Disclaimer:  We claim no ownership of these characters.  They are the property of Aaron Sorkin and NBC.

Authorsí Notes:  The following story takes place immediately following the shooting at the town hall meeting.  President Bartlet arrives back at the White House and begins to look back at how they all got there.  Flashback sequences are indicated by ~~ Present day sequences are indicated in bold.  As this is our first attempt at fan fiction writing we would enjoy any and all comments.  Thanks and happy reading.

Archive: okay, but please ask the authors first.

 

In The Beginning

By: Tara and Rachel

 

"Whoís been hit?  Whoís been hit?"  President Bartlet heard the frantic calls on the Secret Service radios as he sat in the limousine with his daughter, Zoey, who was sobbing in his arms. 

"Daddy, what happened?  Why would someone do this?"  Zoeyís questions tore at the Presidentís heart.  He couldnít understand it, how was he going to explain it to her? 

"Do we have a report on my staffís condition?"  The President quietly asked Ron Butterfield, who was head of his Secret Service detail. 

"Sir, the scene isnít secure, reports canít be verified at this time," Butterfield said grimly, "we have to get you back to the White House."

The presidential limo sped off towards 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, leaving the leader of the free world wondering about the fate of his friends.

 

The motorcade reached the White House in record time.  The President and Zoey were quickly escorted to the Oval Office, where the First Lady was waiting for them. 

"Thank God, youíre both all right," Mrs. Bartlet exclaimed breathlessly, as she enveloped them both in a hug. 

The First Family stayed like that for just a moment, the gravity of what they had witnessed hitting home.  President Bartlet jumped towards his desk and quickly dialed for Mrs. Landingham, his personal secretary. 

"Mrs. Landingham," he ordered, "get Ron Butterfield in here, NOW!"

He walked back to his wife and daughter and putting his arms around both of them he said, "Abby, why donít you take Zoey up to the residence and get her settled.  I have no idea about the rest of the staff, and I need to talk to Ron to get an update.  Iíll let you know as soon as I know something, I promise."

Abby nodded, "Of course," she turned to her daughter, "Zoey, come on dear, let me check you over.  Letís go upstairs."  She placed her arms protectively around her daughter and led her out of the Oval Office.

President Bartlet sank into his office chair, the most powerful man in the free world and he felt totally helpless as he waited for word on his staff.  They were more than just a staff; they were his friends, his most trusted advisors. In a way, they had become family.  How did they arrive at this point?  He turned to stare at the window as he remembered how this whole presidency began.

 

~~~~ Thanksgiving, 1997, the Governorís Mansion, Concord New Hampshire  ~~

"Leo, Jenny, itís about time you got here," Governor Jed Bartlet greeted his friends, "Whereís Mallory?" 

"She sends her apologies," Jenny McGarry explained her missing daughter, "Stephenís family was having a family reunion for the holidays, and she wanted to be there."

"No problem," replied Bartlet, "Ah, the things we do for love!  Come on in.  Abbyís somewhere in this maze they call a house.  ABBY!"

"You bellowed," answered Abigail Bartlet, "Leo, Jenny, how good to see you.  With you being in Washington, we donít get together as often as we should!"

"Well, with my job, weíre lucky we escaped Washington at all," Leo joked, as he kissed Abbyís cheek.

The two couples wandered into the sitting room as they continued to catch up. 

"Leo," remarked Jed, "would you relax?  This is supposed to be fun.  Whatís wrong?"

"Nothingís wrong, Jed," Leo assured his friend, "Well, Jenny and I were talking about something on the way over here, but I wasnít going to mention it until after dinner."  He hesitated, looking to his wife for support.  Jenny nodded as if to say, ĎJust say it.í

Leo continued, "Have you thought about running for President, Jed?"

Jed looked at him in shock, "Me?  Why?"

"Who else?  Youíre the most charismatic man in politics.  You could give the American people something to believe in again.  The public doesnít want a John Hoynes running the State of the Union.  They want someone they can trust.  I think youíd be perfect.  If you say yes, Iíll support you every step of the way.  Címon Jed, what do we have to lose?"

"Abby, do you hear what this crazy man is suggesting?" Jed asked his wife incredulously.

"Well, I donít think heís so crazy," Abby replied, "If you want to do it, the girls and I are behind you.  I donít think there is a better candidate in America.  Leoís right, and he knows you almost better than I do."

"Iím not going to deny that the thought hasnít crossed my mind.  But how do we get to the White House?  I donít even know where to start," Jed rambled.

"Your best friend just happens to be a political animal," Leo said with a smile, "Does this mean you want to do this?"

"Iíve got my family behind me and my best friend in charge, letís do it!" exclaimed Bartlet, his eyes sparkling.

 

