When Sarah arrived back at the hospital, it seemed like an instant replay of the night before, only without quite so many suits. The lobby was swarming with DCPD, and when she asked someone what was up she discovered the current wave of suits were FBI.
"What's with the Feds?" she asked her informant.
"They caught the President's shooter."
"Wait a minute," Sarah responded; "I thought there were two of them."
"There were. One was DOA, the other is in OR with half a dozen gunshot wounds. Typical Federal … enthusiasm."
Arriving at the SICU, Sarah rolled up to a willowy blonde seated in the corridor next to a strikingly attractive dark-haired man. "Donna?"
She extended her hand. "Hi, I'm Sarah Cooper." The other woman had a firm grip, and held on a second longer than necessary.
The man with her had loosened his tie and put his jacket down on the chair next to him. He stood and offered his hand as well. "I'm Sam Seaborn, chaplain. Thank you for your assistance to the President and his staff last night."
"No thanks are necessary, Mr. Seaborn."
"Sam," he interrupted.
"Sam," she repeated. "I considered it an honor to be of service. Now, let me go see what I can find out for you about Mr. Lyman."
The doors parted and Sarah rolled into the SICU. Several nurses and technicians were preparing a room across from the nurses' station. **Uh-oh,** she thought; **I guess that means the shooter is coming up here after surgery.** She was dismayed but not surprised; with multiple gunshot wounds, his destination would either be the SICU or the morgue. No one was sitting at Lyman's bedside. Rather than negligence, this was in fact good news, because it meant Josh was stable enough to leave alone for a few minutes. Sarah examined the medical chart at his bedside and saw that the second surgery had stopped the bleeding and that he'd had no more transfusions for the last few hours. He was getting multiple sedatives and pain medications, but had less as the day wore on, so she expected him to awaken soon. **All things considered,** she said to herself, **he's doing really well.**
Returning to Donna and Sam, Sarah placed a hand on her shoulder. "He's doing much better than last night. He hasn't needed any transfusions in a few hours, and all his vital signs are stable. He's still sedated and on a breathing machine, but that's to let him rest." She felt the tension in Donna's shoulders release, as quiet tears streamed down the young woman's face. Sarah offered her a tissue.
"Can we see him?" Seaborn asked.
"I promise I'll be brave," Donna added.
"For just a minute. It will look pretty scary, because he's very pale from losing so much blood, and he has all sorts of tubes going in and coming out everywhere. But I'll stay with you, and you can talk to him and touch him."
Donna stood up and together they entered the ICU. As they approached Josh's bedside, Donna's eyes widened, her lower lip started to quiver, and her breathing accelerated. **Don't you dare faint on me,** Sarah thought, grabbing a chair and sliding it behind Donna just in case.
The young woman reached out and touched Josh's bare shoulder, then jerked back reflexively. "He's cold!" she complained. "Why is he so cold?"
"I'll get him a warm blanket," Sarah responded. "Here, sit down and talk to him." She gently pushed Donna down into the bedside chair and wheeled off in search of the blanket warmer. Returning with two soft warm white bath blankets, Sarah rolled up to the opposite side of Josh's bed, and the two women spread the warmth over him. Donna gently tucked the blankets up under his chin.
"Can he hear us?" Seaborn asked.
"I'm sure he can," came the response. "It's good for him to hear voices he recognizes; most of the people around him for the last 18 hours have been strangers." The phone began to ring at the nurses' station; a moment later the monitor technician called for Sarah. She rolled over and picked up a phone.
"Chaplain, this is Toby Ziegler. How's Josh doing?"
"Much better," Sarah responded. "His vitals are stable, he hasn't needed any blood for 4 or 5 hours, and I expect he'll wake up directly."
"Good. I'm on my way there now."
The line went dead, as a hospital bed and five scrub-clad staff burst through the electric doors and made a beeline for the empty cubicle. A young man lay on the bed attached to a forest of lines and tubes. Sarah sped over to Lyman's bedside and pulled the curtains around him. "Mr. Ziegler called," she told the visitors. "He'll be here shortly. Are you OK for a few minutes? There's a new patient coming in and I just want to check on him."
