A/N Epic delay. Can only apologise. Just finished rewatching the show again so back in WW state of obsession! Gonna try and revive this story while I have a little time.
"The President appreciates that it's a good cause, but he's not going to get it in Appropriations."
"Due respect, you clearly underestimate the support this is getting from the Congressman's home and surrounding districts..."
"It's not gonna make it."
"Look, I know you guys are down in the polls, and the possibility of a Senate hearing of some variety is looming precariously over your heads, but we could do with a little help here. The Congressman feels very passionately about this issue."
"He's been there 4 months."
"I know, but-"
"4 months. Come back in 20 years and Congressman Golding may actually have a chance of getting something fresh in the bill."
"All it takes is a little push, just one high level staffer. Perhaps someone like Josh..."
Toby's stare shot straight up from the small doodle he was drawing in the corner of his notes into the eyes of the young staffer. The staffer stopped suddenly, realising what he had just said and began to stammer what sounded to be some kind of apology.
"Are you an idiot?"
Toby sat up in his seat, throwing his pen on the open folder in front of him.
"Are... you... an... idiot?" He reiterated slowly, almost mockingly.
"Toby it was just a slip, I apologise."
Toby bit the inside of his lower lip for a second as he glared at the young staffer. In a swift movement he stood quickly and waved his hand dismissively. He stormed towards the doors exiting the Roosevelt room, turning his head back as he was in the doorway.
"Meeting's over, he won't get it. We'll see what we can do next time."
Sam jumped as the weak window separating him and his boss's office clanged. He pulled his glasses off his nose and stood from the pile of drafts from his speechwriting staff, none of which were good enough in the current state of 'let's kick the fumbling, flailing Bartlet administration while they're down'. He glanced through the joining window to see Toby throw his folder on his desk and drop unceremoniously into his chair. Stepping out of his office slowly, Sam glanced semi-apologetically, semi-bemused at a startled Ginger before opening the adjacent door.
Toby was hunched forward over his knees, his hands on his forehead. He didn't move as Sam addressed him, so the Deputy stepped into the office and shut the door.
"Toby, what's up?"
"I can't do this, Sam."
"What? You didn't give it to him did you?" Sam pointed over his shoulder, "I can go back. Talk him down if you didn't manage to."
"That little weasel mentioned Josh," Toby's voice rumbled slightly as he rubbed his hands over his eyes, "It's everywhere. His… thing is everywhere. The MS thing is everywhere. We're on a sinking ship, Sam. The President is going down. Josh is… well, you know. We're surrounded. Even our own people are causing us problems. I just don't know if I can deal with this anymore."
Sam sat down opposite his boss's desk, "Things will get better, Toby."
"Is that all you have to say?"
Sam bit the inside of his lip. He didn't know what else he could say. Toby was the one that, throughout this mess, was always thinking about the administration. In those late nights over the last 10 days or so, Toby was the one who was always there when he couldn't sleep, sat in the corner of a hospital waiting room, scribbling away on some draft or chewing on the end of a biro. Without saying anything, he supported Sam like an older brother.
And now how does he reciprocate that support?
"Look, we just need to keep things moving. The Congressional hearings are bound to start soon, so we've gotta start thinking about our message throughout the proceedings, as well as looking forward to the re-election campaign. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this isn't a sinking ship. Not yet."
"And what about Josh?"
Sam felt his heart sink slightly, "… there's not much we can do right now. Just see if he comes back around."
Toby sighed and ran his hands over his chin, "You know we can't win re-election without Josh."
Leo looked up from his newspaper and pulled his glasses off, letting his crossed leg fall to the tiled floor.
"Kathy…" Leo stood from the plastic hospital chair and dropped his newspaper behind him. He stepped towards Kath and rubbed the outside of her arms with his hands, "How are you doing?"
The ageing woman smiled weakly, "Good, I guess. Why are you waiting out here?"
"I… uh, I didn't know who was in there or anything, so I thought I'd have a wait out here and see what the situation was."
"You were reading the newspaper."
"Yeah. Yeah, I guess I was."
Kath smiled, "He's remembering, Leo."
"You sure about that?"
"He remembered your name yesterday didn't he?"
"Yeah, but that's only because I've been back every five minutes reminding him."
"Well that's a start."
The corner of Leo's mouth twitched slightly, "Where are you off to?"
"I'm going to get some food. It's been a while and Josh is craving something sugary again. He's not eating whatever the nurses have been giving him."
"Looks like he still is the same person, huh?"
Josh looked up from where he was sat up in his bed over to the door. Leo's head poked round it as he rapped quietly on the outside.
"Leo," Josh smiled (Leo believed just to be polite), "Come in, you don't have to knock."
