For notes and disclaimer, please see part one.

Previously, on the West Wing: Jed and Leo receive some disturbing news about President Kennedy. Jed learns from Mrs. Landingham that Leo's mother is sick. President Bartlet apologizes to his Chief of Staff for changing his mind.

Jed was trying to start his car. He needed to get into town, to see if he could stop Leo before he left for Boston. Sighing heavily, he hit the steering wheel in frustration when it wouldn't start.

"That won't help ya, ya know."

He looked out the window to see Leo McGarry sitting on his bike just outside. "Leo," he said, scrambling to get out of his car.

"Need some help?"

"Woah, wait... I thought you were..."

"Thought I was what? I'm sorry 'bout lunch. I had to, um..."

"Go into town. How's your mother?"

"Mrs. Landingham has a big mouth," he muttered.

"You think she told me?"

"Yes."

"You don't think I called down to talk to your mother?"

"I know you didn't."

"How?"

"Because Lizzie would have told me."

"How is she?"

"Lizzie?"

"Well, your mother first and foremost. Your sisters, too."

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?"

Lighting up, Leo took a deep drag. "I gotta go home, Jed."

"What?"

"With Ma sick, she can't work. Josie's still just a kid; Lizzie's even younger... I gotta go home, take care a them."

"You're two and a half months into schooling here..."

"I know."

"What are you going to do?"

Leo took another deep drag. "I really don't know," he said, exhaling.

"Look, if you family needs money, I'll talk to my father, get a loan, and send it down to them—"

"Jed," sighed Leo.

"I'm serious. I could do it, no problem. In fact, I think—"

"Your father wouldn't lend me a dime for a glass of water if I was on fire."

"You've got such promise here."

"What does it matter if my family's hurtin'?"

"You work so hard up here... You study like there's no tomorrow on top of the work study..."

"I can't abandon my family, Jed. I can't."

"But, Leo..."

"Look, I'll still write."

"Leo..."

"My father abandoned us. He couldn't take it, so he opened up on his head with a shotgun," Leo said, gesturing towards his temple with his fingers that held the cigarette. "If I stay up here while they're down there suffering... I'm no better than he is." He took yet another deep drag, not wanting to think of himself like his father.

"You'll write?"

"Yes."

"So will I."

"I gotta go pack up."

"Need some help?"

