Disclaimer—Characters belong to Aaron Sorkin. No copyright infringement intended. Any similarity to events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Author's Notes—I always come up with something else. Don't know why or how, but I guess I shouldn't look a gift muse in the mouth. :) To the Sirens, my eternal thanks as always.

Spoilers—A Proportional Response, Lord John Marbury, Noel, The Drop-In, 18th and Potomac, Two Cathedrals

Archive—Sure. Just let me know where.

Feedback—Always greatly appreciated.

Previously, on the West Wing, in the Dan Fogelberg Tribute Cover Band Series: Mallory joins the band as they try to protect Leo during his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee while keeping up with the other crises du jour to the best of their abilities. (Second Verse)

Band-Aid—Is this the end of our intrepid band? One of the members takes a fall for the group... and the secret of Fogelberg comes out.

She tried to focus on his chicken-scratches. She tried *really* hard. She blinked a couple times, looking away from the handwritten pages as well as the computer screen. Maybe she had been working too hard. That thought made her laugh a little. She had been working very nearly nonstop for weeks.

With a sigh, she looked back at the words. The letters merged together and danced across the lines. She couldn't read it. She absolutely couldn't. Licking her lips nervously, she glanced in the direction of the door to Leo's office, then back at his paper. She had to get it done. She had to. Rubbing her eyes for a moment, she looked at the paper again, only to have everything blur so completely she couldn't even tell that words had been written on the page. It was more like an inkblot test.

She tried to look at her watch, to see what time it was. She couldn't see where the hands were. She couldn't read the time in the lower right-hand corner of the computer screen either. She couldn't work; she couldn't see. She had to work, though. Conceding to her tired mind, she decided that maybe a few minutes of sleep wouldn't be entirely out of the question. She'd just close her eyes, just for a moment.

~~~

He frowned, realizing Margaret had given him the wrong file. That was very unlike her. As annoying as she could sometimes be, she rarely got files mixed up. She always had messages right, papers typed to perfection when he needed them, his schedule somehow in working order, and a cup of coffee on his desk three or four times a day, fixed the way he liked it.

Carrying the incorrect file, he walked out of his office and into hers. "Marga--" He stopped short when he saw her passed out at her desk. He had to smile a little, though, and shake his head. Glancing at his watch, he saw that it was almost one o'clock. He had at least half an hour of things left to do, and they'd probably take forty-five minutes to an hour with his assistant asleep. Putting the folder on her desk, he placed a hand on her arm gingerly. "Margaret," he said softly.

She continued to sleep, not even stirring.

"You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here," he said, his voice still soft as he worked to rouse her. "You'll get a horrible crick in your neck and be a pain in *my* neck tomorrow."

Her eyes opened a little, but she closed them, muttering something unintelligible.

"Margaret, c'mon," he said.

"Five minutes," she murmured.

"Come on," he urged again, helping her sit up before guiding her up and out of her chair. "Are you feeling all right?" he asked, looking at her fatigued expression.

"Tired."

"No kidding," he said as he led her into his office, to the couch. "Sit," he told her. She was too tired to do anything but sit. He tossed a copy of the Washington Post from the cushion to the table and moved a pillow to one end of the couch. She lay down without his having to tell her. She even kicked off her shoes and curled up as best she could on the couch while he turned off the lamp near her head. He pulled a blanket from his closet and covered her up with it before retreating to the filing cabinets in her office to retrieve the file he needed and to replace the one he didn't.

~~~

As he predicted, Leo was done by a quarter to two in the morning. Closing the file folder, he looked at Margaret as he sat at his desk. She was still sleeping. She hadn't moved an inch since she lay down, and Leo wasn't entirely sure that was a good thing. While he packed up his briefcase, he considered waking her up to send her home. He felt guilty, though, about having to wake her up a second time to have her *drive* home. If she was half as exhausted as she looked, she was a danger behind the wheel. If she were to take a cab or, God forbid, even walk home, she would be an easy target given the undeniable fact that D.C. was probably one of the deadliest cities, and not just in the bitter wars between the Republicans and the Democrats. The White House had already lost a valuable member of the staff to a car accident; he wasn't about to encourage a situation in which they could lose another.

He could take her home, he thought. He wasn't exactly sure where she was living now, though, not that he had ever been certain. While they were on the campaign trail, they were all in the same hotel. He was fairly sure she had an apartment somewhere, but there was no telling where. Inside the District, in Maryland or Virginia... Plus, he reasoned, she'd probably fall asleep in the car and he'd have to wake her up a *third* time just so she could go and get a couple hours of uninterrupted sleep in her apartment. That just wasn't worth it in his mind.

