For notes and disclaimer, please see part one.

Previously, on the West Wing: Sam and Mallory share their first kiss since the picture and openly share their feelings. The next morning, Leo, Josh, Toby, and C.J. learn that Sam spent the night in Mallory's room. Sam and Leo argue in the hotel corridor until Mallory comes to help clear the confusion.

"The Save the Sea Oats Council meeting is first," Leo said distractedly. The episode in the hallway this morning with Sam coming out of Mallory's room was still fresh on his mind.

"Is this like a cheese meeting?" asked C.J.

"Of course it isn't," said Leo. Margaret, standing behind him, nodded. "After that is the wax museum thing."

"Leo, about the wax museum, every time I turn around, Sam has removed the paragraph about being between Stalin and Hitler," said Toby.

"He didn't remove it," said the President.

"I'm sorry, sir?" asked Toby.

"He didn't remove the paragraph."

"Well then who did?"

"I did."

"You did, Mr. President?" asked Toby.

"I think it's going to be great, being in two places at once," said Bartlet. "I don't care if, in one of my places, I'm stuck between Hitler and Stalin and two Republican Senators or Sam and Leo. I like that I'm being honored in such a way, so I'm *not* going to say that paragraph."

"You heard about what happened this morning?" asked Leo as Sam entered the room, having taken a quick shower, shaved, and dressed in a business suit. Leo couldn't stop his catty remark. "So nice of you to join us this morning."

"With that attitude, Leo, you had better believe I heard. According to C.J., we're very lucky the White House Press Corps didn't hear it."

"Hear what?" asked Sam, regarding Leo coolly.

"Something best discussed in a moment," said Bartlet. "After the wax museum, we're going to Broadway!" he said happily.

"The aquarium," specified Leo. "Lunch is at the Key West Grille down there, followed by some shopping as I understand it, and possibly impromptu interviews with the press."

"You mean campaign stops," said Sam. "Why don't we say what it is we're really doing down here? We had trouble down here during the primary as well as the actual election. We're trying to shore up support."

"That's not the *only* reason we're down here," said Bartlet. "We're here for the seafood, the sun, the meetings with prominent South Carolina Democrats, and some precursory re-election stops."

"And to score with the boss's daughter," Leo added under his breath.

Bartlet whacked his friend in the arm. "You bugged the hell out of me when Charlie and Zoey started dating," the President reminded him.

"It was a lot funnier then."

"We're going to be late for the cheese meeting," said Margaret.

"It is *not* a cheese meeting," said Leo.

"We're still going to be late for it," Margaret said.

The Senior Staff and assistants filed out of Leo's room while the Chief of Staff packed his briefcase.

"You know, I think I had a right to be upset when Zoey and Charlie started seeing each other."

"How do you figure?"

"Because she's still in school."

"So's Mallory," Leo said.

"Does Mallory have a degree?"

"Yes."

"I rest my case."

"You're not a lawyer," protested Leo.

"I am trying to make a point."

"What point is that?"

"You can't control your daughter's life anymore than I can control any of my daughters'."

"I am not trying to control her life," said Leo.

"And accusing her and Sam of doing something I am positive you did before you were married isn't controlling?"

"No."

"All right, not so much controlling as being a *way* overprotective father."

"I am not overprotective," said Leo. "I'm just protective enough."

"You could cut the tension between you and Sam with a knife."

"Could not."

"Leo, C.J. said that had you two argued two seconds longer, Danny Concannon would have led the White House Press Corps up through your fist fight."

"No punches were thrown," said Leo.

"Yeah, but you wanted to hit him, didn't you?"

"I did not."

"You can tell me the truth, Leo; it's all right."

"I did not want to physically harm Sam in that way."

"'In that way,'" repeated Bartlet. "In what way did you wish to cause Sam physical harm?"

"In the way that he would never be able to touch my daughter, let alone look at her or do whatever the hell it is they did last night and the night before."

"*And* the night before?" asked Bartlet with a raised eyebrow.

"Yes."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"Do you have proof?"

"Nothing that would hold up in court. But we aren't in court, are we?"

"Leo," said Bartlet in exasperation.

"What?"

"We've been friends for decades."

"Yes, we have."

"I was there when Mallory was born."

"Yes, you were. Just as I was with you when Liz, Ellie, and Zoey were born."

"That's right. We were at each other's weddings."

"Yes."

"And I have a feeling I'm going to watch you give Mallory away."

"Do *not* go there, Mr. President."

"You know I consider Mallory to be like one of my own girls."

"I know."

"I've let all my little girls grow up, including Zoey who is several years younger than Mallory."

"Your point?"

"If Mallory wants to date Sam, let her."

