For disclaimer and notes, please see part one.

Previously, on the West Wing: Margaret isn't feeling so well, and winds up collapsing before Leo's eyes and loses consciousness. News of her passing out soon starts to spread to other members of the band.

Josh and Sam silently raced up the through the parking lot to the hospital. "God, this is surreal," Sam muttered.

"She's... We all went home last night, didn't we? I mean, for the first time since..."

"Yeah," said Sam, glancing at him. "I think."

"How in the hell was she there at six?"

"Did anybody see her go home?"

"I didn't. Did you?"

Sam shook his head dismally. "No."

"We should ask C.J. and Toby," Josh said as they walked into the hospital.

"God, to have seen Charlie's face," Sam said.

"She's not... There's no way we're losing another staffer to... That's just too... We're not cursed," Josh said. Half a beat later, he asked, "Are we?"

Sam could only look at him sadly.

"Oh, God," he murmured as Sam walked up to the nurse's station and asked for Margaret's room.

Josh placed his hand on his stomach, thinking of the rather large scar down his abdomen. He was shot. Naturally, when you're shot, you're taken to the hospital. Margaret was taken to the hospital because she had passed out. From what?

"Two floors up," Sam said. "C'mon."

The moment the two stepped off the elevator, they could hear their boss yelling at somebody, demanding answers. "Can you tell me *anything*?" he asked.

Sam and Josh exchanged glances.

"Mr. McGarry--" tried a nurse.

"What the hell caused this? What's going on?"

"Leo," Josh said as the two deputies approached him.

Leo turned to see them. "What are you two doing here?"

"We came on behalf of Charlie and everybody else," said Sam.

"You've got jobs to do," Leo said. "I expect you to be doing them."

"Leo, what happened?" asked Josh.

"I don't know," Leo said, eyeing the nurse hard. "Because nobody's telling me a goddamn thing!"

"Leo," Sam said, glancing around at the small audience the White House Chief of Staff was garnering.

Leo sighed a little before lowering his voice to answer, "She passed out this morning. That's *all* I know."

"When'd she come into work this morning?" asked Josh.

"She never went home last night."

Josh and Sam looked at each other, both of them breathing curses, both of them with the same wide-eyed Oh-my-God expression.

"Why?" asked Leo. "What?"

"She worked all night?" asked Sam.

"You two look guilty as sin," said Leo. "What the hell is going on?"

"I--" began Sam.

"Mr. McGarry?" The White House crew in the corridor turned to see a gangly gentleman in a white lab coat with a stethoscope over his shoulders approaching them. "Dr. Chatham," he said, extending his right hand.

Leo shook his hand vacantly. He had more important concerns on his mind. "Is she okay?"

"She will be."

"What happened?"

"By your account as well as what little we were able to discern from Miss Rigby, she had what's known as a myoclonic seizure."

Leo wasn't sure what that was, but he was positive he didn't like it. "A myoclonic seizure," he repeated slowly.

Chatham nodded.

"But, she's not epileptic."

"Have you ever had the hiccups, Mr. McGarry?"

Leo's anger, which had vanished temporarily, was back at full force. "What the hell does that have to do with Margaret having a *seizure*?"

"Having the hiccups would be considered a myoclonus episode. It can happen to anybody; seizures aren't only in epileptics. Margaret's case is obviously not as minor as having the hiccups. In adults, myoclonic seizures often occur in the morning, after just waking up in a person who has been sleep deprived. As I understand, from hearing your account, she woke up, there was some kind of jerk?" he asked, causing Leo to nod. "And she passed out. Again, most times, if a person with this type of seizure loses consciousness, it's not very long, more a matter of seconds as opposed to the minutes that she was out. Margaret woke up in the ER and was able to tell us... well, not much, but enough for me to make the diagnosis. Apparently, she's suffering from pretty severe sleep deprivation. She swears it's not insomnia, but, y'know, I don't know. She got really defensive about her not sleeping when I asked. From the dark circles under her eyes--well hidden under makeup--it's very acute. Given some rest, and, uh, some fluids back in her--she's pretty dehydrated, too--she'll be okay. We're going to keep her here under observation for a while, let her get some rest. I understand that she works for you at the White House. I'd say a couple days off once she's released from the facility here wouldn't be a bad idea if you catch my drift."

Leo nodded solemnly. "Can I see her?"

"Not right now," Chatham said. "Give her a couple hours. She's resting; she's fine. You're more than welcome to stay here if you want to kill time in the waiting room until after lunch sometime. She'll have a nice meal or two from the cafeteria, some rest, she'll probably be up for visitors then."

"Thanks, doctor," Leo said.

Chatham dipped his head and walked off.

Leo's posture slumped, like a balloon silently deflating. Closing his eyes for a moment, he turned to Josh and Sam. The two who had been mute throughout the meeting with Chatham couldn't meet Leo's eyes, which was okay, because Leo couldn't meet theirs. "She was always out the door before me. *Always*. Sleep deprivation? Severe sleep deprivation." He sighed heavily. "God, why didn't I see it earlier? Why didn't I know?" he chided himself.

"Seizure," muttered Josh.