His briefcase was packed, he was ready to go home, but he removed his suit coat. Somehow he didn't feel right going home himself, knowing she was sleeping on his office couch. Turning off the lights and television sets, he then sat down at his desk and propped his feet up on the calendar blotter. Covering up with his jacket, he leaned back in his leather chair. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes and was asleep shortly thereafter.

~~~

Around six AM, the telephone in Leo's office started ringing. He grumbled and sat up slowly, moving his stiff legs off the desk and groping around for the phone. Margaret sat up and answered the telephone on the table by her head without hesitation: "Leo McGarry's office."

Leo watched her. Her moves were more mechanical than anything. Perhaps most surprising was how alert and awake she sounded.

"Yes, sir. I'll pass on your regrets. Perhaps another time. Thank you, sir," she said before hanging up the telephone and curling up under the blanket again.

Leo cocked his head to one side. "Margaret?"

Her boss's voice registering in her mind, she sat bolt upright. "Leo."

"Hi."

"Can I get you some coffee?"

He wondered, for a moment, if his assistant had been replaced with a robot. "Who was on the telephone?"

"Senator Watkins. He apologizes but he has to cancel his lunch with you today."

"Didn't really want to meet with him anyway."

"Okay."

Leo was silent for a moment, watching Margaret closely. She still didn't seem entirely awake. "Do you know what time it is?"

Margaret blinked and looked at her watch, then back up at Leo. "No, sir."

He looked at her incredulously. "You just looked at your watch."

"Yeah, but I don't know what time it is."

"Your watch broken?"

Margaret didn't answer.

"Margaret?"

"Yes?"

"Are you all right?"

She didn't answer that one either, but she seemed to be contemplating the question.

"Do you know what happened last night?"

"I was trying to type up the letter you needed," she said.

"You remember coming in here at all?"

"Only when you called for me to get the latest notes," she said.

"You don't remember me waking you up at one o'clock?"

"Should I? I fell asleep? I'm so sorry." She started becoming fully aware of her surroundings for the first time. "How'd I get in here?"

"You don't remember?"

"N-no," she said.

Leo couldn't help but notice the fear in her voice, the dazed expression on her face. "What's wrong?" he asked her.

"I, um... Leo, I..."

He stood and started walking towards her.

"I don't feel..." Her breathing was labored but quick.

That's when he noticed her eyes.

"Well," she said. "At all."

Her eyes looked dead, empty, not at all like they normally did.

"Leo..."

He swallowed hard, hoping to somehow quash *his* fears. "Margaret--"

She opened her mouth to speak several times but no sound was ever emitted. Her eyes started to roll back into her head.

He took the last few steps required to reach her. "Margaret, talk to me," he said, sitting down on the edge of the couch. Her body convulsed suddenly and careened towards the left. He grabbed her quickly. "Margaret?" She went dead weight in his arms and he laid her down, keeping her head somehow cradled and elevated. "Margaret!" he yelled, trying to will her eyes to open. Adrenaline taking over for him, he checked to make sure she was still breathing--and she was--before grabbing the telephone and getting one of the switchboard operators. Yelling at the operator, he demanded the paramedics sent to his office immediately as he watched, horrified, as Margaret lay completely motionless on his couch.

Several minutes later, a pair of paramedics pulled Leo away from the couch to see about Margaret. They asked Leo questions--some he could answer and others that he couldn't, things about her medical history, about what she had been doing in the past few hours, if she had eaten anything, had something to drink. He was numb, watching them take her blood pressure and look in her eyes with a penlight.

Unbeknownst to Leo, President Bartlet stood in the doorway from the Oval Office, watching the commotion with the same amount of concern.

"Vitals are pretty good; let's move her," one of the paramedics told his partner.

Leo glanced from one medic to the other. "What's wrong with her?"

"Still not sure, but her pulse and breathing rates are steady," said the other, moving the stretcher closer to the couch so they could move her.

"You're not sure?" Leo asked.

The paramedics moved her, ignoring Leo's question.

"What's wrong? I don't understand what happened to her," Leo said a little louder.

"We're taking her to GW. You're more than welcome to tag along," said one of the paramedics.

Leo stood, staring blankly at the paramedic.

"Leo, go."

Leo turned quickly to the origin of the voice. "Mr. President--"

"Call when you know more," he said.

"I--"

"Go," repeated the President.

Leo sobered, looking in the eyes of his old friend, wishing for some kind of reassurance. He wasn't sure for what, though. Bartlet nodded once, and Leo was soon on the heels of the paramedics and the stretcher carrying his assistant through the halls of the West Wing.

~~~

Charlie knocked on Sam's open door. Sam, who had just booted up his computer for the day, looked at Charlie. "Hey," he said, smiling a little. "How ya doin'?"

"Hey, um, Sam..."

Sam noticed the serious expression on Charlie's face, some kind of dread. "What is it?" he asked gently.

"Margaret."

"We're not being tailed, are we?" asked Sam. "I mean, she said she'd tell us. We haven't even done anything since earlier in the week."

"They took her to the hospital."

Sam looked at Charlie, shocked. "They took her to... to the hospital?" he repeated.

Charlie nodded.

"They who? Is she okay?"

"Leo says she passed out this morning."

Sam fell into his chair. "Is she conscious?"

Charlie shook his head slowly. "I can't do this again," he said. "Mrs. Landingham died in May, this is June..."

Sam stood up and crossed to him, placing a hand on Charlie's shoulder. "Don't think like that," Sam managed to reply. He had hoped to sound convincing, that somehow everything would be okay. It didn't come out that way. "I'm going to get Josh," he said. "And we'll go to the hospital, okay? Him and me, and we'll call when we learn something."

"We got in thirty-six hours ago," Charlie said.

"I know."

"This thing with Leo testifying ended forty-eight hours ago."

"Margaret's a trooper," he said.

"Doesn't make her invincible."

"We'll call, Charlie. She'll be fine."

"They called me when Mrs. Landingham..."

Sam squeezed Charlie's shoulder a little. "Don't worry about it," he said with a much stronger conviction. "Which hospital?"

"GW."

==

Chapter 2

 

 

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