For disclaimer and notes, please see part one.

Previously, on the West Wing: Leo learns of Margaret's diagnosis. Leo feels guilty for what happened, and the band members are blaming themselves.

C.J. and Toby sat in his office, idly waiting. "They didn't say if she was okay?" asked C.J.

Toby looked at her. He had obviously been off on his own in his mind. "Hmm?"

"Did they say if Margaret was okay?"

Toby shook his head. "Fogelberg, twenty minutes," he said. "That was it."

"You don't think she's dead, do you?"

Toby shook his head. "No."

"Are you just saying that, or do you really believe it?"

"Yeah."

C.J. sniffled, closing her watery eyes.

There was a knock at the door, and Toby called, "Yeah?"

Opening the door, Charlie and the President appeared. C.J. and Toby quickly got to their feet. "Sit," said Bartlet. "I understand there's some kind of meeting going on in here now."

"We're waiting on Sam and Josh to get back from GW," said Toby as Bartlet took a seat, allowing the others to relax a little. Charlie leaned against the wall. Toby and C.J. returned to their chairs.

"Sir, have you heard about Margaret's condition?" asked C.J.

Bartlet shook his head. "I haven't. Leo was supposed to call. Nancy'll patch him through here if he does."

C.J. nodded.

"Any idea as to why we're meeting?" asked Bartlet.

Toby shook his head. "We're guessing it has something to do with Margaret."

Charlie took an uneasy breath.

"Well, if you think about it, if she had died, Leo most definitely would have called. My money is on them running tests or her talking Leo's ear off having woken up," said Bartlet.

"I hope you're right, Mr. President," said Charlie.

The door opened again, and Josh and Sam entered. The four in the office looked at them eagerly.

"How is she?" asked Bartlet.

Sam took a deep breath as he closed the door. Josh went to stand with Charlie as Sam faced the group of questioning eyes. "The doctor says she'll be fine," Sam said.

"What happened, though?" asked C.J.

"She had a myoclonic seizure, brought on by severe sleep deprivation," answered Sam, leaning against the door.

"Sleep deprivation can do that to you?" asked Toby.

"Apparently," said Sam. He looked at the President. "I'm sure Dr. Bartlet could tell us more, but I, uh... He said a mild form of a myoclonic seizure would be hiccups. Very mild, so..."

"But she's okay?" asked Charlie.

"She's fine now. She's resting. She's also dehydrated and will be at GW for a while," said Josh, "which is, actually, enough to drive anybody batty."

"Where's Leo?" asked Bartlet.

Sam and Josh both shrugged. "He got pretty ticked," said Josh.

"He sent us here. He wants to see Senior Staff at lunch," Sam added.

"He got pretty ticked?" asked Toby. "About Margaret's seizure."

"And our hand in it, yeah," said Josh, nodding.

"You mean... Fogelberg?" asked C.J.

"Yeah," Sam said.

"We were just trying to protect him," said C.J.

"I understand that, but at what cost?" asked Bartlet. "I may not have been a part of this so-called 'band' as long as the rest of you. Doing what you did to protect him... It's commendable. To a point. This thing with Margaret..." Bartlet sighed heavily. "At what point do you draw the line and say no more? There's a difference between protecting and sacrificing. I'm beginning to wonder if you have figured that out yet. All of you."

The staffers remained silent, pondering the words of the President.

Bartlet spoke up after a moment. "I take it he's with Margaret right now?"

"No," said Josh. "The doctor said to give her a little time, to come back after lunch."

"So, where is he?" asked C.J., repeating the President's question.

"That's a question we can't answer," said Sam.

"Does he know about Mallory's part?" asked C.J.

That caught Bartlet's attention. "What about Mallory?"

Sam nodded, looking down. "He knows about all of us."

"Mallory was a member of our merry band as well?" asked Bartlet.

"Yeah, she was quite persistent about joining," said Josh.

