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Sunday, September 24th, 2006 02:59 pm
Title: All Roads Lead to the White House
Author: [personal profile] bluflamingo
Fandom: TWW
Pairing: Josh/Leo, Josh/CJ
Rating: PG-13
Words: 1959
Feedback: Yes please. Even if it’s bad. Especially if it’s bad.
Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

AN1: Written for the [livejournal.com profile] tww_minis Josh round, for [livejournal.com profile] raedbard who requested CJ (romantically for preference but friendship is good too) and/or Leo (slash if it doesn't squick you completely or mentorship if it does), Joanie, the Oval Offic, hope. I don’t think it’s quite what she had in mind with the request, but hopefully it still works.




All Roads Lead to the White House

The first few weeks on the campaign, the weeks before Sam finishes fighting with Lisa and actually turns up at campaign HQ, pass mostly in a blur of new faces and towns, swinging between wondering what the hell he was thinking, walking out on Hoynes, and knowing that he just made the best decision of his life. It helps that Leo’s constantly around, never far from the rest of the campaign staff – from Josh – and always there to smooth things over after Bartlet’s been through the room. The man’s clearly brilliant, but that doesn’t stop Josh from wondering how they’ll ever get him elected when most of the campaign staff can’t stand him.

Leo shakes his head when Josh voices the thought, late one night in Leo’s hotel room after too much coffee and a very long day. Josh has got to know Leo’s expressions pretty well since they started working together, and he recognises that nod as meaning, ‘you’ll understand this eventually.’

He likes that expression, the warm feeling it gives him to know that Leo plans on him being around, being part of *Leo’s* campaign to make a good man president, for long enough to understand. It makes Josh think of his father, the same kind of pride and affection in his eyes as in Leo’s, before the fire, then, eventually, after, with Leo a constant presence in their lives and Mal in the background where his mother wouldn’t see her and things get worse.

Well, Josh thinks, when Leo runs a finger gently down the side of Josh’s face, maybe not exactly the same kind of affection as his father’s.

It’s the last thing he expected to come of taking this job, and if Leo still drank, he’d be tempted to say they must have been drunk. He knows, though, that they were both stone cold sober that night when he reached for Leo’s hand and Leo smiled. He can’t imagine explaining that to anyone, but then, he won’t be explaining this to anyone, not even Sam.

Leo presses him back onto the bed, and Josh stops thinking about it.

***

It seems like there are new people on the campaign every time Josh walks in there, though he’ll admit that might be more to do with him struggling to remember their faces than with them actually *being* new. Even so, the faces are finally starting to get familiar: Toby, who sighs an awful lot for someone who managed to keep his job when everyone else was fired; Bonnie and Ginger, part of the volunteer staff, who Josh can only assume have supernatural abilities, from the way they always know what someone’s about to ask for; Toby’s friend CJ, who, even if she wasn’t taller than everyone else in any given room, has a laugh that makes everyone smile, and a way of swatting reporters that’s even managed to convince Josh that they’ve actually got a hope of winning.

“It’s like having your freakishly tall big sister working with you,” Sam says one evening, when he’s had too much alcohol and too little sleep to watch what he says as carefully as he usually does. Josh knows he doesn’t flinch, years of practise even if he almost never tells anyone what happened.

“What’s your problem with tall women?” he asks Sam instead, glancing at his watch when Sam sips his drink. Past midnight, which makes drinking in his hotel room a good thing – he can just shove Sam out and leave him to make his own way. Or at least he could, if he believed Sam could find his way round the maze-like corridors after only two days. Sam’s sense of direction, like Josh’s own ability to hold his drink, is largely mythical, though Sam denies it vigorously.

“I don’t have a problem with tall women,” Sam protests. “But CJ’s freakishly so.”

Josh only rolls his eyes a little at that. Sam is definitely drunk, and Josh should send him back to his room to sleep it off, but Josh has actually missed Sam more since he agreed to join the campaign than he has in a long time.

Watching Sam swirl the melting ice in his glass, Josh contemplates, for one moment, opening his mouth and letting all the words forming there fall out. I’m sleeping with Leo McGarry. The guy who’s trying to get his best friend elected President. Out married campaign manager, and that’s one thing Josh does *not* want to think about, that and Mallory. I don’t know how it started, he wants to say. He feels like home to me.

He takes a large gulp of ice water instead, washing the words back down where they belong. Just because Leo doesn’t say it, Josh still understands that it’s a secret he has to keep. He’s had plenty of practice.

“We need her,” he says finally, and watches, amused, as Sam scrambles to find the thread of the conversation.

***

Josh goes with the advanced team to their next stop, to smooth the feathers of the local council, who have taken offence at a remark Bartlet made about fly fishing, which turns out to be their main source of tourist income. There’s no reason for the trip not to go smoothly, except that the first thing Josh sees when he steps out of the hotel is John Hoynes, crossing the street towards him. He seriously considers ducking back into the hotel, but it’s too late and where’s he going to hide anyway, behind the dwarf potted shrub?

“Josh,” Hoynes says, stopping.

