Spoilers: Major spoilers
for "We Killed Yamamoto" (Season 3),
minor spoiler for "Someone's Going to
Emergency, Someone's Going to Jail."
Summary:"So make the best of this test
and don't ask why. It's not a question,
but a lesson learned in time." from "Time
of Your Life" by Green Day
They Say You Can
(post ep for "We Killed
"We need to be down in the Sit Room," I say to Leo,
meeting him at the main door to the Oval Office and backing him back into the
hall before anyone else can need to speak to him.
Leo turns and walks
beside me without question.
"There's nothing new," I say. "Fitz just
wants to run through a few more scenarios. Only take a few minutes and then, we
have other things to deal with."
"Yeah," says Leo, knowing where I'm
"Did you fix Josh's screw up?" I say. Out of the corner of my eye,
I see Leo's body tense. He's trying hard to stay as professional and respectful
of the President as he always is, but his heart wants to defend Josh to
"Mr. President," says Leo. I can hear the hint of warning, but no
one else could.
"Leo, Josh screwed up. He costs us key votes for a bill
that was already too close. Then, he gets the vote scheduled on the same night
as the fundraiser. With help like that, we won't even need opposition," I
declare as Leo is forced to move in front of me by the flurried activity of
staffers trying to get papers to their right place on time.
"It was the
women's groups...," begins Leo.
"Did you come here to stand in front of
Josh?" I ask Leo, mirroring the question I asked him last night to which he
replied no. I only half way believed him then as lying has never been one of
Leo's strong suits.
"No," Leo says again, almost as convincingly. "But
Josh didn't mean for that to happen. I told you I signed off on the vote and
canceling the trip. It's my fault that you could have missed "The War of the
Roses" and helping the Archbishop. It wasn't just Josh. We thought it would get
us out of the Ritchie thing."
"Sounds like you're in front of Josh
to me, Leo, like ducks in a row," I say, as we descend the staircase.
Leo looks back at me with that exasperated look that I sometimes tease
him just to see on his face and then, it happens. The next thing I know he is
falling down the last set of eight stairs. I watch helplessly as he lands at the
bottom, his forehead audibly whacking on the sharp point at the bottom of the
"Leo!" I gasp as I take the stairs at a run followed by
Donnie, my Secret Service agent. When I reach him, I roll him over quickly and
start to pick his head up in my lap when Donnie stops me.
"He could have
a neck or spinal injury, Mr. President. We need to immobilize his head," says
Donnie. Donnie places my hands on both side of Leo's head and tells me to hold
his head in line with his spine and try to keep him from moving.
are you okay?" I keep calling out to him even though his eyes are closed. I
vaguely hear Donnie calling for the White House medics. God, I wish Abbey were
in the building, but she's gone to a conference in Cleveland.
As we wait,
Donnie jumps into action. He checks Leo's pulse and breathing.Then, he sends a
staffer for a clean white towel and a bag of ice which he puts over the puncture
wound on Leo's forehead.
A small crowd gathers near us. I wish they'd
just go away. I know they are concerned about Leo, but I just want to be alone
with my best friend, so I can take care of him. When more agents arrive,
including Ron Butterfield, I yell at him to get rid of all these people. Hearing
their President yell is more than enough for most of them, so they scatter.
"What is taking those medics so long?" I demand.
"You need to stay calm,
Mr. President," says Ron. "They're on their way."
I know he's right. The
last thing Leo needs is me yelling and preventing people from doing their jobs.
When the medics do arrive, the first thing they do is put a collar around Leo's
neck. So, I use every ounce of self-control I have and step back from
"Mr. McGarry, can you hear me?" asks one of the medics, lightly
shaking Leo's shoulder. When he doesn't get any response, he too checks Leo's
breathing and then, raises up his eyelids one at a time and checks his pupils,
waving a pin light in front of Leo's eyes. "Unequal," he says to the other
medic. Then, he pulls out a gauze pad and tapes it over the tiny puncture wound
on Leo's forehead.
