For disclaimer and notes, please see part one.
Previously on the West Wing: Young Sam learns of Uncle John's abusive
behavior, leading Crys and Sam to start "Operation Sober-Up." As the
plane lands in Dublin, Sam hears from Crystal.
The pièce de résistance came late that night, after John had
spent the better part of his day in court. Crys and I were playing
Monopoly in the living room, making sure we had a clear view of the
liquor cabinet in the dining room. Julia was out for the evening,
making her society rounds, leaving us alone to watch the drama
unfurl. Crys rolled the dice quietly and moved the top hat the
number of spaces, landing on a Chance square as John made his way to
the liquor cabinet. "Here we go," I whispered. John pulled his keys
from his pocket, found the key for the liquor cabinet and inserted it
into the lock. He turned it, expecting to hear the tumbler turn.
Instead, the door remained locked. He tried it two more times before
turning to us.
"The door's locked," he said simply.
"Gee, that's weird, Dad," Crys said as she sat up from lying
on her stomach on the carpeted floor.
"Sam, do me a favor." She glanced at me quickly.
"What can I do for you?"
"Try your hand at this lock."
"Um, okay," I said as I stood up. Crys slowly stood as I
crossed to the dining room. I glanced at her as I tried the lock.
Crys was biting her lower lip again. "I think it's stuck, Uncle
John." He sighed and muttered something I couldn't hear. "Uncle
"The shower is broken. I couldn't find my good shoes. My
tie was starched-my tie of all things. My coffee was terrible. I
had a flat tire on the way to work. I had the wrong briefs in my
briefcase for trial today. My phone quit working. My assistant
quit." We hadn't planned that one. "The intercom only links to Mr.
Prichard's office. My watch died. Somebody keyed my car sometime
after lunch." We hadn't planned that one, either. "I locked my keys
in my car while I was parked in front of the courthouse. I lost the
case. My wallet didn't have any money in it so I couldn't call the
locksmith." We had planned carefully on that one, not that we knew
he'd lock his keys in his car. We had hoped he'd run out of gas or
take a client to lunch and come up shorthanded. "I had to have one
of the criminals out on bail jimmy the lock. I get pulled over
because one of my taillights is out, resulting in a ticket. I come
home and want a drink and the damn cabinet lock is messed up, too!"
John decided he'd scream the last sentence at us. "If I were a
paranoid man, I'd think somebody's out to get me today." I bit my
tongue to keep from saying that paranoid people think others are out
to get them every day. "Go to the store, Sam, and pick me up a six
"John, I-" I stammered. Sure, I was old enough to drink,
but there was no way I'd go get anything for him.
"He doesn't have any money, Dad," Crys said, walking up to
us. He looked at her, then to me, then back at her.
"I get it."
"Get what, Dad?" she asked.
"You did this, you little brat."
"I did what? What are you talking about?"
"Woah," I said, trying to get between them again. John
shoved me out of the way and grabbed Crys around the throat, picking
her up off the ground. She gasped for air and clawed at his large,
meaty hands as he squeezed. The next moment was almost like I was
watching myself rather than actually experiencing what I did. I know
I did it but I don't feel like I did. To this day, I don't. I
picked up a chair from the dinette set and slammed it on John's back,
splintering two of the wooden legs off. He dropped Crys nearly
instantly and turned to me with a look of indignation.
"I don't understand why you children have turned against me,"
he growled. "You won't get away with this." I was afraid he'd
attack me but, due to the blow to the back, he could do little more
than lean on the dinning room table for support. Crys was still
sputtering for air and crawling towards me. I went to help her up
when John, using whatever strength he had left, charged at me. We
both fell into the liquor cabinet, creating a large hole in the
door. So much for switching the lock. After the cabinet, we fell to
"Sam!" Crys yelled hoarsely. John had a gash on his forehead
where he had connected with the heavy frame of the cabinet. I knew I
had hurt my head and hoped it wasn't too bad. John was on top of me,
preventing me from getting up.
"John?" I asked, looking at him. "Uncle John?"
"You kids. I don't get it."
"Get your head out of a bottle and maybe you'll understand,"
I said, sliding out from under him.
"Are you okay, Sam?" Crys asked, giving me a hand up.
