For disclaimer and notes, please see part one.

Previously, on the West Wing: Young Leo meets young Jed for the first time at Camp Adams.

At dinnertime, the boys were congregating around the dining room. The doors hadn't been opened yet, but it was getting close to time. Jed met up with his fellow camper buddies and they questioned him. "Where'd you go at lunch?"

"I ate outside. It's been such a nice day today..."

"You've been talking to that worker boy all day."

"Not all day," said Jed. "And what does it matter anyway?"

"I thought we talked about this at breakfast."

Jed didn't like being ganged up on by his so-called friends. "He's a guy just like you and me."

"He's nothing like us. Don't you see?"

"He's our age. He knows some fascinating things about history, politics," said Jed. "He's considering going to my father's school."

"He'd never make it. There's no way he could pay for it."

"The school does offer scholarships..."

"He's not smart enough anyway. He'd never make it. Have you heard the way he talks? There isn't a proper, complete sentence anywhere. I doubt he's ever heard of grammar."

"So what if he doesn't talk like us. Have you heard Rhett in cabin twelve speak? He's got a thick Southern drawl. I'm sure he thinks that we're all uneducated by the way we talk."

"There's nothing wrong with the way we talk, Jed. There's plenty wrong with the way that boy talks and the way Rhett and the rest of the Southern crowd talk."

Jed sighed and shook his head.

"You know we're right."

"I know you're elitists."

"We're better than they are."

"We're all Americans," said Jed, "and therefore we're all equal."

The boys with Jed looked at each other for a while. As the door to the dining room opened, one of them spoke up. "I think, boys, that Jed, here, isn't one of us." They walked into the dining hall, leaving Jed standing in the evening air.

Jed wondered how people could be so cruel, how they could be so heartless, so completely blind to the real ways of the world. They were so caught up in their society life that they couldn't see the truth. And they'd never see it, Jed decided. With a heavy sigh, he entered the dining room, made his way through the dinner line, and found an empty table and sat down.

~~~

Leo, working in the kitchen, scrubbed the pots and utensils that had been used to cook dinner while the campers ate. There were several others in the kitchen, scouring the counters, some still serving food. Leo hadn't been able to get the idea of a possible scholarship to a good school out of his head. He could see the pride that would be in his mother's eyes upon receiving the scholarship letter. He could picture himself hunched over his desk in his dorm, studying government and literature. He knew he'd struggle a little with some of the classics, but he knew he'd get through it. He'd have to because he'd have to work to keep that scholarship.

His head in the clouds, he wasn't paying much attention to the dishes he was cleaning. Reaching into the basin for the next item to clean, he sliced his hand on a knife. Pulling his hand out of the basin, he looked at his bleeding hand in some kind of haze. He didn't necessarily feel the cut, but somehow he knew he had hurt himself. One of the other workers in the kitchen saw him back away from the sink and saw his red hand.

All hell broke loose in the kitchen.

~~~

The boys in the dining room stood up and looked towards the kitchen, wondering what was going on. Some of them talked amongst themselves while others took a few tentative steps towards the kitchen. Jed was in the lead and pushed the door open, just enough to get a peek inside. When he saw Leo with his eyes closed tightly, obviously in pain, he entered. The other boys in the dining room opened both swinging doors wide open to look inside.

Jed crossed to Leo and the other workers around him. "What happened?" asked Jed. He saw the blood dripping down from Leo's hand and looked at his friend's face as one of the workers wrapped a clean dishtowel around his hand.

"We've got to get him to the clinic cabin," said one of the workers.

"I'll take him," Jed said, looking at the worker.

The worker sized Jed up quickly then nodded. "Go," he said. "Quickly. Out the back door," he said, nodding towards it.

Jed helped Leo to his feet and guided him out the back door of the kitchen. Jed's other "friends" stood at the door to the dining room and shook their heads.

"Jed?" asked Leo, his voice somewhat weak.

"Yeah?"

"Thanks."

"You all right?"

"I think... I'm gonna... I'm gonna need stitches."

"What happened?"

"Cut... my hand."

They had to pass the tennis courts and the swimming pool, cross the bridge, and race past six cabins before reaching the 'clinic.' Jed sat and watched as the camp doctor cleaned and patched Leo's wound. The cut didn't require stitches, but he was bleeding somewhat profusely for a while.

"I'm going to call your mother, have her come pick you up," said the doctor.

"Don't botha," Leo said.

"Leo, you should go home now. You won't be able to do any work around here for a couple days with that hand messed up now."

Leo winced. "I know, but you can't call 'er."