The other medic is listening to Leo's heart. He takes
out an oxygen mask, secures the hose to a tank and puts it over Leo's mouth and
nose. "Did you call an ambulance?" he says, turning to Ron, who
This is not what I expected to hear. I expected to hear them ask
for smelling salts or ice or even other medics, but I didn't expect them to
sound so urgent about getting Leo to the hospital. I can't stay back any longer.
I move up beside one of the medics and rest my hand on Leo's shoulder. I want
him to know that I am here.
"You want to start an IV?" says one medic to
The second medic nods and takes Leo's hand that is nearest me.
He inserts a needle into it, taping it down and attaches a tube to a bag of
I keep my hand on Leo's shoulder and bend down close to
him. "Leo, I know that hurt. It was just the medic putting a needle in your hand
to start an IV. Don't be scared. I'm right here."
They won't let me ride
in the ambulance. But, I tell them I am going if I have to walk. I know I
exasperate Ron Butterfield sometimes, but I know that if it were his best
friend, he would do just what I'm doing. He knows that, too, but it can't stop
him from doing his job, from protecting the President. I agree to ride in my
limousine provided that Ron goes in the ambulance. He isn't happy being
separated from me, but he thinks it's the best he can get, so he sends two
agents in the limousine with me. To clear the way for me, DC traffic is brought
to a standstill. To keep themselves sane, the agents in the limousine don't look
at me, but look everywhere else to ward off impending danger. I know they just
don't want to make eye contact with me for fear I'll bite their heads off.
A phone rings in my pocket and almost scares us all silly. I never carry
a cell phone, but they gave me Leo's. "Yeah," I say into the receiver. It's CJ
and she's just heard about Leo. I tell her we are just pulling up to the
hospital. I assure her I'll call as soon as I know anything. She tells me not to
worry; yeah, she should talk.
I go into the trauma room with Leo. Yes,
it's unusual, but who is going to stop the President of the United States. Or,
more importantly, a best friend.
Leo gets stitches and an examination for
other injuries. Also, a Head CT. I hate to even think this, but I am relieved
that Leo is not awake for this. He is a little claustrophobic, not as bad as I
am since my brother locked me in a steamer trunk, but enough that I think he
would have trouble staying calm during this test. The diagnosis is a moderate
concussion. Thankfully, the test shows that Leo has no bleeding and only minimal
brain swelling. The doctor says he doesn't think any more invasive medical
procedures will be needed.
I also am very careful to question all the
medication they are giving him. I know they are aware of his drug issues, but I
can't be too careful with my best friend. I ensure that he is only given Tylenol
and Lidocaine before the stitches. After treatment, we move him to a room
upstairs, so they can reopen the emergency room.
beside the bed and look at Leo. It's amazing how peaceful he looks, but also
fragile. No machines, no tubes, no beeping noises, just that bandage above his
right eyebrow that keeps me from believing that he's just asleep. I run my thumb
across Leo's forehead. I can feel the puffiness around the injury and see some
bruising beginning to shadow his eye. Then, I sit down next to the bed, picking
up his hand.
I've watched Leo sleep a lot. Back after the war, when he
used to have those horrible nightmares, I'd sit by him for hours because I knew
he was desperate for rest. Same goes for when we dealt with the alcohol and
Valium thing. Back then, I prayed he'd stay asleep, now I'm praying he'll wake
up. The doctor said it is critical that he wake up in the next few
I am so thankful I got to come to the hospital. They usually try
to keep me from doing that. They see it as a security risk. They had to clear
out most of this floor. At this moment, I don't care. I know that means I'm
selfish, but I'll just have to be. I wouldn't be anywhere else for all the
security in the world.
"They say you can hear me," I say, bouncing Leo's
hand a little. My voice, even though I try to speak softly, reverberates off the
walls of this sterile room.
A nurse comes in. She smiles at me, but
looks nervous. She should have expected the President of the United States. I'm
with my best friend. Do these people not realize that I'm not just the
President, that I'm human, too? It's the same reaction I got in the emergency
room, except that doctor asked me if I'd like to wait in my suite upstairs. No,
I sure as hell don't want to wait upstairs. I felt like saying Leo is not
upstairs, Leo is right here, you idiot. But, if I start insulting the doctors,
they will make me leave. I hope I don't make these people too nervous, I want
them to be able to give Leo the best care possible.
