For disclaimer and notes, please see part one.

Previously, on the West Wing: The band is given some information to ponder and Leo lays down the law: No more midnight meetings.

Sam picked at his lunch. He had gone through the usually daily verbal spar with Cathy just so he could get something to eat. And now he wasn't even really eating it. He had talked Cathy into running down to the mess for him before the meeting with Leo, though. After the meeting, he didn't want to be doing much.

Munching on a carrot stick, he heard the familiar thump of a pink rubber ball on the window. Glancing at Toby's office, he wondered if Toby had been feeling as guilty as he had been feeling. He abandoned his lunch and walked over to Toby's office.

"Get the door," Toby said.

Sam did as he was told before looking at Toby curiously. "What?"

"C.J. and Josh are going to be here in a couple minutes. Mallory'll be here in about ten."

"Mallory?" asked Sam, sitting on the couch.

"Yeah."

"Didn't you hear what Leo said, though? If he heard we were having secret, covert meetings again, we'd... Well, he didn't say exactly what he'd do other than some kind of punishment... And, knowing Leo, it probably won't be good."

"He said we couldn't have covert 'midnight meetings.'"

"I do not want to die because of a technicality Leo said while upset," said Sam.

"Relax."

"Okay, but if he comes crashing down on our little party, I'm saying you twisted my arm."

"I'll tell him you were the one who came up with our little band, because you were."

Sam paled.

"Relax."

"Okay." They sat quietly until Sam spoke up again. "What's this meeting about?"

"About Margaret. And Leo."

"Oh, great," said Sam. "Double whammy."

"Relax."

"Is that our mantra now?"

"Could very well be."

"Peachy," muttered Sam.

"No," said Toby. "'Relax.'"

C.J. and Josh showed up a few moments later. Even Charlie came. Mallory arrived a little out of breath, having raced through the West Wing to reach Toby's office. "So," said Mallory as she dropped onto the couch next to Sam. "What are we doing today?"

"I got a phone call from the White House photographer's office," said Toby.

Sam looked at him curiously. "Whatever for?"

"For this," Toby said, revealing an eight-by-ten glossy color photograph.

"That's you guys," said Charlie.

"The night after Leo's testimony," added Josh.

Toby nodded. The photo was of the 'band' celebrating a job well done in the Roosevelt Room with those plastic snapping champagne glasses and Margaret's sparkling grape juice. "Apparently, he had forgotten about the roll of film; he had left it in his camera bag until this morning, and he developed the roll and... here we are. Rumors are floating about Fogelberg, so he called me, said he had the picture and that he'd give us the copies he made."

"Don't suppose we can hide the negative from Leo, could we?" asked Sam.

Toby shook his head. "But, the good news is that Leo doesn't even know about this photograph yet."

"You're sure?" asked Mallory.

"Positive," said Toby. "But... Rumors are floating about Fogelberg," he repeated. "Everybody's coming forward with Fogelberg sightings."

"We are going to get caught for this," said Sam. "Leo's probably still in the building!"

"I passed him on the way to the mess," said Charlie.

"And he'll probably head over to GW afterwards, to see Margaret," Josh said.

"We should go by and see her," said C.J.

"Will she be awake?" asked Mallory. "I only heard what Dad told me earlier about her, so I don't know exactly... He said she was going to be okay in a few days, but..."

"She lost consciousness this morning," Sam said, looking at Mallory, "but had regained it in the Emergency Room."

Mallory took a slow breath, shaking her head a little. "I can't believe we did that," she mumbled.

"We did what?" asked C.J.

"Margaret. We caused her to pass out," said Mallory.

"We didn't," said Josh.

"How else do you explain her *seizure* this morning?" asked Mallory.

"God, she's channeling her father," said Toby.

"We didn't take as good a care of her as we should have," said Sam.

"We should have known she wasn't sleeping," Charlie said.

"We aren't mind-readers," said Josh.

"If she hadn't slept, we should have been able to tell, though, right?" asked C.J.

"Well, apparently not," said Mallory.

"She didn't have dark circles under her eyes," said Toby. "She wasn't falling asleep, or dozing off in the middle of the day. She seemed to be going just as hard as the rest of us."

"The doctor at GW said she did have dark circles under her eyes, though," said Josh. "That we just didn't see them because she hid them under makeup. Is that possible?" he asked, turning to the two ladies in the room.

"Makeup can hide a multitude of sins," said C.J.

"Next best thing to plastic surgery," Mallory added.

"How did we all get out of the White House before her?" asked Sam. "I could've sworn I saw her leave."

"She came by to tell me she was heading out the door as soon as she finished typing up something for Leo," said C.J.

"When was that?" asked Charlie.

"Uh, eleven, I think."

Sam looked at Josh. "Josh and I walked out of here at eleven thirty together."

"I was gone by twenty after," said C.J.

"Fifteen to midnight, I was gone," said Toby. "I looked over the clipboard, to see who all had signed out, I could've sworn I had seen Margaret's name on the list."

"Could she have signed back in?" asked Mallory. "I mean, it's the same clipboard you sign out on that you sign in on, isn't it?"

"Wait," said C.J. "The dinner at the Smithsonian. That was last night, wasn't it?"

"Yeah," said Charlie. "They had really good shrimp. Margaret and I both thought so."

"Margaret went with you?" asked Sam.

"Yeah," Charlie said, nodding.

"That was it, I'm sure," said Toby. "She probably signed in when I thought she had signed out."

Toby's office fell silent.

"Y'know something though," Sam said quietly. "If she had gone home... Dr. Chatham at the hospital said, by Leo's accounts of events, she had just woken up. If she had gone home, slept, woke up and had the seizure... She wouldn't have had the quick emergency medical care. None of us would've known for at least an hour or two, maybe three by the time we tracked down her apartment, made it there... Maybe it was best she stayed here last night."

"Maybe it would've been best if we hadn't started this thing in the first place," said Mallory.

"Last in, first out, there's the door," Toby said, pointing.

"It's just that... When Dad called me this morning, he was so upset. I think he was truly hurt that we did this."

"We were trying to help," said C.J.

"I don't think we did a good job," Mallory said. "And I don't think he thinks we did either."

"We did everything we were supposed to do as well as keeping the press storm to a minimum," said Josh. "That's doing something and doing something right."

"But, what about Margaret?" asked Mallory.

"We did the best we could," Sam said quietly.

"But it wasn't good enough," said Charlie.

 

Chapter 5

 

 

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