Christmas is only 3 days away
and she has yet to start to bother him about signing cards. Maybe she has sent
them to autopen this year. Heíd have to remember to ask her tomorrow.
He thinks back to last week when they had been going through
She had brought up that he shouldnít go with maybes this
year, for the Christmas parties that he was invited to. She had referred to him
as lovable Leo McGarry and then something about her being a dope, but he
couldnít remember what else she had said because his attention had been pulled
away by the latest crisis of this administration.
He thinks back to the last few months and ponders how
invaluable she has been to him. She is always there when he needs her and
always ready to help in whatever manner she can. There is no doubt in his mind,
that he couldnít have endured these past few months without her by his side. If
truth were to be told and if he would be completely honest with himself, he
couldnít have survived these past few years without her by his side. Jenny
might have left him, but he could always count on Margaret being there.
Leo canít remember the last time she hasnít been at work
before him or even when she has taken a day off. He goes into his office and
checks his desk for messages. He finds none and sits down behind his desk. He
canít shake the feeling that is in the pit of his stomach. Where is she? He is
about to call her at home when Donna comes into the room.
"Leo, just wanted to let you know that Margaret called in
sick today. I guess she couldnít get a hold of anyone here, so she called me."
"Ok, um... would you call and get a temp for me today?" Leo
is rubbing the back of his neck, the way he did whenever he is puzzled about
"Already have, call if you need any help today."
Before Leo could mutter thanks, Donna was out the door and
down the hall. What is going on with Margaret lately, he wonders. But, before
he can give it a second thought, Josh comes bounding into the room.
"Hey Leo, we have senior staff in the Oval"
"Ok, Iím coming." They walk through the connecting door and
into the Oval Office.
Margaret hadnít slept at all last night. She is on the couch
in her robe and slippers and she has spent the last hour staring at the phone.
She needs to call into work and let Leo know she isnít coming in today. Sheís
never called in sick unless she is really really sick and even then she would
usually drag herself in, later in the day. And now here she is, calling in sick
and she isnít sick. At least not physically ill, she is sick in her heart
because of the decision she made last night. It is for the best for all those
involved and she has to stick by it. She has been postponing her decision for
some time now, but it is time. She is going to quit her job. She can no longer
work for Leo McGarry.
After senior staff, Leo goes back into his office and yells
for Margaret. A short middle-aged blonde dressed in very conservative business
clothes sticks her head in the door.
"Mr. McGarry, donít you remember Margaret called in sick,
Iím your temp for today, Ms. Jane Whitcome, is there something I can do for
Leo looks at her and nods his head. "I know... Iím... just
so used to ...here" Holding out some folders. "Could you please file these and I
need the report on Child Welfare Reform. I think Margaret summarized it
yesterday." He wants to add that he has no idea where she had put it, but
Margaret is very organized and it is probably in his in basket on her desk.
Heís had Jane as a temp before when Margaret had to be out of town for a family
thing or something last year or was it the year before that. He remembers her
to be pretty stuffy and very straight laced when it comes to business. But that
is ok, he can put up with her for one day. At least she had managed not to mess
up Margaretís filing system the last time she temped for him. A legendary
system that he himself has never mastered and he is sure that she keeps
changing the logic behind it on him just to keep him confused and out of her
Within a couple of minutes, Jane is back in his office with
the reform report in her hand. "Here Mr. McGarry, do you require anything
Leo looks up from behind his desk. "Thank you, no, this is
all I need right now." And he lowers his head and starts reading the report.
"Mr. McGarry, would you like me to get you some coffee?"
Jane remembers that the last time she subbed for Margaret, that he would go
through a couple of pots in a day.
"Coffee would be fine, black please." Leo goes back to
reading the summary that Margaret had written. For a second, something bothers
him, but he canít quite place the feeling. Heís sure that he has felt it
before, but he canít put a finger on it.
Margaret has finally made it off the couch and is
reorganizing her CD collection. She breaks the CDís down into music categories
and then alphabetizes each individual category. She has to do something to try
and get her mind off what she has decided to do. She needs to figure out how
she is going to quit, but here she is, being quirky and cleaning her closet.