"Why not?" asked the doctor.

"She ain't there. I'll ride my bike home like always, no problem."

"Not with that hand on the handlebars," the doctor said, nodding towards Leo's bandages.

"Ya can't call my mother and I can't miss any work 'cause a this," Leo said, looking at the layers of gauze on his palm.

"I'm sorry, Leo."

"I can't, Doc Miller. I can't."

"You don't have a choice. I'm going to talk to Mr. Lange, and then I'm calling your mother. What's her work number?"

Leo shook his head and slid off the cot he had been sitting on. "I gotta finish those dishes—"

Dr. Miller caught Leo by the upper arm. "You have to go home."

Jed piped up for the first time since arriving at the cabin. "I'll see to it that he makes it home, doctor."

Dr. Miller glanced at Jed for a moment before answering, "You can't leave the grounds; you're a camper." Turning back to Leo, he said, "I'm going to talk to Mr. Lange. If you show up for work tomorrow, you will be escorted back home, where you will stay until that hand of yours is healed. Now, stay put. If your mom can't come get you, I'll see to it that someone can drive you home."

Jed and Leo were quiet as Dr. Miller left the cabin. Leo started counting down from ten.

"What are you doing?" asked Jed, confused.

"Eight... counting... seven..."

"Why?"

"'Cause. Six..."

"Leo—"

"Gimme a minute, five... four... three... two..." He walked to the cabin door and waited. "One." Opening the door he peeked out to see Dr. Miller turn the corner towards the main gathering hall. Leaving the cabin, he glanced back at Jed. "Comin'?"

Jed didn't hesitate to follow. "What're we doing now?"

"You're gonna go finish your dinner. I'm gonna... I dunno. Sweep the gym again a somethin'."

"You heard what the doctor said: you can't work until you're healed."

"I can't not work, Jed."

"Why?"

"'Cause if I do... Power gets turned off again. Water quits. We lose the apartment... I can't not work."

"Leo," breathed Jed.

"Little Liz's birthday is comin' up in two weeks. I can't *not* work, Jed. I gotta get outta here before Doc Miller comes back."

"If he's gone to tell Mr. Lange that you aren't to work for all this time, then what are you going to do? Avoid them the next few days?"

Leo hadn't really worked the kinks out of his plan yet. Hearing Jed's question, he nodded. "Yeah. I'll stay two steps ahead of 'em. I can do it."

"What if they catch you?"

"They won't."

"What if they do?"

"Look, Jed, either ya help me or ya don't."

Jed was silent for a moment. "What do you want me to do?"

Leo grinned a little, a hint of a lopsided smile. "Which cabin is yours?"

"Six."

"C'mon."

The two boys charged into the darkening night and raced up the steps into cabin five. "I said my cabin was six," said Jed.

"I know," Leo said, creeping through the cabin towards the window.

"Then, what are we doing in cabin five?"

"They'd come lookin' in your cabin," he said. "Shh."

Jed joined Leo at the window and they watched, very quietly, as Mr. Lange and Dr. Miller walked down the dirt path in between the rows of cabins. They could hear part of the conversation.

"I told him to stay put," Dr. Miller said.

"Leo's a good worker. He's going to want to work through his pain."

"He should go home, let his hand heal."

"He won't."

"You've got to send him home when you find him."

"Edward—"

"I'm serious, Tom. You've got to. If he gets it infected, it won't be good."

"I hate to send the kid home. He's one of the best workers I've got."

"How good do you think he'll do if his hand *never* heals? If it's a festering wound for the rest of the summer?"

"What if there was something else he could do?"

Jed and Leo exchanged glances.

"What do you mean?" asked Dr. Miller.

"If he could do something in the main office? Look over the applications for the next session?"

"You'd trust him with all the money that's up there in the office?"

"Sure."

"I still suggest against it. Strongly. And not just for medical reasons."

"Edward, you know how many times I wish someone had given me the benefit of the doubt? How many times I wish someone had given me a *chance* when I was a kid?"

"Tom, I don't think this boy is like you."

"He's exactly like me. Except for the fact that my father didn't blow his own brains out."

Leo walked away from the window and rubbed his forehead with his uninjured hand. Jed, in silent shock, watched Leo in the dimly lit cabin. Dr. Miller's voice garnered Jed's attention again.

"The boy has to be unstable."

"Then I think he deserves something relatively constant in his life, don't you think? He throws himself into his work here. He needs the structure. I think sending him home for a couple days would do more damage than good. So he had a little accident in the kitchen. He deserves a chance, Edward."