“Senator Hoynes.” Josh forces himself not to shuffle his feet or look down, feeling like he’s facing his father when he’s done something wrong. He’s never thought of Hoynes as a father figure – he’s got enough of those in his life right now – but there’s something about the way he reacted when Josh said he was leaving to join Bartlet’s campaign, the same disappointment his father would show when Josh misbehaved. He’d actually rather have faced Sam’s employers with their anger and disdain for his choices than this disappointment, verging on pity.

“Is Governor Bartlet with you?” Hoynes asks.

“No, next week. We’re here setting things up. I, er, didn’t know you had a campaign stop here.”

Hoynes grins and Josh can’t tell if he means it or not. “We broke down just outside town, we’re staying overnight till they get the part.”

“Ah,” Josh says intelligently. This is the kind of thing that makes him almost believe in an angry fate, or at least one with a grudge against him.

“Look, Josh -.” Hoynes takes a step closer, lowering his voice. “I follow the same news broadcasts you do, I see the same polling numbers. It’s not too late for –“

“Good luck with your campaign.” Josh cuts him off before Hoynes can make the offer he was waiting to hear. It’s not that he isn’t loyal to Bartlet, or that he’d ever take Hoynes up on any offer, but he doesn’t want to go back to the campaign knowing he considered it. If Hoynes never asks, he never has to.

“Good luck to you,” Hoynes says, not pursing it.

As they shake hands and part, Josh is pretty sure Hoynes is thinking the same thing he is: you’re going to need it.

***

Whatever they think about needing good luck, it’s Bartlet’s campaign that gets it, and suddenly they’ve won the Illinois primary, Josh’s father is gone, and sleeping with Leo feels more like guilt than it does like safety. He thought leaving Hoynes for Bartlet was his whirlwind change for the year, but this is faster and more frightening by far, like being spun by a tornado until he wakes up one morning on the very edge of Leo’s bed and wonders what the hell he’s doing there, in bed, with Leo, with Bartlet, all of it.

Two days later, when they roll into Washington, he’s no closer to answers on any of it, just wishing he could tell someone, hear them say that it’s just the shock of his father’s death, and things will get easier, but the only person he can tell is Leo and he can’t tell Leo that even just working with him feels like betrayal.

Bartlet’s speech that night is a disaster that leaves Toby fuming and Sam pale, a combination of teleprompter errors and a hostile Q and A session. He steers clear of Leo, or tries to, but Leo still find him in the hotel bar, holed up in a corner with CJ and Sam, trying to drown the memory of Bartlet’s anger.

Leo’s is worse, because it’s all true, and if Sam’s too morose to look up from his glass, CJ makes up for it in the assessing look she gives him after Leo leaves. He wants to tell her it’s not what she thinks, whatever that is, or confess everything and ask her what he should do. Instead, he swallows the last of his lukewarm beer and takes himself off to bed, alone, to dreams of CJ and Leo, flames and his father, that throw him awake, sweating and gasping, half an hour before his alarm goes off.

***

CJ grabs his arm as he’s about to follow Leo onto the campaign bus out of Washington, tells Leo that they’ll get a train and catch up, and drags Josh down the street, ignoring his protests and demands to know where they’re going. In his head, he hears Sam saying, ‘it’s like having your freakishly tall big sister working with you,’ and thinks that Sam had no idea how right he was. CJ’s what Josh could imagine Joanie growing up into, if she’d wanted to become a political press secretary instead of a conductor.

It becomes obvious where they’re going after a few minutes, so Josh just links his arm through CJ’s and allows himself to be led. There’s really no point arguing with her, even if he didn’t want to be off the campaign bus more than anything else right now.

They’re too late to get onto a tour, so they stand and peer through the railings instead, like a couple of little kids. They pick out the rooms that face onto the street, and the Oval Office. “Can you imagine walking in there every day?” Josh asks.

CJ doesn’t answer, but her eyes sparkle when she looks over at him, and he knows she already is. Looking up at the building, thinking of President Bartlet in the Oval Office, working for Leo, with Toby and CJ and Sam, and maybe even Donna if she doesn’t go back to her loser boyfriend, is like looking into a crystal ball and seeing the future form through the mist; like the moment when everything comes together and the audience sways in their favour, and he can’t imagine, right then, why he ever wondered if he should be somewhere else. There’s nowhere else he can be.

Waiting for their train, CJ says, casually, “Leo?” and Josh says, “yeah,” just as casually, and they go back to discussing Bartlet’s taste in ties.

That night, his hand on CJ’s naked breast as she presses her fingers into his hair and brings their lips together, he wonders if he’s just doing this because it’s something he won’t have to feel guilty and lie about. It’s no good reason to be sleeping with anyone, though, so he concentrates on CJ’s body instead, and forces himself not to think about Leo the whole time, not even when he comes.

He dreams of kind eyes and the way it felt to be hugged by his hero at his sister’s funeral.

Tags:
Sunday, September 24th, 2006 05:17 pm (UTC)
Neither Josh/Leo nor Josh/CJ are pairings that I would ever particularly seek out, but I *really* like this. It has a lovely flow, and it's an interesting timeline - where they start to win, where it starts to be possible. And the way CJ and Joanie are threaded even through the Leo parts, and Leo is threaded through everything.

