For notes and disclaimer, please see part one.

Previously, on the West Wing: Leo is accepted to the prestigious prep school Jed's father runs. Having spent three years exchanging letters, Jed picks Leo up at the train station. Leo tries to adjust to the strictness of the school.

"Thank you, ma'am," Leo said as he came out of Mrs. Landingham's office, carrying his economics books, and ran into Jed at the door. "Oh, hey."

"Hey. What're you up to?"

"Looking for you, actually."

"Yeah? What can I do for you?" Jed asked, turning around and following his friend away from his father's office.

"Statistics."

"Uh-oh. Mr. Hutchinson's having you crunch numbers, eh?"

"I'd rather not crunch them. Can't I just look at them? I mean, why break perfectly good numbers..."

Jed smiled, laughing softly. "C'mon, I'll try to help you out."

"Try? Hello, you're the best guy in the math department and I know I'm right."

"Well, you hope you're right anyway, don't you?" asked Jed with a grin.

"I'm praying to every patron saint that could be listening, yes."

"How can statistics be giving you grief? I heard that you were..."

"Jed! Leo!"

Leo and Jed both stopped in the middle of the hallway and turned around to see Mrs. Landingham in the corridor.

"Yes, Mrs. Landingham?" asked Jed.

"You boys better come here," she said. There was urgency in her voice, a sadness in her eyes. Jed and Leo raced back towards her. She gestured towards the radio as they reached her office, listening silently.

"President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was pronounced dead a little less than fifteen minutes ago in Dallas, Texas."

Leo nearly toppled over, placing a hand to his chest. Jed stared at the radio, his breathing stopped temporarily.

"November 22, 1963: a day that will live on in infamy, a day when Lee Harvey Oswald opened fire on the parade through Dallas from a nearby book depository."

~~~

Leo McGarry stood in his office, watching the television along the back wall. He kept flipping channels between the three different C-Spans and the two CNN networks. He occasionally tried Fox News, but didn't stay there very long. He would worry about the fallout the next day.

"Hey," Bartlet said softly, appearing at the door to Leo's office from the Oval Office with his hands wrapped tightly around a mug.

"Hey," Leo said, turning to him.

"What're the pundits saying?"

"A lot."

"Good or bad?"

"Mixed," Leo acknowledged. "What're you doing up? I thought Abbey was sending you to bed an hour ago?"

"She tried."

Leo smiled knowingly.

"What're you still doing here?" continued Bartlet.

"There's still quite a bit to be done."

"I think there's more to be done in the future. Not tonight, but... the next two years."

"Who would have thought we'd ever be here, y'know?" he asked.

"What do you mean?" asked Bartlet, sipping his coffee.

"We met when we were fifteen years old," he said.

"Forty-one years ago now."

"Yeah."

"You were pissed at me."

"Damn right I was. You came parading through that gym I had spent forty-five minutes cleaning. You think I was gonna be happy about your muddy footprints?"

"And I just paraded through our nice clean answer..."

"You did good tonight."

"I don't know what came over me."

"Yes, you do."

"Yeah. I do."

Leo nodded. "You put your hands in your pockets, looked towards us, and smiled."

"I did."

"It's going to be a fight, but we knew that. Even if you had said no, it would still be a fight during the next two years."

"Would have been an easier fight."

"Actually, I think it would have been a harder fight," Leo said, leaning against the table.

"A harder fight?" Leo nodded. "How do you figure?"

"We wouldn't be able to get anywhere. It'd be a lame duck presidency. Republicans *and* Democrats would be ganging up on us."

"They still will."

Leo shook his head. "You put your foot down, old friend. The party can either stand back and watch us win re-election without their help or they can actively support you and we can take back the House and Senate."

"Or we can all fall on our faces."

"Y'know what happens when we do that?"

"We die in shame?"

"We get back up and dust ourselves off and ask... what's next?"

Bartlet smiled.

~~~

Leo sat with his head propped up on his hands in his government class. One of his classmates poked his shoulder, making him turn towards him.

"What's with the long face?"

"The President is dead."

"So I heard."

"And that doesn't upset you?"

His classmate shrugged. "What do you want from me? He was a bleeding-heart liberal Democrat with ideas that can't be realized."

"What, just because he wanted to see a man on the moon?"

"Leo. Nobody'll ever make it. It's like how men will never bear children. That's just the way the world is."

"The world should be changed."

"Oh, yeah?" he asked. "By who? By people like you and Jed Bartlet?"

"Yeah. And people like the Kennedys."

"Obviously not by JFK."

"Why you got such a bug up your ass about President Kennedy?"

"Is this a touchy subject, Boston?"

"The name's Leo."

"Sure it isn't Kennedy?"

"It's McGarry."

"Massachusetts Irish Catholic, eh?"

"I was born in Chicago."

"Technicality."

"Shaddup."

"What? Oh, yeah... something else that's different. No money."

"Presidents don't have to have to come from money," Leo shot back. He was going to let it drop. He was going to ignore the boy behind him, but the topic of money was a stinging one.

"Name one who wasn't born into money," taunted the boy behind him.

Leo's jaw tightened. His gaze focused intently and icily on his classmate. "Andrew Jackson."

"Andrew Jackson?"

"Yes."

"What about Andrew Jackson?" asked Mr. Laski, the government professor, as he entered the classroom.

"He wasn't born into money. He earned it," Leo said. "And then he went on to be elected the seventh President of the United States."

Laski nodded. "That's right. You know anymore about him?"

Leo shot one more piercing glance back at his classmate before launching into part of what would later become affectionately known as the cheese day speech.

~~~

"Afternoon, Mrs. Landingham," Jed said as he appeared at her desk.

"Good afternoon, Jed. Your father isn't in right now."

"I know."

"What brings you by?" she asked, looking up from her typing.

"Have you seen Leo today? He was supposed to meet me at the commissary for lunch."

"He dropped by early this morning."

"Oh?"

"Said he was going to go into town."

"And skip class?" asked Jed, raising an eyebrow.

"No, he said he'd be back before his literature class met."

"Hmm," Jed said with a frown.

"Well, with his mother ill, you can't really expect him to have his mind on Shakespeare, can you?"

"His mother's ill?" Jed asked.

"Didn't you know?"

"No," he said slowly, quietly.

"Jed, I..." She drifted off. "If I had known that you didn't know, I never would have said anything... I honestly thought he told you."

"Don't worry, Mrs. Landingham. And he won't know I learned from you, if he learns that I know at all."

"You're not going to go hunt him down, are you?"

"Me? Of course not... Although, it would be really easy to find him on that old bike of his..." He slipped his hands in his pockets and glanced off.

"No smiling!" Mrs. Landingham warned.

"I'm sorry?" he asked.

"No smiling, Jed Bartlet," she said sternly.

"Why?" he asked, unable to keep a slight grin from his lips.

She sighed. "Don't go after him, Jed. If he didn't tell you, there must've been a reason."

"How long has she been sick?"

"He told me about her being under the weather the day President Kennedy was killed."

"That's been eight days."

Mrs. Landingham thought. "I guess it has. Time seems to have slowed down since I heard the news on the radio."

Jed raced from the room.

"Jed?"

Stay tuned...

~Lines from the next installment:

Leo exhaled slowly. "You got one a your cigarettes on ya?"

Jed nodded and rifled through his pockets for his pack before offering one to Leo, as well as his book of matches. "Is it that bad?"

Chapter 3

 

 

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