"When this comes back and bites you in the ass, don't come crying to me," Dr. Miller said before storming off.

Cabin five was eerily quiet. Jed and Leo sat on the floor on opposite sides of the cabin, looking right at each other. They were two kids from very different families, from very different backgrounds. Jed Bartlet's held an air of dignity, of prestige, of money. Leo McGarry's held one of scandal, of near desolation, of desperate poverty.

"Helluva way to find out, huh?" Leo asked finally.

~~~

Jed Bartlet sat on one couch in the Oval Office, Leo McGarry on the other. The room seemed darker than normal for some reason. It could be the storm raging outside or the massive decision they were trying to make. There was also the possibility of the darkness due to the fact that one of the bright lights they knew, loved, and cherished had been extinguished too early. Neither could be positive of the reason. They merely knew it was there.

They had argued for hours, going over every possible outcome, looking over Joey Lucas's frightening polling numbers. Ever since they returned to the White House from the National Cathedral, they had been talking about the possibility of running for re-election. The odds against the sitting President were staggering and they both knew it. Abbey had said it in the car—if Jed stood back and threw his support behind Hoynes, it was possible that the Democrats could keep the White House, a progressive agenda could remain in place.

As they sat in silence, exhausted from the arguing and theorizing, Leo looked at his hands, at the faint hairline scar that remained on his hand from years ago. Jed, who had been having a far-off look in his eyes all day, looked up at his old friend.

"Remember how I learned about your father?" he asked after a long, quiet moment in the Oval.

"How could I forget? I figured you would walk out the cabin door and not look back."

"Sins of the father don't apply, Leo."

"Yeah, you say that now."

"I said it then, too."

"Yeah, you did."

"I hope my children forgive me."

"Liz and Ellie and Zoey have been nothing but supportive of this, not to mention my daughter, who thinks of you as a second father anyway."

"Being supportive and giving forgiveness are two separate things."

"They all love you."

"Yeah," Jed said, although he didn't sound very convinced. There was another long spell of silence before he spoke up again. "Toby's meeting with that guy, right?"

Leo nodded. "Yeah."

"He's going to take the job?"

"Maybe. Maybe not."

"If he takes it, that means he's just being supportive for the time being, that he'll never forgive me."

"Toby is Toby, Mr. President. I don't think it necessarily means one thing or another," Leo said. He knew, though, deep down, that Toby wouldn't be jumping ship.

"You've met with them more than I have on this. How are they... I mean... Are they..."

"I really don't think they're going to go anywhere, sir."

"Can you quit the 'sir' crap for an hour, Leo?" asked Jed.

"I'm just saying—"

"I'm not making this decision as the President; I'm making this decision as Jed Bartlet."

"How would you decide if you were the President?" asked Leo curiously.

"God, I don't know."

"How are you going to decide as Jed Bartlet?"

"I don't know that either. There are pros and cons to both sides, from both views... It's... They're hard to weigh."

"I know."

"The special prosecutor... Babish says he's going to be the most hateful devil spawn Republican..."

"Yeah."

"It's going to put everyone through hell, not just in the White House or Bartlet family, but... the entire country."

"Well, the press conference will really be the kicker there, Mr. President."

Bartlet stood and wandered over to the small wooden chest that hid his cigarettes and he pulled one from it and looked at it. The door suddenly swung open. Swallowing an exhausted curse, Bartlet slammed the door closed and looked at Leo. "I don't know if I can do it. I don't know if I can go through the campaign."

"You weren't sure if you could do it the first time."

"I barely made it the first time. Now with this..." he said, his voice drifting off as he gestured with the cigarette. He shook his head. "And with Joey's numbers... There's no way in hell, Leo."

"I didn't think there was any way in hell I'd ever make it to the Cabinet and I did. I didn't think there'd be any talking you into running in the first place and yet, here we are, in the Oval Office, talking about the possibility of a re-election."

"Josh was shot last year."

"I know. So were you."

"Shoulda confessed then, right?"

"In a way, you did."

"And the anesthesiologist didn't say a word afterwards."

"Right."

"Leo..." The door opened again. "Goddamn it!" thundered Bartlet as he stormed to it and slammed it closed. He thought about moving one of the antique chairs in front of it but figured the Secret Service might have a fit with that. Somebody would call it a fire hazard. He looked at his nearest, dearest, and oldest friend. "I can't do it, Leo. Call Josh, tell him... Tell them all I'm sorry."

End.

 

~Scenes from the next installment,  'Fasten Your Seatbelts': "Why, when you said that, did it look as though you were asking me about joining some insidious plot?"

 

 

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