She doesnít want to let Leo down, but she canít go on like this. She will stick
with her plan. First quit her job, then find a new job (maybe even out of the
district), and get on with her life. She has enough money saved up to pay her bills
for at least six months. She has always been very frugal with her money. She
grins at the memory of when Leo had told her that she could squeeze the life
out of a nickel better than any ten people he knew. Her grin quickly fades and
is replaced by the same frown she has been wearing off and on these past few
†Itís only 10:30 in
the morning and Leo has already yelled for Margaret several times and his temp
is starting to get frustrated with him. At first she would just come no matter
what names he yells. Now she wonít enter his office unless he calls her own
name. He finally remembers her name and bellows it, but somehow it doesnít roll
off his lips like Margaretís name does.
Jane entered his office. "Mr. McGarry, I would prefer it if
you would call me Ms. Whitcome."
Leo stares at her like she has grown a second head. "Sorry,
Ms. Whitcome, I need you to find me the Benard file please."
"Mr. McGarry, I will try, but your assistantís filing system
leaves a lot to be desired, I have no idea how she finds anything. She has
changed the method of her filing system since the last time I temped for you.
The logic, or if you could call it logic, doesnít make any sense to the normal
sectary." With a flip of her head in disgust,
she leaves his office.
Leo is left there standing with his mouth open. He starts to
bolt out of his office to defend Margaret but thinks better of it. He can make
it through one day with Ms. Whitcome. If he confronts and upsets her, Margaret
will make him pay for it when she gets back tomorrow. Besides, he canít really
blame her, Margaretís filing system has always frustrated him, but he knew she
did it to him on purpose. He had once messed up her files and he was still
paying for it years later! Margaretís method to madness is the most talked
about filing system in the White House. No one has a better system. Margaret
could always produce whatever he asked for in a matter of seconds.
Margaret has finished alphabetizing her CDís and has moved
into the kitchen. Itís been awhile since she has had any free time to spend in
this room. Maybe some baking would take her mind off of Leo. She goes through
her recipe box and finds a suitable one that she has made several times. She
starts about gathering all the ingredients and has the cheesecake in the oven
in record time. Itís amazing how quickly she can work when she is trying to
avoid thinking about Leo. She sits down at the table and tries to enjoy a cup
of coffee. But the smell of coffee reminds her of the endless number of cups
she has taken Leo over the past 12 years. She sits there traveling down memory
lane. Thinking of all the things that have they have shared and not shared over
the years that she has faithfully worked for him. She is brought suddenly from
her daydream as the timer goes off on the oven. She takes out the cheesecake
and sets it on top of the stove. For a fleeting moment a thought hits her,
wonít Leo be surprised that I made his favorite dessert and itís not even his
birthday. But then it all rushes back, sheís quitting and leaving behind her
dream of them being together. She falls into a kitchen chair and lays her head
down on the table and quietly sobs.
Afternoon staff meeting is just breaking up and everyone is
leaving Leoís office. Josh is still hanging around Leoís desk looking like he
needs something. "What?" Leo huffed.
"I was just wondering if you were ok?"
"Iím fine. Why do you ask?"
"I donít know, but you ... um ... donít seem like yourself
today" Josh is shuffling from one foot to another.
"Iím fine, would you go do a job!"
"Ok. Did you talk to Margaret today and see how she is?"
"Iím sure thatís just what she needs on her sick day at
home, is me calling her and bugging her. I know, I sure donít need you in here
bugging me" Leo is staring to get a little upset with his deputy.
"Well, I know if Donna called in sick and I didnít call her
and check on her. They would be hell to pay the next day."
"Well, thatís where weíre different. Margaret and I are not
you and Donna!" He isnít certain what point Josh was trying to make. He has
heard rumors about him and Donna, but he always tries to forget things like
that as soon as he hears them.
"Iím just saying ..."