~~~ January, 1998  ~~~

"And I, Josiah Bartlet, am announcing my candidacy for the presidency of the United States of America," Jed announced to the television cameras with Abby and Zoey standing to either side of him.  "Thank you for coming, good day."  The Bartlets stepped from the podium set in the governorís pressroom.  Leo stepped up to field the press.

"Governor Bartlet must attend to state matters at this time," Leo explained, "Youíll hear from him again soon, thank you."

The Bartlet family and Leo headed back to Jedís office.  After everyone was seated, Jed asked, "Leo, any news on whether I have a staff yet?"

"Well, Iíve got some calls into people, now we just play the waiting game," Leo remarked, "Jed, youíve got to relax, this is just stage one."

"I know, I know," Bartlet answered, "anyway, Iíve got other work to do, and Iím sure the rest of you have other places to be.  Leo, letís meet later this afternoon to discuss our prospective staff."

Leo nodded and followed Abby and Zoey out of the office.

ĎThis is a lot harder than it looksí, Jed thought to himself with a grim smile as he concentrated on the work in front of him.

 

~~~ Later that afternoon ~~~

 

"Leo, all these people look like wonderful candidates," Jed remarked as they sorted through the piles and piles of resumes and letters, "I canít believe they all want to come to work for us?"

"I donít think they would have sent us all this unless they were interested," answered Leo, "Those four on top are the ones weíll want to talk to."

Jed looked over the ones Leo had mentioned.  "These people seem too good to be true.  Why would they want to work for our sorry butts?"

Leo laughed, "For some reason, they seem to believe in the things you say and do!  Donít know why, maybe theyíre not as smart as we thought."  Jed laughed as Leo continued, "I think we should decide as soon as possible.  Youíre not paying me enough to do all the work by myself!  Letís see today is Monday, how about meeting again on Thursday to make the calls?  Does that sound okay with your schedule?"

"You know, itís been so long since Iíve planned my own schedule, I couldnít tell you."  Bartlet reached for the phone, "Mrs. Landingham, do I have anything important on Thursday or Friday?  Great!  Please clear my schedule except for any major disasters.  Leo and I are going to be meeting for most of those two days.  Iím going to get my very own campaign staff.  Thank you, Mrs. Landingham."

"Did you receive permission?" Leo asked with a smile.  He laughed as his friend grimaced with mock pain.  "Look at it this way, when we win, Mrs. Landingham can charm world leaders with her mysterious cookies!"

"A White House office run by her will never be more organized!"  Jed said with a smile, "Do Thursday and Friday work for you?  I know the Secretary of Labor gets pretty busy.  Bring Jenny along; we could have a long weekend.  I know Abby would love to have you out here."

"I donít see why not.  Nothing in the Department of Labor is facing any catastrophes in the near future.  Let me get a hold of Jenny to let you know for sure."  He stopped to look at his watch, "Well, I better get out of here before Jenny sends out a search party," Leo said, "Iíll see you on Thursday first thing, right?  The sooner we get started, the sooner we can let them know our decision."

He went over and shook Jedís hand.  "Weíre going to win this thing, Jed.  I can feel it.  Hang in there, the partyís just starting."

"Donít I know it," Jed groaned, "Have a safe trip back, my friend.  Iíll see you Thursday morning."

 

~~~ Thursday morning, after the calls have been made ~~~

 

"Leo, these kids have done more than we have in half the time," Jed remarked as they looked at notes from their phone conversations, "Maybe one of them should be running!"

"Unfortunately, they arenít old enough," Leo answered, "but if you have these people around you, look how much you will gain.  The trick will be convincing them to work for two old geezers like us."

 "Weíre really doing this," Jed answered with a nod, "everything we talked about in school, changing the world, weíre really going to do it.  Whose first?"