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because I see too much of us in that boy," muttered Leo.

"What was that?"

"Because I see too much of you *and* me in him," Leo said. "There. I said it. Are you happy?"

"What do you mean? You see us in him?"

"You and your intelligence. I heard about the Jeopardy conversation on Air Force One. Also, the both of you have this tendency to be... the occasional klutz, no offense."

"Gee, thanks, Leo."

"You're welcome," Leo said as he started for the door.

"How is he like you?" asked Bartlet, catching his old friend's arm.

"What?"

"You said you saw the both of us in Sam. How do you see yourself in him?"

"Besides the fact that we both love Mallory?"

"Yes."

"You didn't see her eyes when she saw the picture," Leo said quietly. "You didn't see the look of just... fury, hatred... I've seen that look in her eyes a hundred times. When I drank, when I took pills, she hated me, Jed."

"Well, none of us were exactly thrilled with your problem."

"I don't want her to get hurt anymore. God knows she's had to put up with more than enough from me."

"And you think keeping them apart is going to make her happy?" asked Bartlet.

"I can't protect my daughter from getting her heart broken?"

"No," Bartlet said.

"Well, this conversation just keeps making me feel better and better."

"You can't shelter her from everything, Leo."

"He slept with a prostitute."

"He didn't know."

"I can't protect her from his stupidity?"

"He's not stupid. He saw right through our little 'oh, no, we're not campaigning' bit this morning."

"Oh, they all know we're campaigning already. I think your State of the Union clued everyone in."

"But he stood up to us and called us on it. None of the others were even going to touch on that."

"And that makes him smart?"

"He's an amazing writer, Leo."

"Good. They can be pen pals."

"Y'know, people call me stubborn and a stick-in-the-mud."

"Are you implying that I am stubborn and a stick-in-the-mud?"

"Yes."

"I am a father in pain," said Leo.

Bartlet smiled, remembering a familiar exchange. This time the roles were reversed. "Really, you're just a pain."

"Mr. President—"

"You called me Jed earlier, you can continue to do so as we stand here, in this hotel room, and argue about your daughter's future."

"I don't want to argue about my daughter's future."

"Of course you don't. You just want to keep her seventeen years old forever."

"Sam's office is just down from mine a little ways. I'm sorry, but I think it's awfully *strange* to think about what he did to—"

"With," corrected Bartlet.

"My daughter," said Leo, never missing a beat, "while he's sitting in his office just down the hall."

"You know what would absolutely blow your mind?" asked Bartlet.

"Dear God, I don't want to know."

"Charlie's desk is right outside the Oval Office door."

"I swear, if you move Sam's office to where he's right outside my office—"

"I wouldn't *dream* of it, Leo. Speaking of work, you know, you're right."

"Thank you."

"Don't you want to hear why you're right?"

"I don't think so. I just want to live with the knowledge that you're agreeing with me."

"You and Sam are both workaholics."

"See, and that is *exactly* what tore Jenny and me apart."

"You know what, though?"

"What?"

"Mallory isn't Jenny."

"I knew that was coming," groaned Leo.

"Mallory still puts up with your incessant working."

"She's my daughter; we weren't married to each other."

"Jenny's father wasn't a workaholic. She wasn't used to it."

"You're telling me that, with my working habits, I somehow prepared her for this?"

Bartlet thought for a minute, then nodded. "Yes. Yeah, I really do believe that."

"Has anyone told you you're insane?"

"Not in the last few minutes, no."

"Well, let me be the one to fix that: Mr. President, that's an absolutely insane idea."

"I don't think so."

"I do," said Leo.

"See, y'know what else?"

"I wish you'd stop asking me that."

"It's always been said that girls always are attracted to men just like their fathers."

"Okay, we're still best friends, right?"

"Of course we are."

"Then, could you *possibly* back me up here?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because you're wrong to try to keep Mallory *and* Sam from a little happiness. Lord knows that boy needs somebody who can keep his head on straight. Think about it: if he's with Mallory, do you honestly think he's going to be picking up call girls in bars?"

"Tell me there hasn't been another hooker."

"There hasn't been. But..."

"I hate arguing with you."

"We're not arguing. I'm telling you that you're wrong in your logic."

"And how is that different from arguing?"

"I'm the President. I say it isn't arguing." Leo rolled his eyes. "Executive order," said Bartlet. "The next time you dare to roll your eyes at the President of the United States of America, you're going to have to give Sam *every* Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night off so he can take Mallory out."

"You can't do that."

"I'm the President."

Stay tuned...

~Lines from the next installment: "It's 'ew'?" asked Danny Concannon from the other side of the tank. "Can I quote you on that for my article?"

Part 9

 

 

 

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