Title: Collapse

By: adoreleo

Pairing: Leo/Margaret

Rating: PG13

Spoilers: Everything up to and including Disaster Relief.

Disclaimer: The characters are from the NBC, WB, TV show The West Wing; they do not belong to me.

Beta and Medical terminology by Lynn.

Feedback: If you could, that would be nice.

Summary: Leo is still trying to deal with aftermath of Zoey's kidnapping.

Collapse

I've known and worked for this man for over 13 years. He's a good and decent man who has spent his life serving his country and it has cost him dearly. Over the years I've seen him at his best and at his worst. But, I've never seen him this distraught. And I don't know how to help him. Even if I did know, he wouldn't let me. He is hell bent on punishing himself.

He blames himself for Zoey's kidnapping. He hasn't said it, but I know him. I can see it in his face and his actions. He is so close to the edge and I'm terrified I won't be able to catch him if he falls.

I had never seen Leo panicked before this past summer. Then, when I saw him running past the Roosevelt Room I knew that something dreadful had happened. Later, he pulled me into his office and told me what had happened. The trepidation in his eyes and voice were almost too much to handle, but somehow I gathered myself and supported him as usual.

During the first few hours of Zoey's kidnapping, Leo was running on pure adrenaline. He had been in and out of the sit room several times. The only time he slowed down was to talk with Toby about the twins. Later, in the early morning hours of that first day, I tried to get him to sleep. I'll sleep when the President sleeps he said and then he tried to get me to sleep. But I threw it right back at him. It has been years since I've been afraid to speak my mind to him. He just looked up at me with his heartrending face and gave me a spiel about a small band of dedicated people who won't be able to lift their arms.

I wasn't inside the Oval Office when Walken took charge, but it got out how he had snapped at President Bartlet and how Leo had to tell his best friend the he was relieved. I know this had to kill him inside. He was being so strong for all of us and it was destroying him.

Of course when it came to me, he was gruff and demanding. I was accused of hiding files from him, yelled at because I let him sleep an extra hour and accused of being his mother. But I could only smile and try to ease his burden. I seemed to be the only one who realized how much he was truly suffering.

After Zoey was rescued, I thought things would settle down and maybe Leo could get some much-needed rest. He hadn't left the White House during the entire kidnapping incident except for a middle of the night, covert meeting with Angela Blake. But, as usual, nothing ever slowed down around this place. As a matter of fact, the weeks that followed the rescue were even more draining for Leo.

When he came back from his meeting with Ron and the First Lady, he was very distant. I knew that it had not gone well. I could tell by his face, something had happened. But as usual, he denied that anything was wrong. His mood had been better after Zoey had been rescued, but now it was deteriorating again. Later that night when I went in to see if he needed anything, I heard him whisper to himself 'he took the bullet for me again'. I snuck back into my office unnoticed. I can only imagine what took place between them. But one thing I know for sure. The First Lady said something to Leo that devastated him.

He has never been an easy man to work for, but now he was becoming down right impossible to work for. I knew what was behind his abruptness, but the staff was starting to question his motives. He was slowly losing it and I didn't know how to help him. So, I did what I always done,. I stayed close by in case he needed me.

The President and First Lady, and the senior staff were imploding and Leo was caught in the middle and it all was destroying him: The First Lady took Zoey away from the President; Will's leaving to work for the VP; Josh's big screw up; CJ's misspeaking to the Press. His response to these problems had the staff starting to view him as a cold hearted SOB. But, I knew differently. Why couldn't they see the agony he was experiencing? He was drowning right before our eyes.

The First Lady had taken Zoey to the farm. Rumor had quickly spread that she had told the President not to come. The President was very short tempered and appeared to be lost without his wife. I had heard through the grapevine that they weren't even speaking to one another. Once again, Leo was taking the brunt of the President's bad disposition.

Will Bailey had only been part of the Senior Staff for just a short time, but Leo had liked what he had done so far. He was breathing new life into the communication staff and challenging the President. He didn't want to lose that new sprit.

Josh's issues had started during the kidnapping. His paranoid thinking was already causing problems with the Republicans and the Democrats. But, it was his cockiness that was caused the most tribulations. When the newspaper article came out his head swelled to epic proportions. He really believed what he read about himself and thought he could turn any congressman to his way of thinking. After he pushed the Democratic Senator, Chris Carrick, over to the Republicans, Leo had been forced to severely reprimand the man that he considered a son and it broke his heart.

Leo had given CJ the line, but she had misspoken to the press. Leo had been trying to protect the President's popularity and save jobs in West Virginia when he omitted two paragraphs from the EPA's report. But CJ wasn't going to let it go. They wound up having a heated discussion with CJ quickly leaving the room.

Toby had come to Leo right after Zoey's rescue. He wanted more responsibility and wanted to help shape the President's message. He had been in Leo's face more the a few times lately. He wasn't happy about Will's leaving and wanted to keep it from happening. That night out on the portico I overheard Leo tell Toby that it was his job to protect the President and that he was holding everything together with tape and barbwire.

Leo wasn't eating much and he was losing weight. I thought he was at least going home at night, but I find out now that he would go home change clothes and come back after only being gone a couple of hours. He had been very tricky about it. Leaving with me at night and then sneaking back. He was smoking again too. I wanted to give him hell about the smoking, but he had gone through so much lately and I didn't have the heart to scold him. He looked so bewildered and so vulnerable. I just couldn't add to his anguish. I should have known. I should have sensed this coming, maybe I did, but I guess I just didn't want to acknowledge it. I was mostly concerned about looking for signs that he was drinking again.