"Josh Lyman," said Leo as he picked a piece of paper off the top of the stack.

"I like him, Leo," Bartlet told his friend, "he reminds me a lot of you at that age.  He knows what he wants and he knows how to get there."

Leo smiled, "I donít know about being like me, Jed, but youíre right.  He has been in politics long enough to know that there is no glory in it, just a lot of hard work.  Heís tough; a natural leader, he really knows the ins and outs of Washington.  Josh Lyman would be a definite asset to your campaign staff."   Leo paused, "He got you with that speech, didnít he?"

-- "Mr. Secretary, Iíve seen Governor Bartlet speak on a number of occasions and Iíve seen the results of his state administration in Washington.  I believe in the things that you say, Mr. Bartlet.  I have the same hopes for the future.  Iím a Democrat through and through.  Iíve seen what Washington does; itís nothing but a game.  You can give the regular Joe Americans out there something to believe in, to trust again.  Youíre different, you are a politician, but you stand by your morals, I respect that.  I would be honored to help you change the world.  It takes tough skin to survive in Washington, and Iíve got the toughest skin around.  You let me come to work for you, and I can see that the things you need get done." --

"Yup, all those nice things he said about me really went to my head!  Heís a definite keeper." Jed said with a smile, "Whose next?"

"CJ Cregg," Leo replied as he grabbed yet another paper from the stack.  "She has all the contacts with the media.  Letís see, graduated from Berkley, excellent communicationsÖJed, sheíd be a great liaison to the press.

"And she actually wants to do that," Bartlet interjected as he thought about what the Californian had said on the phone the previous day.

-- "Mr. Governor, Iíve heard you speak on several occasions and I know what the press thinks of you.  They respect you as a leader; mud is not often slung in your direction. If you let me come work for you, I can help you keep that reputation. Iíve been in journalism long enough to know what Iím doing.  Iíve played hardball with the big boys, and I came out on top.  I believe in what you say, Mr. Governor.  I think I can help you get to Washington."  --

"Sheís proven she can keep her head when the going gets tough.  I like her spunk, sheís a tough cookie," Jed replied, "I definitely want her on my staff." 

"Moving right along," Leo said, smiling at Bartletís comment, "Toby Ziegler.  Jed, I donít know about this guy.  Heís very cynical.  I donít know if we can have too many cynics in one place, you can barely handle me!"

 Bartlet smiled, "But Leo, this guy is such a hard-worker.  I mean he worked his way from City College to the government of New York City.  He knows how to get stuff done.   I donít think we can afford NOT to have him with us.  Heís a very talented writer. 

The two friends pondered as they remember what Ziegler had said.

--"Mr. McGarry, with all due respect, I know how to get what I want.  Iíve played the political game, as you know.  I respect Governor Bartlet and what he stands for.  He could bring something to the White House that no one has seen since 1960.  He has the charisma, the heart, the guts, and most important the morals to win this election.  The American public is ready for a change and Governor Bartlet is that change.  I believe in your candidate, sir.  I want to help you get to Washington.  Iím the guy you can send in to scrap and fight the tough fights."  --

"Youíre right," Leo conceded, "This guy could be a real asset to us, especially when we get to Washington.  He could really be valuable in the tough situations.  Heíll stay."

"Well Leo, I must say, weíve got one hell of a staff started," Bartlet remarked, "Didnít you say there was one more guy we needed to discuss?"

"Yeah, Jed, the guyís name is Sam Seaborn," Leo replied, "Heís a lawyer who went to school at Princeton.  Heís a smart one, Jed.  Iíve read his law briefs.  Heís a published author, works at Dewey-Ballantine right now, young guy who wants to change the world.  Remember that conversation?"

The Governor laughed, "Finally, someone who could give me a run for my money!"

--" Governor Bartlet, sir, Iíve had the pleasure of hearing you speak on several occasions.  I must say you inspire me.  I admire the fact that you are not afraid to stand up for what you believe in.  I wanted to practice law so I could change the world, to make it better for the little guys.  Maybe this profession has jaded me, but I canít change the world as a lawyer.  When I heard your speech to announce your candidacy sir, I knew I wanted to help you win this election.  I can help you change the world, let me come to work for you."--

"This guy really impressed me," remarked Governor Bartlet, "he could come in real handy in sticky situations, heís a fighter.  Honestly Leo, these are the people I want working for me.  Can you imagine them as the White House Senior Staff if we win this thing?"