"Not sleeping," Sam said under his breath.

Leo looked up and saw that Sam and Josh were examining the sheen of the tiles on the floor. "Fellas?"

The two younger men looked at each other before looking at Leo. Leo eyed them hard. He didn't think it was possible, but they looked even guiltier than they had earlier.

"You two got somethin' to say?" he asked.

"Leo..."

Leo's expression hardened. "Whatever the hell it is, I suggest you say it and do so *now*."

"Let's find a room," Josh said.

Leo looked at them, wondering if he still knew who they were. They were standing in the hospital stairwell before either Sam or Josh dared speak.

"Leo," said Sam, "the past month... she was never out the door before you."

"What are you talking about? She'd pack up her things and sign out."

Josh shook his head. "We'd... She'd come hide in my office. Or Sam's. Or C.J.'s. Toby's once or twice."

"Why?" asked Leo, his voice rough.

"Because..." Sam began. He stopped and took a deep breath. "Fogelberg."

"She's having nightmares of Dan Fogelberg and wouldn't tell me," Leo said.

"No," said Josh. "Like... Like Sagittarius."

"You're having covert meetings in the White House behind my back?" asked Leo.

Sam nodded. "Yeah."

Leo's eyes widened in disbelief. "What for!?" he demanded.

"Permanent damage control," said Josh. "Or, semi-permanent damage control. We finally went home yesterday."

"Let me get this straight. You've been staying at the White House... For a month."

"Well, yes and no," said Sam.

"I want straight answers from you, the both of you," Leo said sternly. "And I want them *now*."

"Because of the whole, MS thing that we've been dealing with, we've kinda turned into semi-permanent spin-doctors," said Sam.

"What the hell does that have to do with Margaret?" asked Leo. "She's not a 'spin doctor.' She's my assistant."

"We formed this kind of band thing..." said Josh. "At least, that's what we've kinda been nicknamed." He swallowed the, 'by Mallory,' that he almost added. "Sam and Toby wrote comments for several people. C.J. leaked press information or kept the press at bay. Sam and I did the spinning. We came to the conclusion that we didn't quite have enough, y'know, people to get everything we needed done done."

"So you recruited Margaret?" asked Leo angrily.

"Yes and no," said Sam. With a sharp look from Leo, Sam quickly continued. "When we started doing things about your testimony before the Judiciary, she caught wind of our meeting and refused to be kept out of the loop. And we needed her anyway, for various reasons, including making sure... you wouldn't know."

"Wait," he said, eyeing both the deputies. "The Senior Staff has been... conspiring... to keep information from me, from the President?"

"Well, yes and no," said Josh.

"Swear to God, the next time one of you says that, you're gonna be in a hospital bed laid up in traction for weeks," threatened Leo.

"While we were in the media blitz in the two weeks following the announcement, the President was not included in the Fogelberg band thing," said Sam.

"But he knows now?"

"He's known since Saturday, yeah," said Josh.

"The day he left for Russia?" asked Leo.

Josh nodded. "I met with him briefly before he left."

"Who else is in on this little band?" asked Leo. "Donna? Cathy? Bonnie?"

"No," said Sam, shaking his head. "It's just Josh and me, Toby, C.J., Margaret, Charlie, the President sort of, and..." He drifted off, wishing to keep all of his appendages intact.

"And who?" asked Leo.

Josh and Sam exchanged glances.

"And who, damn it?" asked Leo.

"And Mallory," Sam admitted.

Leo looked at them disbelievingly. "Mallory."

"Yeah," said Josh.

"Mallory, my daughter, Mallory?"

"Yeah," confirmed Sam.

Leo had missed *everything* and he had missed it for a *month*. He couldn't believe it. He couldn't. "This..." He stopped. "Get back to the White House *now*," he said. "I want a meeting with Senior Staff at lunchtime. We're going to discuss what's been going on and what's going to *stop* going on, understood?"

Both Josh and Sam murmured, "Yes, sir."

"Go. Now."

Sam and Josh quickly descended the stairs, not daring to look back at Leo.

Leo remained in the stairwell. Was he going senile? How could he have been so blind to have missed the *entire* Senior Staff, his best friend and his best friend's assistant, the woman who worked right under his nose and his very own daughter? He didn't think he had been oblivious. He didn't think he had been too terribly distracted during the testimony prep and media hailstorm they were surviving. Maybe he had, though. He knew he wasn't perfect--he was probably the farthest from it in the White House. Drugs, booze, haunting war memories, a failed marriage, and a sometimes somewhat strained relationship with his daughter... And so-called friends and co-workers keeping him entirely out of the loop.

Leaning against the stairwell banister, he wondered if maybe it was payback from C.J. for the Iraqi troop movement. Maybe it was payback from Sam because of the drop-in. While he didn't tell Toby to do it, he didn't tell Toby *not* to either. He yelled at Margaret, more than he probably should. He counseled the President to the *best* of his ability. He helped Charlie out when he needed a little extra financial assistance to keep a roof over his and Deena's head. He swore to Josh at Christmas that he'd have a job in the Bartlet White House so long as he did. Damn it, he *tried*.

He tried.

==

Chapter 3

 

 

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