"Go!" Leo cut him off before he could finish his sentence.
Josh promptly leaves his office. Leo sits behind his desk wonders what is going
on with everybody lately. Josh has not been the only staff member bugging him
about Margaret today. CJ had come early for the staff meeting and wanted to
know how he was doing and if he had talked to Margaret that day. And his
conversation with Donna this morning had been unusual at best. He canít shake
the feeling that she knows something about Margaret and is trying to hint about
it to him. Why canít people just cut to the chase and tell him what is going on
with Margaret.† He has noticed she has
been acting different lately.† Maybe
heíll find some time and talk with her tomorrow and see if there is something
that he can help her out with.
After washing the dishes that she dirtied making the
cheesecake, Margaret starts to have more pangs of guilt about not being at work
today. She wonders if Leo has taken the time or even remembered to eat today. She
reaches for the phone to call the office. She could at least inform the temp
that he needs to take the time and eat or maybe the temp could run down to the
mess and pick something up for him. But, her hand rests over the top of the
phone. She chastises herself. "Margaret you need to let go! You have to stop
taking care of him!" After this outburst, the tears come screaming down her
face again. She rushes to the bedroom and falls onto her bed and cries herself
This day has seemed to go forever. Leo canít remember the
last time a day seemed to take so long to past. He canít figure out what is
going on with him lately and Margaret not being here today has definitely not
made things any better. He gets up from his desk and moves to the couch. He has
plenty of things to finish reading before he goes home today, but he canít stay
focused. Maybe the couch will be better. He has just sat down; when Ms.
Whitcome knocks on his door and enters his office.
"Mr. McGarry, Iím leaving now."
"Oh, Ok. I didnít realize it is that late already" He looks
at his watch and frowns.
"Mr. McGarry, we are salary at the office pool and donít get
over time and GS pay isnít the best to begin with."
Leo just stares at her. He has never heard Margaret complain
about working more than forty hours, but then again their normal workweek is
more like sixty hours. She is always here when he gets to work and never leaves
until he does or until he makes her go home. He isnít sure what he has ever
done to deserve her dedication, but he needs to stop taking it for granted.
This day has proven that to him. He canít wait until she comes back to work
tomorrow. After that thought popped into his head, that feeling in his stomach
"Mr. McGarry is there something wrong"
"Um, no. Why did you ask"?
"You are making a strange face, Sir"
"Iím fine. You can leave now."
"Should I come here again tomorrow or report to the office
"I canít imagine Margaret calling in sick again tomorrow, so
just report to the pool. Thank you for help today."
Leo is still sitting on his couch and trying to figure out
that feeling in the pit of his stomach that he keeps experiencing today, when
the President walks into his office. He immediately stands up and starts toward
his suit coat that is on the chair next to him.
Jed puts up his hand to stop him. "Sit down Leo. Do you know
the one thing that I am really going to miss the most when Iím no longer
"What would that be, Sir?" Leo said still standing, waiting
for Jed to sit down first.
"You popping up like a piece of toast every time I walk into
the room."† The president smirks as he
walks over to the chair next to the couch and sits down.
"Very funny Sir, is there something you need or are you just
fed up with democracy and looking for a place to hide?"
"I was just wondering how you were holding up without
Margaret being here."†
"Well, when was the last time you went through a day with
her not by your side?"
"Iím fine Sir, Ms. Whitcome is a very capable temp" Leo
hopes he isnít making a face when he says this.
"Yeah, but sheís no Margaret"
"Who is? No one else could put up with me for this long" Leo
smiles at his last comment.
The President gets up and heads for the connecting door. On
his way out he glances back at Leo. "Remember, I said I didnít want the staff
to put in long hours during the holidays. Iíve heard tell of a rumor that there
was even a memo that had to be signed on that very subject." He snickers as he
quickly leaves the room.
Leo sits back down on his couch and thinks about calling
Margaret and seeing if she is ok. But the phone rings and he answers it. Soon
his thoughts are elsewhere.