Shutting the door carefully Leo entered the room and sat at the chair positioned by Josh's bed. His deputy looked a lot better than when he woke up 6 days ago. He was breathing and functioning fully by himself and was only on a cocktail of excitatory drugs. Josh's problem was a mental one. He'd forgotten a lot and would struggle to stand and walk without dizziness. The doctors said they would keep him in for perhaps a week until they were sure that he could look after himself.
"So.. How are you feeling?" Leo asked.
"Good." Josh replied, "I mean, I still have trouble on my feet and stuff but the doctors have said that should improve over the next few days so-"
"Good." Leo smiled back.
The pair sat in silence for a few seconds, the dull sound of some generic soap opera emanating quietly from a dodgy looking TV hanging from the wall.
"What are you watching?"
"Uh… I don't know," Josh replied, pretty meekly, "Some daytime show, I dunno."
"Right," Leo looked at his feet for a second, "How's the- I mean have you remembered much else?"
Josh grimaced slightly and rubbed his eyes, "Bits I guess."
Leo could tell he was avoiding the question. He could feel a large lump form in his throat again. This wasn't Josh, "Do you remember what happened?"
"I know what I was told, Leo, I had an overdose of pain pills. Must have accidentally taken too many or something," Josh replied, wringing his hospital sheets, "What do you want from me?"
Slightly taken aback, Leo sat back on his chair, "I'm sorry, Josh, you're right. I'm being unfair, I'm sorry."
"It's alright, I didn't mean it like that."
Josh brought a fist up to the bridge of his nose and grimaced, squeezing his eyes together.
"Cracking headache," he blinked quickly a few times, "Hey, where's mom gotten to anyway?"
"She went to get food. She said you wanted something sugary?"
"Oh yeah, now I remember," Josh's hand fell back to his side, "Damn right I need something sugary!"
"You should be eating what the doctors ordered you to, Josh," Leo reprimanded.
"Yeah, yeah, that's what mom said," Josh replied, "My argument was that they give me sugary stuff with my meals, it's just that it tastes like crap."
"Fair point," Leo shrugged.
"Hey, Leo.." Josh started.
"Do you know when Joanie is getting here?"
Leo couldn't help but let his mouth fall open slightly. He stuttered for a few seconds in disbelief before the door burst open and in came two doctors.
"Oh, I'm not disturbing anything am I?" The older one asked.
"Not at all, doctor," Josh answered.
"How are you feeling, Joshua?"
"Not too bad, cracking headache though."
"That's to be expected."
The doctors surrounded Josh, began taking blood pressures and checking pupil reactions etc. Leo pushed himself up from the chair and pointed over his shoulder at the door.
"Josh, I'm gonna go back to the office. Look after yourself?" Leo's voice croaked across the mini-commotion.
"Will do, Leo." Josh replied, awkwardly lifting his arm for the younger doctor.
He strode straight through the communication bullpen.
Straight through the empty Roosevelt Room.
Straight past Margaret into his office.
Almost slamming the door behind him, Leo leant on the back of it, placing his head against the cold wood. He was sweating, although he wasn't sure why.
That was a lie.
He knew exactly why.
A kind of patchy haze had covered his vision; purple and blue blotches limited his eyesight. Stepping slowly over to a small cabinet in the corner of his office, he knelt down and prized the stiff door open. Brushing past a folder, some random pieces of stationary and a broken stapler, he pulled out a small white bag.
Carrying it like a baby, Leo stepped, almost in a trance, to the seat behind his desk. Be placed the bag on the desk with a clunk and stared at it for a little while.
He pulled the bag back, revealing a dusty old bottle of Middleton Irish Whiskey.
Slowly, Leo slid a mug over from by his telephone and unscrewed the bottle. He felt the satisfying crack that came with breaking the seal on the lid and heard the even more gratifying sound of whisky pouring into the mug with the seal of the President on it.
He wasn't even sure why he had the bottle in there. It was a (badly researched) present from some intern or something from some time ago. Leo always knew it was there but never felt the need to drink it. Perhaps it was being in his office, right next to the Oval, that prevented him from doing so. Just by having that temptation strengthened him, in a weird way.
Picking up the mug, he brought it to his nose. The smell. Oh the smell. He could feel his fingers trembling as every ounce of him told him to stop. His shaking fingers gripped the mug so tightly that he thought he could break it if he tried a bit harder.
Two voices came to his head. One was his grandfather, back in his small house outside Chicago when Leo was a child, in a thick Country Cork accent he used to tell him and his cousins, "The reason God created whiskey was so the Irish would not rule the world."
It was almost funny, his grandfather's old Irish parable was true. Here he was, without whiskey for 7 years and he was helping to run the free world.
The second was that of his deputy only half an hour before. He could feel the cold of the ceramic on his bottom lip now.
"Do you know when Joanie is getting here?"