Bartlet stood. "If none of you have called Mallory, I would try to warn her of the impending ire of her father if, that is, it isn't too late."

~~~

Leo left George Washington University Hospital and walked outside, finding a bench and sitting down on it. He had missed everything. He had missed everything for a month. He couldn't believe that. He prided himself on being kept in the loop on everything, on being ahead of the game. His family, his co-workers... They had all conspired against him, and he had been completely and totally unaware. He could have been on Mars and would've known as much as he did being ten feet from the Oval Office.

Sighing, he rifled through his jacket pocket until he found his cellular phone, and he called an all-too-familiar number.

"Hello?"

He was silent. Her voice still sounded the same.

"Hello?" she asked again.

"Baby..."

"Dad?" she asked.

"Yeah."

Mallory could hear the hesitation in her father's voice. "Hi, Dad," she said.

"Hi."

Several horrible thoughts started running through her mind. Leo didn't sound like himself. Normally, too, he got to the point of their conversations quickly. This time, she wasn't sure if there was a point to the conversation. Something was wrong. Her mind raced through all the things that could possibly be troublesome when her mind landed on something she didn't want to think about: drinking and pills. "Dad?" she asked. She had gotten her father back, after years of being somewhat estranged, she had her father back. She wanted her father back. She didn't want to lose him again.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he asked finally.

Mallory had no idea what he was talking about, which only added to her fears that he was drinking again. "Tell you what?"

"Fogelberg."

Mallory's eyes widened. Well, he wasn't drinking... "F-Fogelberg?"

"How long have you been apart of this... band?"

"Since earlier this week," she admitted.

"How long have you known about it?"

"The day before you testified, the night... they told me."

"Why, Mallory? Why?"

"B-because you... They wanted to help you and so did I."

"You don't think I can fight my own battles anymore?"

"No."

"Then what?" he asked. "Tell me why Margaret is in a hospital bed right now. Tell me why she hadn't been sleeping. Tell me why she felt she needed to do whatever the hell it was you guys did."

"M-Margaret's in the hospital?" she asked. "What happened?"

"She had a goddamn seizure, Mallory. She had a seizure because of this damned band."

"Dad," she said slowly. "Dad, she... Is she okay?"

"In a couple days she'll be fine, back to herself again."

"A seizure..."

"Yes, Mallory. A seizure. I watched as she went into this convulsion. Her eyes rolled back in her head. She passed out. She was acting weird. She's always been a little off-kilter, but... this morning was just..."

"Dad--"

"What makes you think that you have to protect me?" he asked. "What makes you think that I can't do anything? What makes you think I couldn't have handled this testifying on my own? I've done more things in my life than any of you could possibly dream of doing. Not all of it was good, no, but... God, Mallory," he said, looking skyward. "I can handle going before the House Judiciary. If I can do anything, I can do that."

"Dad, we were just..."

"If your idea of helping includes sending my assistant to the hospital... You guys have a whacked-out sense of support."

"Dad, we never..."

"She could have died. I've seen people die, Mallory. I could've sworn she... The look in her eyes this morning. She looked dead. She *looked* dead! Do you have any idea what it's like to see somebody close to you look like that? Empty eyes. Like a zombie."

"Dad..."

Leo could tell she was crying. That hadn't been his intention, to make his daughter cry. "No more of these secret meetings, Mallory. I don't want to have to go through this morning again ever. Especially not if I have to go through it seeing you as hurt as Margaret. I love you. I may not say it enough, but, God Almighty, Mallory... I can't do this again."

"I love you, too, Daddy," she said, brushing away tears that flowed freely down her cheeks.

"I have to go yell at people from the Pentagon now. And I'm gonna tell the rest of your band buddies what I told you. I don't ever want to hear about you guys doing this again."

"Okay."

"Okay," he said. "I'll talk to you later."

"Yeah. Bye, Dad."

"Bye, Mal." Leo slowly closed his cellular phone and sat on the bench for several more minutes. He took a slow, deep breath. He was going to have to go and focus now. He wasn't sure if he'd be able to or not. Pushing himself up off the bench, he hailed a taxi and went back to the White House.

~~~

The meeting was mostly a blur to Leo. His mind was wandering, something it normally didn't do, the entire time. He couldn't focus on any one thing except, perhaps, the feeling of betrayal. He felt betrayed. He knew he probably shouldn't have felt betrayed, but he did. It was like at Christmas, before he went on television and admitted to the world about his addictions, when Josh and Sam had gone to Laurie to get information, to sink to the Republicans' levels. They meant well then, and he was sure they meant well now, but it seemed moot after watching Margaret's seizure that morning.

