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Christmas Without You

by: AdoreLeo

Characters: Leo, Margaret
Pairing: Leo/Margaret
Category: Romance
Rating: TEEN
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

White House:

7:00 am

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 rolling gait.

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 his correspondence.

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 something.

"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.

Margaretís apartment:

7:00 am

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.

White House:

9:00 am

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 you?"

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 files.

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 else?"

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.

Margaretís apartment:

9:00 am

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 weeks.

White House:

10:30 am

†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."

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.

Margaretís apartment:

10:30 am

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.

White House:

3:00 pm

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.

Margaretís apartment:

3:00 pm

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 to sleep.

White House:

6:00 pm

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 returns too.

"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 pool?"

"I canít imagine Margaret calling in sick again tomorrow, so just report to the pool. Thank you for help today."

"Yes, Sir"

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 President?"

"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."†

"Sir?"

"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 apartment:

6:00 pm

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 return.

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 typing.

White House:

9:30 pm

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.

Margaretís apartment:

9:30 pm

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 work.

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 over him.

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 hotel:

11:30 pm

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 with him?

Margaretís apartment:

11:30 pm

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.

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12

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