"When we win this thing, Jed.  WHEN we win this thing," Leo answered, "Does this mean you want me to call them and offer them positions?"

Bartlet nodded, "Make the calls Leo.  We need these guys here in New Hampshire as soon as possible."  He grinned at his friend of over forty years.  Theyíd been through so much together and there would be so much more.  "Letís get started."

Leo smiled back and reached for the phone.

 

 

Back to the present

 

Look at how far they had all come since they had first joined up with the campaign.  President Bartlet could not even begin to imagine what he would do if he lost one of his senior staff members.  He was just not going to allow himself to even think like that.  ĎIím going to stay focused on the positive and take things one-step at a time,í he thought.  About that time there was a knock on his door.

"Yes," he said.  Into his office walked Ron Butterfield with his first update on the situation.

"Mr. President, I have just received a report from Mr. McGarryís secret service detail."   President Bartlet felt his heart stop.  This had to be good news.  Leo had overcome so many obstacles in his political career and still had so much left to accomplish.

"Well?"  He said.

"Mr. McGarry is fine.  He has a few scrapes and bruises from being shoved to the pavement, but other than that he is fine" Ron Butterfield informed the president.  "He will be arriving here shortly.  At this time, I have only heard from his detail.  We are stilling waiting to hear about the rest."

President Bartlet let out a huge sigh of relief; his best friend was unharmed.  Even though he had heard this, the president was still eager to see for himself that Leo was truly okay.  One staff member accounted for, five more to go.  President Bartlet again let his thoughts wander back to the early days of his campaign.

 

~~ The following week after the selection of the campaign staff~~

 

The newly assembled campaign staff of Governor Josiah Bartlet met in the governorís personal office to discuss the upcoming caucuses and elections that they would be facing.

"Before we get started, I want to say something to all of you," Bartlet began, "First, I want to thank you all for agreeing to be part of my campaign.  You are definitely some of the best and brightest political minds Iíve ever been in contact with.  Having said that, however, I want to make you all aware that this isnít going to be easy.  Senator Hoynes is the front-runner in this; weíre considered the dark horse.  All I ask of each of you is that we make this a good fight.  Weíll fight hard and weíll fight fair.  Only then can we honestly say we won."

Choruses of Ďyes sirsí were offered from the staff.  Leo stood up.

"The next thing we need to do is assign each of you specific duties.  I hope these will reflect your individual strengths and talents, but I think some of these may overlap each other, so just be prepared to do what is asked of you.  Josh, I want you to be the political director.  Youíve got enough pull over Congressmen that you can get our foot in the door."  Josh nodded his understanding.  Leo continued, "CJ, I want you to be our liaison with the press.  I donít have the patience to deal with those piranhas anymore and youíve got the contacts.  Theyíll respect you more than they do me.  Toby, Sam, I need you guys to handle our communications.  You are the writers; find a way for us to say what we want to without offending anybody.  Any speeches that Governor Bartlet has to give come from you, got it?"  The two men nodded.  "Like I said, these jobs may overlap, and you may be working with each other on projects.  We will have daily meetings to discuss our agenda for that day.  I suspect that we will start traveling soon, so start clearing you schedules now."

Jed and Leo looked at each other and smiled.  "Letís get to work."

 

~~February 1998, Bartlet campaign headquarters, Manchester, New Hampshire ~~

 

The New Hampshire primaries were in full swing.  The polls had closed; all they had to do now was count the votes.  There was no question Governor Bartlet would do well in his home state, what was in question was just how well he had done.  In a moment of panic, Leo had sent Josh to the polling headquarters to see what he could find out.  The rest of the staff is trying to wait patiently until Josh calls them with news.  Governor and Mrs. Bartlet sit quietly on a couch, CJ and Sam work on possible responses for the Governor, Toby and Leo pace back and forth, unable to take the tension. 

"Leo, if you donít sit down, Iím going to have you replace the carpet," Mrs. Bartlet remarked.  When Leo looked at her questioningly, she explained, as she pointed to the carpet, "You and Toby are wearing a hole in the carpet." 