They both nodded, and Sarah rolled back out into the open center of the unit and over toward the new admission. The chaplain intern still had to restrain herself from an active role at times like this; everything inside her cried out to grab an IV line or stand up and hang units of blood or plug in monitor wires. It had only been three years since she was spending ten or twelve hours a day in a unit like this, watching over critically ill patients and their families. There was no feeling in the world like going home after a long day knowing that someone was still alive who might have died had she not been there. But ICU nurses needed to be able to run… She sighed, pulled back, and turned to one of the residents. "Is the family here?" she asked.
The chubby young surgeon pushed the paper hat back off his forehead and nodded. "They're outside. But I wouldn't be so quick to jump in, Chaplain."
"Why not?" Sarah asked.
The physician said nothing, only pointed to the young victim's arm, where a large black swastika tatoo lay above the IV dressing.
"Thanks for warning me," she called over her shoulder as she rolled through the electric doors-and right into Toby Ziegler.
A DCPD officer sat opposite the doors, and Toby cocked his head in the cop's direction. "What's up?" he asked Sarah.
"There's a patient in custody," she answered. "You might want to wait a few minutes."
The light dawned in Toby's eyes. "Is it-"
She could see his body stiffen as he fought to control himself. "I want to see him."
"Do you think that's a good idea?"
"A good idea? A GOOD IDEA?? That bastard took POT SHOTS at the PRESIDENT!! I want to see what the little weasel looks like!! That way I'll be sure to be at the RIGHT EXECUTION!!"
From behind Sarah a voice growled. "Don't you talk about my boy that way!"
She turned to see a stocky middle-aged man approaching from down the hall, and swung herself directly between the two of them as the DCPD officer started to rise. Sarah waved her off, and raised a hand toward Toby. "With all due respect, Mr. Ziegler, this is a hospital. Let's go downstairs until you get a hold on yourself."
Just then Donna came sprinting out of the ICU. "He's awake!" she cried. "Josh is awake!"
The three of them sped back to Lyman's bedside. A nurse was standing at his shoulder with her hand on his arm. Josh was coughing and shaking his head, as buzzes and beeps issued from the ventilator. "Mr. Lyman, it's all right," the nurse insisted. "Let the machine breathe for you."
Donna stepped up to the bedside. "Calm down, for heaven's sake," she said to Josh, tears in her eyes. "You're stressing people out!"
**_I'm_ stressing people out?** he mouthed silently around the breathing tube. **Where the hell am I??**
"You're in the intensive care unit at George Washington University Hospital, Mr. Lyman. You were shot last night. You're doing fine, but we have the machine breathing for you so your lungs can rest."
Josh's eyes took in the surroundings, stopping when they got to Sam.
"You didn't have to go to these lengths to get a vacation, you know," Seaborn said.
**Up yours,** Josh mouthed. The nurse chuckled.
"What'd he say?" Toby asked.
"Thank you," Sam answered. "He said thank you."
Sarah bit her lip to keep from laughing.
"Why don't I believe you?" Ziegler responded.
All five of them were smiling: six, if you counted Josh, who was making a valiant attempt. "You're good at this, Sam," Sarah observed.
"I've had to decipher his grunts when he's drunk."
Lyman's hand reached out to touch Sarah's arm, and he made a questioning face.
"I was the chaplain on call last night, Mr. Lyman. My name is Sarah Cooper."
"She babysat us all night in the Presidential Suite," Toby added.
Josh strained to sit up, then fell back on the bed in defeat. **The President--** he mouthed.
"The President is fine, Josh," Seaborn answered. "He was hit in the hand. There's a broken bone but it was set and will be good as new."
Josh's nurse looked up at the visiting crowd. "I'm going to run you all off now. Mr. Lyman needs to rest."
**Call me Josh, please,** he mouthed.
"You'd better call him Josh," Sam said smiling, looking under Josh's covers. "You've seen him naked."
Sarah laughed, pulling a hospital gown from the bedside drawer and tossing it to Jackie. "I'm going to take these folks down for coffee." She waved at the nurse. "See you later. We'll get out of your hair. Page me if there are any problems with-with the new patient."
"Oh, right," Jackie responded. "I will."
As the three of them entered the elevator, Donna asked, "Who is that young man that just came in?"
"He's the shooter," Toby responded.
Sam stopped in his tracks for a second, his jaw setting square. After they stepped into the elevator, Donna crossed her arms stiffly across her chest and gazed at the ceiling. No one spoke.
The four of them sat in the hospital cafeteria for awhile, making small talk. Donna excused herself, saying she was going back to work, now that she knew Josh was awake and cracking wise. Toby sat in silence, fingering his coffee stirrer.