Margaretís wakes up from her nap and feels emotionally
drained. She knows she needs to follow through with her decision because her
sanity is at stake. She canít go on like she has been. She has wanted to quit
ever since Jordan had reappeared on the scene, but so much was going on then
and it went downhill fast from there. Zoeyís kidnapping had almost been Leoís
undoing. There was no way she would abandon him during that or anytime soon
after it. The shutdown had come and gone and things seemed almost normal again.
So it was time. Time to go before something else happened. Time to move on with
her life. Time to find herself a real future with someone who loves her in
She gets up from her bed and goes out into the living room
and sits down on her couch. She reaches for her laptop and powers it up. She
knows what she has to do. She has to do this before she changes her mind. Maybe
after she drafts her resignation letter, she will start on her way to getting
on with her life. Silent, heartbreaking tears start to fall as she begins
Most of the senior staff has gone home, but Leo is still at
his desk working. He looks up from the file he is reading and yells for
Margaret. It takes him a few seconds to realize that sheís not there. Then it
all comes back to him. Margaret had called in sick and he had a temp who had
left promptly at six pm. She is without doubt not the ĎI go home, when you go
homeí type of person and she probably wouldnít offer to break several federal
laws for the good of the Administration either. Leo thinks back to those first
few hours and days after the shooting. Thank God Margaret hadnít been with him
that night. After he got back to the White House that night, Margaret never
wandered very far from his side and she had been willing to sacrifice her
freedom to keep him and the President out of trouble. She has stuck by his side
since she started working for him during his first year as Labor Sectary. He
would never have made it this far without her. Her fierce loyalty toward him
was legendary and nothing or nobody got past her. She watched out for him and
protected him but she would be the first person to kick his butt if he slipped.
For the first time today, a small lopsided grin appeared on
his face at the memory of that infernal egg joke Margaret had once told
him.† His Margaret is something else and
there is that unexplained feeling again. Maybe heís been drinking too much
coffee lately. Whatever it is, it has been bothering him off and on for a few
months. But it seems worse today. He knew he has felt this before, but he canít
place when or where.
Margaret has been staring at her laptop for over 3 hours
now. She has typed and retyped and still canít find the right combination of
words to make her happy. But then again, how can she be happy leaving the job
and the man she loves? Would she ever be able to find happiness again? But,
isnít this the real reason behind her leaving. She has to move on. She canít go
on like this anymore. She canít love him this much and be by his side if he
doesnít return her feelings. She has never spoken of her feelings to him. She
is too afraid of him not returning that emotion and that would be so
embarrassing. She is leaving the one thing she could count on all these years.
He has never been hers in any true sense, but they have worked well together.
These past few years at the White house have been some of the best and worst
times she has ever experienced.
She thinks back to the night that she realized that she
loved him. Normally she would have attended that type of an event, but this
time there was something that Leo needed completed so she had stayed behind. He
would be coming back after the town hall meeting and they would go over the
summary together. It would be another late night, but she didnít mind. She
loved working with Leo at nighttime. It would be just the two of them and they
had always worked well that way. She loved it when it was just they alone at
She was with Mrs. Landingham when she heard the news. She
rushed back to her office and watched the news unfold. She was sure that she
saw Leo in one of the news clips being shoved down to the ground and then just
lying there. Was he hurt? Oh my god, what would she do without him? And thatís
when it hit her. She loved him. Well, she had always loved him, but now she
realized that she was in love with him. She prayed to God that he and the
others would be ok.
It was over an hour before she had heard from him and during
that time all she could see was him lying on the ground in a pool of blood.
There had been several phone calls during that time and she died a little bit
each time that it wasnít him. When he finally did call, she almost told him how
she felt, but she regained her senses and asked him what he needed for her to
do. With everything going on, he didnít need a tall skinny red head fawning all
After he got back to the White House that night, she could
tell he was suffering and was on the edge. She had to restrain herself from
rushing to him and hugging him. He was doing a great job of hiding it from
everyone else, but Margaret could see he was hurting. She had worried that his
terror nightmares from the war would come back. She had witnessed a few of them
when he was the Labor Sectary. He would get drunk or pop pills and then sleep
it off in his office. Some of those mornings he would wake up screaming and be
covered in sweat. Margaret wasnít sure that she could go through that again. So
during those first few days of after the shooting, she never strayed more than
a few feet away from him. She wanted to be there for whatever he needed and she
wanted to be there to stop him from falling.