Leo smiled, but continued pacing.  Finally the phone rang.

"Hello," Leo answered breathlessly.  The entire room waited, frustrated that they could only hear Leoís side of the conversation.  "Hi Josh," Leo said, "YeahÖokayÖright, weíll be right downÖsee you in a bit."  Leo hung up the phone, as the rest of the room waited for the results of the election.  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when he turned around and grinned at the Governor and Mrs. Bartlet.

"We blew them out of the water, Jed," Leo reported, the grin on his face spreading to the rest of the room, "We didnít just beat them, we ran away with the votes.  Josh said that the polling guys thought it might be some kind of record.  Anyway, weíve got to get down there now; the press is going to be expecting a statement.  Plus, youíve got to verify that everything on the ballot is correct." 

Jed and Abby exchanged a grin and Abby leaned up to kiss her husbandís cheek, "Youíre first major victory, my dear," she whispered, "After we do all the public stuff, letís go back to the house and let the staff celebrate with us."

The Governor nodded his agreement and announced, "After we do all this proper mumbo jumbo, everyone is invited to our house for a little staff celebration."  He quickly included, "Within reason, of course."  Everyone in the room laughed as they headed for the polling headquarters. 

 

Oval Office

          Good old Josh.  Look at all the excitement he has caused since joining the staff.  Not one but two failed relationships with co-workers, Mandy Hampton and Joey Lucas.  And, who could forget the comments he made to Mary Marsh on national TV.  ĎWhile Josh has a tendency to get a little over zealous Iíd much rather have him playing with me instead of against me,í thought the president.  ĎWhere would Zoey and I be if Josh hadnít brought Charlie to us?  That has to be the number one best thing Josh ever did.í  This thought brought a smile to his face as he thought about how much Charlie had grown since joining his staff.

          While the president reflected on his relationships with Josh and Charlie, Ron Butterfield was on the phone in the corner of the room receiving the latest updates.

 "Good news, Mr. President, Josh and Charlie are just fine.  No injuries at all.  Josh was far enough behind everyone that he was able to take cover and Gina managed to knock Charlie to the ground at the same time she was covering Zoey.  Theyíll be arriving here shortly.  Iím sorry I doní t have any information on your other staff at this time, but I expect to soon as they now have the area secured," he informed the president.

"Thank you Ron," said the president.

 Josh and Charlie are all right.  President Bartlet offered a silent prayer of thanks and prayed for good news on the rest of his staff.   The president was so thankful that he would not have to inform his daughter or Donna that either one was hurt.   Everyone knew how much Zoey and Charlie cared for each other.  As for Josh and Donna, while it was not clear to them, it was clear to everyone else how they felt about each other.  ĎIs Josh headed towards another office romance?   I hope we can all handle it,í thought the president with a chuckle.  His thoughts again began to drift back to how they had all gotten here. 

 

~~ Later that night, Governor Bartletís private home, Manchester, New Hampshire ~~

 

That night, Jed and Abby wanted the staff to relax after their hard work on the recent primaries.  Their home in Manchester had more than enough room to accommodate all of them.  Jed, Abby, Leo, and Jenny watched in amusement as the other members of the staff were engaged in a heated card game.

          "They seem to work well together," Abby commented, "I mean, everything is running smoothly.  Youíve been competitive in all the primaries and the public seems very taken with you.  Most of all, youíve got a staff that is poised, hard-working and doggedly supportive of you."

Her husband smiled, "Theyíre good people."

          "Jed, these people are going to win you this election," Leo remarked with a twinkle in his eye, "with the right direction of course." 

Later that night, the entire group sat in the Bartletsí spacious living room, still riding high from their victory a few hours earlier.

          "CJ, the time has come," Sam announced, "When is ĎThe Jackalí going to make an appearance at this victory celebration?"

CJ started to protest with a shake of her head when Sam, ever the attorney, interrupted her.

          "You canít back out now," he told her, "we all heard you promise that you would perform whenever we won a primary."

Toby and Josh nodded as they remembered.

          "Come on, CJ," Toby pleaded, "Mrs. Bartlet and Mrs. McGarry havenít seen you do it.  Iím sure they would like to know what us guys are so interested in.

