For disclaimer and notes, please see part one.

Previously, on the West Wing: Leo visits Margaret at the hospital to get some straight answers from her about Fogelberg.

"Mr. President," Leo said, entering the Oval Office.

Bartlet looked up from a briefing book to see his oldest and dearest friend. "How is she?" he asked, closing the book and removing his glasses.

"Sleeping," he said. "Or was when I left her."

"Did you get to talk to her at all?"

Leo nodded. "A little."

"How are you holding up?"

"Me, sir?"

"Yes, you, sir."

"I'm fine."

"Have a seat," he said, gesturing towards the chair just to the left of the desk that Leo often occupied. The Chief of Staff did as the President ordered. "You have to give them credit."

"For almost killing her?"

"For being creative under pressure."

"Ha," said Leo.

"I've heard tell from the Communications Bullpen that Margaret would get cool tea bags from the mess and slip off to the storage room downstairs and sit for twenty minutes with them on her eyes."

Leo looked at the President strangely. "Why?"

"Reduces swelling, puffiness, constricts blood vessels. Same could be said for cucumbers, which, apparently, she also ordered."

"How do you know?"

"Bonnie saw Margaret slipping away with a radio alarm clock. When people found out about Margaret's hasty exit this morning, some information has been slowly coming forward."

"I still can't believe she did it," he said, shaking his head. "There was no reason for her to. I've survived worse."

"Like watching a woman you care about have a seizure?"

Leo internally shuddered. "I didn't know what was... She..."

"Yeah," Bartlet said gently. "You and I, we haven't had the best of luck in the past two months have we?"

"No, sir," said Leo.

"My assistant was killed; yours is in the hospital."

"She offered me her resignation."

Bartlet raised an eyebrow. "What? Why?"

"She's apologizing profusely. Like it's all her fault."

"Are you going to let her quit?"

Leo shook his head. "No."

"You going to be nicer from now on?" Bartlet asked, smiling a little at Leo.

"I was just... How could I have been so blind, Jed?" he asked quietly. The same pleading look from that morning returned to Leo's eyes. He needed the guidance of his old friend. He craved it. He had been so completely shocked by the events of the day that he felt out-of-control. Again. Maybe Margaret was right, he needed her to help him. He had been spiraling downward without even realizing it.

"Because you take love for granted, Leo. Always have, always will," Bartlet said. "You are a stick in the mud. Ornery and obstinate--you don't even know who Charlie Brown is. You are completely *dense* when it comes to matters of the heart. The intellectual, the logical side... That's fine. Your heart?" asked Bartlet. He shook his head. "Completely foreign organ in your body."

"Wait, go back. I take *what* for granted?"

"Love," repeated Bartlet. "L-O-V-E. Valentine's Day. Hearts and puppies. Flowers and chocolates. Cupid. Hugs and kisses. Affection. 'Completely and totally took affection for granted.' That's what it's going to say on your tombstone, my friend."

"I'm still... I'm not... Margaret doesn't..."

"I'm not talking about romantic love," Bartlet said. "Well, I am, but I'm talking about all kinds of love, including what most of the staff here, including me, has for you--hero-worship."

"I'm no one to look up to."

"The White House Chief of Staff isn't a role model?"

"I'm an alcoholic."

"How long has it been since you've had a drink?"

"Eight years, six months, a week and five days."

"That's a grand accomplishment."

"Hardly."

"You could be the one dead now. You're not. You overcame addiction. That isn't easy."

Leo shook his head. "This is crazy. I do know about love," he said. "Hero-worship or whatever. I was married for over thirty years."

"Yeah, I don't mean to sound, y'know, mean or anything, but what did you get in November?"

"Divorce papers."

"Got more proof lying around somewhere?"

"I know that Sam's gonna hurt my baby girl. What they have isn't love, it's lust."

"So you drove wedges."

Leo nodded. "So I drove wedges."

"To aggravate the ever-loving shit out of Sam and Mallory both and you know it."

Leo, who had still been nodding, thinking that the President was going to tell him something else he would agree with, stopped moving his head immediately. "That's not true."

"What is true, then?" asked Bartlet.

"Margaret is in the hospital because of me, because she cares for me."

Bartlet put his index finger to his nose before pointing at Leo.

"What does that mean?" he asked curiously.

Charlie entered the Oval Office. "I'm sorry, Mr. President, Leo. The Secretary of Agriculture?"

Bartlet exhaled. "Give us a minute, Charlie."

"Yes, sir," said the young body man before disappearing.