Late this afternoon, I had finally convinced him to lie down for a nap. I promised I would only let him sleep a couple of hours. He gave me a look and told me if I let him sleep longer than promised this time that there would be hell to pay. I could only smile at his comment. I walked around his office closing blinds and turning off lights. He was still sitting at his desk. I asked him if he needed me to help him to the couch. He reminded me that he wasn't that old yet. Reluctantly he made his way to the couch and laid down. I went over and covered him up with his Navy blanket. He responded sarcastically with a 'thanks mom'.

For the next two hours, I sat at my desk and tried to catch up on some work. Leo received a few phones messages but nothing very important. I wasn't going to let him be disturbed. He had had a rough couple of days with the President off in Oklahoma.

I entered his office with coffee and started to wake him. He sat up and mumbled something, but I didn't understand what he said. I turned a light on and turned back to him. He looked worse now than he did before he went to sleep. He repeated whatever he said, but his words are slurred. He put a hand to his head, like he was in pain. He tried to stand. And that when it happened. He started to take a step away from the couch and collapsed. I tried to reach him before he hit the floor, but I didn't make it there in time. All I could do was watch in horror as his head slammed into the coffee table and then he fell the rest of the way to the floor. I rushed to his side. I check to see if he is still breathing. His breaths were shallow and his pulse was racing. He had huge gash on the side of his head and blood was pouring from it. I must have screamed when Leo fell, because people came rushing into his office. I yelled for someone to call for an ambulance. I grabbed his Navy blanket and pressed it to the side of his head to try and stop the bleeding. I sat quietly on the floor next to him and waited for help to arrive.

When the medics arrived they started an IV and hooked him up to oxygen and then loaded him into the awaiting ambulance. Once we got to the hospital, they wouldn't let me go into the room with him. After what seemed like forever, a young doctor came out to see me. He wanted to know if I was his wife. I blushed at his question and told him who I was. He wanted to speak with a family member. I informed him that Leo's daughter, Mallory, was away visiting her mother, so really I was the closest thing to family that he had here right now. He seemed reluctant at first to discuss his case with me, but finally he decided that I was acceptable.

They had ruled out a stroke or a heart attack. They believed the reason he became disoriented and passed out after he woke up was from a case of severe exhaustion. His blood pressure was low and he very dehydrated. But these weren't the reasons why he was still unconscious. When he fell was when the real damage had occurred. The wound on the side of his head had taken 34 stitches to close. The impact from hitting the coffee table had caused a hairline skull fracture and a concussion, the CT scan showed some slight swelling but the swelling could possibly worsen over the next 72 hours, he would need to be monitored closely during this period of time for any changes in his condition As far as the exhaustion, his body will get the rest it needs while his brain heals.

The doctor was very matter of fact as he spelled out Leo's condition. It took all my fiber to stand there and listen. I wanted to rush to Leo's side and comfort him, even if he would have no idea that I was there. But instead, when the doctor was finished I went to the lobby and made several phones calls.

Mallory had been very upset and was on her way back home. Josh was going to go to the airport and pick her up and bring her to the hospital. Toby had to stay at the White House and make sure that the world didn't come to a complete stop. He had been very sweet to me on the phone and told me that he would be there as soon as he could.

The President was aboard Air Force One with CJ and they would be here within the next two hours. He had been AWOL in Oklahoma, but now he was finally coming home. There had been a lot of shared tears when I spoke with him on the phone.

Next, I called the First Lady and she will probably get here before the President. What will I say to her when she arrives? I want to berate her for how she has hurt Leo, but I know that she is probably feeling very guilty about what had transpired between her and Leo. Our conversation was very strained, but she did seem upset and concerned about Leo's status. She asked several medical questions that I couldn't answer. She said she would be there as soon as she could.

After I finished making phone calls, I headed for Leo's room in the ICU. The doctor had tired to prepare me for what to expect and had detailed the treatment that he would be receiving. But I was still not ready for what I saw when I entered his room. He looked so frail in his hospital grown and was nearly as pale as the sheets. He was hooked up to several machines that were beeping and monitoring his vitals. He had two IV's, an oxygen mask, and they had inserted a feeding tube to provide him with Ensure for his poor nutritional status. His head had a large bandage on the side. The doctor had said that they had to shave a good portion of the injured side of his head. Leo was going to hate that.

I stood for a long time in the doorway to Leo's room. I was afraid to enter. I half expected him to bellow my name. Oh, what I wouldn't give if he would wake up and holler for me. Finally, I regain my courage and walk over to the side of his bed. I gently hold his hand and caress his face while I hope for the best and pray for him to regain consciousness.

I had lost all track of time while I was at his bedside. My mind played over several scenarios about what the future could hold. I wonder if he appreciates that my world revolves around him? Does he have any idea what he means to me? Fear has kept me from telling him the truth about how I feel. I have always loved Leo, but somewhere in the past couple of years, I fell in love with him. Tears fall freely and silently down my face as brush some hair off his forehead. I carefully bend over and place a gentle kiss on his cheek and then I bare my soul to him.

"Oh Leo, I love you. Please wake up. I need you to know how I feel."

But was it too late? Why didn't I say these things before this had happened? All I can do now is wait. I've been waiting for him for years. I guess I can wait a little longer.

Unbeknownst to Margaret a visitor was standing just inside the doorway and had witnessed this tender scene. Not wanting to interrupt, the person quietly backed out of the room and disappeared down the hall.

TBC?