The nurse is still
listening to Leo's heart and breathing. Is that a frown she has on her face?
God, why doesn't she say something? Now, she's noticed I'm staring at her and
she drops her pin light on the bed before she even gets to look in Leo's eyes. I
pick it up and hand it to her; man, that was another mistake. Jed, get a hold of
yourself, these people are giving Leo excellent care.
Donnie, who has
been guarding the door, motions to me and holds up Leo's cell phone. I know it's
Abbey before I even answer. I had called Zoey and asked her to call her mother,
because I didn't have the phone number with me. I know she's scared. I can hear
it in her voice when I say "Hello" and she whispers, "Jed, is he awake?" I tell
her no and fill her in on every word the doctor said. She wants to know more.
She has questions I can't answer. I tell her the doctor's name and she says she
will call the hospital and ask for him.
Then, I hold the phone down to
Leo's ear, so she can talk to him. After all, they say he can hear us. When I
get back on the phone, I don't know what she said to him, but I can hear that
she is crying. She tries to insist that she leave her conference and be back by
nightfall, but I talk her out of it. I tell her that by then, Leo will be awake,
sitting up and taking this cell phone from me. She forces a laugh. I wish she
were here. I wish I were as sure as I sound. We hang up with her saying she'll
call me in one hour.
Leo and I are alone again. "Hey, my friend," I say
quietly. "I left your deputy, Josh Lyman, in control of the whole White House."
If that doesn't bring him back, I don't know what will. No response. I should
not have made that joke, not even in my thoughts, much less out loud to Leo. My
criticism of Josh directly contributed to us being here in the first place.
I must confess Josh is good at his job. I guess I shouldn't have yelled
at him…well…as much or as harshly as I did. I said, 'True or false, Josh, my
life would be better right now if you and your girlfriend swapped jobs. Why is
it for every good thing you do around here, we got to endure three screw ups? …
Sorry doesn't get me 218. It doesn't get back the ad that slipped through your
office, anymore than it gets back tobacco which you gave away for lunch money.
And, why the hell don't you know what Ritchie's commitments are before you get
anywhere near my schedule. I've got the Presidential box at a cattle call. Win
the damn vote.' I was mad at Josh, but bringing up past incidents is never fair.
Sure Josh makes mistakes, but doesn't everyone. I've made my share and some of
them were monumental.
I understand Leo's need to protect. I understand
his need to stand in front of Josh and his need to stand in front of me. I love
him for that. "Come on, Leo," I say. "Open your eyes…come on, try…" No
I start to speak aloud again. I've always done that. I can say
whatever is on my mind to Leo. I can ramble and I can dream. I can admit my
fears and I can talk my way through things. "I need your advice, Leo. Shareef
deserves whatever he gets, I don't have to be convinced of that. But, I need to
decide what he deserves. There are moral absolutes, there really are, but he's
so far from any definition of the word. Yeah, I said I'd let him come for the
visit, but what then, Leo, what then?" I drift into quiet contemplation
The bedside table catches my attention and I see the CD player
that Zoey has sent with one of the agents. He told me that she said we should be
talking or reading to Leo or listening to music at all times. I open the CD
player's lid and see the CD Zoey has chosen. Green Day! I don't even know if Leo
knows who Green Day is. Then, I see the note attached to the CD player. I unfold
it and read aloud. "Something for you and Leo. Kiss him for me. Love,
Zoey." I stand and gently kiss Leo on the forehead before I plug in the CD
player. I hit play and sit back to listen.
Another turning point,
a fork stuck in the road.
grabs you by the wrist
directs you where to go.
So make the best of this
and don't ask why.
It's not a question,
but a lesson learned in
It's something unpredictable,
but in the end it's right.
hope you had the time of your life.
So take the photographs and still
frames in your mind,
hang it on a shelf of good health and good
Tattoos of memories
and dead skin on trial,
for what it's
it was worth all the while.
I hope you had the time of your
It's something unpredictable,
but in the
end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.