          "Well, I have to admit I am a little curious," answered Mrs. Bartlet, "what about you, Jenny?"  Her friend nodded.

          "Oh, all right," CJ gave in to her colleagues, "I hate to see grown men beg.  Iíve got the tape if someone has something to play it in."

          "The stereoís right over there," Bartlet pointed her in the right direction.

Everyone sat patiently as CJ began to dance and lip-synch to Ronnie Jordanís "The Jackal".  Soon the entire room was clapping along to the music.  Leo leaned over to say something to Toby.  Before any words came out Toby whispered, "With all due respect, Leo, youíre talking to me during ĎThe Jackalí"?

 

Present Day

          Who could ever forget the first time they saw CJ perform ĎThe Jackalí?  Hard to believe someone with her poise and demeanor could cut loose like that.  One minute she could be handling the rapid-fire questions of the press with ease and the next she would be entertaining her co-workers.  CJ is such a versatile person.  Would these hallowed halls and those who grace them see CJ perform ever again?  ĎI pray to God that that is not the case,í mused the president.

          As he was thinking about the last time he had seen CJ perform ĎThe Jackalí, he heard Ron say Flamingo was unharmed and heading to the White House.  Another staff member had come through this horrific ordeal safely.  Only Toby and Sam left to hear about.  When would this nightmare end?

 

~~ Late February, 1998, South Carolina primary ~~

 

Governor Bartlet and his staff are still furiously working in their hotelís conference room as the polls closed.  All information they had so far predicted that it was too close to call.  Once again, the group was trying to wait it out.  Abby had accompanied them, and now she was trying to keep everyone calm.  She was having little to no success.  The entire campaign staff, the governor included, was pacing.  Finally, Mrs. Bartlet called her husband aside to report her observations.

"Jed," she told him, "if you donít give them something constructive to do soon, those people are going to go crazy in there.  Leoís going to give himself a coronary, Josh and Toby are going to kill each other, CJ is going to pull her hair out, and Sam isÖwell, I donít know what Sam is going to do.  You need to take charge.  I know youíre nervous, so are they.  Theyíre looking to you for what to do."

"Did I ever tell you that you are the smartest woman in America?" her husband asked, "Youíre right, Abby.  Letís go take charge."

"Okay, listen up!" the Governor boomed.  Everyone stopped in his or her tracks.  "We need to get some stuff done around here.  CJ, Toby, I need to know what to say once this thing is over with.  Start working on some potential responses, I donít want any surprise speeches so let me know when you get something so I can look it over.  Leo, take Josh and go over the running mate list again.  Make ABSOLUTELY sure that none of them have any skeletons that will come jumping out of their closets when they are thrust into the public spotlight.  Weíre not going to need a decision yet, but stay on top of it.  And Sam, since you, for reasons I donít know, have more contacts in this state than any of us, get on the phone and find out what you can about an end to this.  Get to work, everyone, let me know when you get some answers."

The staff came to life.  Everyone got busy on his or her projects.  Governor Bartlet smiled.  He still smelled victory. 

Sam was on the phone, still getting whatever information he could, but still trying to keep up with the reports that were coming in on the televisions that were in the room. 

An hour goes by, and no word.  CJ and Toby have finished their speeches, and are keeping an eye on the televisions for Sam, who is still trying to reach his contacts.  With a yell he quickly hangs up the phone.  "We did it!" he shouts.  "80% of the votes counted, and weíve got 54% of that vote.  We can kiss Carolina good bye!"

"Do you have confirmation?" Leo asked. 

Just then the phone in the conference room rings, causing the entire room to startle.  Sam went to answer it.

"Bartlet headquarters," he answers.  The rest of the room waits impatiently as they try to understand his end of the phone conversation.

"YesÖyes sir, I understand," Sam replies and hangs up the phone, his face not showing any emotion.  "Thereís your confirmation," he shouts jubilantly, "South Carolina polling headquarters, Bartlet 70%, Hoynes 30%!  We did it!"

The room comes alive with shouts of relief and jubilation at their important victory.  Jed gathers Abby in a warm embrace.  The staff is hugging each other, and patting each other on the back. 

 "Weíre in!" the Governor replied with a shock, "we made it to the big time.  Maybe now everyone will take us seriously.  Sam, Iíll never doubt your contacts again!"