"That'd be great, thanks."

~~~

"Summerhayes."

"For cryin' out loud, Mr. President," Leo said, sitting up and rubbing his eyes.

"Were you sleeping?"

"I was trying."

"I'm sorry. Y'know, you could come stay in the Residence. We have spare bedrooms."

"I'm fine."

"You're gonna get a crick in your neck."

"Standard operating procedure nowadays. I thought Abbey put you to bed again."

"She keeps trying."

"Mr. President, you need to get some rest. You were out in the rain today—refusing your coat and umbrellas during a *tropical storm*. It was rather warm outside, but cold inside with the air conditioning... You're going to give yourself a cold. A picture of you sneezing while trying to sign a bill will do *nothing* to ease voters' minds after your admission tonight."

"I'll go back to bed if you talk to me about Summerhayes."

"The twenty-four hour news thing?"

"Yes."

"What do you want to know?"

"Did he take the job?"

"Toby?"

"Yes."

"No, he didn't. He was rather offended that I arranged for the meeting and made him keep it."

"He's not leaving?"

"No."

"What about the others?"

"They're all in their offices pulling double shifts if you want to go talk to them."

"No, you're right. I should get some sleep."

"Tell Abbey to tell the Service to restrain you."

"I'll do that."

"Good, sir."

"Come up to the Residence, Leo."

"I'd rather not."

"Why?"

"Because I'd rather be lightly dozing on my desk here than have to deal with someone coming and waking me up from a nice warm comfortable bed. For some reason, I think I would have someone beheaded if they came to get me out of bed right now."

"You can't have anyone beheaded."

"I can't?"

"No."

"Damn."

"Good night, Leo."

"Good night, Mr. President."

Bartlet didn't leave and Leo didn't even bother to put his head back down on the table.

"We'll get them, Jed."

Bartlet looked over at his friend, surprised to hear his first name coming from Leo's mouth for the first time in over a year.

"I said it before, I stand by it. They say a good man can't be elected president. Well, we proved that one wrong. And we'll do it again. We're beating all the odds. And we're going to continue to do it until there aren't any more odds to beat."

"Do we have polling data yet?"

"Joey Lucas worked on it from California. As soon as the phone banks closed, she got on an airplane with Kenny and they're headed this way. We'll have them for you first thing in the morning."

"When's her flight getting in?"

Leo exhaled slowly, thinking. "Five maybe? Six?"

"That late?"

"Time difference."

"Yeah, but... Okay."

"Somebody here is going to pick her up and bring her directly here. She'll be in your office before breakfast with the results."

Jed nodded and started to leave but didn't. "Your assistant showed up at Foggy Bottom tonight."

"Yeah, she did, along with Donna. Against orders, too, the both of them."

"Why?"

"Because everyone in this building is here to serve you, Mr. President. And they figured they'd be best accommodating to you there."

"We have a dedicated staff, don't we?"

"Yes, you do, Mr. President. Probably one of the most dedicated staffs in the history of the White House."

"And you'd know this because you're such a Presidential scholar."

"I know about Jackson and Kennedy... And Bartlet."

"Kennedy was the only other Catholic President."

"Is that a daunting fact, Mr. President?"

"Not necessarily. That actually reminds me when we were going to school together... and we were the only two Catholics going to church on campus."

"We went once. Every other time, we left."

"Yeah."

"Because it wasn't a nondenominational service."

"Of course it wasn't."

"They'd be proud of you now, y'know."

"Who?"

"Mrs. Landingham... Your father, as discontented as he was."

"I keep turning around, expecting her to be there."

"Yeah."

"I don't like new people."

"I know."

"Tomorrow, we'll have a new lawyer to deal with..."

"Special prosecutor."

"Yeah."

"Well... Y'know what surprises me?"

"What's that?"

"That you accepted me. You wanted to get to know me when you had no idea who I was."

"You were different."

"Thanks... I think."

Bartlet smiled and started to leave again when he stopped. Leo held back his sigh as Bartlet spoke. "Do you think we have a shot in hell?"

"What do you think?"

"I think that, even if we don't, it's going to be one hell of a ride from here on out."

Leo nodded. "Fasten your seatbelts."

They looked at each other for a moment in silence, both remembering a great lady, one they said goodbye to for the last time only hours earlier.

"She would have loved this," Bartlet said. "Well, she wouldn't have loved the turn of events that's gotten us to this point, but she... She would have liked this campaign."

"It's going to be the campaign of campaigns, that's for sure. It's going to go down in the history books."

"I think I'm already down in the history books."

"Some kid, sitting in freshman history class in one hundred years, is going to be feeling sorry for himself. He's going to bury his nose in comic books, wishing for divine inspiration. His teacher is going to give him an assignment he will absolutely dread: a biography of a president. He's not going to know which one to do. All the ones he knows will be taken. His teacher will look up at him and ask: have you ever heard of Josiah Bartlet? He'll look blankly at her and ask if he happens to be from his hometown, which he won't be. He'll spend the week reading anything and everything he can get his hands on that has anything at all to do with this President, this Josiah Bartlet character. He'll write a speech and talk about the embodiment of courage, independence, and, well, grace that was more than evident in the President he's studying. He'll see that, just because he's one of those kids with very little going for him, he does have some valuable assets that he can use: ambition, fierceness, willpower. He'll grow up to be the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States, and he'll torture his Senior Staffers with Big Block of Cheese Day and counsel his best friend, the President, on politics and policy. And in another one hundred years, it'll start all over again. And one hundred years after that..."

"I won't go down with the likes of Kennedy or Washington or the Roosevelts..."

"No, you won't."

"With Nixon..."

"You'll go down in a class all by yourself. We're doing things the world never thought possible. And we're going to keep doing them for six years." Leo was silent for a moment before smiling a little. "Let Bartlet be Bartlet."

"See you in the morning, Leo."

"Sleep well, Mr. President."

End.

~Lines from the next story in the series, 'Fight or Flight':

Leo didn't get to finish his call for help as he tried to control his out-of-control airplane; his radio died. Practically all of his navigational equipment failed. The only thing left to do was eject.

"Mary, our lady of Loreto. My family needs me. My country needs me. Purgatory don't need me yet," he murmured as he punched out.

 

The End

 

 

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