When the song ends, I just continue to sit there. Leave it to
Zoey to speak to us about the important things here on earth. "We'll have to
tell her thank you," I say as I lean up to click off the CD player. It's then, I
see it. A single tear run out of Leo's eye and down his cheek. I pick up his
hand and hold it between both of mine. "You liked that, huh?" I say. "Leo, can
you squeeze my hand…just a little squeeze to let me know you're with me."
I hold Leo's hand loosely and wait, watching for any sign. And very
slowly, his forefinger moves to curl around my thumb. I wrap my palm around it
to keep it from falling away. "Thank you, Leo…you don't know how much…" I stop,
because I don't trust my voice. I take a deep breath. "You just rest now." I
start to put Leo's hand down, but his forefinger won't release my thumb. "I'm
not going anywhere," I say, keeping his hand between both of mine.
here as the doctor and nurse parade in and out of the room many times, checking
Leo's vital signs and quietly write on his chart. They don't look at me if they
can help it. They can't answer my one question. I have asked it many times. When
is my best friend going to wake up? When can I be sure he is alright? All they
can tell me is that we have to wait. It will take time as chances are obtaining
full consciousness will come gradually. I sit here as the secret service watch
the door just as quietly. I can't see them all the time, only when a doctor or
nurse comes in. Although Ron has come in himself a few times to see if I want to
take a break or if I need coffee. I tell him no each time as I am determined not
to give up my post or to allow myself one comfort until Leo is back here with
me. I sit here as one member after another of the Senior Staff call to check on
Leo. Ron doesn't even ask me if I want to talk to them anymore. He just tells
them there has been no change and that the President hasn't left his friend's
bedside. I sit here as darkness falls across the window.
I am the
President of the United States. I am the leader of the free world. I have more
military and more resources available to me than any other person alive. And
yet, I sit here holding my best friend's hand between my own, helpless to do
anything but wait. It is a very humbling feeling. I am lost in thought when I
hear a soft moan as Leo's eyelid flickers. "I'm right here," I say. I lean down
until my elbows rest next to his pillow. "Jed is right here, my
Leo rolls his head across the pillow and moans again, his eyes
squeeze tightly shut like he is trying to block out what he is
"Leo," I say. "There you go…come on, open those
Slowly, Leo opens his eyes and looks tiredly up at
"Hey, there," I say. "Don't worry, you had a little fall, but
everything is going to be okay."
"Sir?" says Leo as he winces.
bet you have quite a headache," I say.
"I feel like I've been sent for
and couldn't go," mumbles Leo, his fingers fumbling over the bandage on his
I smile when I hear Leo use one of the old expressions his
grandmother always said. We would often laugh about how funny they sounded, but
how true. "I'll have the nurse get you some Tylenol," I say. I start to
"Don't go," begs Leo, starting to sit up, but finding it a bad
idea. He holds on to the tail of my suit coat and sinks back to the
"Leo, it's okay; I'm just going to get some Tylenol," I say, my
hand on his arm, so he can feel that I'm really still there. "And, to tell the
doctor. He wanted to check you as soon as you were awake."
"You sang to
me," says Leo, only a hint of a question in his voice. He finds me singing in
this situation a bit odd, but he has no doubt I would move Heaven and earth to
bring him back to me.
"Sang to you?" I question. Then, I remember the CD
"So make the best of this test and don't ask why. It's not a
question, but a lesson learned in time," says Leo. "What's that
"Zoey sent us a Green Day CD called 'Time of Your Life,'" I say,
momentarily forgetting the doctor and the Tylenol. "It really spoke to me, Leo.
We've had quite a test today, you and I. But, we turned out to be strong. You
woke up and I stayed sane. And, the funny thing is, I never once questioned why
this happened. The only thing I could think about was had I been a good friend?
Had I told you enough that I love you? Could I go on in this life without you?
When it gets right down to it, it's not why things happen, but if we are
prepared. Do we make the most of everyday and let people know how we feel? We
are not guaranteed tomorrow."
"It's not a question, but a lesson learned
in time," says Leo.
And I know it is.