"Relatively," I said; my back was killing me and my head was
"Daddy?" John had rolled onto his back, breathing heavily.
"I'm all right, Crystal," he said. "Sorry. I'm sorry." I
helped Crys move John from the dining room to the living room sofa,
where she started first aid for God only knows what reasons.
I watched as she worked, wondering how my father was so
different from hers. They were raised in the same household. They
both grew up to be attorneys. They both married and raised a
family. My father rarely drank. Even at his silly cocktail parties,
he would only sip his drink, never even finishing one. Crys ran her
fingers through her hair as she walked to me. Her cheeks were damp
from tears that had silently fallen. "Should we call an ambulance or
drive him to the hospital at least?" She shook her head.
"Daddy says he's okay," she said. Her accent was more
pronounced than normal. It always seemed to be that way whenever she
was upset. "Are you okay?"
"Nothing but a bump on the back of my head." As I spoke, I
reached around to the knot I could feel forming on my head.
Something wasn't right. My hair was squishy. Pulling my hand back
in front of me, Crys inhaled sharply at the sight of my blood.
"Come sit down," she said, guiding me to a chair in the
dining room. She sprinted back to the living room to retrieve the
first aid kit. She dabbed at the wound with some sort of astringent,
which made my scalp feel as though it were on fire.
"You do know what you're doing, right?" I asked through
"They had a Red Cross class last semester at school," she
explained. "You want to see my card?"
"Man, Mom is going to freak when she sees the cabinet."
"Maybe," I said. "Maybe not."
"When she sees the chair, she definitely will." The broken
chair sat on the floor, a tribute to domestic abuse and dysfunctional
families everywhere. "All fixed," she said as she finished taping a
gauze bandage to the back of my head.
"Not really," I said as I stood up. Crys's eyes were
watering and she was still biting her lower lip. I could see
headlights out the front window. "Your mom."
"I *so* don't want to be here," she said.
"Come on." I had every intention of slipping away up to the
second floor and bringing Crys with me before Julia came in, hoping
Julia would think we had left the house for a little while. We had
to cross through the living room to get to the stairs.
"Crystal, could you bring me a glass of water?" He's my
uncle, he's family. You're not supposed to hate anybody in your
family no matter what kind of stunts they pull. He easily could have
killed Crys, his own daughter. How can you love somebody like that?
"Sure, Daddy." Unconditional love. I didn't know there was
such a thing until that night. Crys would always love her father
just as I would always love her. She was, in essence, my sister.
When she disappeared into the kitchen, I could do nothing but glare
at my uncle. He looked at me with his hazel eyes. They seemed empty
"Are you… How are you feeling, Sam?" Pissed. Murderously
angry. I knew he was talking about in a physical sense, but telling
him I was okay didn't seem to make any sense to me. I was far from
"John? I'm home, dear!" Julia walked into the living room
and saw John on the couch with a bandage on his forehead. "John?
Are you all right?"
"Julia, hon," John said, trying to sit up.
"And what happened in the dining room?" Julia
asked. "Crystal?" I looked at Crys, who was looking at her mother
timidly from the kitchen. "Sam? What happened here tonight?"
"Okay, you really are scaring the hell out of me, Sam."
Ireland. You're in an Irish hotel, Sam, and you're on business.
Focus. Stay focused.
"Sorry, Josh." In a haze that is my past, I must have
unpacked because my suitcases are empty.
"Are you going to be okay at this meeting?"
"Because, if you're not, I'll cover for you. It's no
"I'll be fine."
Somehow, I survived the meetings with the Northern Ireland
representatives and could only hope Josh was having some success with
the Ireland spokespeople. It's never bothered me before to travel
with this job. I don't know why I want to be home right now, but I'd
give anything to be back in my little apartment in Arlington. Maybe
I am getting old and don't see my birthday as a fun event anymore.
Maybe it's the fact that I still feel sick whenever I think of Uncle
John. Seeing him after waking up from getting shot wasn't exactly my
idea of a happy reunion. Crys has forgiven him. Why can't I? "All
right, birthday boy," said Josh as he came up behind me. "You get
"President Bartlet's going to have his work cut out for him."
"Yeah," he said with a sigh. "But, hey. Today's your day.