Sarah was suddenly very tired, and very hungry. "Are you OK?" she asked her two companions. "I'm going to get some food, it's dinnertime."
"No you're not," Sam answered. "Dinner's on us." He got up and seized the handles on the back of Sarah's wheelchair, steering her out of the cafeteria and out of the building. "Do you need to let them know where you're going?" he asked.
"Nope," Sarah responded. "I'm not even supposed to _be_ here until day after tomorrow. They called me at home when Donna asked for me."
"Why? Weren't there any other chaplains?"
"Maybe because she's the assistant to the President's deputy chief of staff? Because the President's deputy communications director was with her? Hello??" she stifled a giggle, then started to worry. "I'm sorry," she added. "I shouldn't have said that."
"Forget it," Toby said, chuckling. "You're right." He waved at a cabbie parked at the entrance, then stopped short. "Uh.. how do we do this?" he asked her.
"It's OK, I can stand a little."
He opened the back door of the taxi and Sarah hoisted herself in. "It folds up," she said. "Just pull the handles up. You can put it in the trunk." Chair safely stowed, Toby slid in next to her, and Sam joined the driver in the front.
"30th and M," Toby said to the driver.
"Good choice," Sam responded.
As they settled inside the restaurant terrace Seaborn remarked, "The calimari is great here."
"I'm not much on swarming sea creatures," Sarah responded with a smile.
"Swarming sea creatures?" he questioned.
"Ah," Toby said. "I should have asked if you keep kosher."
"I see," Sam said. "Calimari have to be kosher?"
"Don't worry, they have a cold vegetarian pasta here to die for." She spread the napkin on her lap and took a drink of water.
"Would you like a cocktail?" the waiter asked.
"I have to go back to work, and so do you," Toby responded, looking at Sam. "You?" He looked over at Sarah.
"White wine, please-maybe a Sonoma Valley gewürztraminer? Gan Eden, if you have it."
The waiter scurried away. "He'll be looking until midnight," Sam chuckled. "He probably can't even SPELL gewürztraminer."
"YOU can't spell gewürztraminer," Toby responded.
"Well, in my own defense I might note that the President doesn't often refer to gewürztraminer in his speeches."
After dinner they sat awhile, Toby with his coffee and Sarah with her wine. "I'd like to apologize, Mr. Ziegler, for confronting you in the corridor-"
"Call me Toby, OK? Even though you haven't seen me naked."
Sarah laughed. "OK. I'm still sorry. You had every right to get angry at the man who shot the President and your friend."
"First of all," he answered, "let's get one thing straight: just because Josh Lyman and I spend eighty or so hours a week in the same offices doesn't mean we're bosom buddies."
"Of course not," Sam chimed in, talking around a mouthful of chips. He excused himself and headed for the necessary room.
**Sure,** Sarah thought, but she responded, "OK. Even so, it's very understandable-"
Toby cut her off with a wave of his hand, then hesitated before speaking. "A few months ago," he began, "I was in the Oval Office trying to persuade the President to commute the sentence of a convicted multiple murderer. I explained to him how the Rabbis had made it impossible to commit judicial homicide. I told him I couldn't stomach the idea of the state killing someone in my name." He paused, shifting in his chair and studying the tablecloth carefully. "Now, though, I tell the father of a disturbed young man that I want to be a witness to his son's execution."
"Well, it's real easy to be principled when the issues are academic and impersonal. I remember when I was a nurse I used to make long speeches about how heroic measures were so misused, about the difference between quantity of life and quality of life. Then, suddenly, it was _my_mother_ I was making those decisions about. It was incredibly hard to follow the advice I had so glibly given to others."
"You know what the truth is, though?" he asked.
"I'm not sure I can do what you did - force myself to walk the walk and not just talk the talk."
"Don't make me out a hero, Toby," she answered. "I did it because I knew what my mother wanted, and I knew that she was just mean enough to haunt me if I didn't do as she asked."
"Oof," Sam chimed in, returning. "If your mother was anything like Toby's, there would have been _years_ of sleepless nights."
In unison, both men's pagers sounded. Toby pulled out his cell phone and dialed; the conversation consisted of a lot of grunts and a final "OK." "Sam has to go back to work," he said finally, returning the phone to his inside jacket pocket.
"You'll find out when you get there."
Just then the food arrived. "Can you make this to go?" Sam asked the waiter.