Leoís driver drops him off at his hotel and he wearily makes
his way up to his room. He removes his jacket and slips off his tie and falls
onto the couch. This is the first real break that he has had all day and with
his hotel room being so quiet, he notices his stomach is making noise. He tries
to think back to the events of the day, heís sure that Margaret must of forced
something down him today, but wait, Margaret wasnít there today to force him to
eat. He has gone all day without food. He calls room service and orders
something. He thinks to himself, that if she ever misses a whole week, he might
starve to death. He grins at this thought and heads to the bedroom.
While he waits for his food to be delivered he changes into
his pajamas. That feeling is back in his stomach again, its not hunger, but it
is starting to make him nervous. What is going on with him lately? He goes into
the bathroom and stares at himself in the mirror.
He thinks about calling Margaret and checking on how she is
feeling, but he realizes its way to late at night to call her. Plus if he calls
her now, sheíll know that he was at the office until after 11:00 just three
days before Christmas. She would get it out of him that he just got home. He
could never get by with lying to her, she always saw right through him and
tonight there would be extra hell to pay.
The President had made it very clear in a meeting last week
that he wanted the staff to work more normal hours this Christmas season and
encouraged them to make good use of their annual leave that they had built up
and had not been able to use this past year. The President had been looking
directly at Leo during his whole spiel and was giving him hell through facial
expressions. But what had made his little speech even worst was that Margaret
had been in the room during the Presidentsí directives and she had made it a
point to mention it to Leo repeatedly over the past few days. She even typed up
a memo referred to as "The Rules for Annual Leave Use This Holiday" and made
him sign it.
Leoís food arrives and he sits down to eat it. After only a
couple of bites, something doesnít seem right. Yes, something is definitely
missing. Then it dawns on him, most of his meals include Margaret hovering over
him and making sure he eats. He canít help but smile his lopsided half grin at
this image and there is that strange feeling again. What the hell is going on
Margaret has long since given up on writing her resignation
letter. Nothing seems good enough to express her gratitude to Leo for the
opportunity of working in the White House. Who knew all those years ago, when
she took the job as his sectary, when he was at the Labor Department, that she
would wind up working 20 feet from the Oval Office.
Her mind wanders back to the night that she realized it was
time to move on. It was election night and she was looking for Leo. She found
him on the portico dancing with Jordan. That image was burned into her mind
forever. He seemed so happy with her. He was holding her really close and
whispering in her ear. She had dreamed about him doing this to her and now he
was doing it with Jordan. God, Leo could be so charming when he wanted to be.
She had known that it was a possibility that they were an item, because Jordan
had been around a lot lately, but she was hoping that Jordan was there for just
business. After that night, there was no doubt in her mind to what was really
going on between them. She had half expected him to slam Jordan against the
column out on the portico and take her right there. That had been a reoccurring
fantasy about her and Leo and she couldnít watch them anymore. She quietly left
the grounds and went home and drowned her sorrows in drink. It was the first
time she had gotten drunk since Leoís recovery.
During the passing weeks after the election, Jordan was
around a lot. Margaret always found somewhere else to be whenever Jordan was in
Leoís office. She couldnít believe that Leo fell for this woman. She seemed
like a hard dispassionate woman, but maybe that was what he was looking for.
She was definitely the complete opposite of Jordan. Thatís when she realized
that she would never be the one for Leo. But before she had a chance to quit,
world events had interrupted her plan and before she knew it, a year had gone
by and she was still working and pining over Leo.
But that is all over with now. Tomorrow she will call in
sick again and finish her letter of resignation. She decides to go to bed now
and try and get some sleep.
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