I already called the White House. Leo said we could report tomorrow
when they show up."
"When will they be arriving?"
"Around noon sometime." I nodded, though I honestly couldn't
care less at this moment. "All right. Come on."
"Where are we going?" He practically dragged me up out of
the chair in the conference center lobby.
"The pub Crystal suggested."
"I really don't feel like it tonight, Josh. How about
"The rest of the week is extensively scheduled. Tonight's
our only free night. That doesn't give us much time to go get
"Is it absolutely necessary that we get plastered?"
"By the way you've been acting today, absolutely." It was
only six o'clock.
"Tell you what, why don't we meet at this O'Grady's place in
"Where are you going to go for an hour?"
"For a walk. I'll see you there." No, Josh. There's no way
I'm going to let you have a chance to respond. I need some air. I
need some space. I need to quit reliving my past. Forgive and
forget. Why can't I seem to do either?
Crys and I sat in the guest room quietly. I didn't know what
to say and I'm sure she didn't either. Crys had been right. Julia
had gone ballistic when we told her what had happened. "I don't
blame you if you decide to go back to L.A. when your parents get
home," she said finally
"I'm not leaving, Crys."
"You won't hurt my feelings or anything."
"I'm not going until I know you're going to be okay. If that
means I miss the start of my freshman year at Princeton, so be it."
"I mean it, Crys. I'm going to make sure everything's okay
for you before I do anything." She started chewing on her lower lip
again. I was surprised she didn't bite it off entirely.
"You seem kinda mad."
"I am," I confessed, "but not at you."
"At Dad?" I didn't say anything but I was royally upset with
John. "I'm sorry I asked you to come here."
"I shouldn't have."
"I don't know what I was thinkin'. I should've flown out to
L.A. like always."
"If I hadn't come here, I wouldn't have gotten to see the
fireworks over D.C."
"I almost got you arrested, remember?"
"Nah. Besides, you got me thinking."
"About the future. I'm going to come back to Washington,
"I'm going to do more with my law degree than anybody in this
"I don't understand," she said, shaking her head.
"I don't know what I'm going to do yet, but I'm not just
going to spend my days in a courtroom. I'm going to do more. I'm
going to help create these damn laws."
"You gonna run for Congress?"
"I might just do that, Crys. Would you vote for me?"
"Sure. I'll even campaign for you."
"Is that a promise?"
"You bet." She actually cracked a smile, a bloody smile.
"Crys, your lip-"
"What about it?" she asked, touching the back of her hand to
her mouth. "Oh man! I didn't even notice it this time."
"This time?" That didn't sound good. I followed her into
the nearest bathroom and watched as she looked at her wound in the
"Oh, you know," she said. I could tell she was trying to
make light of the situation but she wasn't going to get out that
"Crys, I've seen you nervous. I know you bite that lip.
You've never bitten that hard when you've been in California."
"In California, I don't worry so much about my dad. He's… I
dunno… Better behaved, I guess, in public or when we get together at
Christmas." She patched her lip quickly, like she'd been doing it
for a while.
"Why didn't you ever report it, Crys?"
"He's my dad, Sam. No matter what he does, he's half the
reason I'm alive right now."
"That doesn't mean you have to put up with it, Crys."
"He's a well-respected lawyer. Mom or I file charges and his
career is over, turning our little family upside down and inside
out. Mom's hoity-toity friends and Dad's colleagues'd ostracize us.
In case you're wonderin', Sam, you can't live in this area without
connections. Our little D.C. suburban life would be gone, ripped out
from under us."
"Crys, he tried to kill you. That's attempted murder."
"Give him time to sober up, Sam," she said. "That's the
point of this whole thing. He'll get sober and this'll all end."
"Crys, he's had *years* to get clean and he hasn't."
"Our plan's going to work," she said with a nod.
"What happens if it doesn't?"
"It will." That defiance. Stubborn as a mule, that girl.
"If it doesn't, make me a promise."
"It will," she insisted.
"But if it doesn't, Crys, promise me you'll call me. I'll
get you out of here."
"This is my home, Sam."
"This isn't a home. This is a place you sleep and eat and go
when you're not somewhere else. A home is where people love and care
for each other. You said yourself you didn't think your parents
cared for you. Promise me, Crystal."