"At least until one of them is wrong, right sir?" Leo asked his friend with a grin in Samís direction. 

 

Present Day

         

ĎSam, Sam, Samí thought the president Ďlook at all the trouble youíve gotten into in the past.í  Hitting on Leoís wife, befriending a call girl and then telling Mallory all about it, and falling off a boat.  ĎI still wonder how that happened.  Sam, you have to be okay because there is no way that Leo or I am going to tell Mallory youíve been hurt.  The two of you have had your rough patches, but itís starting to look like smooth sailing ahead, so please, please be all right,í raged the president.

 

~~ April, 1998, Iowa primary ~~

 

The Iowa primary turned out to be one of the most important primaries in the campaign.  It was a big state, in terms of votes, and the Bartlet staff was working overtime to court those votes.  They had holed up in a hotel room and were frantically trying to keep up with the situations that were thrown at them.  Senator Hoynes had beaten them in one southern primary and the staff was showing signs of fatigue.  The Governor and Leo had picked sections of the hallway outside the room to pace, CJ was trying to follow the television reports, Josh was on the phone, trying to find out any information he could, Sam was beginning the speeches that would be used later in the evening.  Toby surveyed the room.  Ď This is like watching a slow moving demolition truck,í he thought to himself.  One by one, he looked at each person in the room, watching the desperation and exhaustion that had come over each of their faces.

"Boy, did somebody die in here," Toby remarked.  His three colleagues looked up from their duties.   "You are acting like weíve already lost.  Hoynes only beat us in one primary.  Just because it was Texas, doesnít mean that the fight is over.  That was one little battle; weíve still got a war to win."  He pointed to the door; "Those two men out there brought us in here to do a job.  Letís finish what we started."

The others in the room smiled at him and got down to business.   

 

Present Day

 

They had pulled out a victory in Iowa, and gotten back into the swing of things all thanks to Tobyís pep talk.  ĎToby, youíd better be all right because I will never forgive you if I have to promote Sam.  Youíve been critical in getting this administration to where it is.  I need you to get us through the rest of this term and another one.  No one challenges me like you Toby.  I need you whether I like to admit it or not,í thought the president.

          "Mr. President, I just heard from Toby and Samís details and they are both fine.  A few scrapes and bruises, but nothing to bad," Ron informed.

          "Thank you" the president said quietly.  "When will they be here?í

          "Your staff should be arriving in the next few minutes sir.  Iím going to give you some time with them and then I should have a very detailed report of the situation for you," said Ron.

          "That will be fine.  Thank you for all youíve done," said the president.

          As Ron leaves the offices, President Bartlet drops his head into his hands.  Everyone was safe and accounted for.  They had all come through this night physically unscathed, but it was going to take a long long time if ever for the emotional wounds to heal.  President Bartlet thought back to the day when they knew they were all headed to this office.

 

~~ Election Day, 1998 ~~

 

Election Day came, cold and brisk.  Bartletís campaign staff had decided to spend the day at the Bartlet farm in Manchester at the Governor and Mrs. Bartletís request.  Leo started the day by handing out orders as they sat around the living room.

"The most important thing to remember today is to stay calm.  I know you are all professionals, but I also know this is everyoneís first presidential campaign.  Try to keep busy throughout the day.  Hereís what we need to do.  CJ, Sam, get in touch with whomever you know in California.  Theyíre going to be a big player in todayís game.  With you being from there, it might be easier for you two to get that information rather than us East Coast boys.  Josh, find out what your friends in Washington know.  I want to find out what the bigwigs are saying; Congress, Senators, somebody has got to know something!  Toby, start working on possible speeches for both possible outcomes of today, I want to see a first draft ASAP."

He took a moment to survey his staff.  They looked like a bunch of nervous rabbits.  ĎNot that I blame them,í he thought, ĎIím the top rabbit!í  At that moment the Governor and Mrs. Bartlet entered the room.  Everyone started to stand, but the Governor motioned for them to keep their seats.

"We wanted to make sure Leo wasnít overreacting yet," Mrs. Bartlet told them, "and to make sure you all understand that we want you to make yourselves at home here today.  That was the whole purpose for the invitation.  This day is going to get pretty tense.  Take some time to relax, if you can."