He stood as the meeting ended, and shook hands with the military officers before him. As they left, Leo slumped in his chair and looked at his watch. It was lunchtime. The 'band' members would be arriving anytime.

"Mar--" He stopped dead in the middle of his calling for his assistant. There would be no way she would hear him. No way at all. He looked at the couch. The blanket from that morning was still there, and her shoes were still by the table. Inhaling deeply, he understood President Bartlet's still occasional calls for Mrs. Landingham. Walking to the door to Margaret's office, he stuck his head out and saw the assistant sent from the temp pool.

"Mr. McGarry?" asked the young blonde-hared woman at the desk. Leo didn't think she could have possibly been older than twenty.

"Bring me some coffee, would you? And make sure that Sam Seaborn, Josh Lyman, C.J. Cregg, and Toby Ziegler are in here within the next twenty minutes."

"Yes, sir," she said before standing up and scurrying away.

Leo remained at the door and looked at the now empty desk. Margaret had been passed out there not even twelve hours ago. Exhaling slowly, he returned to his office and tried to read a report that had landed on his desk while he was at the hospital earlier that morning. He read the first paragraph three times before closing it angrily and removing his glasses, tossing them on his desk.

The young blonde assistant entered quickly and set the cup of coffee on the desk in front of Leo. "The Senior Staff should be here shortly," she said.

Leo nodded.

"Anything else?"

"No," he said, realizing he didn't even know her name. Margaret had been his assistant for ten years. He knew her name and her birthday, what kind of car she drove when she drove it, and what she had done before he started working for him. He knew what she looked like when her eyes rolled back in her head. He knew what she looked like when she went into convulsions. He knew what she looked like lying in the back of an ambulance: her eyes closed, her mouth down in a perpetual frown, one arm at her side--the arm with the IV--while the other was over her chest. She looked dead. It was like going to the morgue and pulling down the thin white sheet to see, to somehow make sure that she was really gone.

"Leo?"

He looked up quickly, brought out of his daydream-like state. Sam, Josh, C.J., and Toby all stood in front of him. All the doors to his office had been closed. "You can sit down if you want," he said.

C.J. and Sam both sat down in front of his desk. Josh and Toby remained standing.

"I'm sure you all know what happened this morning by now," Leo began. "And I'm sure you heard from Josh and Sam that I was... less than thrilled with your behavior. I want to make one statement, a short one, and then I want you all to go back to work. No more of this. None. I will not tolerate this kind of cloak and dagger behavior from any of you anymore. If I hear from anyone, if I suspect in the slightest that something similar to this band of yours is going on, I will not hesitate to take the required means necessary to deal with each of you. You did something completely uncalled for at a cost much too great. I will not stand for any of you killing yourselves. Everyone will be out of here by eleven thirty tonight. No stays late unless the Eastern Hemisphere is blasted off the face of the earth. Am I clear?"

The four staffers said nothing, just nodded their heads in unison.

"You have work to do. You have work to help the President of the United States. That's your job. You serve at his pleasure, not mine. And, even if you were trying, I can guarantee you that Margaret having a *seizure* this morning was *not* my pleasure. I don't want to hear a Dan Fogelberg song requested on the radio from any of you," he said, eyeing Sam particularly hard.

"Leo," began Josh.

"And I don't want to hear excuses. I know what you would've said in response. You mean well. The IRA means well. The Iraqi Republican Guard means well. The Chinese Communist government means well." Leo looked at each of their somber expressions. "You mean well. Bully for you. Go back to work. No more secret midnight meetings."

Sam and C.J. stood quietly and all four filed out of the office. Leo watched them go. A fleeting thought entered his head, making him wonder if he had been too mean. Nah, he decided as he picked up his cup of coffee. Taking a sip, he nearly spewed it back out. He started to call for his assistant again, but he stopped before he ever got started. Margaret was in the hospital. Dr. Chatham told him he could come by after lunch.

Leo headed for the mess.

 

Chapter 4

 

 

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