The last part is my favourite, these lines particularly:
"so they stand and peer through the railings instead, like a couple of little kids"
"like the moment when everything comes together and the audience sways in their favour, and he can’t imagine, right then, why he ever wondered if he should be somewhere else. There’s nowhere else he can be."

And the last line is a killer. Great job making this work.
Sunday, September 24th, 2006 05:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I think my first thought when I opened the email with the prompt was how on earth am I going to write *those* pairings, so I'm happy that you said you liked it :)

Also very glad the last line worked for you - getting a good last line is, for me, one of the most important parts, and one of the hardest.
Sunday, September 24th, 2006 11:51 pm (UTC)
I love this. It's different and beautifully characterised and says a lot about all of the relationships in here, sexual or otherwise (the Hoynes scene is great). It's things like the mentions of Mallory - tiny, but they really hammer home both Josh's feeling of dirty-wrongness and that Leo feels like home to him. Lovely.
Wednesday, September 27th, 2006 01:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm so glad you mentioned the Hoynes scene, cos I dithered about taking it out for ages - nice to hear I made the right decision leaving it in!
Monday, September 25th, 2006 11:16 am (UTC)
I wasn't too sure about reading a Josh/Leo fic, it seems a little incestuous to me, but lo and behold you took that and ran with it and it feels so right (in a slightly disturbing way *g*).

Although the Leo bits worked better for me than I would have thought. It's the CJ bits that made me love this so much.

Lines like:

In his head, he hears Sam saying, ‘it’s like having your freakishly tall big sister working with you,’ and thinks that Sam had no idea how right he was. CJ’s what Josh could imagine Joanie growing up into, if she’d wanted to become a political press secretary instead of a conductor.

and...

Waiting for their train, CJ says, casually, “Leo?” and Josh says, “yeah,” just as casually, and they go back to discussing Bartlet’s taste in ties.

The first makes me wanna hug Josh and the second I can hear as plain as day in my head.

Awesome fic all over.

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006 12:59 pm (UTC)
I wasn't too sure about reading a Josh/Leo fic

I wasn't too sure about writing one for much the same reasons, and actually didn't intend to. It was going to be all CJ, so I'm not quite sure what happened there!

I'm glad it worked for you, even if it was slightly disturbing, especially the CJ bits, which turned out to be oddly hard to write :)
Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006 06:26 pm (UTC)
I really kinda love this and I'm sorry I didn't tell you that sooner because man, this is pretty much exactly what I wanted. :)

It's weird (and I completely didn't expect anyone writing in this round to subscribe to my Josh/Leo strangeness) but I absolutely love their dynamic, and complicating it with sex/love/whatever. You pull that off brilliantly.

Leo presses him back onto the bed, and Josh stops thinking about it.
YES. I always think of Josh's affection for Leo as just something that exists that he doesn't question, because Leo is so many things to him. It's badandwrong, I suppose, but I'm touched by the exploration here.

And some really great lines here too. “It’s like having your freakishly tall big sister working with you,” made me giggle. Perfectly Sam. And this one too: Sam’s sense of direction, like Josh’s own ability to hold his drink, is largely mythical, though Sam denies it vigorously. *grin* I love it when they're like the dork!twins! :)

And I love that introduction of CJ into the story - reminds me of that bit in 'Crackpots' when Josh is asking Sam how he felt when he got the card and realised that Cathy couldn't come too and Sam says, "She's like my younger sister, except she scares me ... It's like you and Donna", thereby missing the point twice! I mean, Josh is still thinking about Leo but twisting those thoughts around his soon-to-be-lover CJ is a lovely touch (as is the later comparison to Joanie) - and gave me rambly Thoughts, as above. *hangs head* :)

And with Hoynes too - he's the father figure who isn't at all a father figure, a little like Leo. And Josh is absolutely perfect in this exchange: “Good luck with your campaign.” Josh cuts him off before Hoynes can make the offer he was waiting to hear. YES.

And the next section - ohhh, Josh. takes himself off to bed, alone, to dreams of CJ and Leo, flames and his father, that throw him awake, sweating and gasping, half an hour before his alarm goes off gave me shivers.

And wow, CJ and Josh is my other weird kink and I love that you've working *both* pairings in and done it so well. Waiting for their train, CJ says, casually, “Leo?” and Josh says, “yeah,” just as casually, and they go back to discussing Bartlet’s taste in ties is so so perfect. The non-event of it all makes it that much more touching somehow.

The last line is beautiful - twisty and thematic and great language. ♥ This is wonderfully done and thank you so much for writing it. :)
Monday, October 9th, 2006 10:07 am (UTC)
I never realised how much of a pain it is not having internet at home till ours died last week - grr! So I've been waiting ages to say thank you for your feedback, and it was totally worth waiting for :)

I don't think I actually know what to say in response, mind you... I'm glad you liked Sam and Josh, I can't seem to write one without the other appearing somewhere as well. And I'm so happy that the Josh/Leo worked for you, cos I never saw that pairing before at all... conversion by writing, maybe?!