Uncle John did manage to stay off the bottle. He enrolled
himself into an Alcoholics Anonymous program as well as an anger
management course. Every time I called Crys from Princeton, I had
her give me reports on John. I had every intention of keeping that
promise. If anything else happened to her, I was going to pull her
out of there. I was willing to try the case against him myself, bar
exam or no bar exam. Part of me is glad the situation never reached
that point. Part of me is horrified that it was ever allowed to get
that far in the first place. She told me that, looking back, maybe
she should have gone to the local police, that it would have ended
the sorrows much sooner. She wonders now if her childhood worries of
her life changing drastically were logical at all. At the time, she
truly believed it. She truly believed her parents didn't love her,
though every teenager goes through that at some point. She's told me
that she can't honestly say whether or not she would go back and
change anything. Uncle John is repentant, but there's something I
still distrust in him. It's kind of like an ember in a dying fire.
Most of my resentment towards him has vanished, but there's still the
minuscule part of me that says he's the same and wants to keep Crys
away from him. Then again, he's living a couple blocks from my
parents now. Dad's had a fairly good influence on his little
brother. I know Crys is still a little hesitant around Uncle John.
But I also know that the whole thing brought their family closer as
he was going to those meetings. Aunt Julia stayed at home more often
to listen to Crys and her stories of school and wound up
orchestrating a Career Day at Crys's high school. She pulled all her
society strings to make it the best the school had ever had. Uncle
John paid for most of it and became more active at church. I'm
afraid, though, that I'll always have my doubts.
Instead of walking around, I found a nice bench and pulled a
notebook from my briefcase. I finished President Bartlet's speech
and will hand-deliver it to Toby when he arrives tomorrow. I somehow
felt better about the whole thing, about my past and the present
after finishing that speech. Everyone needs a little peace in their
lives. I think this crazy speech that the President will deliver
tomorrow evening to both Irish delegations helped me find my own
peace. Forgiveness certainly isn't something you can turn on at the
drop of a hat. It takes time and soul searching. One of the
Irishmen I met today told me something that stuck in my head and has
been bouncing around ever since. "However long the road, there comes
a turning." Those crazy Irish. Fighting mad one minute and
incredibly wise the next. What an interesting country.
I found O'Grady's easily enough, after, of course, I had
found a taxi. It's a little place off the beaten path, loaded with
Irish ambiance, complete with a thatched roof and a stone fence
around it. Walking inside, I see Josh immediately. He's sitting at
the bar, looking at the vast array of bottles behind the bartender,
surrounded by two ladies. What is this, Josh? Come on. Tell me
you're not stepping out on Crys with *two* women. "Josh?" I don't
believe it. I honestly don't believe it. Josh turned when I said
his name, but so did his two female companions, Crys and Mallory
O'Brien. I'll be damned.
"Happy birthday, Sam!" Crys said, jumping up to give me a hug.
"What're you doing here?" is all I can manage to say as I
pick her up, just as I had done for years.
"We can't come surprise you?" Crys asked.
"This is definitely a surprise." With Crys back on the
ground, Mal spins me around to see her.
"Happy birthday, Sam," Mal said before kissing me. I left
this morning, having seen her last night, but it still feels like an
eternity every time we're apart.
"And what a lovely birthday it's turning out to be."
"Come, Sam. Take a seat," Josh said, gesturing to the long
line of bar stools. With Mal on my arm and Crys grinning at me, we
make our way to the bar. It's my turn to sit in between two of the
most important ladies in my life.
"What'll it be?" asked the bartender in a thick Irish brogue.
"Pints all around!" Josh declared.
"Wait just a minute." Crys looks at me strangely, then
"You'd like something else?" asked the bartender.
"Club soda!" Crys and I answer at the same time, causing both
Mal and Josh to wonder what's going on, especially as we break into
laughter. Maybe I'll tell Mal some day and maybe Crys will fill Josh
in on her childhood. But not tonight. Tonight is my night. No more
trips down memory lane. No more mean-spirited thoughts. Just me, my
girlfriend, my best friend, and the woman who knows more about me
than anybody and all of us sitting in this quaint Irish pub where no
one will bother looking for us. You know, sometimes life isn't all
End... For now. ;)