Bartlet folded his hands on the desk and looked at his friend, who was still struggling to understand, not only their conversation, but also the events of the entire day. "I have to meet with Roger Tribbey right now," he said. "Talk about hoof and mouth disease."

"It's not here, is it?"

Bartlet shook his head. "Unless something's changed since I spoke to him on the phone last."

"Okay."

"Think about what I said, Leo."

"Yes, sir," he said, standing up.

"And send Margaret some flowers, would you?" he asked. "Balloons maybe? Grab a teddy bear from the gift shop the next time you go see her. Something."

"Should I sign your name to the card?" asked Leo, only a little sarcastically.

"No, as I understand it, she can do that herself."

"She shouldn't be able to do that. She shouldn't have joined this silly Fogelberg band."

"You can't make her decisions for her, Leo. I'll see you later."

"Yes, sir." Leo headed for his office through the connecting doors. He didn't think it was possible, but he actually went away from the meeting more confused than he had been before it.

~~~

Mallory tapped on the door before opening it. "Margaret?" she asked softly. She didn't want to see 'zombie eyes,' so if Margaret was sleeping, Mallory could slip the vase on the table and scoot on out of the room.

Margaret was awake and smiled a little. "Hi, Mallory."

"How are you?" she asked, entering the room and closing the door behind her.

"I'm fine, really. Thanks."

"Dad told me what happened," Mallory said.

"I'm sure it's all over the press right now," Margaret said. She nodded in the direction of the room's television set. "That's why it's off."

"Well, seeing an ambulance leave the White House at six or so in the morning is pretty big news."

"Yeah..."

"I brought you something."

"Oh?"

Mallory revealed a bouquet of flowers she had been holding behind her back. "Daisies," she said, wondering if maybe she should've gotten Black-eyed Susans. She didn't see Leo's description of 'zombie eyes,' but if he had said she looked like a Black-eyed Susan, she would have agreed with her father.

"They're beautiful," Margaret said, smiling. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Mallory said, setting them on the table by her hospital bed. "Mind if I sit down?" she asked, gesturing to the chair.

"By all means," she said, smiling. "You're only my second visitor."

"Your parents? Some relative?"

Margaret shook her head. "No, it was... It was Leo."

"Oh."

"Yeah. I'm not... I'm not close with my family anymore."

"I'm sorry, I..."

"It's okay. I consider you and everyone at work to be family, y'know?" Margaret asked quietly.

Mallory nodded. "Yeah. Yeah! Oh, yeah, I mean, you've worked for Dad since..." She stopped to think then realized she wasn't sure exactly how long Margaret had worked for her father. "A long time."

"Yeah."

"Um, everybody else is going to come by and see you, too. Most of them had some meetings and things, but they'll... They'll all be by to see you. Dad kinda threatened them, apparently, to be out of the White House by eleven thirty, so... I think they're trying to get some stuff done, but they'll all be here."

"Okay."

"So, you're... You're okay after this morning?"

"I'm fine," Margaret said. "Really fine."

"It's just... I ask because your eyes..."

"My eyes?"

"You haven't seen a mirror, have you?"

"No," she said quietly.

"You look tired," Mallory said. "That's all."

"I look... tired..."

"Yeah."

"Dark circles?"

"Yeah."

"I've seen them. Yesterday morning."

"Okay."

"Probably scared your dad, huh?"

"You scared him this morning," Mallory said. "You passing out... He called me after he left the hospital, I guess, and... He was scared."

"Y'know, you see him and you expect..." She sighed. "Never mind."

"What?" asked Mallory.

"He's come through so much, he's overcome so much... And on TV, he looks like Superman. He'd get up and give his lectures before the campaign, and he looked regal or... something. And then you see him offstage or when he's not on TV and you can tell he's just as vulnerable as the rest of us. That he needs help, but, having this Superman mask, he won't ask for it. He'd never ask for it. Not from me, not from you, not from Sam or Josh or Toby or C.J. Maybe from the President, but he'd never tell anybody about that. And then you think," she said, smiling a little, "he's more like Inspector Gadget. Everybody sees him as this great crime-fighter, but it's really Penny and Brain behind the scenes that do everything and nobody knows it."

"Or the Dan Fogelberg Tribute Cover Band behind the scenes..."

"Yeah," Margaret said. "But he doesn't see it that way. He's got to be Atlas, and hold the whole world on his shoulders. When, if he'd just look... There's the Dan Fogelberg Tribute Cover Band waiting in the wings to come give him a hand. But he won't look. He won't ever look."

Mallory nodded in agreement. "Maybe he'll start looking now."

Margaret wasn't so sure. "Maybe the moon will fall out of the sky."

 

Chapter 7

 

 

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