"Thank you, Mrs. Bartlet," was echoed through the room.

The Governor interrupted, "I just want to say one thing before you get started on what Leo has assigned you."  The room stopped as he continued, "No matter what happens today, I want you all to know a few things.  Iíve never worked with a finer group of people.  I am so very grateful that each of you agreed to come work for me.  Youíve worked very hard, I only hope we are going to witness the fruits of that work.  Regardless of the outcome of today, we fought the good fight, and thatís something you can all be proud of.  We ran a clean campaign, there is nothing more noble than that."  He smiled at them, "Now get to work."

 

Present Day

As it turned out, that clean campaign had brought them to this point.  ĎEverything was going so well today.  The town hall meeting was a huge success, how could it have gone so horribly wrong?í  President Bartlet thought.    He wanted to meet with his staff as soon as they returned to the White House.  Bartlet needed to see them for himself, to make sure they were okay.  The Oval Office was quiet.   Mrs. Landingham, ever diligent, was outside at her desk awaiting the arrival of the senior staff.  All the President could do was sit and wait, like he had been doing for most of the night.  A knock on the door interrupted his thoughts.

"Yes," he said as Mrs. Landingham entered. 

"Mr. President, the senior staff is here," she reported.

"Thank you, Mrs. Landingham," President Bartlet smiled as she left the room and the members of his staff entered the Oval Office.  They all moved slowly, but they were all there, all five of them relatively unharmed.   They stopped in front of the desk as they would for a normal briefing. 

"Good evening, Mr. President," they all mumbled. 

"Oh, forget protocol," Bartlet admonished them, "sit down all of you, before I sic Abby on you for not taking it easy.  Iím just glad none of you were seriously hurt."

"Now, I have something to say, and this is going to get corny and sentimental, so consider yourselves warned," President Bartlet stood, "I wish I could tell you that the nightmare of tonight will go away, but that would be lying.  I canít help feeling somewhat responsible for putting you in this situation, but itís not my fault.  When you agreed to this job, you didnít agree to have bullets whizzing past your heads.  Neither did I.  But not everyone agrees with the administration, you know that.  Some people donít agree with whom my daughter goes out with.  Thatís who attacked us tonight, white supremacists.  Zoey and Charlie didnít agree to that either, but now weíre all in the middle of this.  I wouldnít blame you if you wanted to offer me your resignations right now.  But before you think about that, let me say this.  Donít let hate win, donít let fear win.  We can still make a difference in this crazy world.  Iím still President of the United States.  I need each and everyone in this room; youíve made me who I am today.  Weíre a family, and dammit, families stick together and fight.  So letís fight, letís fight hard and letís fight fair.  Fight the hate; fight the injustice of this world.  But we canít fight unless we do it together, each one of us contributes a characteristic that makes us one hell of a staff."  President Bartlet looked at each member of his staff as he continued.  "For instance, Sam, you have such a good spirit.  You are always willing to jump in and fight for the little guys.  Iíve always admired that about you.  CJ, you bring color and brightness to a very tough environment.  You handle sticky situations with the poise and grace of no other.  Itís a remarkable characteristic, never lose that.  Josh, youíve got tough skin, but what most donít know is that if you peel away the tough skin, you find a very sweet and sensitive human being.  Like Sam, you are always willing to jump in and fight, no matter who needs help.  Toby, your sense of humor is like nothing I have ever witnessed.  It could get you out of many sticky situations, dry as it is.  Youíre a tough cookie, but if you let some of that humor through, youíre even tougher."  Bartlet stopped, as he looked at Leo, his friend of over forty years.  "And you, Mr. McGarry," his voice cracking with emotion, "your loyalty never ceases to amaze me.  You are my best friend, the best friend anyone could ever have.  Without your belief in me, we would have never been able to start on this remarkable journey.  I thank you, my dear friend.  We are a family, with all the problems, defeats, celebrations and joys.  I canít do this without each of you behind me."

The Oval Office got remarkably quiet.  Then Leo stood and spoke; "I serve at the pleasure of the President."  Toby followed, "I serve at the pleasure of the President."  Each staff member stood and pledged once again their loyalty to President Josiah Bartlet. 

"Thank you," he said, his voice gruff, but with a smile, "now letís get back to work." 

 


 

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